In Praise of Pipe Clenching

Or – how forgetting you’re smoking a pipe leads one to the perfect smoke.

I always recommend on pipe forums for beginning pipers to clench their pipes. This will slow down their smoking cadence to synchronize with their breathing cadence. Clenching gently forces or guides the beginning piper into the subtleties of the gentle art of pipe smoking.

What you’re after is a barely smouldering ember, from which you’ll occasionally take small sips, thereby maximizing the flavor profile. You’ll chase the ember, but gently and slowly. The aim of pipe smoking is not to produce great clouds of smoke.

An added advantage to clenching is that when the pipe is out of sight, it’ll be out of mind. Mindless smoking produces transcendent smoking. Focusing too intently, especially when your first starting out, steepens the learning curve. It’s anti-intuitive, but many things in life are, including pipe smoking. It’s a Zen state of mind. And what keeps me coming back to the pipe time and again.

Old school pipe smokers all clenched. You see this in old movies, and news clips from the era. Piping was a hands free operation. Men would pipe whilst typing, writing, or reading. Hands free. Piping wasn’t a “hobby” back then, as it has become today – it was a life style. A character builder. That’s why fathers taught their sons how to smoke a pipe. And why it was once encouraged at preparatory schools for boys. Many men smoked from dawn to dusk and lived lives significantly longer and richer than many do today.

After the Charing light and dicking around with the tamper a bit, the first and final light is lit. The pipe stays in more or less till it’s done. You then sip for flavor, with the added bonus that the pipe rarely goes out. I’d venture a guess that clenchers have a far shorter learning curve than hand holders. At least that how I see it.

Piping is also about an appreciation of time. It teaches you to be aware of the mindfulness of the present. The pipe eases you into the present moment -savor your pipe & you’ll savor this moment.

By E. Boehm

Leave a Reply