If you've done any research on tobacco pipe smoking, you may have come across the term "false light" before. Many newcomers to the hobby of pipe smoking are oftentimes confused by this term. Based on the name alone, you might assume a false light is nothing more than your flame going out; however, there's a little more to this term than what meets the eye...
False light is the term used to describe the technique of placing just enough fire over the pipe tobacco to create a light layer of ash that acts acts as a blanket of insulation. When there's insulation over your pipe tobacco, it will burn for a longer period of time; thus, eliminating the need for relighting it each time you want to take a puff.
To perform a false light, you should hold the flame (whether it's a match of lighter) over the pipe tobacco and slowly move it in a circular motion. Holding the flame in one area for too long will burn your pipe tobacco, which is something you don't want to happen. The idea is to keep the flame moving at a slow but steady speed so the heat only burns the top of the tobacco.
After performing a false light on your pipe tobacco, you should use a tamper to pat down the top layer of tobacco. The trick is to pat it down with just enough force to create a kind of ash layer on top.
You might be wondering what the purpose of a false light is. After all, can't you just skip the false light and go straight to the real light? Well, you could, but taking the time to perform a false light beforehand will help keep your pipe lit. There's nothing more frustrating than constantly lighting your pipe each time you want to take a hit, but thankfully this is something that can be prevented by performing a false light.
Learning how to perform an effective false light without destroying your tobacco is something that takes time, patience and practice (lots of it). Don't get discouraged if your flame goes out or if your tobacco burns. Keep trying and you will eventually learn to create a false light. Once you've found the "happy medium" where the flame burns just enough of the tobacco without going all the way through, you can perform a false light anytime, anywhere.