Peterson at the 2017 IPCPR 2017 (Video)

I’ve often thought it might be fun to attend the IPCPR, although the ethos of the cigar crowd, which seems to predominate at the show, is usually  far from mine and most pipemen I know. Nevertheless, I must confess I started smoking “seegars” in 6th grade under the influence of Walt Kelly’s Albert the Alligator. Swisher Sweets, mostly. The big ones. No kidding.

Kelly was an inveterate cigar smoker, and I was so immersed in the world of the Okefenokee Swamp crew that it just seemed like the right thing to do. Fortunately in those by-gone days, all a minor had to do was walk into any drugstore, newsstand, or tobacconist and have the ready coin. There was a drugstore across from Brookside Baptist Church (which it felt like my family attended five or six times a week), and on Wednesday or Sunday nights I sometimes found it possible to escape for a few minutes, make a purchase, and have a smoke. How I did that without either of my parents ever suspecting, I don’t know. It wasn’t an act of rebellion, just an extension of my literary life, although I knew better than to tell either of them.

Well, all this to say that I stumbled on this short video interview with Tom Palmer, CEO at Peterson, from the IPCPR 2017 show last July at http://www.stogiereview.com, and reblog it here with the kind permission of Brian Hewitt. Tom looks like he’s had a busy day, but if you watch and listen carefully, there’s a few surprises that will more than make it worth your while.

 

Fumare in Pace!

 

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72. The New Arklow Custom Line from Smokingpipes

As we discuss in the book, Peterson has a long-standing tradition of customization and design collaboration that stretches back to the first decades of the company. This could be anything from a short run of a single pipe, like the 307 System sandblast currently available for pre-order from Cupojoes.com for the Pipe Smokers of Ireland Facebook club, to a commemorative like the 135 numbered pieces produced for the James Fox 135th Anniversary last year, to a full-fledged line for a large retailer like Laudisi (Smokingpipes.com). These special edition pipes are of great interest to Pete Nuts, and I always enjoy hearing about them and how they came about.

A few weeks back, one of the finest examples I’ve seen in a long time of a custom-line collaboration appeared at Smokingpipes, one that just begs to be seen all in one place. So I got in touch with Sykes Wilford at Smokingpipes and Conor Palmer at Peterson, who both modestly demurred that it was just part of the routine, but as you look at these pipes, I think you may find the Arklow line that came out of their collaboration is anything but.

According to Sykes, the 2011 sandblast Wicklow was the first Peterson-Laudisi collaboration. From the Smokingpipes website, it looks like the line underwent two or three iterations in color and finish before coming to a close around 2014. At some point since then, Laudisi also commissioned two further sandblast custom lines, the Aran sandblast and the Kildare sandblast. The latter was a collaborative effort between Sykes, Michael Walters (of Ashton Cigar) and Tom Palmer at Peterson and as you can see, is moving toward what would become the Arklow.

Earlier Smokingpipes – Peterson Sandblasts (left to right):
Wicklow, Aran, Kilare

But for the fourth round of Smokingpipes – Peterson sandblasts, the idiom seems to have switched from Shakespeare to Oz: Sykes may have gone in as usual for “a horse of that color” (Twelfth Night, 2:3), but I think he went out with “a horse of a different color” altogether, as they say in The Wizard of Oz.

1.

A little over a year ago, Sykes and Conor began talking about a new line for Smokingpipes that would reflect Laudisi’s commitment to the uniqueness of each pipe as a functional work of art. Each pipe the company sells (as you already know) is photographed so “the pipe you see is the pipe you receive,” as their slogan goes.

The first change on the bells was that Smokingpipes wanted breadth in shape selection for the line, something not usually seen in a custom line, nor in Peterson’s annual commemoratives like the St. Patrick’s Day and Christmas pipes. These usually top out at a dozen shapes, one of which is often a collectible coming down through one of the higher, more limited production series or specials. Then, of course, the Derry Rustic line happened, and with it, the dam seems to have burst.

The B60 (Bow), curiously mis-stamped
for the Arklow line as the XL26 (Hansom)

In any event, the best way for Conor to achieve the catalog breadth Sykes wanted was through sandblasted shapes, which are more readily available than smooths. Like the Derry before it, the Arklow seems to be conceived to allow virtually any shape from the catalog to come and go. Cool idea.

The original idea, Sykes continued, was to have the pipes silver-mounted (like the Lubinski Italian lines), but in the end that pushed costs higher than was thought feasible for the line, so a nickel-mount was decided upon.

2.

Then came the issue of stains. Samples were made up in both a dark ruby and a brown, but it was a toss-up: everyone liked both. Conor brilliantly suggested they go half red and half brown, thereby diversifying the line even more.

The D20 (POY 2016) Arklow in red and brown

3.

But as the final design concept began to come together, the real coup-de-grace occurred when Jonathan Fields in the workshop suggested the crowns be finished with a smooth deep bevel and stained with a lighter shade of ruby for the red and honey for the brown finish. You can see the penultimate visual design (without the contrasting top color) in the deeply-blasted sample of the B58 below (the Starboard from the original Iceberg series).  “But wait,” as they used to say in the old late-night TV ads, “There’s more!”

4.

Finally, Jonathan had the idea that some of shapes be slightly “topped” or shortened, about 2mm to 4mm, it looks like to me. Not all the shapes, just enough to make a Pete Nut’s jaw drop in surprise. This is the first time in the company’s history that anything like this has been done–to consciously alter an established shape. One of the most dramatic examples is the plump brandy transformation of shape 68, seen here.

68 in the Royal Irish (top) and brown Arklow (bottom)

 

The intense chubby effect produced on the XL90:
pure Peterson muscle

The shape-shifting effect is immediately evident to aficionados, in some cases being quite dramatic. Of course, the smooth sanding of a bottom portion of the bowl to accommodate the laser-stamping – a long-standing Peterson practice – also effects produces some of the shape change, as we’ve seen before in earlier blast lines. Here’s another of my favorite shape-shifters from the first release, the XL20 (Rathbone):

The XL20 (Rathbone) in its Arklow “red” dress

5.

The shorter acrylic fishtail stems with hot foil P also deserve mention, because they’re a departure from classic Peterson house style, some with only a very slight bend and an upward cant at the button. And I have to compliment the button on these acrylics, with their taller shelves, as much easier to clinch than what was being made in the previous generation of acrylic mouthpieces.

The XL23, already stout, is just plain PHAT in its Arklow “red” dress

Sykes told me Smokingpipes has initially received 170 pieces in the Arklow line, and they’re proving very popular. It’s easy to see why. If you see a shape you like, give it some thought, because you might not see it again. When I first saw my beloved XL339 (the 309) shape, I resisted as long as I could – it must have been two, maybe three days (!). When I could stand it no longer, I found it had been sold. When it appeared again the following week, I knew my duty and did it, as you can see in the photo at the bottom.

 

 

Thanks to F. Sykes Wilford of Smokingpipes
and Conor Palmer at Peterson
(Photos courtesy Smokingpipes.com & Chas. Mundgunus)

 

 

71. Reading the Story of A Premier System

According to my co-author Gary Malmberg, Petersons are the second most-datable pipes with a long history, after Dunhills post-1920 (which as a rule all have a date code) and Ashton. Every pipe has a story, even if most of those stories are lost, but one of the things we hope the Peterson book and a few of the major catalog reprints will do is help collectors learn how to read the story of each Peterson they companion or are thinking of adding to their rotation.

I thought I might use the pipe pictured above as an example, which arrived a few weeks ago. The pipe we’re looking at appears to be new, or at least “new / old stock,” but how old, exactly?

 

The Bowl

The first place to begin, of course, is with the bowl itself. When dealing with a Peterson pipe, this means knowing a little about the bowl’s line, shape number(s), shape changes, and chuck marks.

Unlike many other pipe-makers who sand out the chuck marks from the lathe inside the chamber, Peterson has, since the beginning, simply left them.  Usually these four bands of pin-points can be seen even when covered by the dark vegetable-base “paint” used in later years (which is not a pre-carb, by the way). The chuck marks are your guarantee that what you’re buying is really “new / old stock” and not a pipe that has been expertly reconditioned. A minor point, but fun to know, I think.

The 300 shape series numbers were in place by the 1937 catalog, and the book details the evolution of how they came about, as well as providing a cross-reference table of System shapes with other series numbers. Originally this was a Patent shape 11, described in the ephemera as a “large billiard.” Today’s 11S is the shape as it is deployed in the De Luxe System line. The shape has had two other numbers: the X220, also in use today in the Classic (or non-System) Range, and the 72, its old Dunmore Premier System number. This only tells us what we will find out from other evidence: that the pipe was made after 1937 or so. But redundancy, as communication theorists know, is a welcome tool.

While the vast majority of shapes in the Peterson catalog have exactly the same external dimensions they did when they were first introduced (barring slight differences caused by sanding and sandblasting), there are a few that have changed slightly over the years. The 999 springs to mind as the most obvious example, morphing as it did from a chubby author (“John Bull”) to a leaner rhodesian.

But the 312 has also changed over the years, becoming slightly less curvy, a little thinner in the shank, and a bit shorter. You can see this in the two photos below. In the first, from left to right are height examples from the Eire era, the Early Republic era, the Late Republic era, and the Dublin (present) era. As you can see, the two on the left are the same height and the two on the right are the same. At some point between the late 1940s and the late 1970s, the bowl was shortened a bit and given a slightly thinner shank. You can see this in second photo, but I’ll be the first to admit it’s easier to grasp what I’m saying if you have several examples laying in front of you that you can pick up and measure with a caliper.

 

The Ferrule

When a Peterson has a band or a ferrule, this is often the best place to begin. Peterson has only had five or six silversmiths in its long history (an amazing fact), and each has had his distinctive style of turning. The pipe shown here has a sterling band, and is stamped with the old maker’s mark K & P in shields over STERLING over SILVER and to the right PETERSON over a ruled line over DUBLIN. Looking at the hallmark chart in the encyclopedia chapter, we read that, having no hallmarks, this ferrule was turned between 1939 and 1968. During many of those years and even today in some lines, the K & P shields are used as a sterling mark.

 

The Bowl Stampings

Because many Peterson pipes don’t have silver or banded work, many pipemen begin their reading with the nomenclature on the briar itself. In the case of this pipe, we begin with the COM or Country of Manufacture stamp on the reverse side, which reads MADE IN over IRELAND in two lines. Consulting the encyclopedia, we find that this stamp, alas, doesn’t help us at all, as it has been used since the early 1920s, although it was aggressively revived in the late 1940s. It has, furthermore, been used in most every decade since it appeared. Still, let’s hold on to that “aggressively revived in the late 1940s” as a clue.

The obverse stamping bears an arched forked-P PETERSON’S over arched SYSTEM over a straight PREMIER. “At last!” we think—that forked-P must mean it’s an older pipe, what pipemen have called “Pre-Republic” before they were able to consult the book and learn a more precise taxonomy. But alas, no. According to the encyclopedia, the forked-P in several variations, while it was in use from the earliest Patent days, has also been used with some frequency well after 1949.

 

The Stem

Let’s move on to the stem. Here we have our first real advance within the 1939 – 1968 perimeter. In the chapter on smoking the System pipe, we find a sidebar on stem bends, and throughout the book there are representative catalog pages from each era of Peterson production. This particular bend, called in the book a “boomerang,” occurs at the middle of the stem and is approximately 120 degrees. I love this bend, because it brings the pipe closer to the smoker, making it weigh less when clinched than other bends (the “moment arm,” I think my dad the engineer calls it).

Examples of the boomerang are found as early as the 1896 catalog, but became widespread in the late 1940s, then seem to have disappeared entirely by the early 1960s, which is why they look so striking to contemporary pipemen.

Then there’s the tenon extension, and here we hit another piece of vital information. It’s white, and it’s made of bone. If we needed any additional proof that this is an unsmoked pipe (!), this is it, as the bone tenon colors immediately with the first smoke. The bone tenon, according to the craftsmanship chapter’s interviews with artisans at the factory, was discontinued around 1960, when it was replaced by aluminum. So now we have a pipe whose vintage lies between 1938 and 1960 – a period of 22 years. So much for the evidence of the pipe itself.

 

The Box and Papers

The reason I always go on about saving the box and papers of a pipe comes into play here, as the pipe was received in the sock, box, and with the papers shown below. It is, of course, possible that someone found this old box in an attic and just stuck the pipe in it, but it seems unlikely. That the box has been hand-marked “9s” on the end is typical for the age of brick-and-mortar pipe shops, when boxes were stored under the counter or in cabinets behind the counters. If you’ve ever bought a pipe in a real pipe shop, you’ll know what I mean: the clerk is anxious to make the sale and has no time (or interest) in finding the right box, if he still even has it. Having said that, the papers, while incomplete, do contain the “Chat with the Smoker” brochure, which we discuss in the book and I won’t spoil for you here. But that brochure tells us the pipe, if this was the box it was sold in, wasn’t made before 1955.

Taken together, the clues indicate that this 312 Premier was in all probability made in the Early Republic period between 1955 and 1960. Premiers, as the book tells us, also seem to be fewer in number than their De Luxe kin, so this is something rather special, all told.

Now all you need to do this kind of reading for yourself is get a copy of the book and those catalog reprints, right? We’re working on it. Almost half-way through the book’s layout & design!

 

Cataloging

Bowl Stamps Obverse: Arched Forked-P PETERSON’S over arched SYSTEM over straight SYSTEM
Bowl Stamps Reverse: MADE IN over IRELAND; 312 to lower right
Ferrule Stamps: K & P separately, in shields (maker’s mark) over STERLING over SILVER; PETERSON over ruled line over DUBLIN
Weight: 2.10 oz. / 60 gr.
Bowl Height: 2.032 in. / 51.61 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.62 in. / 41.31 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.747 in. / 18.98 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.48 in. / 37.82 mm
Stem Bend: “Boomerang”
Tenon Extension: bone
Shape: “Large Billiard”
Box and Papers: Green Peterson’s De Luxe Pipe with white printing box, 7.5 x 2 x 3 inches; c. 1955 “Chat with A Smoker” brochure; cream padded rayon pipe sock, maroon lettering and draw-string
Date of Manufacture: 1955-1960

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

70. Peterson “A” Shapes (the 1995 Antique Collection)

Note: For those so inclined, I have put two pipes appearing in the book up for sale in the “FOR SALE & TRADE” page found on the navigation bar at the top. There is also some Penzance and other tobaccos I’m looking to trade, if anyone has an excess of virginia tobaccos on hand. If you buy either of them, I will be glad to list your name as “from the collection of” in the photo credits at the back of the book!

 

 

The “A” Shapes — all in one go!  This must be the smallest shape group in the entire Peterson catalog. Certainly, it’s the smallest one I know about, consisting of just four numbers, A1 – A4. They all derive from Peterson’s first full-blown foray into antique reproductions. They weren’t the company’s first look back, the 1981 Mark Twain and a few other pieces having appeared in the late 1970s, but they remain the finest presented set, and were made available in a leather companion cased set as well as individually cased, beginning in 1995 and running through 1999 or so.

 

A1 (1910 – Straight Bulldog P-Lip Army Mount)

The inspiration for the “1910” A1 could very well be the bulldog System 35 pictured on p. 42 of the 1906 catalog. Alone of the four original antique shapes, the A1 has remained in the catalog, and has been available in several lines over the years, including the St. Patrick’s Day for 2008 (2nd below) and 2011, the Donegal Rocky, the Smokingpipes.com exclusive Aran sandblast, and the Derry Rustic (first below). It’s just a great bulldog shape, not too big, not too small.

 

 

A2 (1905 – P-Lip Army Mount Billiard)

The “1905” A2 seems to be a copy of the System 29, also on p. 42 of the 1906 catalog, where it is displayed with an AB long, or army-mount tapered long stem. Here the Dublin-Era designers of the mid-1990s one-upped the original catalog illustrations, opting for a chubby AB stem that I’ve always admired. The reproduction, of course, was not drilled for a System, which means the chamber is significantly deeper, and from personal experience, I can say it smokes very well indeed as a P-Lip. In its A-shape release, I’ve only been able to track it as appearing in the 2002 St. Patrick’s Day line, although I wouldn’t be surprised if it appeared in other lines as well.

 

A3 (1909 – Bent System with Space-Fitting Mount)

The A3 derives from the so-called “1909” bent System with Space-Fitting Mount. I say “so-called” because the shank angle and size of the bowl most closely resemble the System Ball shape 15 seen on p. 24 of the 1906 catalog, but the A3 is actually more of a chopped billiard than a ball. My sense of this shape is that whoever cut it did not have a clear understanding of the three basic Patent shapes (the ball, the billiard, the straight billiard or “dutch”). Perhaps making a ball shape is something contemporary cutters no longer know how to do.  In any event, what the Peterson aficionado is left with is, in fact, an original System shape with a functioning System design, which is kind of fun, really, as this makes it one of the rarest of all System shapes.  Like the A2, it is hard to track in subsequent lines. I’ve only found it appearing in the extremely handsome and remarkably P-lipped St. Patrick’s Day 2000 release. As you can see in the photo below from Smokingpipes.com, it is easily the handsomest of all the A shape releases, somewhat resembling the Sherlock Holmes Moriarty, although smaller in size.

 

 

A4 (1903 – Dublin with Space-Fitting Mount)

Originally the 31S System in the 1906 catalog (seen here as a 31A), like the “1905,” this great dublin-on-steroids shape wasn’t made in the Antique Reproduction collection as a true System, but did have a tenon extension built into the mouthpiece (also true of the “1909”) and performs quite well as a P-Lip.  It appeared subsequently as an A4 in the incredible sterling-mount P-Lip 1999 July 4th line and the 2002 St. Patrick’s Day F/T nickel-band.

 

 

Photographs courtesy
Danishpipeshop.com
Smokingpipes.com