Today we’re going to talk about tampers. A tamper is a pipe tool used to compress the tobacco as you smoke it. You do this to keep the tobacco burning, and to keep it burning cool. Without tamping, the tobacco may become too loose to continue burning, or the tobacco aerates enough to start burning hot, which makes for a hot smoke, and your pipe may crack from the heat. If you don’t think it’s possible, I ended up cracking three or four pipes when I first started smoking, and that gets expensive fast.

A tamper can be something as simple as a nail. In my case, it’s sometimes my pointing finger, which makes me walk around with smudges on my face. Nothing says “adult” like a face smudged with ashes. Fortunately, most of the time I do use a tamper. I get tired of my wife pointing out that my nose has a black smudge on it.

Czech ToolA tamper can be a tamper alone, or it can be part of a set of pipe tools. Usually your first tamper will be the three tool Czech gizmo. It has a poker, a tamper, and a small spoon. This remains my most used tool, as I can use the poker to loosen the tobacco if I’ve packed it too tight, the tamper to tamp of course, and the spoon thing to move around the tobacco in the bowl, like closer to the draw hole if necessary. I’m not sure what that spoon thing is actually meant to do, but that’s what I use it for.

Tampers can also be a collectible classy instrument, like high end pens. There are tampers made from exotic woods, pewter, formed steel; pretty much anything that can be made with a blunt end to tamp down the tobacco. These runs from the double digits, to hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. I’ll add here that the Czech tool runs about $3 depending on where you get it. Back to the fancy tampers…

You can find tampers by just Googling them. My favorite tampers are from Catnip Hill Trading Company. The drawback is that they are pewter and soft, and can be broken if not handled carefully. I got the Calvinist pipe tamperCalvinist tamper as a humorous gift, and I ended up breaking the tamper. There’s no fixing it. Even if you melt the tamper pieces back together, it’s never as strong as the original. So these make good collectable tampers, unless you’re a careful person, or pick a thick tamper or short tamper unlikely to break. I told you I’m a klutz.

Again, I’ve been known to use anything at hand if I’ve misplaced my tamper, from my finger, bolts, the back end of pens, keys (they don’t work very well), multiple burnt matches, a thin lighter (not the smartest of things to do). I told you, I get desperate.

Sometimes I think I should make my own goofy tampers, out of wood or something metal. If you’ve made your own unusual tamper, I’d love to hear about them. It’d also be fun to hear about anything you’ve used as a tamper in desperation.

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