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Let Them Eat Cake

February 24, 2010

I’m talking about reamers here, not a certain French queen.

Everyone that owns a pipe knows that, eventually, you have to reduce the amount of cake that has built up inside the bowl. Cake is formed by bits of charred tobacco and tobacco oils clinging to the chamber wall during the burning process that is smoking and it simply gets reduced to a carbon layer. If it gets too thick, one risks having the bowl crack as the carbon expands quicker than the briar, so look out if you smoke straight grains. I like to keep my cake to a minimum. A little cake is a good thing. It will protect the briar.

I have never really used a reamer. I have owned one, but the messing about to try and get the thing adjusted to the correct size never seemed worth the effort. I normally use a penknife, laid flat in the chamber and turn the pipe over the blade thereby shaving down the cake. An old and wise pipe maker showed me how to do this many years ago and I’ve been doing it ever since. All that has changed.

Reamers are ok. No doubt about that, but if you have straight bored bowls and conical bored bowls, you will need two reamers. They need to be adjustable to fit different sized bores. One can risk that the cake is harder on one side of the bowl than the other, so one also risks reaming off centre or out of line. This leads to uneven wear in the bowl. That will put your pipe “out of round”. It may even be the cause of “burn out”, burning through the bowl.
It takes time and experiment to find out how to use one properly. That could be expensive.

IMG_3497 A friend introduced me to this little beauty of a tool. Made by Savinelli, it does what my penknife has been doing for years but it is even more precise. Basically a three sided scraper, it can be placed in the chamber exactly where it needs to be placed and then cake is scraped off with a simple movement of the wrist. It allows full control over where the cake is being reduced. It has a rounded tip, which means that it will not damage the bottom of the bowl. It makes no difference, whether the chamber is straight or conical, I can use the same tool on either. It requires no adjustment. No fiddly mechanical bits to set up and screw tight. Which makes it virtually idiot proof as far as I’m concerned!
Best of all, it didn’t cost me more than $50.oo. In fact, slightly less.

Probably the best investment I’ve made in a long time.

Now, I have a hundred or so pipes to inspect. It’s going to be a long evening!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Dudley Dipstick permalink
    March 7, 2010 06:45

    Reading your piece about the Savinelli reamer inspired me to finally try reaming with a knife.

    Wow! All it takes to use correctly is to follow the directions you outline on the “Care of Your Pipe” page.

    I definitely have a lower opinion of the Cook’s reamer and the Buttner style reamer I’ve been using. I’ll still keep them, but if any of my friends should take up pipe smoking, you can bet they’ll be getting a gift from me. I’ve also cast aside my plans to get a Senior reamer in the future.

    The only reamer I think I’ll buy again will probably be the Savinelli Fitsall. Until then, I’ll be happily using my pocket knife!

    Glad to have been of service Sir! Thanks for coming here and your comment. Enjoy your pipe.

  2. Highstump permalink
    March 20, 2010 18:06

    As soon as I read this piece it dawned on me that I have a couble of three corner files that have just about reached “end of life”. Hmmm….

    I think I follow your train of thought. A grinding wheel would help…??
    You need to remove the teeth from the file. Good luck and let me know how it works out if you try it..

    • Highstump permalink
      March 21, 2010 15:34

      Yes, the grinding wheel would be a must. I’ll let you know if it pans out.



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