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I almost burned my house down

#1
So this would be a confession and a warning.

My error is an obvious stupid goof. I smoke either outside or in my basement workshop. An end of the workbench is my pipe prep area. I rarely smoke a pipe to the bottom so I dump the remaining tobacco & dottle into a small stainless steel bowl. It stays there until I am sure it is extinguished then is dumped into a larger bowl where it stays for a long time and builds up to maybe a quart / liter of volume. Provides a nice fragrance to the shop.

Well this one time I thought the pipe was completely extinguished and dumped the remnants into the big bowl. There must have been an ember though because it slowly burned down through the mound of tobacco over maybe 5 days. The shop is underneath the living room and for days I thought I smelled pipe smoke. I went down into the shop but there was not visible smoke coming from the bowl, it was smoldering so slowly.

After it finally extinguished I moved the bowl and saw that the top of the workbench was scorched black. The majority of the tobacco in the bowl was ash now.

I was exceedingly lucky. Now the pipe is always emptied into the small bowl first. Always.
 

RedScot

Well-known member
#8
A couple of nights ago I set flame to my pipe & made the quick little wrist flip motion to shake out the match. The LIT match slipped out of my fingers and was still burning as it disappeared from view. I searched and searched but couldn't find the match with or without flame. I still haven't found it. And even though it was several nights ago, I still worry that I'm setting the house afire.
 

craig

Well-known member
#9
So this would be a confession and a warning.

My error is an obvious stupid goof. I smoke either outside or in my basement workshop. An end of the workbench is my pipe prep area. I rarely smoke a pipe to the bottom so I dump the remaining tobacco & dottle into a small stainless steel bowl. It stays there until I am sure it is extinguished then is dumped into a larger bowl where it stays for a long time and builds up to maybe a quart / liter of volume. Provides a nice fragrance to the shop.

Well this one time I thought the pipe was completely extinguished and dumped the remnants into the big bowl. There must have been an ember though because it slowly burned down through the mound of tobacco over maybe 5 days. The shop is underneath the living room and for days I thought I smelled pipe smoke. I went down into the shop but there was not visible smoke coming from the bowl, it was smoldering so slowly.

After it finally extinguished I moved the bowl and saw that the top of the workbench was scorched black. The majority of the tobacco in the bowl was ash now.

I was exceedingly lucky. Now the pipe is always emptied into the small bowl first. Always.
holy mackerel you are a very lucky man, but glad everything worked out well.
 

JustScott

Well-known member
#10
When I could smoke indoors, I had (still have, waiting for the right time...) several glass ashtrays with glued-on corks. I lost about half of one cork once, never knew it happened until I dumped the ashes. The ashtray was somewhere around 3/4 full when I dumped it, and below the line where the ashes had been, the cork looked like it had been attacked by an extremely hungry caterpillar, most of the cork was gone from just underneath the top of the ash layer down to the glue, almost all the way around. I hadn't noticed because the last remaining bit of cork was directly under where I would knock my pipe. I remember that the cork felt a bit odd for a few days, but I just thought the glue was maybe cracking. Nope, lol...
 

JustScott

Well-known member
#13
I’m really glad you caught it. I think I’m a terrible person though because my first thought was “what can this teach us about keeping our pipes lit?”
Over the last couple days, I had a thought along these lines, but I don't think it will teach us anything usable. My guess is that the reason this happens when a rogue ember gets into the container, and the scraps just keep going and going, is that these little tobacco bits have been surrounded by ash for a long enough period of time to dry beyond crispy. Once they get going they keep going, regardless of the conditions present in the container. It gets so dry it will burn if it gets ANY chance of it. So, I guess if you wanted, you could use this lesson to help keep a pipe lit, but I don't really think I want to pack a loose bowl with 3/4 or so already burned and leave it for a couple weeks to get good and dry. It would probably burn great though, lol...
 

easterngray

Well-known member
#15
Believe it or not, I always empty my pipe into the toilet! No ashtrays, no risk. 👍 Glad to read that there was no greater damage than the bench top; when I built my workbench I attached an apron of yellow pine trim around the edges that stands 1/4” proud. Than I drop a sheet of Masonite that sits level with the trim and serves as a flat, flip-able and ultimately replaceable surface. You have to find the made-in-The-USA masonite that is finished on both sides though. I found it through the “Do It Best” hardware chain.