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.

87. The Antique Nickel Wind Caps

If you follow Peterson, then you know there’s been a bit of excitement in the past few months with the appearance of the first Antique Nickel Cap pipes. As more will be coming when suitable bowls become available, I thought everyone would like to know a bit about them as well as see some samples of Peterson’s work with these treasures.

When I talked to Conor Palmer, commercial director at Peterson, he said, “Believe it or not, on this occasion, there wasn’t a shred of paper work to accompany the caps as we found them. They were literally in a box in the factory that myself and Jason Hinch went through before Christmas. They had to spend quite a lot of time polishing them up [out in the shop] so that we could see whether they were usable or not.”

“How many will there be?” is probably the first question on everyone’s mind. Conor says, “I would estimate that we are likely to release a maximum of 300 pieces. I think we have released about 100 so far.”

It turns out there are two separate types of cap. For one we have good documentation, and for the other we can make some reasonable deductions.

 

The 1906 Hinge Cap

1906 Shape 12 AB Hinge Cap

The 1906 catalog illustrates no less than five different shapes of varying sizes with what we’ll call the 1906 Hinge Cap. Notice these caps were available in both sterling and nickel. The intaglio engraving of the 12AB pictured above gives us the best view of it.

The first point of interest is in the hinge placement: when raised, the pipeman potentially has an obstructed or partially obstructed view of the chamber. The lid would actually drop back, of course, to rest on the shank, but it’s s a curious bit of engineering all the same. It’s just not performance friendly, trying to light tobacco with the lid coming down where one’s finger and thumb are holding the bowl, and whether Jason Hinch, Peterson’s silversmith, was aware of the original or not, I much prefer having the hinge on the forward part of the crown.

None of the engravings shows mounting pins, another curious feature. One wonders whether the caps were so well engineered that the pins weren’t necessary, whether they were glued to preserve a smooth line, or for some other reason. In any event, the decision to use three equally placed tacks to secure it seems like a good idea.

The 1906 Maker’s Mark Stamp

As to the stamps: the 1906 nickel Hinge Cap features Kapp & Peterson’s original maker’s mark, a plain K & P. As we note in The Peterson Pipe Book glossary: “The K&P punch was registered with the Company of Goldsmiths of Dublin on November 25, 1893, after Kapp & Peterson came into being, and has been used thereafter.” It’s been on all nickel-mount Systems and many other nickel-mount Classic Range lines, as well as on many sterling mounts over the years.

A 1906 shape 101 and a 2018 shape X105

 

The c. 1921 Hinge Cap

There is no trace of the second nickel Hinge Cap in the ephemera we have so far recovered. But in describing it, and examining it closely, I would hazard a guess that it dates slightly later than the original, perhaps shortly after the expiration of the Patent in 1919.

My reasoning is as follows: first, the extravagant engraving on the top and side of the lid, and its shape, suggest something second generation, a rebooting of the original idea. The idea of the carved crests and monograms that were available in the 1906 catalog has been executed here as a literal wind-shield.

Second, later generation sterling wind caps (like those seen below) employ a similar shield-shape, albeit without the tracery on the sides of the lid.

Shape 03 Sterling Wind Cap

And third, the K&P maker’s mark is accompanied by a precisely articulated set of nickel-mark mounts. My co-author Gary Malmberg also believes these are the earliest nickel marks to be used. We discuss later variations of these (with illustrations) in The Peterson Book as a regular feature of all nickel-mount pipes appearing from the 1906 catalog until about 1963, when they were discarded.

Notice the ribs in the three shamrock leaves, making them appear almost as six leaves. This would be repeated (and look like six leaves) on the nickel bands of many Rogers-era Shamrock pipes in the 1940s and 50s. The long-necked wolf hound, the center mark, is also quite distinctive, and differs significantly from later “faux-marks” (as Pete Nuts call the nickel-mount marks). The round tower is also different from later iterations, featuring a small vertical door at the base.

The underside of the shield on these marks, which you can see in the final photograph, has either been blackened or left unpolished, also a nice touch, as the 1906 Hinge Cap will require a bit of polishing. A date of c. 1919 is of course, just a guess, but this type of extravagant decoration seemed to drop out of fashion by the late 1920s.

Incidentally, the caps, Jason Hinch at the factory tells us, are nickel-coated brass.

 

The 2018 Release

A House Pipe Given ANC Treatment

Smokingpipes.com is just calling these pipes “Nickel Caps,” while the Italian dealers are calling them (a little more accurately) “Antique Nickel Caps” (Sansone Smoking Store) or “Vintage Nickel Caps” (AlPascia).  So far I’ve seen the pipes in two grades: a dark walnut finish and Peterson’s orange Natural, the latter costing about $40 more. Almost all (the House Pipe above has an acrylic stem) have ebonite fishtail stems and an inlaid aluminum P on the mouthpiece.

Shape 268

I confess the saddle stems are my favorites here: something about them seems very vintage indeed. We’ve become so used to seeing a Peterson with a band, that seeing one without seems somehow quite fresh, as though one just walked into the shop off Grafton Street around 1920 or so.

Shape 65

Many are in smaller sizes, what we thought of as standard back in the 1970s and 80s. The “little” shape 65 shown here, I discovered, has the same size bowl as the GBD 264 canadian saddle my Grandmother Jessie bought me my senior year in high school!

Shape X220

There are a few larger ones, including the X220 seen above, which is actually an XL220, noticeably bigger than the X220s one normally sees.

Shape 03

 

Using the Wind Cap

 I wish I could have liked just one of them, the 1906 Patent or the c. 1921 IFS cap, but being a Pete Freek, I find them both irresistible, even though I rarely smoke outdoors if I can help it. I follow my Granddad Aurley here, who routinely said with a laugh, “Roll up the winders—don’t let the smoke out!” as he puffed his cigar driving with me down highway 95 in Missouri. Mostly my outdoor smokes are confined to early morning pipes with my Dad over coffee, so I guess he’ll be seeing me more often that he has of late! Pipe smokers who use them for serious outdoor use say they’re great, and allow the tobacco to keep burning without the threat of a burnout.

Thanks to
Conor Palmer, Peterson
Bollito Pipes
Al Pascia
Smokingpipes
& Chas. Mundungus

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86. What Most Pipe Smokers Don’t Know About Peterson

You’re Invited!

I wanted to let everyone know that I’ll be presenting “What Most Pipe Smokers Don’t Know About Peterson” at the Chicagoland International Pipe and Tobacciana Show, Friday night, May 4th and 9p.m. in the McCardle Suite, where smoking is permitted!

My co-author Gary Malmberg and our book designer Marie Irwin will be on hand—Gary to answer questions with me after the presentation, and Marie to run our technology (as usual), take photos, and answer any questions you may have about the layout & design. In addition, Gary (our historian) is mounting a Peterson pipe exhibit in the main display cases on the show floor.

I wish I could say Gary Schrier, our publisher, was going to be there, or that Tom or Conor Palmer at Peterson could make it, but Gary is busy at Briar Books Press editing the final part of the book, and Tom and Conor send their best regards.

The presentation grew out of a white paper on Peterson’s brand guideline I wrote at their request while completing the book. None of it is in the book, but all of it came out of the book, reflecting on what we’ve learned over the past seven years. To me the most interesting thing about the paper is that I don’t think many pipe smokers, and even fewer retailers actually know much of this material.*

Most of the photographs and illustrations I’ll be using, however, are in the book. We’ll also be throwing a few of the book layouts up on the screen to give you a glimpse at what you can expect when the book does finally appear, and we have a special treat for those who can stay after the main presentation.

You can get more information about the show at http://www.chicagopipeshow.com/2018-pipe-tobacciana-show-flyer/ . Rooms are still available at the lovely old Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, Illinois. It’s an amazing experience if you’ve never been, and if you have, you don’t need convincing. Hope to see you there!

 

“‘When Resting the Pipe Down’”: Forgotten Peterson Lore (1896)”
photograph courtesy Charles Mundungus

 

 

*That’s not true of you, of course, because you’re a Pete Nut! Still, I hope to “instruct and delight”—as Horace recommends in the Ars Poetica—even the most devout of Pete Freeks.

 

 

 

85. The New Trom Dubh Collection: A Heavy Metal Quartet

Along with other new lines and collections that will soon be available, Peterson has just announced a mid-grade set, the Trom Dubh (which in Irish means “chubby black”). Where to begin?

The first connection between the shapes, as the name indicates, is in the “chubby,” but it’s really a heavy, and by that I don’t mean grams or ounces. It’s a visual heavy, a roundness in the hand, a muscular, massive sense of proportion, like the basalt columns from Giant’s Causeway Peterson chose for the digital strut card pictured above.

Irish shapes have always been heavy-metal rebels when set against their English counterparts, analogous in the world of rock music to bands like Meshuggah, who not only play six and seven-string basses, but down-tune for a giant effect.

The heavy metal analogy works in the second part of the name as well—the dubh, a black-on-black, with just that touch of silver in the hot foil P on the mouthpiece. The retro P-Lip, now in acrylic, just makes them that much tougher.

Taken as a whole, the Trom Dubh collection represents a great juxtaposition of historic shapes and the new design aesthetic we’ve seen in the recent past. I’d probably nickname it the “P-Lip Fat Classics.”

As for the shapes:

THE B.C. is the oldest bowl shape of the quartet still in production, and is a favorite among estate collectors, where it is found as the 9BC, the BC designation indicating a tapered (B) short (C) stem. It originated in the 1896 catalog as shape 9, and most Kappnists* have at least one of these in their rotation in its various permutations—the XL90 Classic Range or 307 Standard or 9S DeLuxe System being the most commonly seen these days. The 9BC came to prominence in the US in the 1950s and seems to have been a special favorite of Rogers Imports Ltd., as most of them are found in the old Rogers Imports Shamrock line.

THE BULL is the gem of the collection, being the original John Bull or 999 shape, a bullmoose which was first cut in the late 1930s or early 1940s. It was in production until the late 1970s, when it was phased out by what was originally called the 998, today’s 999, the little slipper rhodesian that is one of Peterson’s top sellers. Like the B.C., it’s an especial favorite among collectors, and given the popularity of the larger Savinelli 320 author shape (the difference between a bullmoose and an author being that bead around the crown), chances are it will be a solid hit for Peterson.

THE BALL is a shape that was introduced with several other now-classic shapes in the late 1970s as the 02 DeLuxe System, 302 System, or (as it is here) the slightly-larger XL02 in the Classic Range. With the tapered P-Lip, it is solid in the hand and has always looked to me like the “P” in the Peterson logo brought to life in a pipe. Part of the freshness of this shape is that it hasn’t been seen much in this configuration. In fact, I’ve only ever seen it as part of the Emerald line back several years ago, and in the Sterling Silver Italian-release.

THE BILLIARD is another shape introduced in the late 1970s (the 107) without much ado, but is a veritable billiard on steroids, and Peterson’s definitive statement on the subject. ‘Nuff said, as they used to say in the Marvel Bullpen.

If you’ve been watching, Peterson is slowly tooling over to acrylic P-Lips. The choice to use the P-Lip in the Trom Dubh collection is probably risky, given the smoking public’s lack of understanding of how these perform. But it certainly accentuates the “fat” character of the collection, and will deliver superior taste and less moisture over a fishtail mouthpiece every time.

I know I’ve caviled against acrylic stems in the past, but I’ve been smoking not only the 2018 POY, but a 312 acrylic P-Lip for a while now, and my reservations have mostly vanished. I don’t know whether the acrylic has gotten softer, the button a little thinner, or I’ve just gotten used to it, but I do like not having to stress over whether the stem is becoming oxidized.

The combination of gloss black bowl with anodized black aluminum band is the kind of move we’ve come to expect from the new wave of Peterson pipes. I don’t think I’ve seen this kind of band on a pipe from anyone else, and I’m anxious to see one in real life. I’m told the idea for the set came from Fionn mac Cumhaill, one of the Sallynoggin artisans who hails from Northern Ireland.

It looks like there will also be some higher-grade sterling band sets, both in the Trom Dearg (red) finish and in the Trom Natural. I’d expect to see the Natural sets out of Italy first, but maybe a few from Smokingpipes.com as well. These feature the inlaid aluminum P in the mouthpiece.

I know everyone will be wanting THE BULL, and if past Peterson releases are any indication, we can probably expect this shape to appear solo before too long.

The presentation box will feature a black and white photo of the famous basalt columns from Giant’s Causeway. Collectors can expect to pay about $460 in the US. The sterling band Trom Dearg and the Trom Natural will go for about $600 and $800, respectively.

 

*Kappnist—one who studies or admires Kapp (& Peterson) pipes; a Pete Nute or “Pete Freek” with an eye for the history of the marque.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lá na nAmadán
Happy April Fool’s Day!

Photo courtesy Charles Mundungus

 

84. A Visual History of the St. Patrick’s Day Pipes, 1998–2018.

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit! Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you! This marks the 20th anniversary of the St. Patrick’s Day commemorative pipes for Peterson, and I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than by offering a visual history of the series.

 

History and Series Characteristics

Tom Palmer’s idea for an annual pipe took flight in 1997, when Peterson released its first Limited Edition / Pipe of the Year. The following year the company decided to add two annual commemoratives, a St. Patrick’s Day and a 4th of July. While the 4th of July pipe has long been gone, the SPD has given Kappnists (or Pete Nuts) many great pipes over the years, with none perhaps quite as marvelous as this year’s 20th anniversary 2018 and the original 1998.

The price-point of the series is at the solid entry-grade of the Classic Range, roughly equivalent to the Aran line in most years (with some exceptions). Another distinguishing feature of the series is that in many years a shape (or even two or three) from a special collection or high-grade series—think the Antique Collection for the former and the Sherlock Holmes for the latter—is often featured. Every Peterson high-grade issue has bowls that aren’t of sufficient quality to make the cut but must be used, and often these feature some fantastic grain. For most of the more recent years, the series has offered 12 shapes.

 

We know the series began in 1998 because Brad Weinfeld of SAG Imports was working for Hollco-Rohr, Peterson’s US distributor at the time, and during the course of our research on the Peterson book he took the trouble to send us the final sales catalog of that company, dated July 15, 1998. If you click on the image, you can see the SPD and 4th of July annual commemoratives described as “NEW,” as well as their wholesale and retail prices.

 

1998

The series began auspiciously enough, with a brass and acrylic sandwich band of the Irish colors and P-Lip. For this and most of the years, I don’t know which shapes were released, although they were for the most part taken from Classic Range shapes.

Two of the three images of purported 1998 SPDs I have show a light, matt finish. Seen above is the unique bent shape from the 1997 Racing Green / Claret limited editions. I can’t give you the shape number, because there wasn’t one stamped on the only Racing Green I have handled.

I also have a photo of a 107 SPD, probably with its original box and sleeve, with a stain that matches the RG:

As you can see from the two representatives, the 1998 SPD was released with a P-Lip. The mouthpieces featured the white impressed P standard at the time.

 

1999

Dustin Anderson and I both have XL20 SPDs (seen above) with a dark gloss finish and the tricolor acrylic and brass band. We both have assumed (at least until now) that these were first-issue SPDs for 1998. However, I have been able to find no trace of a documented SPD for 1999, nor indeed any pictures at all for this year. I’ve asked Peterson and searched all the usual places but come up empty-handed.

I have two hypotheses: perhaps the dark-stain XL20 Dustin and I companion are actually a 1999, rather than 1998 issue. This would explain the disparity of stain between this pipe and the two examples of the 1998 seen above, and also accommodate my theory that most years of the SPD feature a single trickle-down special shape. Why would the dark XL20 and the light Racing Green special shapes be released the same year? What counters this idea is the long-standing belief circulated by Pete Nuts that only the 1998 featured the acrylic tricolor band.

A second possibility is that there simply was no SPD for 1999, but that also seems rather unlikely given the series otherwise uninterrupted history.

 

2000

The Rare A3 from the Original Antique Collection

In 2000, the SPD series settled into its most familiar guise: some variant of brown-hued smooth bowl and a nickel band with Peterson’s over a shamrock over March 17 and the year. The 2000 SPDs also featured the beloved P-Lip vulcanite mouthpiece. Shown here is what must have been the collector’s piece, the A3 shape from the first Antique Reproduction series.

A Typical SPD Stamped Nickel Band

 

2001

Dustin’s 2001 SPD 408

In 2001, the SPD lost its P-Lip, never to return. Peterson seems to have changed directions at about this time, giving in to market pressure on the one hand and (perhaps) a lack of interest in promoting the P-Lip on the other. I say this based on my own hunches from research during the course of the book, and while a company must remain viable to survive in the marketplace, from a historical point of view at least, it was unfortunate.

An XL20 from the 2001 SPD

The collector’s piece for 2001 (again I hypothesize based on the assumption that there would be only one special shape for the year) was again the Return of Sherlock Holmes Rathbone.

 

2002

I would guess that the fabulous B7, pictured here, was 2002’s collector’s shape.

 

2003

An SPD 2003 X220

 

2004

An SPD 2004 X105

 

2005

An SPD 2005 03

 

 

2006

An SPD 2006 68

An unusual entry for the series from the Classic Range, the 68 brandy—this is a real handful of a pipe, absolutely magnificent to hold. More on the shape soon!

 

2007

The classy, English-style 80s bent bulldog: perfect for your favorite Latakia bomb!

 

The B10 appeared around 2002–2003 and may have been the collector’s piece for 2007.

 

 

2008

An SPD 2008 01

2008 was the first year of Peterson’s green SPD releases. I’ve included two illustrations to give you some idea of what you can expect. Craftsmen at the factory have told me they had a hell of a time in the beginning figuring out how to do a really good green.

An SPD 2008 05

 

 

2009

Here’s the undoubted collector’s piece from 2009: the oversized 502, from the short-lived 500 shape group. See what I mean about the spectacular grain sometimes found in the SPDs? Simply amazing.

 

2010

Here’s a bulldog, Irish-style! The now deleted B2, for all fans of heavy (in looks, not weight). This might well have been the collector’s shape for 2010. . .

 

. . . except that there’s also a fabulous B30! Maybe the exception proves the rule?

 

2011

The collector’s piece for 2011: a B40. . .

 

. . . or was it this D9 from the deleted D (Danish) shapes?

 

2012

The mighty 107 makes another appearance in the SPD series.

 

2013

As you can see from the 2013 electronic strut card, there were actually three special shapes released in the 2013 SPD (the B35, B58 and B60), one of the most remarkable in the series’ 20-year history, not merely in the shape selection, but also in the smoky-matt finish.

The amazing B58, the “rocking setter” from the Iceberg Collection, was widely admired among Kappnists at the time.

 

I don’t know when Peterson began putting sleeves on the SPD series, but this is the earliest I’ve sourced, from 2013.

 

2014

You can read all about the 2014 SPDs here.

 

2015

The second SPD green release came in 2015.

The 2015 box curiously omits the year of release!

 

 

2016

The D19 (formerly LT or Large Tank) from the Mark Twain Collection was the collector’s shape for 2016.

The 2016 SPD on display at the 2015 IPCPR Show. Ten shapes? Surely not.

Flattened sleeve for the 2016 SPD

 

 

2017

Electronic Strut Card for the 2017 SPD

The B56, originally the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Sylvius, was the prize catch for 2017, signaling (in this case) the impending deletion of the Adventures of SH from the catalog.

 

2018

At the IPCPR show last summer, Tom Palmer said the 2018 SPD was intended to represent the Irish flag—the green (bowl), sterling band (white) and orange (mouthpiece). What better way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the pipe? It’s certainly the highest-end since the first issue.

An SPD 2018 X220

 

 

Paddy Larrigan’s 304 barrel-setter, ready for St. Patrick’s Day festivities

Sláinte!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

 

 

Photos Courtesy
Smokingpipes.com
Peterson of Dublin
Dustin Anderson
Charles Mundungus