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.

95. The 2018 Evening (Army) Collection

The first of the 2018 Evening Collection army mounts should be appearing over the horizon almost any day now, and I thought you’d enjoy a closer, non-commerical look and perhaps a bit of background on the line.

A P-Lip Army Mount from the 1906 Catalog

I’ll assume if you’ve been reading this blog or smoking Petes for most any length of time, then you know Peterson and army mounts have been together almost since the beginning. The Identification Guide in our Peterson book (forthcoming! I promise!) lists over a dozen named army-mount lines dating back to late 1940s. In 2016 a great renaissance of the style began at Peterson, and since then we’ve seen some really beautiful, fresh lines: the Orange Army (2016), Christmas Pipe / “Elf Army 1” (2016), Summertime “Blue & Orange” (2016), Derry Rustic “Killer Bs” (2016), Short Classics (2016), Christmas Pipe / “Elf Army 2” (2017), and will soon see the Summertime “Natural Blast” (2018) and the Christmas Pipe / “Elf Army 3” (2018).

“Army” is the new “System.” And maybe at some point Peterson will further its experiments in the acrylic P-Lips and offer an Army P-Lip–something we haven’t seen in the catalog since the vulcanite 1898-1998 P-Lip Commemorative and the first Antique Reproduction quartet of 1996 (the latter of which featured two System reproductions and two P-Lip Army reproductions)–over twenty years ago, now.

The Evening Collection is a step above all its recent army-mount siblings, a mid-to-upper grade sterling-mount line with a beautiful matte black finish dress bowl, a marbled greyish-white acrylic fishtail mouthpiece (slightly shortened), and the aluminum P, pressed quite dramatically on the top of the button. If the sterling and the aluminum P weren’t enough to guide collectors, please note the hand-stamped logo on the obverse, and hand-stamped shape number on the reverse. After getting used to the laser-engraving system, it looks like Peterson is reverting to hand-stamping on its mid-to-upper grades.

There’s six shapes in the collection, as you can see: a medium and a large bulldog (the 150 and the XL21), the small billiard used for straight Systems (the 31), the classic small 03 bent apple, the B11 brandy “setter,” and the large XL11. It’s going to be available in 9mm or standard, so I’d guess we’ll see it debut in Germany and Europe before reaching US shores.

I like the way the sterling work on the ferrules has settled down to the Peterson script over DUBLIN on the top of the band and the hallmarks large and precisely centered on the bottom. These are the first 2018 hallmarks I’ve seen, and I like the crisp articulation.

I also like some of the classic shapes Peterson has chosen—the B11 is an old friend and does virginia and va/per proud. The XL11 looks fantastic in its foreshortened stem treatment. And the 03 and its big brother the 02 are about as iconic as you can get in a Pete.

My Dad has always been a fan of black dress pipes and companioned a 301 black System for years before dropping it (hot) on the garage floor. It cracked, but never enough to be a bother for him. I was about to say I’ve never companioned a black pipe, but that’s not true, as my first non-basket pipe was a Jobey Stromboli, which still occupies a place of honor in my rack.

For me, the fishtail Army smoking experience is considerably different from either the System or the Navy (traditional tenon and mortise), but I’ve come to it after 40 years of System and Navy pipes and am not the best guide to how to get the most out of these pipes. P-Lip Armies, yes. But the fishtail are another kettle: I’ve got a trio at present that I’m becoming friends with—a Derry Rustic XL339, an Arklow XL339, and an IRISH MADE 68—and so far, they’ve responded best to cooler-temperature tobaccos than the hotter, sweeter virginias. If there are any stout Army fans reading this, give us a shout out and pass on any wisdom about the smoking and care of these beautiful pipes.

 

Deataigh i Síocháin!

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94. The 2018 Natural Outdoor Series & A Look Back at Peterson’s Pocket Pipes

Natural Outdoor Series 2018One unannounced new line for 2018 is the Natural Outdoor Series, a serious upgrade of the Outdoor Series released around 2011. The line features Peterson’s natural finish high-grade bowls, many with flame-grain, a wide double-beaded sterling band, hand-stamping on the briar with the fork-tail P logo and a vulcanite mouthpiece. While sharing photos of the new line (which is in limited release at a few e-tailers here and across the pond), I thought readers might also be interested in a little of the history behind them.

1906 Pal AB System1906: “Pal” AB System

2018 Natural Outdoor, Calabash: Peterson’s Smallest Current Production Pipe

As the world’s longest continuously operating maker of briar pipes, it perhaps comes as no surprise that Peterson has had a long interest in pocket pipes. While there are none found in the 1896 catalog, leafing through the 1906 catalog there are over a dozen shapes that today we’d classify as nose-warmers: oval bowls (sometimes known as “opera pipes”), extra small Patent Systems, straight Systems, bulldogs, and named pipes like the “Pat,” “Jap,” and “R.I.C.” *

Sports Line 19831947: “SPORTS” Line (1983 catalog)

Production of small shapes doubtless continued after the Patent era through the Irish Free State and into the Eire era, but the next concrete evidence we have comes with the “SPORTS” line of pipes released in the late 1940s—the quotation marks and all-capital letters being part of the original line’s name. The Identification Guide chapter of The Peterson Pipe identifies 11 shapes that were made through the years in this line—all of them from full-sized bowls, but not all usually in production at any one time.

One of my only attempts to be a pipe collector (rather than “companioner”) was to gather all eleven “SPORTS,” which I did. My problem then (and now) was that all but the 1947 Shape 5 bulldog had tiny P-Lip mouthpieces that I couldn’t clinch. How someone managed to do so on a golf course or astride his polo horse I have no idea. Maybe there was an optional headset attachment. The line continued in small numbers, on and off, through the end of the twentieth century, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Peterson still makes them on demand.

Outdoor Series 2011 1242011: Outdoor (Shape 124)

In 2011, the company unfurled an updated version of the pocket pipe, utilizing some fantastic shapes from their catalog: the under-utilized and seldom seen 124 canted dublin (as Irish a shape as you’ll ever see), the danish-bent dublin D6, a bent billiard 65 with marvelous upswept mouthpiece, and a very Barry Fitzgeraldesque apple, the 86. These resurface from time to time and are currently available (for example) at Smokingpipes.

2014: Outdoor Sportsman

In 2014, Peterson launched their first-ever line of army-mount pocket pipes with the Outdoor Sportsman line. I say that because the 1906 army-mount pockets were all “Extra Small” P.P.P.s—Peterson Patent Pipes, while the other pockets were navy-mounts. I tried smoking an 01 Outdoor Sportsman for a while, and it wasn’t the smoke that was the problem, but simply how close the bowl was to my face. How close is too close varies according to pipeman, I’m sure, but while I companion some of these little pipes, I felt like I was singeing my eyebrows every time I stuck flame to bowl.

 2014: Fisherman, Shape B47

2014: Hunter, Shape 68

Almost simultaneous with the Outdoor Sportsman release came a few short-stemmed limited run pocket pipes through Mario Lubinski, Peteson’s Italian distributor and long-time collaborator. The Hunter army mount and banded Fisherman come to mind, although there were a few other shapes as well, if memory serves.

 

2018: Natural Outdoor Series, D6

And that brings us to the new 2018 Natural Outdoor line. Killer looks, right? They’ve taken the concept to new heights, giving it top-drawer treatment.

I really like the super-extra-long band on the Tankard:

Tankard

Writes Conor Palmer, Commercial Director at Peterson: “The little natural pipes weren’t featured in the catalogue primarily because we don’t have available bowls in sufficient quality to promote them actively. We have called them the ‘Natural Outdoor Series’ and essentially it is made up of 6 shapes – The 124, Calabash, D6, Tankard, 86 and 15. The band is ever so slightly longer than what we usually use, and with a natural finish on the high-quality briar I think they make a nice addition.”

86 Apple

15 Billiard

As with Peterson’s other Natural releases, you may see a few tiny black spots on some pipes, which Peterson takes pride not to hide. These are root marks, not flaws. What you see is what you get—a rare high-grade piece of ebauchon briar with no camouflage.

 

Moonshine Dublin (top) & Peterson Natural Outdoor 124 (bottom)

Aside from the slightly-larger Peterson Antique Collection “Pat” shapes, I turn to Moonshine pocket pipes for short morning smokes when I get the opportunity, and I thought they might make a good comparison point with the Natural Outdoor Series.

Moonshine is the only company whose primary mission is making pocket pipes. For many smokers, I suspect they’ve become the standard.  They are part of BriarWorks International, a tiny outfit of something like six to eight folks, headed up by artisan-maker Pete Prevost. I’d call them a “hybrid-artisan” pipe company for lack of a better term, because even though their craftsmen and women have designated tasks rather than making each pipe from start to finish, the briar, finishing, stain work, stem work, shapes and low prices continually elicit gasps of wonder from me. **

Like Peterson, Moonshine uses more-or-less standard-size chambers (the Peterson Calabash being the exception). As you can see, both company’s pipes just cross the four-inch mark, which seems to be the standard.

Moonshine Devil Anse & Peterson Natural Outdoor 86

Moonshine pipes have a slightly more fan-shaped fishtail mouthpiece, which I thought would make them more comfortable than the Petes, but between my teeth (and I know this varies from mouth to mouth), the Petes easily found a secure hold. It’s a plus, probably, that Peterson went with a vulcanite mouthpiece here, since it’s softer than acrylic and hence easier to get a grip on it, although the slotting isn’t up to the Moonshine standard.

 

2018: Ebony Outdoor Series, Shape A1

There have also been a few 2018 Ebony Outdoor releases, also with sterling mount in a very classy matte black finish and the hand-stamped forked-tail P logo and vulcanite mouthpieces. Seen above is the little A1 bulldog.

Tankard

Shape 86

So if you’re wanting a traveling companion to slip into your coat, something for a short smoke over the morning cuppa, or a meditation break, these might just be the ticket.

 

Photos courtesy Chas. Mundungus
and
Smokingpipes.com

 

 

*Back in 2014, I talked about the army-mount Sportsman line of Peterson pocket pipes then appearing (https://petersonpipenotes.wordpress.com/2014/06/12/the-new-sportsman-line/), which you may want to take a look at if you’re interested in how nose warmers smoke, and why the short mouthpiece doesn’t make for a hotter smoking experience.

**The BriarWorks C111 bullmoose is to my eyes a virtual reproduction of the old Peterson 999 John Bull, and when I saw it at the Chicagoland show in May, I couldn’t resist:

I also like BriarWorks’s wire rustic finish. Probably just a coincidence, but Peterson used a similar rustication technique back in the late 1970s for a special army-mount release:

Moonshine Wire Rustic Pot Still

Iwan Ries Catalog 1978: Peterson Black Brush Rustic Army Mount (left)

 

 

 

 

93. The Unsung Story of Shape 68: Restoring a Trio of Hidden Gems

The Shape 68 K&P Irish Made Story

1975 was a pivotal year in Peterson’s history. The world-wide pipe-smoking community was nearing its zenith, and the company was at the most expansive point in its history. Peterson was celebrating what it thought of as its centennial, and marked the occasion with a number of celebrations, including the most elaborate catalog it had released since 1906.

Four years later, under the direction of W. F. Murphy, Peterson continued its expansive effort by introducing a number of shapes which have become iconic of the Peterson house style in the years since: the 03 and 02 bent apples, the 01-bent pot (itself an homage to the straight-sided billiards of Charles Peterson’s design), and the 05 bent dublin (replaced in 1984 by the equally important 305 calabash).

New Shapes for 1979

Tucked away behind these releases were others which are now becoming more familiar to Peterson enthusiasts: the muscular 107 billiard, the 04-horn antique reproduction (Peterson’s first serious foray into its early catalog), and that hidden gem, the 68 bent brandy.

I would never have given the 68 much attention if a trio of them had not come to me from across the pond. There were eleven pipes in the box, all from the same piper (now deceased), and three of them were sterling K&P Irish Made 68’s. It struck me that this pipeman must have had a great affection for the shape to have had three of them in his rotation.

The “K&P” in “K&P over IRISH MADE” is actually part of the line’s name, which most people don’t know, and understandably so. The non-System army-mount Peterson dates from the 1906 catalog and has been issued in several line names. It is currently enjoying a huge vogue, with Peterson releasing two or three new army-mount lines every season.

There is seeing a pipe and there is holding a pipe, and the two are not the same, as you doubtless know. Sometimes a shape’s form captures the eye and imagination, but as you hold it in your hand or clinch it between your teeth, it seems to find no place to rest. Peterson’s B7, for me, is one of those shapes—I love to look at it but can’t figure out how to hold it. I can say much the same for many artisanal shapes that have passed through my rotation—for whatever reason, they don’t seem to conform to my hands. My hands tell me the shapes are either awkward, unwieldy, too large, or simply misshapen.

The Only Pete I Ever Hated: A Kildare 82S

That was part of the story with my old 82S, a shape released the same year as the ones mentioned above. Partly the fault was in the chamber, because in those days the bowls were still dip-stained, which meant the stain continually produced a sour smoke. I didn’t learn until years later that knowledgeable Pete Nuts would alcohol-soak the chamber, or lightly sand it, or both. Of course, Peterson has long since given up dip-staining, but another problem for me was the bent diamond shank—it just could not be held in my fingers. Likewise with the mouthpiece: this was a very small P-Lip, and I just couldn’t get it to clinch in my teeth. So somewhere, sometime, we decided to part company and it went to another pipeman, who I hope gave it the attention and love it doubtless deserved.

But as I say, the 68 is a pipe for the hands: voluptuous might be one word to describe it, but that’s got too much of a Rubenesque connotation. Plump may be a better word, and like so many of Peterson’s best shapes, it possesses a solidness, a kind of wholeness, that seems to fill the hand. I know people refer to this shape as a brandy, but in handling it and photographing it, what it really reminds me of is a brown-speckled egg straight off the farm.

 

Restoration Work

I did my restorations of the trio simultaneously, which only furthered my sense of the magnificence of the shape. I submerged them in an alcohol bath for a day, which lightened the stain (of course), but is the best pipe-sweetening method I know how to do.

After the alcohol soak, I applied Simichrome Polish to remove the worst of the oxidation. I taped up the bowl as usual, then used white diamond to remove any bad scratches, being careful not to use it over the hallmark and maker’s stamps. I did a pass with Fabulustre over those, just to brighten them up.

The rims all had some tar to deal with, and after giving them an alcohol-soak on cotton pads, I needed to do a little light sanding to get rid of a few light scars and scratches. It wasn’t enough on any of the pipes to qualify as “topping,” but just to bring the rim back to an as-new finish. The soak did, of course, remove more stain, so I mixed up some Fiebings Medium Brown with alcohol and gave the rims 2 or 3 coats to bring them into uniformity with the bowls.

I finished up each bowl by first giving it about five minutes’ worth of mineral oil, to refresh the wood and heighten the grain depth. I’ve done this a few times now, after learning about it at Charles Lemon’s site, Dad’s Pipes, and really like it. I followed up with a carnauba buff. I have found that, when using mineral oil, I usually need to go back a few weeks later and reapply the carnauba as the oil dries.

The last thing to tackle were the stems, which were oxidized but had virtually no dental chatter. I read every blog I see about getting vulcanite back to black, but I guess one man’s black isn’t another’s, and sometimes I just scratch my head and wonder how come the described method doesn’t work for me or why it the mouthpiece still looks brown in the photos.

I imagine I’m one of the last on the planet to still use a bleach soak, but I haven’t seen convincing proof that there’s any other way to remove all the yellowing. I know it can sometimes raise small bubbles on the mouthpiece, but as I’m going to have to work through all the Micromesh grades anyway, it doesn’t seem like a big deal.

I have learned to follow the 20-minute bleach soak with a few hours in a warm bath of Oxy-Clean, which does seem to soften the vulcanite and make the cutting easier. If it’s a really tough job, I sometimes also dip the sanding pad in water, but while it makes the cutting easier, it also seems to shorten the pad’s life quite a bit.

One of the skills I’m still working on is how to remove brown and yellow oxidation from the crevices at the button. This time I wrapped a 500 wet/dry grit paper over one of my needle files to get up close to the perpendicular wall.

This time I also tried placing a 1000 grit pad on my Foredom lathe to cut through the initial oxidation. I had more than reasonable success, and as it’s an army-mount graduated taper with no stamps on the vulcanite to worry about, I’ll remember it for future projects.

Using Obsidian Oil between sanding pads, which I first read about on Steve Laug’s Reborn Pipes blog, also works wonders, and I’ve taken to routinely applying the oil after every two grades of pad.

 

Different Personalities of the 68

Royal Irish 68

The bowl assumes slightly different personalities according to the stem treatments, as you can see in the following photographs.

Cork 9mm 68

Dracula 68

Aran 68

Sterling K&P Irish Army 68

The K&P Irish Made is my favorite of the 68s, in part because it’s an army mount and harkens back to the company’s earliest days. I also like the “K&P over IRISH MADE” stamp, another reminder of Peterson’s long history. But another part of my appreciation has to do with the way the shape seems to be enhanced with the army ferrule, rather than allowing it be absorbed, as it were, by a navy-mount taper stem. I’ve been trying to acquire a P-Lip tapered mouthpiece for my own 68, but so far to no avail. I’m not sure it actually looks as good as the more traditional army-mount fishtail, but I’d like to try it out and see how it compares in its smoking ability. I see far more of these shapes from European e-tailers than here in the US, although Smokingpipes has had one or two in the not-too-distant past.

Completed Restorations

 

K&P Irish Made 68 Average Measurements:

Length: 5.16 in./131.06 mm.
Weight: 1.90 oz./54 g.
Bowl Height: 1.91 in./48.59 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.48 in./37.74 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.77 in./19.60 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.67 in./42.79 mm.
Stem Material: Vulcanite

 

Navy-Mount 68 photos courtesy
Smokingpipes.com

 

 

92. Rogha Addendum

Just a brief follow-up on the Sansone Rogha pipes. The top photo shows the tamper Gianluca issued for this year’s batch, very nice with its own draw-string bag.

I was a little curious to see if the X220s were, indeed, drilled with a reservoir. They are, as you can see. If you know Peterson’s shape charts, you’ll know this is a bit strange, as this is a System shape 312 (an 11 bowl, or 11S in current De Luxe System).

The pipes are hallmarked “G” for 2017, which is spot-on. As you may have read in earlier blogs, for the first time in Peterson’s history pipes are now sometimes issued with hallmarks dating to the previous year—this in an effort to get pipes out in a timely manner, but liable to cause a bit of dating confusion.

The sterling mounts are laser-engraved, which I don’t much care for, but I can see that having a hand-stamp made for every special issue might be cost-prohibitive when you have a laser-engraver there on the shop floor.

They are hand-stamped with the classic fork-tail P, a classic move. And most importantly, they’ve got that fabulous acrylic P-Lip mouthpiece, so no worries there either for comfort in clinching or for a cool System smoke.

It would appear that all the Roghas are now sold, but if you missed out, there’s a bit of good news.  Peterson has decided to offer something like the natural virgin-style bowl in this year’s Summertime line, as you may have seen in the 2018 catalog. I say “something like,” because the Roghas, according to Peterson’s Italian distributor and long-time collaborator Mario Lubinski, comprised a mere 12 bowls out of more than 3,000 Mario examined in making the selection! “Choice” (Rogha) indeed.  To meet the “choice” criteria, the bowls had to be clean, spot-free and have gorgeous grain.

So I made inquiries with Conor Palmer, commercial director at Peterson, and he replied: “We really like the natural, ‘unprocessed’ look and feel of the Rohga pipes that were for the Italian market previously. We simply wanted to offer it to the wider market and so decided to incorporate it into the 2018 series with a few small tweaks.” I’m thinking we can probably expect a few visible cracks and rough marks on the Summertime pipes, just due to the very nature of the sandblasted bowls stock. And of course, the Summertime is an army-mount, than being fully-functioning System pipes, and so requires a different smoking style. But I’m having so much fun with my Rogha, that I think I might just be up to it.

I’ve smoked nine bowls so far in my X220, and must say it’s the sweetest Pete I’ve ever smoked, in part due to the bare chamber. Mario Lubinski told me it would be, and he’s spot-on.

I detest breaking in a new pipe, and confess sometimes a pipe will sit in the rack for months before I gather courage to get started on it. I didn’t risk high-sugar Virginias for the first few bowls, and was careful not to overheat the bowl and to keep watch for that dreaded burnt-wood taste, but all is well and it looks like the pipe is off to a running start. It’s also fun watching the outer bowl darken with each smoke. I’ve already got my scouts out looking for a Summertime B10 with its fabulous V-shaped chamber.

Mario indicated there will be a 2018 Rogha (out next year about this time), but if you’re not inclined to wait, you might want to try out one of the Summertime 2018 pipes, which should debut here in the US anytime now. And if you’ve a mind for the 9mm version, it can be obtained now at the James Fox Pipe Divan:

Photo courtesy James Fox
Thanks also to Mario Lubinski and Conor Palmer