Hey guys, I'm putting this all together with the intentions to share it elsewhere (excuse the blasphemy). I've been smoking "roll your own" for awhile. I used to buy cans of Bali Shag until the huge tax hike (5.3 oz. went from $18 to $45 at the store, shortly after it was illegal to ship roll your own across state lines via internet/phone ordering, i.e. interstate commerce). After that I tried a few things and eventually settled with Daughters & Ryan 3 Sails Pipe Tobacco, which smoked just like Roll Your Own and tasted alright.
Then the bug hit me a couple months ago. I wanted to start buying leaves and making my own blends. I loved the experimentation with different leaves, but the biggest and most frustrating obstacle was processing the tobacco, e.g. chopping/shaving/shredding. I've gone through about 6 different techniques, and think I finally landed on a working solution. I wasted a lot of money on this fucking hobby... my story below:
- The first was the Leaf Only branded Tobacco Leaf Shredder from the site that I was buying my leaves. I was only able to mount it at my computer desk since the vice/clamp/grip was too thin to mount anywhere else. It was working out OK for a little while until the thing kept jamming up and bending the combs (my tobacco was barely moist). It was also a pain in the ass to get a second or third shred with no hopper. Eventually I destroyed the thing after processing a few times. Cost $50 (unrecovered).
- I tried rolling the leaves into cigar shape and cutting with scissors based on this guide. It was difficult to cut, and the tobacco came out too thick no matter what I tried. The problem with a thick cut is that it tastes like you're inhaling pipe tobacco, too much characteristic flavor and is awful going down. I bought a pair of scissors just for this purpose. Cost $17 (hey but now I have a nice new pair of scissors).
- I bought a food processor, same problem as in #2. Cost $20 (unrecovered).
- I bought a pasta machine and an angel hair attachment. I even bought dremel tool to grind grooves into the rollers so that they grabbed the tobacco. The gears that allowed both rollers to roll in harmony broke not 10 minutes into the venture. The gears were fixed on the rod via a secant cut. That got warped and eventually only one roller was turning. I beat the machine mercilessly with a hammer and threw it in a box. Whatever I did cut actually smoked pretty decently. Cost $115 ($50 recovered)
- I bought a 3 foot plank of 3" x 3" oak wood, a hacksaw, a portable vice clamp, and an expensive meat cleaver. I pressed the leaves into brick form with ~ 1000 lbs of pressure (guessing), and tried to shave thin slices using both a straight razor and a meat cleaver. I bought a sharpening stone, and grinded away so that the cleaver was sharp enough to go through paper like soft butter. This whole project took a lot of physical effort from construction to tobacco processing. In the end, I only ended up with the same cut of tobacco as #2.
Cost $115 (unrecovered)
This next one was the last attempt, pass or fail. It's not even about the cost of tobacco anymore, it's that tobacco is more of a hobby than a habit. However, I can only fail so many times and waste so much money before I start to really lose my cool.
- I bought a Staples Mailmate M5 paper shredder. I had to rip out the protective plastic that limits the thickness of the items being fed through, as depicted here:
Then, using my metal working magic, crafted an aluminum hopper:
I then deribbed all my leaves, blending 5 different types of tobacco (American VFC, Canadian VFC, Oriental, Light Fire Cured, Aged Burley). I shredded it three times. This is the first shred:
The second shred:
The third and final shred:
And here's a view up close:
The verdict: It tastes great and burns well (evenly, ashes solid). The only caveat so far is that I have to keep relighting my cigarettes; however, since it doesn't give me that pipe taste of a low temp burn I'm not going to get too worked up over that.
In case anyone was wondering, my plan was to link to this post from the "How to Grow Tobacco" forum. I have no yard or any place to grow and cure my own leaves, so I'll just stick to buying them for now.