Although different types of tobacco are packed slightly differently, the general rule to packing a pipe is to do so in three stages. As you start to fill your pipe, think of a family of three — a father, a mother and a child.
1. Fill the bowl to the top and then press down on the tobacco lightly, as a child would.
2. Fill the bowl again and press down on the tobacco more firmly, as amother might.
3. Then fill the bowl once again to the top and then press down on the tobacco very hard, as the father might do.
After the third fill and the father’s touch, the tobacco in the bowl should be springy. You are now ready to light your pipe!
Like loading your pipe, you should light your pipe in three stages.
The first two lights, called “charring lights” or “false lights,” play an important role in how well your tobacco will burn and stay lit on your third light.
Use either a match or a butane lighter but do not use a torch lighter because it will scorch your bowl and rim quite quickly and ruin your pipe.
If you are using a match, let the sulfur burn off the match tip before lighting to prevent a sulfuric taste.
Basically it all comes down to personal preference as there are arguments both for and against using matches or lighters.
1. Take your match or pipe lighter (Zippo makes a good one) and pass it very slowly and evenly over the top of the tobacco while puffing on your pipe. Once the top layer of tobacco is charred and has risen to the top of the bowl, stop and let the smoldering tobacco go out, then take your pipe tamper and tamp down the tobacco that has charred and risen.
2. Repeat this process one more time until there is a layer of charred tobacco completely covering the top of the bowl.
3. You are now ready for the third, and hopefully final, light. Slowly pass your match or lighter in a circular motion across the entire surface of the tobacco while gently puffing on your pipe. Once all of the tobacco on the top layer is again burning, set your match or lighter down, keep your tamper handy, sit back, relax and enjoy your pipe.