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.

82. A Tour of the Gavirate Pipe Museum

Happy International Pipe Smoker’s Day!

I received an unusual Peterson not long ago from northern Italy. I’ll tell you the pipe’s story next time, but today, being IPSD, I thought I’d share the pipe’s back-story by taking everyone on a field trip to the Gavirate Pipe Museum, one of the most amazing museums I’ve ever visited, in the lovely, quiet little town of the same name in northern Italy. I’ve long wanted to visit Italy, and when I do, this is one stop I’ll be making.

Gavirate (pop. 9400) is near Varese, and about 50 km. from Milan, nestled in the great of one of the world’s great pipe-making communities. It’s not far from the old Rossi pipe-making factory, which you should by all means read about over at Pipedia.

I dislike people who talk in a museum, and usually find myself taking hours longer than anyone else (I routinely park myself in front of something that fascinates me and just sit for half an hour or so). So apart from indicating the room or its contents, I won’t offer any commentary.

Oh, but before we go in, you should know that what you’re looking in some respects is the lifetime’s work of one of the most versatile and amazing artists (who worked in other media besides pipes, as you will see) in the world, Jean Marie Alberto Paronelli (1914 – 2004). Most of the artwork you’ll see and many of the pipes are his creations. He collected almost all the artifacts you see in the museum over the course of his life. Each photo is absolutely packed with fascinating stuff, so if you’ve got a large format monitor, by all means click on the images and take a peek.

J. M. Alberto Paronelli’s work has been continued by his nephew Antonio Paolo Paronelli and his grandsons, artisan pipe-makers in their right, Ariberto Paronelli (Paronelli Pipes) and Alberto Paronelli (Volkan Pipes). More about all the Paronellis and the Peterson pipe Ariberto sent me that started all this next time. For now, let’s go in!

Museum of the Pipe, Gavirete

 

 

Entrance Hall

 

 

Hand-painted gourd chandelier
(hanging in the Entrance Hall–see above)

 

Original meeting room of the
International Pipe Academy

 

 

The Champion Room: the world’s foremost collection of
F. Rossi pipes

 

 

Caricature pipe of F. Illi Rossi,
in the Champion Room

 

 

Despite the book on the case, Ariberto labeled this photo
from the Champion Room “French pipes.”

 

Detail of F. Rossi pipe cabinets in the Champion Room

 

Savoia Cavalry pipe, by F. Illi Rossi

 

Display of Cuttys, labeled
“Ultralight and Monoblock pipes”

 

Old English clays

 

The European Pipe Hall

 

Machinery and Tools Room —
antiques rescued from the old Rossi factory

 

Antique wooden French lathe

 

900 pipe-making tools!

 

Exotic Pipe Room

 

Cobra Pipe, covered in python skin

 

Alaskan Eskimo pipe

 

Chinese rooster-claw pipe

 

Pipe of the Shah of Persia

 

Terracotta pipe made by J. M. Alberto Paronelli
(can anyone read the Hebrew?)

 

Pipe plates and porcelain pipes

 

Austrian porcelain pipes

 

Austrian pipes and detail of the pipe plates

 

 

“When I Am Dead”: pipe plate written and painted by
J. M. Alberto Paronelli

 

from
“When I Am Dead”

It is like as not, when I am dead,
All I have done, and thought, and sung and said
Will be but as the transitory smoke
That from my Pipe from sight so swiftly sped.

When I am dead, mayhap from out my tomb
The green tobacco plant will rise and bloom
Whose blossoms will remind folks of my songs,
While ghosts will haunt them of my pipe’s perfume.

I sang of love, of girls, of birds and flowers;
I sang of clouded and of sun-lit hours;
I sang of smoke, and dreamed perhaps of fame;
Yet knew I well that all things time devours.

Where are the songs that charmed the early times,
That rose and flourished in how many climes?
In the great limbs of forgotten things
They rest and so perhaps will fare my rhymes.

Alberto Paronelli’s text spirals around and around after this poem, with what looks like story, verse, and anecdotes. I will leave the mysteries of it to you–

Astonishing, isn’t it? If you want to take a second, even more interesting visit, Ariberto has an amazing 360 degree tour of the museum available on the Paronelli website that I discovered just a few minutes ago while finalizing the blog. You know where I’ll be.

 

Many thanks to Ariberto Paronelli
for permission to use his photographs!
Visit him at Paronelli.it

Fumare in Pax!

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81. Restoring a Peterson-Sillem’s Ebony Spigot.

For Christmas I was given the opportunity of restoring a small box of pipes, mostly Petes, to resell for a widow in the UK from her late husband’s collection. Among them are some interesting pieces, all in remarkably “vintage” condition. As we were working on layout & design for the estates & restorations chapter in the book at about the same time as I received the box, I found myself marveling at the beauty of these obviously well-beloved and often hard-used pipes.

This 03 spigot is of note to Peterson fans because it’s one of many rarely-seen Peterson collaborations, this time with Sillem’s, whom many consider the oldest brand name connected with tobacco.  Here in the US, we know about Sillem’s primarily through their tobacco, but in the EU they’re known for marketing high-quality sterling and leather products, very pricey Old Boy Coronas, flasks, and so forth, mostly quite difficult to source here in the States.

The Peterson connection is through Torsten P. Seiffert, director of the company and one of three sons of Detlef Seiffert, who worked as a journeyman at Peterson for six months and was Harry Kapp’s godson—but more about that in the book!

Anyway, the striking thing about Sillem’s, as you know if you smoke their tobaccos, is their icon, the Hanse anchor cross. From an article at Tobaccopipes.com, we read:

This decorative feature has been included on pieces throughout Sillems tobacco pipes history. The anchor cross is very distinctive in that it does not resemble the more traditional image of a two-pronged anchor today. Instead, the anchor uses four prongs for maximum efficiency [as] the bottom of the Baltic Sea is composed of soft sands [so] that a two-pronged anchor would simply slip through. Thus, the four-pronged anchor was essential for keeping ships in place.*

It doesn’t look like Sillem’s is still partnering in the creation of briar pipes, although they seem to have done so until fairly recently. Peterson released more than one shape, all spigots, with the Sillem’s stamp, apparently all in the 1990s.

Aside from just looking really wicked cool, the silver-solder work cross on the Sillem’s-Peterson pipes is the earliest I’ve seen. David Blake, former silversmith at Peterson, was getting into doing this type of silver soldering on a regular basis with some of the special collections and special issue pipes like the Castles Collection (2009) (with its crown ornament) and the Thinking Man on the Founder’s Edition in 2015.

 

Appraisal

Shape 03 was first introduced in 1979 in both the System and Classic Range. 1979 was also the year spigots returned to the Peterson catalog. This pipe has hallmark N on both spigot mouthpiece and the domed mount, dating it to 1999. The bowl, like several other bowls in the lot, had a gouge in the obverse left rim from a knife of some sort. There was very little rim tar and no lava, but the ebony has been worn through in several places on the bowl. The acrylic mouthpiece is also curious, almost like an unfinished piece, with a kind of spinal indentation running all the way up and down it on the top, and appearing a little on the bottom. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say the original owner may returned the original spigot and Peterson or the repairman rescued the sterling piece, reinserting it into a new but unfinished acrylic mouthpiece.

 

Stem and Spigot

I began with the mouthpiece and its “spinal” problem. I haven’t worked with acrylic before, so I was a bit apprehensive. After taping off the spigot (I won’t tell you how I’ve scratched up the silverwork by forgetting to do this in the past!), I started with a 500 grit wet/dry sandpaper, wrapped around a piece of dowl rod, and another wrapped around a flat needle file, to get up close to the button. That took care of the dimples. Then I went up to 600, 100, and 1200 wet/dry. After that, I took it through all nine Micromesh pads, then followed up with white diamond on the buffing wheel. It came out looking like it should: absolutely obsidian, shiny, and “as new.”

Turning my attention to the scratched sterling spigot at the tenon-end, I knew I didn’t want to risk damaging the hallmark, so I decided on a light reconditioning buff with Fabulustre, which is gentler than white diamond. The results considerably brightened the sterling as well as removing most (but by no means all) of the scratches. Some scratches on a spigot are inevitable, as it will hit the metal on the mortise of the ferrule when it is inserted, removed, and twisted into place.

 

Ferrule

Like the other Peterson mounts in the widow’s box, the mount on this one had several dents and dings, which you can see in some of the earlier images. I follow Steve Laug’s protocol for heating the sterling over a heat gun, then inserting a round-end dowel into the heated metal cup and pressing them out. I didn’t have any wooden round-end dowels small enough, and looking around I found the handle-end of my pestle (from the mortar and pestle I use for mixing pipe mud) worked quite nicely, giving me a hard, round, heat-impervous surface to mash against the inside of the ferrule.

I got most of these removed, and know from previous experience that once the band is remounted and sanded, most of the “ghosts” of most of the dents will disappear. I next glued the ferrule back to the stummel, using Liquid Nails, moving the ferrule around just a bit to center the Hanse cross on the obverse side of the pipe.

 

Bowl

With the mouthpiece and ferrule out of the way, I was ready to turn my attention to the bowl. You can see in the photo below that the pipe was stained after the ferrule was attached. Interesting. And I say “stained,” because I’m not sure this was sprayed. Looking at all the Peterson – Sillem’s pipes images I could find on the internet, they uniformly have a matte finish, rather than the gloss expected from spray.

After reaming the chamber, I could ascertain how deep the pen-knife gouge went. A little topping would be necessary, but fortunately, the 03 shape comes either flat-topped or with both an inner and slight outer bevel, which meant I could bevel both inner rim and outer if I wanted and still have the pipe coming out looking like a Pete.

I decided to go for a real inner bevel, but such was the gouge that the chamber still  looks slightly out of round. Then I just took the edge off the outer rim to take care of a few minor rim problems. I don’t like bowls that have been severely topped, preferring to keep the pipe as close as possible to the original. Most of my restorations retain a bit of the “character” of their age and use. You pros will know how easy a bevel is, but I’m not very practiced, so I proceeded very slowly, with the sandpaper wrapped around a dowel, then smoothed it with a few grades of Micromesh sanding pads.

I then applied three full-stength coats of Fiebing’s black analine, alcohol-based dye. I allowed the first to dry for about 30 minutes, rubbing off the remaining dye, then followed it with two more coats, wiping down between each. Because the rim was naked wood, I burned in the dye, which I don’t usually do.

Now at this point, I could finish it up with Fabulustre and carnuba, giving it a higher gloss but risking buffing the stain off the rim, or use Osmo Polyx Hard Wax Oil #3054, which takes much longer, but actually creates a breathable finish over the stain, being a wax and not a shellac.**  I learned about Osmo from my German engineer & pipe-artisan friend Rainer Kockegey-Lorenz back in 2011 when I was having difficulty getting a particular estate Peterson to hold any kind of luster.

This hard wax oil is made in Germany for flooring, boats, and so on. You can see in the photos it doesn’t leave a high gloss, but medium sheen, and you can feel the wood under the fingers, unlike a top coat of white diamond or Fabulustre.

Like I said, it takes a bit of time, but is not labor intensive. You can see I placed only a tiny drop on my forefinger, which was enough to rub into the top half of the bowl, beginning with the rim and working down. It took me another finger-tip drop to complete the bowl. I left it a full 24-hrs (as I had to go to work the following day), then repeated the process.

You can see in the image below it looks a bit splotchy after the second coat and 24 more hours of drying time. Not to worry. Install a floppy clean buff on your buffer and give it a go. It takes a little time to buff the oil in and get the finish right, but for me, it was worth the time involved, as I wanted a modest sheen to suggest the original Sillem’s finish. The finish leaves a slight odor (from the mineral spirits) that disappears after a week or so.

 

And so, the finished pipe:

 

 

*You can read more about Sillems history at Tobaccopipes.com: http://www.tobaccopipes.com/sillems-history/

**From the Osmo website:

OSMO Polyx-Oil (the Original Hardwax Oil)

Not to be confused with traditional oil finishes, OSMO Hardwax Oil is an engineered finish made with plant oils and waxes, plus just enough highly refined mineral spirits to allow easy application. This remarkable finish offers excellent durability and renewability with a unique lustrous finish. It will never crack, blister or flake off. Instead of forming a plastic film, like polyurethane does, OSMO Hardwax Oil has open pores that “breathe.” This allows any moisture that does get through to get back out again without pushing off the finish.

Because it is microporous, Hardwax Oil works well in rooms with high humidity, such as kitchens. It meets German standards for resistance to stains from wine, cola, coffee, tea, fruit juice and, of course, beer.

Spot repairs are easy. There’s no need to strip the whole floor or even to remove old Hardwax Oil. For minor repairs, just scuff the damaged area with fine steel wool, coat with OSMO Liquid Wax Cleaner and buff lightly when the cleaner is dry. If a more extensive fix is needed, use Hardwax Oil. Make repairs regularly, and the finish will last indefinitely.

This product provides no protection against ultraviolet rays from the sun, so it is not suitable for outdoor use.

Ingredients:

Key ingredients in Hardwax Oil include sunflower, soybean and thistle oil, plus two hard, natural waxes—carnauba and candelilla. A Brazilian palm tree, Copernica cerifera, produces the carnauba in its leaves, berries and stalks. Villagers cut down fronds, dry them for several days, and then beat off the wax. The candelilla comes from the outer coating on a desert shrub, Euphorbia antisyphiliti, that grows in northern Mexico. Farmers boil the leaves and stems with water and acid to release the wax.

This is an oil-based product. Like most finishes—even water-based ones—it needs a solvent to perform properly. OSMO uses the safest one that works with oil-based finishes: benzene-free, low-odor mineral spirits. This is an aliphatic petroleum distillate, which means it is a petroleum product that has its carbon atoms arranged in open chains instead of rings. The more toxic, aromatic or ring hydrocarbons have been removed, resulting in a milder odor.

Benefits of OSMO Polyx-oil (the original hardwax oil):
Environmental benefits include:
Made mostly from readily renewable, natural ingredients.
Extremely durable—keeps existing flooring in good shape for decades.
When dry, meets European safety standards for use on children’s furniture and toys and resistance to perspiration and saliva.
Contains no biocides or preservatives, only aliphatic low-odor mineral spirits that meet the German standard for purity.

Practical benefits include:
Preserves the look and feel of real wood—not a plastic coating.
Easy to apply—just two thin coats.
Will not raise the grain when applied. Therefore no need to sand between coats.
Thixotropic—no brush marks in hot weather.
Penetrates into the wood surface, keeping it elastic but making it water-resistant. Finished wood won’t show water stains.
Easy to clean—just vacuum and damp-mop.

Price in U.S.: for .125 liter (4.22 oz): $16.95.

 

Some People Meditate. I Smoke a Pipe.

Charles sounds a keynote for me in pipe-smoking: it is at its heart a contemplative practice, connecting body and soul, head and heart. His words on breath and smoke are not so very different from those found in the Perennial Tradition, from Black Elk to Eckhart Tolle. Enjoy!

DadsPipes

I sometimes get asked why I smoke a pipe. It is, after all, the rarest method of tobacco consumption in Canada these days (only about half of one percent of tobacco users are pipe smokers). If it’s nicotine you’re after, there are more efficient, though arguably more diabolical, delivery methods than a cantankerous old briar. A pipe is also regarded by many as an anachronism, something belonging to the past that reminds one of leather-bound books, slightly damp tweed and Granddad telling stories by the fire.

Similar to a cigar, the smoke from a pipe is tasted rather than inhaled, so I don’t crave nicotine from my pipe, but I must admit to harbouring a bit of sentimentality when it comes to the hobby. My father smoked a pipe, and though he passed when I was still quite young, the olfactory memory kicks in when I catch a whiff of…

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80. Sweet Petes: The Language of Pipes

One part of the joy of pipe-smoking has to do with the “language” of pipes: how is it that a shape, texture, and color combine in a particular piece of briar (or other medium) to say something significant, something important, something magical to the smoker?

How form and function synergize to create meaning is an endless mystery that never loses its fascination for me. And one of the chapters I’m proudest of in the book discusses just this topic—the Peterson house style. So while we wait for the book to be completed, let me show you some of the most interesting pipes that have spoken to me over the past year, sharing stories of new lines and old, antique, entry-level, obscure and high-grade.

Shape D21 as Amber Spigot

At the top of my list is the reappearance of a shape from 1906, the 2017 POTY, shape D21, which scores for me on many levels. I confess it was love at first sight back when I first saw it in the 1906 catalog. Later I learned I wasn’t alone in my admiration – Chuck Wright was another devoted admirer, and we’d tell anyone who would listen about these shapes. He finally acquired a set for a while, one in briar and one in meerschaum, which he gifted at his death to Tom Palmer a few years ago. But it’s more than a shape—it’s one of the great smokers in my rotation, and the proof for me of any pipe is in the end how it smokes. But the proof of the shape is in the smoking, and it has established itself in my rotation with its great conical chamber, always delivering an effortless, flavorful smoke.

 

 

Shape D18 as De Luxe System

A second favorite, now trickling its way down (or out of) the POY series, is 2015’s shape D18, the Founder’s Edition. I have been hoping my body chemistry would revert to its old latakia-loving ways, and while it’s recovered somewhat from the traumas of recent years, I still don’t turn to big chambers like this very often. That being said, I had the D18 De Luxe System in my cart at Smokingpipes long enough to have someone else scoop it out from under me. When a second one came up on their site the following week, I was just strong enough to resist the urge, realizing I wouldn’t smoke it enough to justify putting it in the rack. I did write Joe Kenny at the factory, however, asking if the D18 would be a permanent addition to the System lineup, as its shape is spot-on perfect for the System reservoir. He said that no, it wasn’t, these were just one-off whimsies.

D18 Kapp-Royal: Amazing Grain

Just as beautiful, though not a System, is the Kapp-Royal version for the Italian market. I sometimes wish Peterson would release a few of the POY as naturals, or super-high grades.

 

 

Here’s a shape from Marc Brosseau’s collection that I think Peterson ought to consider re-releasing: the 36, which was originally (as seen) a small straight System.  This amber-stemmed meer, hallmarked for 1901, is proof that amber isn’t as delicate as some people think. What makes it so amazing is the chubby effect achieved by the short stem. Mark’s version seems to be the shortest that was offered, as per the 1906 catalog.

Shape 36 from the 1906 catalog. Notice it was available
in even shorter mouthpiece lengths!

 

 

This Sherlock Holmes “Original” is hallmarked N for 1900, and was up on Mike Gluckler’s Briar Blues site for a while. It’s the only time I’ve seen the 05 given a precious metal rim treatment, and it makes a fabulous calabash, don’t you think? It’s the kind of rugged-looking smoking instrument one can envision the Great Detective picking up for an evening’s ruminations.

 

 

Going out beyond the stars (at least for me) was 2017’s Master Craftsmen series, ten Amber Spigots in a custom leather presentation package designed by Claudio Albieri. The last time Peterson did something on this level of extravagance was in the mid-1990s. I read a lot of harsh criticism about the MC on one of the forums, which was fascinating. Peterson seems to attract more than its share of negative criticism, and it sometimes seems like their pipes are never what some folks want them to be: their low end isn’t high enough, their high end isn’t good enough, their grain is never flawless enough.

My two visual picks from the Makers Series, although the chambers in both are larger than I normally smoke, would be the B65 (2014’s POY) straight-grain and the B42 contrast-stained sandblast. The B42 I’ve long admired as one of the strangest shapes Peterson has ever released, and here it looks positively organic and handmade.

The B65, 2014’s POY, my least favorite of all the POYs, but in the MC treatment it Peterson’s language comes to life: massive, masculine, full of sunlight. You can check out the Smokingpipes video and notes here.

 

 

Coming back closer to my realm of pipe-possibilities is the Ebony Tank Spigot, shape D19, from the 2010 Mark Twain collection. This unique realization, with its sterling spigot and rim cap, is surprising and even a little startling, and gives off a kind of steampunk aura to me, like it’s ready for some serious mind-bending adventures.

 

 

At the opposite end of the spectrum from the LT Ebony Spigot comes this exquisite high-grade Dublin & London B10. We haven’t seen many pipes from this 2016 line because of the high-quality grain requirements, but when they are released, they are always something to behold.

 

 

This 124 cutty shape is a scarce and unusual entry in the Peterson shape catalog. Its first appearance is seen in the 1950 Briars by Peterson’s White Catalog. It then appears in a 1973 shape chart from Associated Imports (see below, fourth row down). It also appeared in the 1996 Old English Collection and has been seen in the churchwarden releases of recent years. The chamber is too small for me, but the lines on this Flame Grain with its stretch acrylic marmalade mouthpiece, are beautiful.

 

This House Pipe, purportedly used in an Alfred Hitchcock film, is one of those outrageous pipes that used to have a prominent place in any truly respectable tobacconist’s shop. This one looks like it could have been made anywhere from the late 1950s through the 1980s, but I couldn’t get any information on whether it had a hallmark or not.

 

Shape 68 Cork

The Cork is another seldom-seen line, this pipe from the collection of the Snowy Owl, Thomas Carrollan. The glossary in the Peterson book gives this information:

Cork  c. 2000 –  Higher-grade orange stain line, no band, 9mm filter, with amber-colored acrylic fishtail stem and aluminum P. European-market only.

It’s also one of the earliest (if not the earliest) of Peterson acrylic mouthpieces. I’ve just recently discovered this shape on my own: the 68 is a real chunk, a handful of solid briar. It may not look it in the picture, but it’s a big, solid piece of smoking furniture, as big or bigger than the 307 / XL90, but cut not for System use but for an army or navy-mount. I’ll talk more about it in another blog.

 

 

The B5 was the earliest of the B shapes to find a lasting place in the shape chart, back in the early 1990s. This gold-band Supreme, hallmarked for 1998, shows us why: it’s just a classic. It’s from Al Jones’s collection.

 

 

Here’s another line we won’t see here in the US, Mario Lubinski’s Rugby, a matte green finish with a white striated acrylic mouthpiece and hot foil P, with, of course, the obligatory Lubinski sterling mount. Many of the ferrules, as you can see in the 05 and XL20 above, feature the Hinch mount.

 

 

And I’ll end with what is surely the finest small batch line Peterson has ever made, in collaboration with Laudisi (Smokingpipes.com): the Arklow. As the B10 just recently appeared, I thought I’d share it with you.

 

And of course,
I can’t end without a shot of my favorite
Peterson shape – where are they getting these XL339s? –
in its Arklow dress:

Seen at top: Makers Series 1 of 10, shape B42
(Courtesy Smokingpipes.com)

Thanks to all the usual folks for use of their photos–
they’re all listed in the Blogroll.

Fumare in pace