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.

74. Sneak Peek: 2018 St. Patrick’s Day Pipes

This just in from my friends at Tobaccopipes.com–a first look at the 2018 St. Patrick’s Day pipes. Paddy’s Day is still a ways off, but in a sense Paddy’s Day is any day a Pete Nut picks up his favorite Peterson, right?

The Dublin Era (1991 – present) has seen a number of annual comemoratives, including the July 4th, Father’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Christmas pipes. The St. Patrick’s Day pipes began in 1998, and each year I’m sure they scratch their heads in Sallynoggin and try to figure out what to do next. This year marks three firsts for the series: the first army-mounts, the first sterling ferrules, and the first amber-color acrylic stems.

If you watched Tom Palmer’s interview posted a few blogs back, he said Peterson liked to think they’d captured the green, white and orange of the Irish flag this year–something the commemorative did in a more modest way with a triple-ring acrylic band for its first issue in 1998.

As far as shapes go, it appears that Peterson is sticking to a dozen tried-and-true established, smaller Classic Range numbers, including several Pete-lover favorites: the 120 dublin, the 999 rhodesian, the 305 calabash, and the fabulous B10 hybrid. The photo of the flat-bottom 304 isn’t particularly illustrative, but it’s one of Paddy Larrigan’s original designs, a wonderful barrel-“setter.”

The pipes can be pre-ordered at Tobaccopipes.com here in the U.S., and should be out early in the new year.

For those who can’t wait, Tabaccheria Guzzi’s eBay store is offering a few right now on eBay. As you can see from the photos, the finish is something a bit new and different from Peterson. At first I thought it was a matt spray, but I’m not sure at this point. I think I can see a bit of grain beneath the green. I also want to call your attention to the inlaid aluminum P —another indication of the high quality of this year’s release. Note, too, Jason Hinch’s sterling “Hinch Mount” on the 03 and X220.  I’m also excited Peterson is continuing the use of the commemorative sleeve. The laser-engraved shamrock on the laser-stamping is also a nice touch!
Illustrations courtesy Toaccopipes.com
and Tabaccheria Guzzi

 

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73. An Amber Spigot Gallery Walk at the Black Swan Shoppe

There are folks who are passionate about pipes, those who are passionate about selling pipes, and those who are passionate about Peterson pipes. But how many people do you know that comfortably fit in all three circles? Few, I’d think, especially of that final category. But Kris Parry at the Black Swan Shoppe is one of the few. You may remember him from an earlier blog I did on Peterson’s rarest line, the Plato.*

Kris and I were emailing a few weeks ago about some Peterson pipes (of course), and he mentioned that at the recent UK trade show Peterson was offering what is probably the last installment of the real amber spigots. Kris told me, “the UK got 50 and retailers were falling over themselves to snap some up. The show opened at 9:00am and they were all gone by 10am. I was the first on the stand and managed to select the 10 best pieces. I then gave other eager retailers a chance to grab some (we are all friends in the trade) and took what was left at 10am.”

When he offered to let me see what Black Swan had received a few days ago, my eyes popped. It’s not just the amber spigots, nor the incredible “A” bowls with their breath-taking birdseye or flame grain, but the combination that is so pleasing. And to see all these pipes together was so remarkable that I thought I’d pass along that experience to you with a minimum of commentary.

Before beginning your tour, I would like to point out a few things about the mouthpieces. Notice as you go along that there are three distinct types of mouthpiece: a round-end with the draft hole in the middle, a flattened button which isn’t quite a fishtail, and a P-Lip. While the 50 kilos or so of amber mouthpieces were inventoried in the late 1930s, the three styles of mouthpieces tell us a little bit more. The orifice or round-end style predates P-Lip production and was abandoned during the 1890s, meaning these mouthpieces were fashioned no later than that decade. The almost-fishtail stems could date anywhere from the late 1890s to the time of inventory. The P-Lips, of course, date no earlier to the time of the 3rd patent in 1898.

We know Charles Peterson and his young hand Jimmy Malone both worked amber, so there is the very real possibility that either CP or Malone actually crafted some of these stems. In the photo session Thomas Mason (the famous Irish photographer) did for the 1906 catalog, CP and Henry Kapp chose the amber and meerschaum work station not only for its prestige value, I think, but because Charles was justifiably proud of his skill as a craftsman. He always chose to wear his workman’s smock in any indoor photograph, while the other execs wore suits (that photo, of course, is in the forthcoming book).

 

 

B10 P-Lip (1 of 2)

 

 

999 P-Lip w/bone tenon extension

 

 

124 P-Lip

 

X220 Flame P-Lip (2of 3), bone tenon (11S DeLuxe or 312 System),
with bone tenon extension (a System)

 

120 (1 of 5) with either orifice or early flat button

 

X220 Flame P-Lip (1 of 3), bone tenon (11S DeLuxe or 312 System),
with bone tenon extension (a System)

 

106 P-Lip

 

120 (2 of 5) P-Lip Flame

 

230 P-Lip (a small billiard, same as 12 1/2 De Luxe or 317 System),
with bone tenon extension

 

15 P-Lip

 

120 (3 of 5) orifice button: probably the earliest-made amber in the gallery

 


X220 Flame P-Lip (3of 3), bone tenon (11S DeLuxe or 312 System),
with bone tenon extension (a System)

 

120 Flame (4 of 5), P-Lip

 

 

408 P-Lip

 

B10 (2 of 2)

 

120 Flame (5 of 5) with flat button

 

This release of the amber spigots comes with a second mouthpiece, black acrylic fishtail. The first release in the U.S. came with no extra stem, while the Lubinski / Italian releases have routinely featured an extra acrylic fishtail spigot mouthpiece. As expensive as the extra spigot mouthpiece makes the pipe, I think I would’ve preferred that if I was going to invest in one of these beauties. I wouldn’t let that stop me, of course, if I wanted one, as Peterson is willing to make an extra spigot mouthpiece for a very reasonable price. Kris said with this release there’s a new padded, hinged box:

I know some folk have been a bit hesitant because of the hoop-lah over the fragility of the amber. There are still lots of vintage Petes in circulation with amber bits, some with quite a bit of dental chatter, and of course as a semi-precious “stone,” amber is brittle. But it’s not more brittle now than it was when Peterson craftsmen originally formed it, and there’s loads of advice on how to take care of it and bring back its luster if it gets a little sun (a drop of olive oil and a silver polishing cloth). But if you decide to invest, I hope you’ll take my old friend “Trucker” Chuck Wright’s advice: “it’s just a piece of wood unless you smoke it. Then it becomes a pipe.” Fumare in pace!

The acrylic black fishtail mouthpiece

You can view available Amber Spigots from the Black Swan at
https://www.thebackyshop.co.uk/categories/peterson-briar-pipes-peterson-antique-amber-pipes

Photos courtesy Kris Parry, Black Swan Shoppe,
https://www.thebackyshop.co.uk/

 

 

If you’re ever in Scarborough, be sure to drop by and introduce yourself to Kris Parry at the Black Swan Shoppe. If you click on the photo below, you can see a card of Peterson pipes in the upper right side of the window display.

* See https://petersonpipenotes.wordpress.com/2017/04/08/60-peterson-2017-product-catalog-a-well-kept-secret/.  Kris has several of the latest gen Platos in stock, as you can see. It looks like some have the new acrylic P-Lips, some still have the vulcanite P-Lips. “Worth a peek,” as the old duffer says.

 

 

 

 

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!

 

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)