Mulling Things Over


Rolling your own smokes

Making your own cigarettes can be done by hand-rolling. If you grew up in the sixties or seventies, you should have at least a passing familiarity with this activity, albeit not with cigarette tobacco. 🙂 However, most people who make their own cigs nowadays use an injection machine, and the process is one of injecting tobacco into a pre-made paper cylinder, rather than rolling anything. You purchase the cylinders with filters already in them. The result looks very much like a prepackaged cigarette.

There are two reasons to make your own: a considerable cost savings, and they taste better. Leaving aside the cost of the injection machine, you’ll spend something like $13 per carton on your homemade cigarettes.

Inexpensive plastic injection machines cost as little as four or five dollars. You can get starter kits with one of these, but I don’t know what kind of tobacco they come with; if you go this route, be sure to take into account that the tobacco might be substandard when making your initial judgments. Consider buying a small pouch of nicer tobacco to experiment with, too.

Fancier injection machines cost up to about $70; I have a Supermatic II, which costs about $50. The small ones can be held in your hand; the Supermatic is a table-top machine, about the size of a thick spiral-bound notebook, with a large hand-crank on it.

I haven’t used one of the cheap injectors. My brother tells me that they wear out after several months, but at that price, it’s not a big deal. He doesn’t think they’re hard to use, but the table-top units like my Supermatic are reputed to be easier. Injection machines typically make one cigarette at a time, although there are some that make two at a time. The only one I have personal experience with is my Supermatic. The Excel, by the same company, works a bit differently, is more compact, costs less, and is also reputed to be very good.

To make a cigarette, you place a ready-made paper cylinder with filter on a short tube that sticks out of the machine, pack some tobacco in a slot, and then apply some muscle power. On the Supermatic, you turn a crank; on the little injectors, you usually push or slide something. This action packs the tobacco into a cylindrical shape and pushes (injects) it into the paper tube. The only tricky part is learning how much tobacco to pack into the machine, which can vary a bit depending on the type and moistness of the tobacco. It requires a little force, but my wife uses the Supermatic to make her own with little trouble, and she’s certainly not a weight lifter. The only time it’s hard is if you pack too much tobacco in the machine. Be sure to read the instructions that come with your machine and heed them to avoid overstressing and breaking it.

After some practice, it takes me about 10 or 15 minutes to make two packs of cigarettes. My brother reports similar speed with his small injection machine.

The pre-made tubes I have used so far are Zig-Zag brand, and they cost about $2.60 for a box of 200. They’re available as regular or light — the latter having ventilation holes just in front of the filter that mix air with the smoke. (Prepackaged light cigarettes usually use the same scheme.) My wife uses the light tubes, but I prefer the regulars. My brother has settled on a different brand of tube, Premiere, which I’ve also tried. Can’t say as I see much difference.

You can get tobacco in various sizes of pouches and cans. For a carton’s worth of tobacco, prices might be about $7 to $11 (maybe more for finer tobaccos?). Watch out for the really cheap ones, like Top; my memory of these from my hand-rolling days is that they are pretty tasteless.

The tobaccos are usually a shaggier cut and moister than what you get in a prepackaged cigarette. The tobaccos are specifically for cigarettes; I don’t think pipe tobacco would work well for injecting, and a few puffs of that would probably knock you out cold anyway. 🙂

There are lots of tobaccos to choose from, and most are much better than the tobacco in prepackaged cigarettes. Trying out different tobaccos is fun, and you can even blend them to get something that’s just right for you.

Here are some tobaccos I’ve tried so far:

Kentucky Smooth ultra-light: A nice, smooth, but unremarkable tobacco. Recommended to me by the tobacconist in Saline when I started a few weeks ago, and it probably is a good starting point.

Drum: This is a European-style “halfzware shag”, i.e. a very shaggy cut. Very strong, with a nice flavor that will seem very unusual to American smokers. This’ll give you a hell of a buzz if you’re used to smoking prepackaged light cigs. In spite of the strength, it has less initial ‘bite’ than tobaccos that you’re probably used to. Get a small pouch to try it, or larger quantities in a can. Although I like it for hand-rolled cigarettes (the shag cut makes it easier to roll), I find it too strong by itself in injected cigarettes, which have a lot more tobacco in them than hand-rolled ones. I generally use a blend of about 40% Drum with 60% McClintock Full Flavor. This was my first experiment with blending, and I was quite happy with the results. A bit more expensive than average.

McClintock Full Flavor (the red can): Very nice by itself, a bit strong with a little bit of a bite, but still smoother than prepackaged butts. Mixing with Drum adds flavor. Reasonable price.

McClintock Virginia (the yellow can): A bit lighter than the Full Flavor, but more of a bite like prepackaged butts. Not my favorite. Reasonable price.

Samson: Another halfzware shag, like Drum. Somewhat less strong. Still very dark and flavorful, perhaps slightly less so than Drum.

Bali: Another halfzware shag, supposedly competes with Drum. I have a pouch of this, but haven’t gotten around to trying it yet.

So far, I’ve purchase all my supplies in person at the Smoker’s Shop in Saline, MI:

521 E Michigan Ave
Saline, MI 48176
Phone: (734) 944-7147

You can also order all this stuff online. Check out this Web site, dedicated to making your own cigarettes, it’s a hoot and very informative: Roll Your Own Magazine.

As an example of pricing, a 6-ounce can of McClintock costs less than $12 at Smoker’s Shop, and claims to make 200 cigs (one carton). This is on the low end of tobacco prices, so the average carton cost is probably a bit more than what I said below. Drum and Samson come in cans with slightly less than 6 ounces, and cost under $14.

One Response to “Rolling your own smokes”

  1. 1 » Blog Archive » A better cigarette machine Says:

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