Zen and the Art of Prepping Your Own Pipe Tobacco

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Spending some quality time with your tobacco can be a meditative experience. If you buy the right kind of smoke and have a good knife in your hand, you can reach an excellent level of enjoyment directly through tobacco preparation.

What You Will Need
(Links Provided to Quality Products I suggest)

(1) A Tobacco To Work With
(2) A Good Sharp Knife
(3) A Foldable Cutting Mat

Find a Good Tobacco

It all starts with the tobacco. There are four types of tobacco we are going to discuss today: Flake, Plug, Cake, and Rope (or Twist). Here are some suggestions to get you started. For the Virginia fan, there’s Orlik Golden Slice and Sutliff Virginia Slices. For the Latakia Lover, there’s G.L. Pease Gaslight or Cornell and Diehl’s Pirate Kake. For the Burley Head, there’s Peterson Perfect Plug and Cornell and Diehl’s Burley Flake #3. If you’re in the mood for something strong with a ton of nicotine, try Gawith Hoggarth & Co Rum Twist Unsliced.

Those are just a few to get you started. Explore the world of tobacco and have fun!

Prepare Your Cutting Surface

Get your knife and your foldable cutting board ready. Find a sturdy table and steady chair away from pets and kids for safeties sake. Put on some good music and get prepared to cut some tobacco!

The cutting process can be delightful. There’s the tactile feel of the act. There’s the beautiful aroma released by the action of cutting. There’s the satisfaction of having a direct hand in manipulating the tobacco you’re about to smoke. Put some thought into it. Make it an experience.

Cutting a Flake

You may think that you don’t need to cut a flake because it’s already cut. This idea is right to a point; you could rub the flake out by pressing it between your palms with a circular motion. Or you can use the tried and true fold and stuff method. Both of these are fantastic ways to prep your flake, and they each offer a unique smoking experience.

I’m here to offer you a third option. Cube cutting. It’s quite simple. Start with a straight grain flake such as Newminster Superior Navy Flake. Now take your knife and cut perpendicular to the grain of the tobacco. You will find that it separates into tiny cubes that are great for smoking. You can even experiment with different cube sizes.

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Cutting a Plug

Plugs are pressed squares of tobacco goodness. They give off a fantastic aroma when you cut into them, and they offer a hearty smoke.

Start with an excellent, strong plug like Peterson 3 Ps. You are going to need a well-constructed knife and some upper body strength with this one.

Line up your trusty cutting utensil perpendicular to the grain and press down, light at first and then gradually pressing harder until you make it through the plug. Note the rich aroma that is released and the satisfaction of using your strength to prepare your tobacco. This is part of that Zen I was referring to. It’s about finding more ways to connect with the tobacco you’re smoking.

Now that you’ve cut a flake off the plug, you can take it one step further by cube cutting it as I discussed above.

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Cutting a Cake

Cakes are like plugs, but they aren’t formed as tight, and they have a mottled make-up. There are firm cakes, such as GL Pease Gaslight and there are Crumble Cakes, such as Cornell & Diehl Blockade Runner. Both can be cut, although Crumble Cakes are meant to just crumble into your hand so I would recommend a firm cake.

In the picture below, I am cutting one of my favorite cake tobaccos in the world: Gaslight. If you haven’t tried this tobacco and you enjoy a Latakia smoke, you are missing out.

Using the same method employed in cutting a plug, I line up the knife and press down. Immediately I smell the Latakia as I cut. It comes away in a broken flake, ready to be smoked and enjoyed. There’s nothing quite like it. Try it. You’ll see.

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Cutting a Rope or Twist

Ropes, or twists, are tobaccos rolled and twisted to combine the flavors through the circular pressure of the twisting process. They are often some of the most potent smokes out there, so prepare yourself for a massive smoke!

You are going to start with a nice twisted rope. In the picture below I am preparing some Gawith Hoggarth & Co Sweet Whiskey, a beautiful, lightly flavored twist that offers excellent billows of smoke.

You want to pinch the rope between your fingers, leaving some room to cut at the end. Make sure the knife is straight and press down firmly. This cuts off a coin. Another handy way to cut a rope into coins is to use a Cigar Cutter.

Now there are a few ways you can smoke a coin. You can stack them in a bowl, if you have a large enough pipe, and just burn them straight away. You can chop the coin up into cubes. Or you can rub it out, releasing even more of the great flavor. All of these methods offer a different outcome, so have fun and explore the delights of smoking a rope tobacco!

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Zen and Art in Smoking

So there you have it. We’ve explored some of the creative relaxing, and enjoyable ways you can explore and manipulate your own tobacco to get the most out of it. I hope the next time you smoke, you can go even deeper into the experience. Take care!

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