About Mark Irwin

Mark Irwin and co-author Gary Malmberg are currently at work on K&P: Kapp & Peterson and the Peterson Pipe, due out from Briar Books Press in late 2015.

New Year, New Challenge! Fitting a New Army Mount Stem to a Peterson K&P Irish Made X105

This is an important post from Charles Lemon over at Dad’s Pipes for anyone interested in how to go about fitting and resizing Peterson army-mount stems.

Welcome to 2019, everyone! I hope it is a peaceful and prosperous year for all.

I’ve been putting off and putting off this particular job, but finally pulled myself together and sat down to get it done! On the worktable today is a Peterson K&P Irish Made X105 Army mount Billiard. It came from a pipe friend sans stem, with the request that I see what I could do with it to make it useable again. The stummel was in quite good condition – a little lava on the rim and a bit of old tobacco and cake in the chamber, but overall, the briar was in quite good shape.

These pics show what I had to work with:


The stummel is stamped “K&P” over “Irish Made” on the left shank, and “Made in the” over “Republic” over “of Ireland” followed by the shape number, “X105” on the right shank…

View original post 822 more words


That’s right! Peterson Pipe Notes has moved to petersonpipenotes.org. If you’re already a subscriber, you don’t need to take any action. If you’re not, head on over and check out the new site. Mel Bud, the Peterson book designer and tech goddess, has done some marvelous things.

114. A Visual History of Peterson’s Shape 999


I always find myself thinking of the classic 999 John Bull (pictured above) as typical of Kapp & Peterson’s house style with its short, beefy shank, chubby tapered mouthpiece and P-Lip.  Unlike other iconic Peterson shapes, however, it seems unlikely that this one was an original. Collectors more knowledgeable than I know there were many English and French makers who also made a shape very like it, if not earlier, then at about the same time beginning in the 1920s or 30s.

A 1939 GBD 9239R (Courtesy Al Jones)

Al Jones has several favorites, including GBD’s 9242 and 9438, Comoy’s 499, and Sasieni’s Ashford. And if you play with the design a bit, you can come up with a number of variations and more than one name by which the shape is called. Many American pipemen call the 999 a rhodesian, although at BriarWorks they call it a bullmoose. But Greg Pease, perhaps thinking of Tracy Mincer’s Custombilt pipes, would say a bullmoose has a forward-jutting chin and is usually sporting a saddle bit.

For Pete Freeks there is fortunately away out of this etymological muddle: what has Peterson always called it? It usually just goes by its shape number, but when Peterson has given it a name, it’s always the same name: John Bull.

Note also that whenever the two shapes pictured above are named in the K&P ephemera—which is from 1947 to 1992—they’re always given the same names. Diamond-shank? Pete freeks, that’s a Rhodesian Bent. Round shank? John Bull. But while the song (or name) remains the same, the fact is the 999 pictured in the 1992 brochure illustration above was not the first nor even the second shape given this number, but the third.

Thanks to Steve Dundish and his remarkable 999 collection, it’s finally possible to document all three shapes and shed a little light on the number’s history.

The first sighting in K&P ephemera occurs in the 1937 “Chat with A Smoker” pipe box brochure, which was printed at about the same time that K&P opened its London factory in the Bradley’s Buildings on White Lion Street. The thing to notice here is that this 999 is the classic fat beaded version Peterson later dubbed “John Bull,” the name (as Anglophiles know) being a metonym or personification of England, visually depicted, says Wikipedia as “a stout, middle-aged, country dwelling, jolly, matter-of-fact man.”

The 999’s entry into the Peterson catalog may not be just a coincidence, either. The London factory had just opened (as the book will explain in further detail) to manufacture pipes for the English market, and what more natural than to do than make sure Peterson has on offer a few fashionable English shapes?

The historians among us remember Ireland entered what its people called “the Emergency” on September 2, 1939—WWII—a state of crisis that continued until the Emergency Powers Acts was discontinued on the same day seven years later. We review the impact of this for Kapp & Peterson in the book, but what is interesting for the 999 is that between its first sighting in 1937 and its appearance just before international hostilities halted US imports in mid-1942, the shape had morphed from a John Bull into what appears to be a slightly-larger unbeaded shape, what everyone calls an “author.” Here it is in the George Yale 1942 catalog illustration you’ve seen in the blog before:

Thanks to Steve’s fascination with the 999, we can also now see two real-life Emergency-era 999s, a Captain Pete (top) and a nickel-banded Shamrock (bottom):

That both of these author 999s are from US Rogers Imports lines, and that the author version of the 999 isn’t seen in any Peterson ephemera outside the US, brings up some questions: did the factory make the shape exclusively for the US market (which may be the case with the 9BC and the 02BB)? Or did K&P or Rogers Imports change their minds about the shape after the war? I doubt we’ll ever know.

The Shamrock line, according to Rogers Imports Ltd. copyright information, seems to have been in production as early as 1938, while their Captain Pete line began c. 1940, giving a few time to get to the States. As the stamps reveal on Steve’s pipe (seconded by Gary Malmberg’s documented research), Captain Petes were not made solely by the London factory (contra Pipephil.eu).

“MADE IN IRELAND,” both Gary Malmberg and I agree, is what is typically found on the Rogers Imports pipes, rather than the “ÉIRE” stamp one would otherwise expect for these years.

Without handling several examples of a factory pipe made over a few decades, there’s no way one can really get a sense of true comparative sizes, which can vary by a few millimeters due to the nature of the wood, sanding, and production. Still, here are measurements comparing Steve’s 999 Shamrock Author with a classic 999 Shamrock John Bull:

999 Author                                                     999 John Bull
Length: 5.31 in. / 135 mm.                             Length: 5.25 in. / 133 mm.
Bowl Height: 1.69 in. / 43 mm.                      Bowl Height: 1.63 in. / 41.38 mm.
Bowl Width: 1.5 in. / 38 mm.                         Bowl Width: 1.80 in. / 45.91 mm.
Chamber Width: 0.87 in. / 22 mm.                Chamber Width: 0.70 in. / 17.88 mm
Chamber Depth: 1.25 in. / 31.75 mm.           Chamber Depth: 1.30 in. / 33.10 mm.
Weight: 1.8 oz. / 50 gr                                   Weight: 2.0 oz / 56 gr

There are three interesting things to note about Steve’s author Shamrock 999: first, the K & P maker’s mark in shields on the nickel band, which throughout Peterson’s history have typically been reserved for sterling mounts. Nickel bands and mounts typically were stamped with just the plain “K & P” maker’s mark. Second, Steve’s pipe has a P-Lip, while the George Yale has a very untypical fishtail.

The third thing I want to call your attention to is the tenon extension. Traditionally (if not during the Dublin Era), tenons and mouthpieces have been of great importance to Peterson. This one, while molded and not a bone screw-in, features the extended “chimney” so crucial to correct tenon-mortise airflow for the P-Lip mouthpiece. The graduated bore of the P-Lip as well as this extension makes the pipe a “sub-System” (as we call it in the book), which means that it will perform considerably better than a traditional fishtail. This type of molded extension goes all the way back to the original molded-stem Patent mouthpieces, incidentally, and doesn’t seem to have disappeared (alas!) from the Peterson workshop until the 1950s. This may have been due in part to the fashion of implanting stingers, and not merely to brand amnesia, but whatever the reason, it is unfortunate.

The author version of the 999 was never made again, and so remains the most elusive of the 999s and one of the rarest production shapes ever made by the company. In fact, I could never quite believe in its existence until Steve sent photos of his—despite its appearance on the George Yale page—thinking perhaps it was something the company intended to put in production, but never carried out when hostilities made it impossible to export their pipes to the US.

Following WWII, pipe production went into high gear at Peterson, just as it did for the other European pipe factories. The familiar pre-war 999 reappears in K&P’s red 1945 catalog, available in the company’s first four post-war lines: the De Luxe (highest), Dublin & London (high), Kapet (standard) and Kapruf (blast):

It was in the distributor’s shape catalog issued around 1947 that Peterson first officially named this shape the “John Bull”:

The “Product Line” (entry-grades) “K,” Shamrock and Donegal Rocky lines had all made their appearance by this time. As production geared up, K&P would continue to expanded its lines, adding the John Bull to a broader spectrum including (in approximate order of quality) the Supreme, Premier, Sterling, Killarney and Auld Erin.

The tenon work for Peterson will typically depend on the grade of the line. Using the prices from the 1953 Rogers catalog as one touchstone, neither my $3.50 Shamrock nor my $5.00 Killarney Natural have extensions, while Steve’s $10.00 Premier has a bone screw-in:

It is remarkable to me just how many classic 999s are seen on the estate market, always commanding good prices. Among the mounted lines, the Shamrock seems most frequent (being released in greater numbers than the higher grades), although every once in a while, a precious-metal band comes down the pike, like this one in the 1950s Sterling Silver line from Al Jones’s collection:

999 Sterling Silver line (Courtesy Al Jones)

But it’s far more typical to sight an unmounted 999—remember that sterling and nickel mount pipes were considered somewhat old-fashioned by the 1940s and 50s. Here’s several of Steve’s 999 collection  (the Captain Pete author in the upper left)—notice the John Bull Donegal Rocky 999, which (depending on the decade) was either sterling or nickel-mounted but lacked the standard double-bead):

The 999 is found in Peterson shape charts from the 1950s through the mid-1970s, when it becomes the “XL999” in an Associated Imports brochure from 1976:

I can only make a guess here, but based on the other shapes included on the same line, it would appear in hindsight that Peterson was making a transition. In the 1977 Associated Imports catalog of the following year, the brief-lived new 998 shape and the older 999 appear together:

By 1978, the Associated Imports chart illustrates only the smaller 998 appears:

If you chance across shape 998, then, you can be reasonably certain it was made sometime between 1975 – 79. In 1980, a full-color brochure shows the older 999 in a meerschaum, and then, in 1984, the darkest year in the company’s history, the classic version of the 999 makes its last bow in the company’s tiny down-sizing catalog as the “Large John Bull” (the 998, of course, being the “Small John Bull”):

By the time Hollco-Rohr’s distributor pages appeared in 1987, the Large John Bull was gone and what we may call the Small John Bull (shape 998) had been given the 999 number, which it retains to this day. I know this newest version remains one of Peterson’s top-selling shapes and is widely admired in Pete circles, even though I find myself preferring the older, chunkier version. The Small JB, however, can sometimes approach the sublime, as seen here in its Amber Spigot release a year or so back:

Aside from their very real visual appeal, I think there’s two more ingredients that have made the classic Large John Bull so popular: it’s extremely comfortable in hand and has an exceptionally wide button, spanning between 15 and 17mm, making it a really easy clench between the teeth, especially when the button has the slight downward turn seen in so many of them. In fact, I don’t think there’s another mouthpiece in the Peterson arsenal that beats it, although the “Comfort P-Lip” on the original 301 Systems from the late 1970s equals it.

There’s enough classic John Bulls on the estate market that with a little perseverance and luck, you can usually bag one in a month or two if you’re persistent. And you’ll usually pay only a fraction of the price that similar shapes in one of the fashionable marques like Comoy’s, Sasieni or GBD demand. Maybe someday Peterson will see fit to restore this fine and richly-deserving shape to production, embodying as it does all the best marks of the classic Peterson house style.



Many thanks to Steve Dundish
for sharing photos of his 999 collection
and to Al Jones for sharing his passion & knowledge of the shape.








113. Documenting A Killarney Natural 999 John Bull

John Bull 999s are always a cause for celebration to me, and this one especially so, because it’s one of Peterson’s first documented and stamped “Natural” releases—the Killarney Natural, so when I saw this one recently on eBay, I wanted to investigate a little further:

The Killarney line is first mentioned on the Rogers Imports page of the 1949 RDTA catalog, then in the 1951 Genin, Trudeau & Co. catalog. But the first sighting of a 999 John Bull in the line is found in the 1953 Rogers catalog:

As you can see, it was available in both the traditional plum stain we’ve also come to associate with another Rogers line, the Shamrock, but the Killarney also came in a higher, natural grade. What’s fascinating to me is the stinger. I couldn’t draw through the air hole at all, so clogged had it become with tars. When the pipe was on the work bench, my thought was to carefully clean and remove it, then restore it and give it a smoke and experience what it was like to smoke this pipe 70 years ago. I let just the stinger soak in ice water for a spell, hoping that would contract it and make it easier to remove, but had no luck. I thought I was gently turning it with the jeweler’s liars and it just snapped in two. So much for reliving the past!

If you enlarge the picture to full frame on your computer, you can see that the stinger is glued rather than threaded into the traditional graduated-bore P-Lip mouthpiece—interesting, right? (I’m sure Charles Peterson would’ve rolled over in his grave if’d heard about it.)

Also note the “K” stamp. Apart from the oxidized mouthpiece and a bit of scuffing on the rim and light carbon in the bowl, this was an amazingly clean pipe. The stamps on both sides of the shank are among the sharpest I’ve seen in any Peterson.

The MADE IN IRELAND in a circle is indicative both of its being a Rogers Imports pipe (the shape isn’t found in the Canadian GT&C catalog) and being of a better grade. There are a few tiny fills, notably one on the bowl rim, but I think what qualified this bowl for the Killarney Natural line was the fantastic grain.

The Killarney Natural line last appeared in the 1957 Rogers Imports catalog, which makes dating this piece a cinch—it had to appear not much before 1953 and not much later than 1957.

There wasn’t much to the restoration that you haven’t already seen and read about here or on other sites dozens of times. I’m a recent convert to the joys and beauties of natural (un)finished pipes, so while I sanded the bowl with pads from 400 to 12,000 grit, I didn’t follow with carnauba, but with a very, very light coat of olive oil, which I laid on gently with my fingers and rubbed off with a micromesh towel immediately, leaving a soft, smooth matte finish.

I would like to know from other restorationists how you preserve the vulcanite stamping while simultaneously removing oxidation–in other words, how do you keep from sanding it off? And how do you apply a new coat of paint to the letter—in this case, the K. Mine came out pretty well if you look closely at the photo at the very top of the post, but there’s got to be a better method than toothpick, acrylic paint and tissue.


NEXT: A Brief History of Peterson’s 999


TIN TALK #10: Charles Peterson may not have
used Latin to say it.






112. Franken Petes

Sona Oíche Shamhna! Or, in translation from the Irish, Happy Hallowe’en! Most folks don’t know that All Hallow’s Eve has its origins in the ancient Irish festival of Samhain, although back 2009 Peterson tried to educate the masses with an annual Samhain commemorative pipe for a few years.

I have been promising myself that this year I’d devote a post to an after-market sideshow which we’ll dub the “Franken Pete,” Peterson’s version of the “Frankenpipe.”

Frankenpipes lie at the spectral end of pipe restoration, sometimes going to unearthly lengths to exhume something that will resemble a pipe. A “frankenpipe,” then, can be defined as “a pipe made from spare parts,” and has doubtless been around as long as there have been broken pipes, but I first ran across the grisly science in posts at two of my favorite restoration sites, one at Steve Laug’s Reborn Pipes and one at Charles Lemon’s Dad’s Pipes.

Most frankenpipes are created by using one strand of the System’s engineering: the army-mount. As soon as you have a pipe that readily disassembles (hot or cold) into (somewhat) interchangeable bowls and mouthpieces, you’ve created the opening for design aberrations. And that’s how Franken Petes are made. Sometimes they’re easy to spot, sometimes only a Pete Freek with the heightened powers gained by ingesting Tlachtga Celtic fire can spot them.


I’ll begin my tour of the Franken Petes with a non-example, just to set a baseline. Here’s a D19, which was originally stamped TANKARD after appearing as the faux-cob pipe in 2010’s Mark Twain set:

This is not a Franken Pete

The would-be mad scientist here didn’t like the stem’s bend. He apparently thought that since the pipe had a flat bottom, the bottom of the bowl ought to fully rest on the landing platform, which it didn’t. He simply heated the pipe stem and rebent it. Anyone with a knowledge of Peterson’s bending practices will at once recognize the incongruity of it. It’s a bit like a kid after-marketing his Honda to give it a little more juice. And if the kid’s happy and his vehicle street legal (me, in this case), that’s all that matters, right?


“Karloff’s Monster”

With the 307 pictured above we get into basic Franken Pete bowl alterations. Someone new to the brand might not know the bowl was topped. Someone who studied Peterson shape charts like a maniac instead of devoting his life to more profitable ends, should. It’s actually a fun shape, a kind of ladle, resulting from a substantial “topping” of a scorched rim. It gives a pleasing profile and leaves a deep enough chamber to still be serviceable. The problem comes when the buyer (it was me several years ago) is disappointed to find he hasn’t discovered a long-lost Peterson shape, but a “chop”! Caveat emptor, as the saying goes.


The most common type of Franken Pete occurs when someone has a bowl but not a mouthpiece to go with it and goes to the boneyard. Sometimes the new configurations are quite subtle. Take a look at this pipe, the A2 billiard from the original Antique Reproduction collection back in 1995:

“Doctor Pretorious”

This pipe actually passed under the radar and was sold by a major online retailer. The mouthpiece, however, belongs to the dublin A4 shape from the collection. This one originally had a plump straight taper P-Lip.


Here’s a gorgeous 4 De Luxe (notice the facing or flat-top ferrule), but again, it’s been bedeviled with a standard army P-Lip mouthpiece:

“The Colin Clive”


Here’s a more obvious faux pas, one I’ve seen several times on eBay, where someone took a standard army-mount P-Lip from a smaller System and placed it on a larger-bored shape. This is another De Luxe System with a standard System mouthpiece:

“The Igor”

The giveaway, of course, is that the shoulder of the mouthpiece is jammed right next to the ferrule.


The “Vincent Price”

You can also go to the other extreme, as in this wild example: a straight Patent System Commemorative with what looks like a 307-sized System mouthpiece. Apparently, the Commemorative mouthpiece wasn’t working out? Needed a little more droop? Who knows. It looks sinister. Vincent Price would have loved it, I think.


These next three photos document my own ultimately unsuccessful attempts to better an Italian-market XL23 Kapp Royal (the Lestrade shape). Here’s the way it came to me:

XL 23 Kapp Royal

Beautiful, right? Kapp Royals are among the elite in Peterson pipes, hand-chosen by Mario Lubinski from the very top tier of Peterson bowls and slotted into the Kapp-Royal line with a marmalade acrylic fishtail mouthpiece, aluminum P and sterling band. I liked it so much, I had a spigot mouthpiece made for it:

“Dr. Alymer’s Georgiana”

This is the pipe at its most beautiful. But the problem back then was that I hadn’t learned how to smoke an army-mount fishtail, puffing on it like it was a System instead of giving it short sips. I knew it was a sweet-smoking bowl, but the army mount made me pass over it again and again. Then I got what I thought was a brainy idea: make it into a System! A Lestrade System–how cool would that be?

I asked them at the factory if they could do it, and they said yes. So back to the factory it went. The problem here was that the P-Lip AB mouthpiece—gorgeous—was much thicker than the original acrylic and the spigot replacement, so the ferrule and bore had to be widened. The thick shank, as I thought, took a reservoir quite easily. Here’s how it came out:

“The Aminadab”

Is it a System? Yes, a Franken System. Did that cure the hot smoke? Yes. It smoked well as a System. But at a visual price. And one that I eventually found I wasn’t willing to pay. It’s not bad looking, but for me the love was gone. The monster, in effect, died on the operating table.


So now let’s turn to more ghoulish reconstructions, getting closer to the living dead of pipes. First is an elongated stem that’s just a little outré:

“Dr. Moreau”

It’s got a P-Lip mouthpiece, curiously unbent. The bowl is a bit over-reamed, but might smoke just fine.


But what about this one? It looks like something Charles Laughton left in the meat locker too long in Island of Lost Souls (1932):

“Leave Until Called For”


And here’s a genuine vintage Patent System bowl with the base of its wind cap still intact and a cheery wood stem with horn mouthpiece:

“Robin Crusoe on Mars”

A fascinating piece, actually, and the reconstruction may have been quite old. I suspect the man who smoked this would have been worth knowing.


But now, something that should’ve stayed buried. Peterson never made a bowl or a mouthpiece like these. But somehow, a Peterson ferrule found its way into this monster’s construction:

“The Imhotep”

We can only hope its mummy loved it.


Now for for my “Trilogy of Terror.” Everyone knows a good monster needs megawatts of electricity to bring it to life, right? And here’s three that really give me the shivers. Are they e-pipes? Drug pipes? I don’t know. I don’t care. But we need a mob of angry villagers to put them out of their misery:

“Reanimator 309”

The same mad scientist who designed the 309 Undead above also took this poor Kapmeer into his lab:

“Kapmeer Manimal”

About now you should be hearing the old familiar chant from Tod Browning’s Freaks: One of us, one of us. Gooba-gobble, gooba-gobble. The last of the “trilogy of terror” by the unnamed mad scientist:

“Deerstalker Undead”


And what of the future, you say? What dystopias lie in store for the unsuspecting? This thirteenth pipe was publicly acknowledged by designer “Jong Hyuk Bae” as a genuine Peterson commission back in 2016. When Tom Palmer, then CEO of the company, heard about it, he told the maker a “cease-and-desist” letter would be forthcoming.

I’ve heard a few pipemen tentatively say some positive things about e-pipes. But an e-pipe, for those theologically so-inclined, has removed itself from the sacramental nature of reality. Pipe tobacco and briar, as well as many of the adornments which are used in pipe-making, are organic. They grow or are produced by the earth. With the combustion of tobacco in the bowl, a third something, the smoke, produces a syzygy in which the pipeman is a participant. Perichoresis is the theological term here, from the early Church Fathers: it’s a divine dance of tobacco, pipe, smoke and piper. With these three sacramentals missing, the e-pipe becomes a parody, a sham or anti-symbol. Bent, as my old friend Ron would say. And that’s about as frightening as it gets.


Happy Hallowe’en!

Tin Talk #9: Gateway Drug / Dharma Door