Originally Posted by Joffrey
Ok, got my pipe, now how do I keep the damn thing lit? Friend seemed to get a handle on his but I can't with mine. Second time smoking it I finally got packing it in right (realized i was not using enough) but even with that it seems like I'm sucking in a lot of air. Do I need to tamp it down much or lightly after the first lighting?
Joffrey, there's no shame in the re-light.
Uncle much older than me, who has smoked pipes on and off for few decades, still has re-lights pop up. Doesn't bother 'm the least bit.
There's a good amount of variables that could be keeping you back as a new pipe smoker.
A.) Packing technique. There's no one way to do this "correct" and after even 2 attempted smokes still a lot more learning left. Lately, I take a palm-full of tobacco in one hand and invert the pipe into my palm. I then swirl it while gently pushing until the whole bowl is full and looks like "hair from the tobacco is sprouting out from the bowls edge. Then I lightly compressing top quarter or so of the tobacco. Usually I am pretty even with the bowl top at this point. If I can fit some more I look for some small pieces to top off and them another tap. Check draw.
B.) Lighting. Don't try to light the whole thing as once like you would a cigar to get it lit. Instead, use a 2 step method. False light the top by dancing the low heat lighter or match around the top to char evenly for a second or so, you'll see the tobacco rise out of the bowl a bit. Now take a tamper or small flat surface and push lightly until tobacco that rose is even with the rim again. Now, for the full light, make this 2nd light longer, circular in motion with several larger puffs. You'll see more smoke.
Off you go.
C.) Carbon Cake. You pipe is not broken in fully. The black carbon left over after each smoke is beneficial, don't be afraid to let that build up some. This will help keep your pipe lit as well when kept at a thin, even layer. Google is full of info on this topic.
Simple points I shoot for with new pipes is to keep the carbon cake even from top to bottom, slow forming, and be sure to make sure the heel as the bottom of the bowl forms a good cake early on (smoke to the bottom or use partial bowls to start).
D.) Pace. Yes there is technique involved. Unlike cigar smoking big thick plumes of smoke shouldn't be what you are experiencing although it will be tempting to do so. When I started I smoked hot, too frequently and took large puffs. This all lead to one scortched tongue, damn nearly gave up on the spot!.. I didn't understand why that happened. Maybe try a ~10 sec rhythm and experiment from there to smoke longer, slower and cooler.
But the most enjoyable part of smoking a pipe is getting to the point where it doesn't require much thought at all. Well worth the bumpy trial and error early on to get autopilot. Can easily have 20 min to 2 hours of stress free bliss pass by without notice and at the end not give a damn where it went.