107. The Great Explorers Collection (2002)

Chuck Stanion is one of my favorite writers in the pipe world. If you’ve followed the tall-tale exploits of Grandpa and the 10 Tobys in any of his columns for Pipes & Tobaccos or the various Smokingpipes blogs, you need no introduction to his comedic talent. But he is equally adept in discussing the genius of artisans like J. T. Cooke or, in this case, enthusing over the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. When this short piece appeared recently, it seemed the perfect opportunity to take a look back at one of the great achievements of Peterson’s Dublin Era (1991-2018), the 2002 Great Explorers collection.

Pipes & The Shipwreck of The Endurance

“The Beginning of the End,”
19 October 1915: Shackleton leaning over the side

Amazing adventures through history have been accompanied by, and sometimes even dependent upon, pipes, such as Sir Ernest Shackleton’s shipwreck in Antarctica aboard the exploratory vessel, Endurance.

In 1914, Shackleton led an expedition of 27 men to be the first to cross Antarctica on foot. In 1914, obviously, they did not have the advantages of modern clothing or rations, electronic orienteering or GPS location, and most important, they had no radio communication, and no way to send a distress signal. Adventure was more dangerous 100 years ago.

They did it because they were manly men exploring the world, and Antarctica was there. That’s all the reason explorers needed to willingly place themselves in the most inhospitable environment on Earth: to be first to accomplish a dauntingly arduous, seemingly impossible task.

Patience Camp: Hurley (the photographer) on left,
skinning a penguin for fuel for the blubber stove; Shackleton on right

They did not succeed. They had to shift into survival mode before even trying. But if we measure their achievement in terms of sheer willpower overcoming impossible odds, their failure is among the greatest of human triumphs.

Shackleton and Wild (2nd in command), left foreground,
at Ocean Camp

The expedition found itself locked in the ice 85 miles from shore, and over the next few days, the crew watched as the Endurance was crushed and broke apart. What it must have been like to see one’s only way home destroyed before one’s eyes is impossible to understand. With no ship and no way to communicate with the world, they were on their own on the ice with only heavy wooden lifeboats and what supplies they could offload the ship.

Shackleton decided they would drag the lifeboats across the ice to open water and then sail to find help. Each man could take two pounds of personal possessions and one pound of pipe tobacco. That’s a fascinating detail regarding pipe tobacco. It was clearly seen as an essential survival tool, important enough to account for a third of every man’s possessions.

One night on the ice, camped in their tents, a fissure opened beneath them and crewman Ernest Holness woke submerged in icy water. Shackleton reached into the fissure, grabbed the sleeping bag, and hauled Holness onto the ice just before the crack slammed shut. Holness, spluttering, frozen and half-drowned, had only one complaint: “I lost my pipe tobacco,” he grumbled.

The men eventually found open water and sailed their lifeboats to Elephant Island, a deserted rock populated by little more than thorny shrubs, stones, and lichen. Shackleton then took a crew of six, including himself, in one of the boats, to sail 800 miles to a whaling station on South Georgia Island. Everyone else established a camp and prepared to survive until Shackleton’s return.

Launching the Caird from Elephant Island,
24 April 1916

Their tobacco supply dwindled to nothing, and the Elephant Island contingent of the expedition filled its days trying to find tobacco substitutes. In one experiment, they boiled all the men’s pipes with sennegrass they’d been using to line their boots. It was hoped that the residual tobacco, cake, and dottle would imbue the grasses with tobacco characteristics. They did not.

Farewell to the Caird

The expedition spent 20 months on the ice before being rescued. That Shackleton was able to navigate in stormy seas, in a small wooden boat, and achieve a rescue of all hands, is one of the greatest adventure stories of all time. I recommend the book, The Endurance by Caroline Alexander, in which she provides not only terrific detail of the adventure, but remarkable photos from the expedition’s photographer. It’s certainly a story all pipe smokers should be familiar with, if only because pipes were such an essential part of the expedition’s mental health.

We sometimes take our pipes for granted, but we should remember that in times of enormous stress, pipes have been excellent support systems through modern history. If pipes can make 20 months in tents in Antarctica more survivable, just imagine what they bring to our daily lives.


The Great Explorers Collection

Peterson always has a backstory behind their lines and collections, often connected in some important way to Ireland’s history or geography, and sometimes to its great men, as in the case of the Great Explorers collection.

In early 2002, Bernadette O’Neill, Peterson’s marketing director and the creative catalyst for the direction the company would take in the Dublin Era (1991-2018), travelled across Ireland from Dublin down to Tralee to the Kerry County Museum to soak in one of the museum’s great exhibitions, Antarctica.

The exhibit celebrated the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration and “the Irish Giant” Tom Crean in particular (pictured above), whose family had recently donated many of his effects to the museum. At the time, Crean was almost unknown. O’Neill chose three other celebrated figures to complete the collection: Robert Falcon Scott, Ernest Shackleton and Roald Amundsen. Crean was a member on three expeditions, two with Scott (1901-09 and 1911-1913), and once with Shackleton (1914-17).

O’Neill came back inspired and with an armload of books, knowing that Pete Freeks can be a little geeky about their pipes. She also knew—and so do you, now—that Crean’s descendents had for a brief time in the 1980s owned Kapp & Peterson, strengthening the Peterson tie-in even further.

If you click on each of the illustrations below you can follow Bernadette’s retelling of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration as published in The Smoker’s Guild #4 (2002), as well as get the details on the magnificent pipes celebrating Crean, Shackleton, Scott and Amundsen, which would enter the catalog as shapes B16 – B19.

A Closer Look

O’Neill did her homework in the design of the collection, as well. It would appear she found a photo of the Amundsen “polar exploration” pipe in the collection of the Arctic and Antarctic Museum in St. Petersburg, basing Peterson’s design on it.

Great Explorers Amundsen

Most photos you see of Crean show him smoking a dublin, sometimes with and sometimes without a band. If he bought his briars in Ireland (and why would he not?), then what he’s clenching between his teeth must be a Peterson. Perspective can be difficult in photographs, but we do know K&P made 3 dublin shapes during this period: the 120 (still in production) and the smaller 121 and 122. The Great Explorers homage is the largest production dublin shape Peterson has ever made, a fitting homage to the man.

Great Explorers Crean

Shackleton never seems to have been photographed smoking a pipe, but the straight brandy designed given his name in the Peterson collection certainly suggests the power and optimism of the man.

Great Explorers Shackleton

Note the little straight army-mount pipe in Scott’s left hand

For Scott, Peterson designed what is, for me, the most beautiful pipe in the collection, an upswept, flowing and deep-chambered bent billiard with the promise of being a superb va and va/per smoker.

Great Explorers Scott

The pipes in the Great Explorer collection were issued as a set and singly. O’Neill’s copy leads me to believe they were originally released only in fishtail, then later (to accommodate lower-quality bowls) in P-Lips, which were stained a dark red and given a glossier finish, as can be seen in a page from the Lubinski.it catalog a few years back:


Average Measurements

Length: 5.63 in./143.00 mm.
Weight: 2.00 oz./56.70 g.
Bowl Height: 2.06 in./52.32 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.70 in./43.18 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.84 in./21.34 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.58 in./40.13 mm.

Length: 5.95 in./151.13 mm.
Weight: 2.40 oz./68.04 g.
Bowl Height: 2.12 in./53.85 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.81 in./45.97 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.78 in./19.81 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.70 in./43.18 mm.

Length: 6.10 in./154.94 mm.
Weight: 2.24 oz./63.50 g.
Bowl Height: 2.17 in./55.12 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.83 in./46.48 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.77 in./19.56 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.58 in./40.13 mm.

Length: 5.86 in./148.84 mm.
Weight: 2.20 oz./62.37 g.
Bowl Height: 1.95 in./49.53 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.70 in./43.18 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.80 in./20.32 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.84 in./46.74 mm.


Thanks to Smokingpipes.com
for permission to reprint Chuck Stanion’s
“Pipes & The Shipwreck of The Endurance”

Pictured at Top:
Probably from Hurley’s “Laying to” sequence, 14 January 1915.
Part 1 prints from the Library of Congress
Individual photos of the Great Explorers Collection by Chas. Mundungus






106. Restoring A Late Patent-Era House Pipe (Pt. 2)

It’s System Day 2018, understandably confused in some people’s minds with a national holiday. In Ireland, at least, it should be, right? I can think of no better way to celebrate than with a poem by fellow Pete Freek Bryan J. P. Gesinger. I first saw Bryan’s poem, “My Peterson System Pipe,” hanging in the Peterson Museum in Sallynoggin, and he has graciously allowed me to share it with you:

Warm, season’d briar evokes the Em’rald Isle
Bespeaks the land of Jameson’s and Guinness.
Mystique pervades the ingenious design
Of Charles Peterson’s crowning achievement.
The natural, pure essence of tobacco
Its well-form’d bowl of aged briar yields.
Reflection turns my mind to County Dublin –
In Sallynoggin does my heart repose.

And if you love mystique of Peterson pipes but haven’t really figured out the ingenious design of the System yet, check out the post Adam O’Neill did with me on the Pipe Lines blog at Smokingpipes.com today.

And now, on with the show!
6. Ferrule

Dings, bends and loose ferrules are all common in older estate Petersons, and can often be removed without too much difficulty. The ferrule’s job isn’t primarily aesthetic, but to keep the tenon-mortise strong in the “push” (as Peterson craftsmen call the army mount style). The fit on James’s O1 is quite snug and the glue very strong. It is unusual only in the sense that I’ve never seen one mounted in such a way as the nickel marks are up front, facing the chamber rim, rather than flush to the obverse.

You can see the problem at the shank face, where the ferrule has been pulled up along the edge, presumably through long use in extracting the mouthpiece, which it scarred over the years.

Steve Laug has complete instructions in the Peterson book (by the way, the book is done and off to the indexer) for how to fix almost any problem with a ferrule, so you’ll have to wait for the official version. But this repair is straight-forward. I needed only to use the heat gun to heat the ferrule at the shank face, then roll it on a hard surface—in this case, my all-purpose mat board. The nickel was pushed back to the shank’s opening, and the few tiny crimps were pushed down and sanded with the judicious application of a small flat file.

I can’t sand the nickel cap like I would a sterling one, as it would remove the nickel-plate (the ferrule is nickel-plated brass). But I can use rouge or Tripoli compound along the ragged edge to give it a light sanding.

Before putting the ferrule on the buffing well, I applied Simichrome, my go-to silver polish, to get it as clean as possible and avoid any buffing strain on the nickel. Afterwards, aside from the nickel marks, I gave the ferrule a light buffing with white compound to remove the light surface scratches.  The nickel mark area I went over lightly with a finer jeweler’s compound, Fabulustre.

Some of the tiny dents couldn’t be removed, but any more use of the wheel might buff through the nickel, so these will have to stay as reminders of the pipe’s age and character.

7. Chamber and Air Passage

Before I go on to restaining, I’m ready to stop and clean out the air passage and sweeten the chamber. I might have just submerged the bowl, but the old briar, old putty, and bare chamber walls make the Professor’s Sweetening Method seem like the best way.

When I heated the ferrule to bend down the edges, the reservoir wafted up a strong smell of latakia. I don’t know whether James smokes English or not, but a good cleaning now will allow him to decide what he wants to smoke without the fear of ghosts haunting the bowl. You can see in the photo below that tars saturate the reservoir of a System much more intensely than its chamber.

8. Restaining.

As Steve Laug has often noted, you can match virtually any stain with just a few bottles of Fiebing’s. In my Peterson work, I routinely use medium brown, burgundy, black and orange.

Crown: At the factory, the pipe had been given a typical Peterson contrast stain: first, black over the entire bowl to bring out the grain, then the top stain, in this case a medium brown with just a bare hint of red in it.

To bring the unstained crown into a sustainable finish aligned with the rest of the bowl, I applied a coat of isopropyl-diluted Fiebing’s black aniline dye to the top (fairly weak), wiped it with a cotton pad, reapplied, and burned it in while wet. I then repeated this operation a second time. Afterwards, the crown was sanded not with a Micromesh pad, but with a flat piece of cloth Micromesh so as not to round the corners I have been at such great pains to sharpen. The rim is now ready to restain with the rest of the bowl.

Bowl: What seems to have been original color, as I said, was brown with a bare hint of red. So that’s what I mixed up: 1 drop of burgundy with about 5-6 drops of medium brown in a tiny cup filled with alcohol. I just do tiny batches, enough to treat the bowl with the Fiebing’s applicator. I didn’t burn in the stain (except on the rim), just applying, wiping off with an alcohol pad and making sure it’s uniform. My experience has been that burning in the stain clouds the grain underneath, so if you want the grain to show, don’t burn.


8. Stem

This was one of the yellowest stems I’ve ever seen. In good condition, overall, just extraordinarily oxidized. I soaked it overnight in Oxyclean, then stopped to compare the bend to those seen in the 1896 and 1906 catalogs. It might have had this slight a bend, but bends like this aren’t typically seen until decades later, and I’d like it to look as close as possible to its period. After some thought, given that I believe this is a late Patent-era pipe, I heated the mouthpiece over the heat gun, and brought down the mouthpiece end just a little to bring it into alignment of what would have been typical for the era.

After the slight re-bending, I gave it 30 minutes in a bleach dip, as I haven’t been persuaded there is any other way to get through the oxidation to the black vulcanite underneath. The air hole wasn’t clogged, but was full of tars, as the Oxyclean soak and the bleach dip both confirmed.

Cutting through such thick oxidation is always a trial for me, and I’ve learned over the past several months I can do more with less strain if I use a 500-grit sanding pad on my Foredom lathe at low rpms. The low rpms give me a chance to see what’s being cut and not take off anything but the surface oxidation. And as you can see in the before and after photo above, it worked.

If I had more experience, I might have risked taking the scarred grooves off the tenon-end of the mouthpiece. These were caused over time by the raised ferrule mentioned above. They don’t show when the mouthpiece is inserted into the mortise, and I was afraid that by cutting deeply enough to remove them, I would make the shaft too narrow and the stem wouldn’t seat properly.

9. Final Bowl Finishing

At this point, I took a page from Charles Lemon’s book and used just a little white compound on the bowl. On top of the 2000 grit-sanded surface, I’m in hopes the compound will provide a bit of a finish underneath the carnauba.

10. Pre-carb Coating

Most burnouts, as one knowledgeable estate dealer told me, stem from (1) chuffing pipers who haven’t learned to sip their smoke (yes, I plead guilty, although I’ve learned how to sip in recent years); (2) those who break in their pipes with hotter-burning tobaccos (Virginias and vapers); and (3) really old briar which may not have been smoked in recent years.

To give the pipe a little insurance against such a catastrophe, Charles Lemon at Dad’s Pipes offers my fourth and final take-away: apply a pre-carbon coating made of activated charcoal powder with maple syrup as the binder. You can read about it here.

I’ve used Charles’s method on four Petes now, and can attest to the fact that it not only works, but tastes better than any I’ve ever experienced. Commercial pipe-makers use various products, and some taste downright nasty. For the past 15 or so years, Peterson has used a good one, a vegetable-based paint-like substance, but not as good as Charles’s. His cake has virtually no taste, just a kind of clean sensation, and lets the flavors of the tobacco safely shine through from the first smoke. Moreover, his pre-carbon has done its work in 2-3 bowls, unlike commercial offerings that seem to take forever.

The method is simple: dip your finger in maple syrup (don’t let your wife see you do this if you dip directly from the bottle!) and thoroughly coat the inside of the bowl. Then fill the bowl completely with activated charcoal powder and let it set for a minute or two. Turn the bowl upside down to empty out the charcoal and let the bowl sit to dry for a few days. Before smoking for the first time, gently blow out any residue (you might want to shield your eyes here), and you’re ready to go.

I’d recommend this application anytime you take the chamber back to bare wood, but it should also work well on light cake when you want a little extra protection as you break in an estate. If anything, it will just absorb the tars in the cake underneath and help the pipe smoke sweeter. Of course, James will want to pay attention to the heat of the bowl and flavor of the smoke as he’s breaking it in, but there’s a little more insurance now.

Happy System Day!




105. Peterson System Day 2018

Peterson System Day is coming Monday, September 3rd. It may not be as important as International Bacon Day (September 1st) or National Pie Day (which isn’t until January 23rd), and I imagine it could be at least partially eclipsed by everyone’s Labor Day festivities, which falls on the same day this year.

Nevertheless, in these wonder-days of artisan pipes and boutique tobaccos, let’s pause and fire up our Systems in honor of a carver who understood and studied pipe-engineering to the extent that he took out three patents on his own design from 1890 to 1898: the Latvian immigrant to Ireland, Charles Peterson. His third and final patent, completing the System, was dated September 3rd, 120 years ago.

Charles Peterson, 1885, age 33

Aside from bona fide Pete Geeks, few pipemen these days understand what the System does or even how it works, much less what a wonderful pipe it is when properly made and smoked. All this is explained in chapter 12 of The Peterson Pipe: The Story of Kapp & Peterson, but while waiting for the book launch next May at the Chicago show, we can still review the basics of this wonderful invention, swap a few System stories and let other smokers know there’s a reason—three, actually (or is it five?)—that the Thinking Man smokes a Peterson pipe.

Here’s a couple of “educational” tools for your pipe club, forum or personal use to download and pass along. Just right-click on the .jpeg above to download, or click on the PDF link below to print a tobacco drying paper version:

System Day 2018 Tobacco Drying Paper REV

And let me hear from you. What was your first System? Your favorite? Your best System story? Mine concerns an 11S De Luxe, hallmarked 1979, seen below. I was 21 and working nights full-time as a radio dispatcher for Oklahoma Natural Gas company to put myself through college. Around midnight a few weeks before Christmas my bride of just over a year came into the studio and was so excited by her shopping that I couldn’t hear Jay out on the trouble truck. When I finally finished with “KKL503 clear,” she said with all the starry-eyed pout a 21-year old can manage that she wasn’t going to wait around until Christmas and I’d just better open my present right then and there or suffer the consequences. I opened it.





104. Restoring A Late Patent-Era House Pipe (Pt. 1)

The System’s 120th Anniversary is September 3rd!

That’s right, next Monday, September 3rd, 2018 marks the 120th anniversary of the 3rd and final patent of Charles Peterson’s celebrated System pipe. I’ve been trying since last spring to get folks interested in celebrating, but it looks like it’ll just be you and me this year.

To start things off, I thought I’d share a detailed look at the history and restoration of a rare System House Pipe in the collection of James Arrington. He and I have been trading emails about a few of his vintage Petes, and when he asked if I knew someone who might be interested in restoring this one, I volunteered for the job. James is a brave soul.

The shape is an O1, and it was one of Charles Peterson’s favorites as Pete Geeks may recall. Peterson, who had a great sense of humor, had the band of his own O1 engraved with the legend, When stolen, please return to 55, Grafton Street. C. Peterson.  The pipe still resides at the factory in Sallynoggin and was commemorated in a limited run 140th Anniversary Pipe reproduction back in 2005:

From 1896 until probably the onset of WWII, Kapp & Peterson made three of these XXL shapes, prefaced in the 1896 and 1906 catalogs with the alphabetical “O” designation. “O” stood for “oversize,” but because the early catalog pictures also illustrate 7″ and 12″ mouthpieces for these pipes—which they called “House Pipe mouthpieces” —the pipes, described in the catalogs as “Extra Large Size,” have become known as house pipes. Here is the 1906 illustration of James’s O1, but with an AB or army-tapered mouthpiece:

In the four-level taxonomy of pipe restoration (easy clean-up, reconditioning, restoration, reclamation), James’s pipe required a deep level 3 restoration. I’ve grouped the jobs as chronologically as I could, although you may notice photographs that run forward or back a little

1. Photos

The first thing to do with a great old pipe like this is get a preliminary set of photographs: its stamps, bowl, chamber, mouthpiece, button and mortise (if it’s a System). These photographs yield clues for restoration as well as documenting its unrestored beauty.

The bowl is stamped Grade 4 in a circle, the first I’ve seen, although my co-author Gary Malmberg says he’s run across this grade from time to time. You can see there are sizable fills on the obverse and a few smaller ones scattered over the rest of the bowl. Had the pipe been made after the introduction of sandblasting or rustication, that’s where it would have gone. But at this early date, the bowl was deemed of sufficient quality not to consign it to the “Dummies” reject line, so K&P created the Grade 4 line, which is not found in Peterson ephemera.

2. Dating the Pipe

Before beginning a restoration, I like to find out as much as I can about when a pipe was made on the basis of the stamps and mouthpiece combined with what can be gleaned from the Peterson ephemera. After working with the pipe and looking at the photographs for a while, I have come to believe this O1 is from the latter part of the Patent Era, for the following reasons:

  • The nickel marks are typical of those found in both the Patent Era and the Irish Free State era (1922-1937), with the mushroom-top, doored round tower and long-necked Wolf Hound. The ribs of the shamrock have either been worn down or were not stamped deeply.
  • The first COM (Country of Manufacture) stamp to appear on K&P pipes was during the Irish Free State era (1922-1937).
  • The bowl has no COM (Country of Manufacture) stamp, which could mean it was either not stamped, it was made in the late Patent Era (1913-1921), or it was made in the IFS era before the COM stamp was used.

  • It is stamped SYSTEM, a stamp which replaced the PATENT stamp at some point after the patent’s expiration in 1912.
  • K&P was advertising the De Luxe System line by 1917.

Taken together, these clues lead me to conjecture the pipe was probably cut between 1917 and 1927 (1927 being the first documented date we have the IFS stamp), which means either the late Patent era or the beginning of the Irish Free State era. Conservative estimate: 100 years ago.

3. Chamber Preliminaries

After the documentary photos, the next job was to ream the bowl and get a sense of how the chamber has fared. The previous owner liked to use a knife to remove dottle, and unsurprising in a chamber this large, often only smoked half the bowl—the cake being noticeably thicker at the top half than the bottom. The cake was all quite old, dense and hard, so he seems to have been a fairly slow, methodical smoker.

After reaming with the PipNet, I used a short dowel rod with 100 grit to remove all the remaining cake and get a good look at the chamber surface beneath. I know some pipemen won’t buy a pipe that’s been reamed back to the bare wood, but with a pipe this old, I felt it was necessary to know what James might be facing as it breaks it in. The chamber was tight and clean, with just a few of the typical “fire veins” or spider webs produced by the heat of the tobacco in any chamber over the years. The draft hole in particular was small and tight. In wood this old, as that’s often where a burnout will begin, another reason to clear it of cake.

4. Restoring the Crown

What immediately draws the eye when looking down on the crown of the bowl is if it is “out of round” and if there are any cuts or nicks along the inner rim. But what is often hidden in plain sight is damage to the outer rim, usually (like this one) softened and beaten down from years of use. At this point, I made the decision to top the crown by a millimeter (less if possible) to bring the sharp edges back.

And here’s take-away #1 for anyone new to pipe restoration, or for those who haven’t worked on many Petes: old Systems, particularly the straight-sided ones like the ‘dutch’ bent shapes (the 02, 4 / 309, and 1 / 301) can often benefit by topping a millimeter or so if the crown has been softened or beaten down. If you’re careful, it won’t affect the visual perception of the shape at all. If you take nothing away from this post, think about trying this step on future projects where it may be indicated.

After reaming the chamber and giving the outside of the briar a good wipe down with isopropyl-soaked cotton pads, I found exactly what I needed to guide my topping job: a small burn mark on the outer rim. It measured .95mm, which should remove enough wood to restore a crisp top and sharp edges to the crown.

After taping the ferrule (very important for System pipes), I began with 100 grit on a flat surface (no pads!) to get through the first .50 mm, then went up to 150 until I hit the burn mark. There followed 220 and 400, where I stopped to put in the bevel.

Take-away #2: When the inner rim of the chamber has been scarred in various places by a knife, it can be made to look almost new with a small bevel commonly used on Petes of mid- and high grades. I suspect one reason such bevels have been used by pipe makers is to aid in getting the ashes out without scarring the rim.

As so often happens, the bowl itself will tell you how deep and wide to make the bevel. On this O1 there is a little nick in the inner rim from the previous owner’s knife-reaming that indicates the depth I want. Achieving that would remove surface imperfections around the inner rim and bring it back into round.

I use the same dowel rod I use to finish the inner chamber to make the bevel, using 150 grit to do most of the shaping, then 220 and 400 to finish the preliminary work.

There are two lines to keep your eyes on when you bevel: the outer line on the top of the crown, and the inner line inside the bowl. The goal, of course, is to make the two lines run parallel to the edge of the bowl and each other. In practice, this isn’t usually possible, because the rim and the chamber are never perfect circles—in fact, they probably weren’t when it was originally drilled.

5. Bowl Surface: Sanding and Fills

Before sanding the bowl, there are some dings to deal with: two little meteor showers, one on each flank of the bowl, and two little pock splashes, one on the bottom of the bowl and one near the crown.

I use a doubled T-shirt fabric, soaking wet, covering the affected area, then heat a flat-head screwdriver on the stove and press it onto the T-shirt, letting the hissing steam pull out the dings. This takes a few applications until you can see and feel the dings rise. There’s usually a ghost left, which sand paper can easily remove.

After raising the dings, I turned to sand the bowl, beginning with a 400-grit pad, then followed with a 500. I find that if I go below 400, I’ll remove most of the original stain, which I don’t want to do if I can help it, as this is a restoration, not a reclamation.

Before you begin, be sure to tape over the stampings! I tell you this as one who has nearly sanded them off before I realized the pad was hitting the affected area. Just sanding with 400 grit makes an old bowl like this feel incredibly smooth. I stopped here to take care of the major fills, but as you can see, at 500 (in the photo below), the briar is already beginning to “glow.”

You may not know this, but Peterson pipes of the last several decades are only sanded up to 400 grit. They tried to go higher at one point—600 or maybe 800 I think Paddy Larrigan told me—but they ran through the paper so quickly they realized it wasn’t financially viable and so settled on 400 as the sweet spot.

Compare that to what one of my favorite artisans, Silver Gray, said in her interview on PipesMagazine Radio Show: she sands her pipes to 12,000 grit. “Light bulb,” as Felonius Gru would say. But before I sand, I need to do the fills and re-stain it.

The obverse has some “acne” (pits, root marks and fills) which I’m leaving, as they give the pipe some of its distinctive character as a Grade 4. The putty seems solid in the tiny fills on this side, so I see no need to pick it out and refill.

I use Steve Laug’s method for filling places where the old putty has fallen out. You need a dental pick, a small sculptor’s tool, or something similar, and of course some briar dust. It doesn’t take much at all, so if you’ve got an old bowl, a minute or two of swipes on 100 or 150 grit will get you all you need.

Here’s Steve explaining his method from a post over at Reborn Pipes:

I then took a tin of briar dust I have saved from pipes I have worked on over the past months. I keep some on hand for patches like these. I wet the end of the dental pick and dipped it into the briar dust and move it around to form a ball of the dust on the end of the pick. I used my finger to move the dust ball into the hole on the shank and the bowl. I patted the dust into the hole with the tip of a knife blade as I wanted a good tight fill. I then squeezed a few drops of super glue into the dust in the hole. As I did this the dust would shrink a bit and I added more dust and more super glue. When I was done the holes were filled and both had a small bump over where they used to be. I always over fill the holes so that when I sand them down they are smooth and I can feather in the fills with the rest of the briar. I was fortunate in this case that the holes were lined up with the grain marking around them. Once the glue dried (very quickly by the way) I sanded and checked to see if I had missed any spots. I wanted the entire surface smooth to the touch and under a jeweler’s loop. I sanded the spots down and blended them into the bowl surface. Once that was done I wiped the bowl down with a cotton cloth dampened with Isopropyl alcohol to remove any remaining dust.

You can see the mistake I probably made. I used amber CA glue instead of black. I’m not sure the black would have colored my briar dust–does anyone know? As glue is over the top of the sanded fills, I’ll need to spot stain these fills afterward, so they will be a bit less obvious to the eye than might have been the case. Oh well. Sorry, James!

And now for take-away #3: sand the bowl all the way through the Micromesh pad set up to 12,000 grit. It’s easy work that costs nothing but a little time and some pad grit, but will tell afterwards in the long-term patina and gloss of the bowl, as well as how it feels between the fingers. So after sanding down the CA glue fills, I continued up from 500 grit to 600, 900, then through the Micromesh grades.  This goes much faster than vulcanite restoration, and I think you’ll see the end result worth the few minutes it takes.


September 3rd: System Day 2018–
The 120th Anniversary of the Final Patent
. . . And the exciting conclusion of
“The Case of Arrington’s O1”. . .


TIN TALK #7: The indisputable connection between
pipe-smoking and ratiocination.