Mechanisation

I have decided that the time has come to start to mechanise my baccy production line.

When I wrote the first edition of the “GROWING, CURING… etc” essay, I had very much in mind that the people most likely to benefit from growing their own were those people who could least afford to buy fags at prevailing prices. I therefore deliberately  chose the least costly alternative in every case. For example, the tubing machine which I chose was this one:

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It cost me £5, which included 100 tubes.

There are better machines on the market. The least expensive are still mechanical in the sense that they are manually operated. More expensive machines are electrically operated. And cost around £100.

I have watched videos of people operating these more expensive machines on Utube and have been duly impressed. And yet…..

The time consuming action is filling the ‘tray’ with tobacco. In the pic above, the ‘tray’ is dark grey part in the section of the machine on the right (nearest to the tube and just above the compression tool).

In the pic above, the METHOD is to fill the ‘tray’ with tobacco. Compress the tobacco with the tool. Perhaps add more tobacco if your experience dictates that more is needed. Compress it again. Close the machine and slide the top part backwards. That action pulls the tube over the tobacco and fills the tube. The action is very simple and needs little time. Electrifying that action makes little difference to the time needed to fill a tube.

It is hard to see how the tube-filling process can be speeded up without the use of a very expensive machine. I have seen on Utube a prototype machine which could fill ten tubes  in succession quite rapidly. But it still relied upon the operator manually placing ten tubes on ten spouts. In other words, the machine was simply a combination of ten of the above illustrated machines. However, that prototype did permit the loading of tobacco into a hopper in a reasonable quantity. However, the tobacco had to be pre-prepared so that it was ‘fit’ to load into the hopper. I am not knocking the machine – it worked very well. And yet, I was not convinced that the cost of some $500 was justifiable in view of the fact that the really time-consuming events preceded the loading of the machine!

We must understand that it is not really possible to ‘short-circuit’ the need to manually prepare the tobacco, and that this preparation is what takes the time. But it IS possible to speed things up! And to use mechanical devices to do so.

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Today, I took delivery of a machine which can be used to shred tobacco leaves. It is exactly the same machine which Frank Davis mentioned a couple of months ago. Here is a pic:

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The grey rectangular object is just a piece cardboard to cushion the impact of the grip. The ruler is there for scale. You can see that the cutters are quite broad, being some 60 mm. When I passed some leaves through the machine, this is what I finished up with:

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I thought that some £30 was expensive for such a machine, but I must admit that it is very sturdy.  I must also admit that it did precisely what it was supposed to do, which was to reduce a tobacco leaf into strips. The strips were about 2 millimetres wide. I tried using these strips to make a fag, but they were too broad and long – they produced a fag which was far too dense.

But I was happy with the strips which the machine produced. I was able to pass those strips through my herb cutter and render them into flakes:

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It is not difficult to see how much easier it is to tube tobacco which has been flaked than it is to tube tobacco which is formed in long, wide strands.

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I am not sure to what extent the production of home-made cigs can be mechanised. I suspect that the lack of ‘benefit of scale’ renders the search for such a ‘crock of gold’ fruitless. I suspect that we must simply accept that, if we want to end the persecution, we have to spend some time on creating our own cigs. Frankly, I must admit that I am waiting for MPs to rebel.

But everything in politics is secret.

7 Responses to “Mechanisation”

  1. J Brown Says:

    I purchased the Exp 1000 in order to roll my fags. It is a bit bigger than the one you have, Junican, and I am well pleased with it (so much so, that I bought a spare, just in case…) Rolling in these machines takes practice, insofar as how much you put in, how much you compress, etc – I must admit that I have smoked dozens of terrible cigarettes in an effort to find the right compression. I chop my tobacco in a small coffee grinder, flaking it, rather than having it in strips. This, too, is trial and error, as flakes that are too large or too small will not smoke properly. I think I have finally found what suits me, and my cigarettes are comparable to ones that are store bought. Although I have read that the cherry tends to fall off with flakes, rather than with strips, I have not found this to be so with my fags.
    Regarding the tobacco cutter, from what I have read, you need to pass your strips a few times through the cutter, to get them small enough to roll, and then, shred them apart with your fingers. I found this, in searching the internet:

    Quite ingenious, although I imagine it would only be helpful with rather large crops of tobacco!!

    • junican Says:

      It definitely is NOT desirable to try to pass the strands through again! The little instruction sheet which came with the machine warned against putting wet leaves through since they gum up the machine, That is true of trying to pass the strands through again. I tried it, and had to wash and brush the revolving cylinders to clear the mush. The strands stuck and the cylinders would not rotate.

      Like you, I am making very tolerable fags and the cherry is no more likely to drop off than commercial fags. The point where that is most likely to happen is when the fag burns down to close to the filter tip, which is one of the reasons that I push some tobacco up the spout. I’ll continue to look around for a machine which can take any sort of tobacco and does the whole job. Until I find something along those lines, I’ll persevere with my little tubing machine!

  2. garyk30 Says:

    I will spend 15 minutes or so twice a day stuffing a dozen or so cigs for me to smoke.

    Being retired the time thing makes no difference to me.

    When I am out, I make some more.

    Wish it was that simple with the red wine that I like to drink.

    By the way, do you have a webcam and a skype account?

    Am trying to put together a little ‘smoky drinky’ video conference tonight on skype and would very much like to include you.

    I would need your skype name to put you on the call.

  3. junican Says:

    I have been reading about the smokey-drinky over at Frank’s place. I shall have to see what I can do about Skype.

  4. legiron Says:

    There is a machine similar to the simple one that fills three tubes at once. It’s basically just three of those machines side by side, built into one unit.
    http://www.roll-ups.co.uk/ishop/879/shopscr5635.html

    It must be popular because it’s out of stock at the moment 😉

    • J Brown Says:

      Interesting. It must be magic – it says fill the 3 side by side chamber and attach TWO 85mm tubes. Either I’m missing something, or they’re missing a tube!

      • Junican Says:

        I noticed that too, J. In fact, there is another typo in the last line. The word ‘of’ should be ‘or’.

        But I have bitten the bullet – see latest post.

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