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


56. Sweet Petes: A 2016 Gallery

01-sweet-petes-banner Valentine’s Day seems like a good day to look back at the Sweet Petes of 2016. While everyone will have his favorites, I cannot think of any year since I bought my first Pete in 1978 which has rung such glorious changes on the Peterson house style. I use the bell-ringing metaphor because 2016 seemed to be about making Peterson designs more relevant to younger pipemen and women while remaining on the firm foundation of the company’s 150+ year style history.


I. The Amber Spigots

02-x220-amber-spigot-reversePride of place goes to the release of the incredible Amber Spigots. My co-author and I saw several tubs of amber mouthpieces back in 2013 on our research trip to the factory, high up in a storage area at the back of the factory, but it was either Mario Lubinski, Shane Ireland of Smokingpipes.com, or both, working with Conor Palmer and Jason Hinch at the factory, that brought them to life. It was a stroke of genius to strengthen the amber with the spigot stem, and as you can see in the photo below, the P-Lip mouthpiece versions include the original bone extension tenon. Bowls that will accommodate a reservoir, like the X220 (the chubby version of the 11S / 312), seem to have been bored for one, making them (if I am correct) Peterson’s first-ever genuine Spigot Systems.

04-x220-amber-spigot-obverseTake a careful look at the ferrule on the X220 in the top photo—this is the kind of detail I mean when I said the new pipes build on the underlying identity of the Peterson house style. The spigot mount dates from 1906; the amber itself from 1939. But this is a brand-new mount for Peterson, the first since 1896. I don’t know whether Jason Hinch, silversmith at Peterson, came up with this consciously or unconsciously or whether someone else hit upon it by accident or design. However it came about, it’s a masculine, dynamic blending of the original domed army-mount ferrule and the F or facing-mount (flat-top) ferrule. The short mouthpiece, reminiscent of the early BC or short-tapered stems, is even shorter, and would look awesome on regular production Standard and Premier Systems.


II. The 2016 Limited Edition

05-2016-le2016’s new direction really began with Limited Edition, which was designed back in 2015, even though we didn’t see it until a few months into the new year. Emblematic of 2016’s new lines, it speaks dynamically of both continuity and change.

The LE 2016 grows organically from the Peterson house style while being a strikingly contemporary, functional, and distinctively Irish design. The company has a long history with straight-sided bowls, one that goes all the way back to 1896, so that you could call them a signature design, and when you couple this with the massive, thick shank Peterson has always been famous for and the near-chimney proportion, you’ve got a great shape.

I said when it came out that it struck me as a kind of slimline, fat-pencil version of Tom Eltang’s Tubos shape, extremely dynamic. It’s also the first non-XL-sized LE Peterson has made, another innovation, and one I welcome in the current culture of 22 mm wide, squat-pot chambers.

I confess to being disappointed with the lack of a presentation box and surprised by the reduction of numbered pipes – this was the first year an LE has ever been released in an edition of 500 pieces – but Conor Palmer’s reasoning makes sense. He told me he wanted it to be a genuinely limited edition pipe, and reducing the number would make that statement.


III. Derry Rustic

06-xl339-derry-rustic2016 was the year for Peterson’s acrylic-stemmed army mounts: from the Summer Classic in its outrageous blue and orange and the “Elf Army” Christmas pipe to the sterling-mount Orange Army and sterling Roundstone Spigot. But the Derry Rustic was the most visible entry in the 2016 issues due to its numbers and price-point, and certainly captured my interest with its B-shape catalog and even rarer entries like the X61 and XL339 (pictured above).


With a company as old as Peterson, there’s always something new to be learned, a shape or line that many contemporary pipemen have never seen. Here’s a few favorites among the “Seldom Seens” I discovered in my own smoking pilgrimage and research over the past year.


IV. Patent Brevet Clay

07-8s-patent-brevet-clay-francePeterson has a long, quiet history with the clay pipe, which we discuss in the book. The first generation of Peterson System clays were made in France (“brevet” = “patent”) and were high-end products. By 1906, they were made in two shapes—the 8 (shown here, same size as the 313 System) and the 12.  I used to smoke a traditional clay made by legendary craftsman Eric G. Ayto back when I published Pipeman’s Quarterly in my grad-school days. I liked the taste, but found them often wet and uncomfortable to smoke (bowls too hot and mouthpieces too difficult to clinch). Having tried this System Clay, I can only recommend that if you chance upon one, grab it. It’s a System, the bowl stays cool, being thicker than the traditional heeled-dublin clay, it smokes very dry, and it’s comfortable for clinching with its fabulous P-Lip. Best of all, of course, it gives you the tobacco-only taste experience that only a clay can deliver. Tom Palmer told me recently that Peterson has no interest at present in re-introducing a clay, as they have unpleasant connotations of sour old ladies and wakes in Ireland — more’s the pity, I say, as I think the relative price of such pipes combined with everyone’s interest in great tobaccos would make them very popular.


V. 1906 Bog Oak

08-1906-bog-oak-obverse08b-1906-bog-oak-catalogThis small Irish bog-oak (morta) pipe was offered in Peterson’s 1906 catalog. The specimen here had a bowl split at the back and was missing its band. It got away from me before I could acquire it for the book, so I offer it here. There is still a large craft-culture in bog oak in Ireland, and wouldn’t it be great if Peterson were to offer one again after 110-year hiatus? I had a Paolo Becker morta in my rotation for a time, and morta offers a taste experience quite unlike briar, but absolutely wonderful.



VI. 109 Diamond Shank Billiard

10-billiard-109Thanks to Phil Blumenthal, I am a confirmed Peterson straight-pipe smoker, counting my 107, 120s, and 106 in my regular rotation. I wondered if the 109 would be a larger pipe than the 107. It turns out it is not, although I very much like the chubby look of it. This one is from the Emerald line, which ran from c. 1992 – 2010.


Length: 5.71 in./145.03 mm.
Weight: 1.70 oz./48.19 g.
Bowl Height: 2.06 in./52.32 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.56 in./39.62 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.78 in./19.81 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.48 in./37.59 mm.


VII. 261 Belge-Canadian

11-261-belge-canadianHere’s an unusual shape. It’s longer than the 264, and its forward-canted bowl is what—a Belge? That’s the best I can come up with, anyway. This specimen was released for the Danish market in the Dublin line in the early 1990s.


Length: 6.45 in./163.83 mm.
Weight: 1.20 oz./34.02 g.
Bowl Height: 1.99 in./50.55 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.73 in./43.94 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.77 in./19.56 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.27 in./32.26 mm.



VIII. Pickaxe

12-pickax-obverseYou just know Tolkien’s Dwarves made and smoked the pickaxe shape. This isn’t the first Peterson pickaxe I’ve encountered, but since it was never documented in the Peterson catalog, I wanted to share it with you. It always has shape 1 stamped on it.

Length: 136 mm. / 5.35 in.
Bowl Height: 67 mm. / 2.64 in.
Outside Diameter: 30 mm. / 1.18 in.
Chamber Diameter: 17 mm. / 0.67 in.
Chamber Depth: 44 mm. / 1.73 in.
Weight: 34 gr. / weight: 1.20 oz.


IX. FS4 Freestyle

14-freestyle-fs4-reverseHaving lived through the 1970s and 80s, I’ve no desire to return, but wanted to show you the best of a handful of “freestyle” calcinated block meerschaum shapes that appeared at the tail-end of the 1970s during the heydey of Peterson’s work with Manxman Pipes on the Isle of Man. Kind of groovy in a big-haired sort of way, right? Perfect for cruising along the drag in your AMC Pacer or Ford Pinto listening to FM underground radio or your favorite 8-track.




X. O.3. Extra Large Patent

16-o3-systemThe last Sweet Pete in 2016’s crop was officially the third, and certainly the rarest, of all System shapes. It’s the O (for “Oversize”) 3, which appeared in both the 1896 and 1906 catalogs, designated an “Extra Large” in the latter. This particular specimen is stamped EIRE and was made between 1938 and 1948. The ferrule is very unusual, and like the Brevet System Clay is not simply a dome, but has an inner sleeve as well. For lovers of the Dutch billiard shape, it doesn’t get much better than this.


Length: 160 mm. / 6.25 in.
Bowl Height: 64.29 mm. / 2.53 in.
Outside Diameter: 38.9 mm. / 1.53 in.
Chamber Diameter: 20.90 mm. / 0.82 in.
Chamber Depth: 51.02 mm. / 2.0 in.
Weight: 69 gr. / 2.45 oz.


Jim Lilley, who was instrumental in getting The Peterson Pipe: The Story of Kapp & Peterson up and running, passed away not long ago. His blog and work for the International Peterson Pipe Club will long be remembered.

Ar dheas Dé go raibh a anam:
May his soul be on God’s right hand.


30. Sweet Petes: A 2015 Gallery

01 FE

As the new year begins, I thought I’d offer a glance back at 2015’s “Sweet Petes” – pipes that have struck a chord with me for one reason or another, or say something special about Peterson pipes, both past and present.

It seems the more I study Peterson pipes, the less interesting I find other design aesthetics. Everyone pipeman has a different sensibility, of course, but mine seems to have something to do with what I’ll call design ipseity, by which I mean the essential element the pipe-maker (whether an individual or a workshop) expresses in his or her pipes as a mark of identification. This is more than a logo, a stamp, a particular finish or a shape. It has to do with an entire design language— shapes, stains, materials, design templates, whatever you want to call it—that readily identify the maker in an aesthetically pleasing way.

If you were fortunate enough to get a copy of Neill Archer Roan’s Comoy’s Blue Riband, you will immediately get a sense of what I mean—Comoy’s articulated a precise vision in this line of pipes. Again, if you know the work of Italian artisan Claudio Cavicchi, you’ll shake your head knowingly: his aesthetic is very geometrical, his proportions larger than other pipe makers, and his expressions in briar quite consistent.

Contrariwise, I can kindle little interest in most of the current wave of artisans who simply have no “voice” of their own, but only copy whatever is in vogue. know exactly what I mean. His pipes are instantly recognizable. Contrariwise, an artisan or pipe-maker that lacks such an articulate design language seems anonymous and impersonal to me.

What is so amazing to me, often on a daily basis, is how Charles Peterson began back in the 1890s with a few basic design principles, with form following function (as I believe it always should) and his company used these ideas as a foundation to create and sustain a design architecture that allows for continual renewal and growth. More about this in the book—but for now, I hope you enjoy a dozen of my favorite Petes from the past year or so.

I. The Elusive Founder’s Edition

02-FE-SandblastFE Sandblast

The Founder’s Edition Oom Paul s has to be near the top of every Pete Nut’s list for 2015. I’ve been wanting a birdseye P-Lip FE since I saw the first pictures more than a year ago. Still don’t have one, and it doesn’t look like I’m ever going to find one. I thought I had one in the bag, but somewhere along the way the bag developed a hole.  “You can’t always get what you want,” as Mick and the boys used to sing, “but sometimes you get what you need,” and so I hasten to add that I have no cause for complaint, because a thoughtful friend did send me a marvelous black sandblast P-Lip.*

The Oom Paul has a long and distinguished career in the Peterson catalog, and it’s a shame the shape fell out of regular production. The FE is larger than the XL bowls of the Sherlock Holmes series, with its nearest predecessor being the Patent System Commemorative Oom Paul from 1990. Like all the other Limited Edition / Pipe of the Year pipes, it’s not a System, but it is a really beautiful handful, and I love the Thinking Man soldered silver emblem. Get it if you can find it, is my advice.


II. The Craftsman Line

03 221 Dec 2014 CraftsmanShape 221 from the first issue of Craftsman Series, December 2014
(Courtesy TobaccoPipes.com)

The Craftsman line debuted in December of 2014 and is a wonderful response to the pipe community’s love for high-grade and artisan pipes. For long-time fans it’s one of the best things that’s happened to the high-end lines. I won’t say it’s overdue because Peterson has always delivered pipes of this quality, but it’s always great to see something fresh.

04 Craftsman Series Jan 2015 2Shape 05, Craftsman Series January 2015
(Courtesy Smokingpipes.com)

The idea – at least from a fan’s point of view – seems to be to take existing components in the Peterson design palette (bowl shapes, stem materials, silverwork, finishes and stains) and come up with a small, unique batch of dated pipes. The price varies, depending on what’s involved – how much silver, quality of bowl and so on. What has carried from batch to batch (so far) seems to be the spigot mount and a soldered sterling P on either the spigot or the mount itself.

05 Craftsman Series Feb 2015 2Shape XL24 (SH Milverton), Craftsman Series, February 2015
(Courtesy Smokingpipes.com)

I hope this doesn’t mean the end of uniquely themed and shaped collections we’ve seen in the past—the incredible Great Explorers Collection, Writer’s Collection, River’s Collection, Castles Collections and so on—but in the meantime it is heartening to see what the craftsmen and women at Peterson can do. I’m waiting for an issue with an ebonite or traditional cumberland (non-acrylic) stem.

06 Craftsman Series June 2015 CalabashShape B10, Craftsman Series, June 2015
(Courtesy Smokingpipes.com)

07 Craftsman Series July 2015Shape 221, Craftsman Series, July 2015
(Courtesy Smokingpipes.com)

III. “Holy Smoke!”: Peterson One-Offs

08a B35 One OffShape  B35 One-Off
(Courtesy Mark Domingues)

One of the great secrets of Peterson collecting – and I’m not sure I should be broadcasting this on the blog – is the existence of Peterson “one-offs.” A one-off is just what it’s name implies: a one-of-a-kind pipe. Back when Paddy Larrigan was still at Peterson, a number of his creations and experiments were released, sometimes with his “PL” stamp, but more often not. Sometimes I find one-offs to be a little clunky, sometimes amazing, but they’re always unique.

My co-author Gary Malmberg, who runs the Secondhandsmokes estate pipe shop on Ebay, tells me one-offs never sell for much because there’s no demand. Hmm. Artisan pipes are collected in part for their uniqueness, even though most artisans make dozens of pipes in the same basic shape. I’m thinking maybe we should change that, because a one-off is as unique for a so-called “factory” pipe as any artisan-made, isn’t it? Then again, maybe not. Let’s keep it to ourselves, at least for now.

Sometimes one-offs are stamped SPECIAL. This happens when a customer special-orders a pipe. That stamp, however, can also be used for a small batch, so in and of itself it doesn’t indicate a one-off. I remember owning a 72 Dunmore System back in the 1980s with the SPECIAL stamp. The tobacconist told me he bought a half-dozen from the Peterson rep, who said a small-run, experimental color stain had been used on them.

Part of the difficulty with one-offs, of course, is recognizing one when you see it. And that’s probably what keeps them from selling for much. I was lucky to actually get this one, a B35, from Mark Domingues. At first glance, it looks like one of the Mario Lubinski Kapp-Royal pipes: light tannish-orange stain, sterling band, amber-colored acrylic bit. But it’s stamped PETERSON PATENT and has a sterling host-and-chalice soldered onto the mount.

08b B35 Grail Detail“Every pipe has a story,” as I love saying, and it turns out that Mark got this pipe from Glen Whelan at Peterson’s Nassau Street shop in Dublin. The band, I learned from Jason Hinch, Peterson’s new silversmith, was made by David Blake (who retired last year). I don’t know why David made it, but ever since reading the Rev. Arthur B. Yunker’s The Theology of Pipe-Smoking back in the 1980s, I’ve held onto the whimsical notion of “holy smoke.” The bowl stamp marks the bowl as intended for the Antique Collection released in 2009, but the stain fits the Lubinski Kapp-Royal pipes.

From Captain Peterson’s Book of Proverbs: profundant non vis non – “waste not, want not.” Also, ubi lampas ibi tibia – “Where there is a bowl, there is a pipe.”


IV. Dublin Straight System

09 Dublin 120 SystemShape 120 Dublin System

I said in an earlier blog that I think Peterson’s 120 Dublin is the archetype where the Dublin shape is concerned. At some point I want to do a blog on all the Dublin shapes K&P has issued, but for now I will content myself with saying that I have three 120 P-Lips and they all are incredible smokes: a recent-production Aran, a 1980s sterling band Donegal Rocky, and a 1950s Dublin & London. Part of this may have to do with the V-shaped bowl combined with my preferred tobacco—either Dark Star or St. James Woods—but these pipes seem to never require relights and deliver some of the best smoking experiences I’ve had.

10 Dublin 120 System with TenonStraight System Bone Tenon Extension

On to the 120 System. Unlike its siblings, the 120 System has a much shallower chamber, of course, because the reservoir must run right under the edge of the bottom of the chamber. You can see the difference between it and its nearest contemporary embodiment, the non-System Irish Army 120:

Dublin System 120                                                    Dublin Irish Army 120

Length: 5.69 in. / 145 mm.                                           5.77 in. / 146.56 mm.
Weight: 1.15 oz. / 33 g.                                               1.30 oz. / 36.85 g.
Bowl Height: 1.90 in. / 48.21 mm.                               1.95 in. / 49.53 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.18 in. / 30 mm.                           1.67 in. / 42.42 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.85 in. / 21.75 mm.                  0.86 in. / 21.84 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.32 in. / 33.62 mm.                     1.38 in. / 35.05 mm.

11 1976 detail1976 Brochure

I can only find one record of the 120 Dublin System in the Peterson ephemera, in a 1976 Associated Imports brochure. This System shape was probably also marketed before 1949, as seen in an example I had and then sold on Ebay with a COM of MADE IN IRELAND in a circle, which also featured a sterling band, as indicated by the K & P in shields. The one pictured above, with its bone tenon, dates to between 1949 and 1963, as evidenced by the COM, the faux-marks on the nickel band and the fact that bone was discontinued in the early 1960s.

Straight Systems are fairly rare in the Peterson world, and perhaps, undeservedly so. In my limited experience with them—a System 31 and an 1890 – 1990 Patent System commemorative—they actually smoke drier than a bent System. But they also “ghost” the tobaccos smoked in them quite easily, and take more care in keeping the reservoir clean and dry.


V. Irish Whisky

12 Irish Whisky Rustic 107 P LipIrish Whisky 107 P-Lip

The Irish Whisky line was available from 1997 to about 2005, and while the smooth finish was nice, the rustic has always popped for me and other Pete Nuts. When I saw not one but two of the rustic P-Lip Chubby 107s within a few weeks, I was amazed. Someday one will come around at the right time!


VI. Reading Pipes

13 Reading Pipe 1916Shape 606 with Reading Stem and FAB Mount, Hallmarked 1916

I imagine you’re looking at the photo and saying, “I don’t get it. That’s about the ugliest pipe I’ve ever seen.” Well, the thing is that I’ve never seen an actual Peterson Reading Pipe before this one. I owned a GBD churchwarden back in the late 1980s and was never impressed with it, but then I smoked an X.O2 Peterson House Pipe a few years ago from Gary Malmberg’s collection and was astonished with how different the experience was from a short stem. Seeing this one made me wonder how a contemporary Pete with a normal-sized bowl, or even XL bowl, might perform.

14 Reading Pipe 1906 Catalog

Shape 104 with Reading Stem and FAB Mount, 1906

I haven’t been able to document it, but back in the 1980s pipe-smokers could order a “reading stem” for their System pipes. The stem was $12.50, and inasmuch as a new System Standard retailed for $33, it seemed like a lot, so I never bought one. Of course, I wish I had now—just to be able to document it for the book.

I also like the subversiveness of calling a pipe a “Reading Pipe” – nobody reads books anymore, do they? Those things made of paper, glue and board? It seems like Aldous Huxley got it right and Ray Bradbury wrong, at least as far as contemporary culture is concerned.


VII. Irish Freehands

16 Freehand 02 BondsIrish Free Hand from the 1980s

I’ve watched these on the Bonds of Oxford Street Ebay site for quite a while now, and even seen an estate one a year or so back for sale. They seem to have been made in the 1980s, and I suspect they were all a batch made by Paddy Larrigan, although a sales rep at Bonds told me there was no “P.L.” stamp on them. They all have XL bowls and chambers, far too big for my smoking tastes, but I think they’re fascinating in presenting to the world what an Irish free hand pipe aesthetic might look like. So very different from the Danish or German or Italian, but once you think “Irish,” they make perfect sense, at least to me.

15 Freehand 01 Bonds17 Freehand 03 Bonds

18 Freehand 04 Bonds


VIII. The Queen That Got Away

19 Queen Victoria ReversePeterson Figural Meerschaum, Hallmarked 1896

The Queen! H.R.M. Queen Victoria! How cool is a meerschaum carved PATENT (that’s a System) Peterson pipe dating from 1896? Well, for me it’s right up at the top, especially with the incredible silverwork. But you won’t see this pipe in the Peterson book, at least not unless the present owner reads this blog and gets in touch with me.

20 Queen Victoria Right Facial One of the constant problems we’ve had with the book has been sourcing illustrations and photographs. I’d say 95% of those involved on the profit side of the pipe-smoking hobby have been extremely generous, some really going out of their way to help us. But then there’s that remaining 5%, and that’s where this pipe comes in. We tried to buy it – which is always, always the easiest way to get the photograph you want – but it went sky-high and we were outbid in the last seconds. Then we tried to arrange with the dealer for photographs, and that didn’t go well. We couldn’t even find out who bought the pipe! In any event, it’s an exquisite piece. Note the “orific” mouthpiece from 1896—the final Patent Lip wouldn’t appear for two more years.


IX. What is the Perfect Peterson Briar Pattern?

21 Joyce Writer's Collection obverseThe Writer’s Collection Joyce, Hallmarked 2013
(Courtesy Smokingpipes.com)

The Writer’s Collection from 2010 produced some of Peterson’s most unusual shapes. With pipes for Irish writers Joyce, Yeats, Shaw and Wilde, the collection succeeds wildly in suggesting the range and power of each of these giants. This egg-shaped bowl with pinched stummel, the Joyce, is a marvel in my opinion. For my money these shapes are flat-out amazing and every bit as dynamic as anything I’ve seen from the high-end artisan makers.

22 Joyce Writer's Collection reverse

But the real reason for including this pipe in my Sweet Petes Gallery is the grain. Peterson pipes have always been made from ebaucheon, not plateau blocks. Closer to the heart of the root, in other words (hmmm, Rush fans, take note). And the very best Peterson grain for my money is a perfect, or nearly perfect, birdseye across both sides of the bowl with tiger striping along the top and bottom of the shank and bowl and the front and back of the bowl. This one’s got it. You always know it when you see it, and some of the most dynamic birdseye can sometimes achieve an almost paisley effect.

I sited this one at Smokingpipes right before Christmas, which I’ve noticed over the years is usually the best time at Smokingpipes to find an amazing Peterson shape at a good price. It disappeared before I could figure out my finances the following morning. I try not to share all my pipe obsessions with my wife, but I did mention this one the day I saw it, and I must’ve sounded like a man on the verge, because I did see this pipe again on Christmas morning.


X. Dumore Premier System

23 71 Dunmore SystemDunmore 71

The Dunmore System 71 – the same bowl as the 301 System – dates from one of Peterson’s high-water marks, the great creative outburst of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The line featured Premier-grade bowls with a fully-functioning System reservoir, and a flattened area beneath the stummel, allowing it to sit on the stummel and the button. It was the first of Paddy Larrigan’s two System “setter” creations.

The highlights of the Dunmore Premier System are its ability to sit, its beveled shank without the classic metalwork ferrule (a concession to modernity of the 70s) and its wide “Comfort P-Lip,” which makes it incredibly comfortable to smoke. This bit was discontinued in the early 1990s in favor of a more “one-size-fits-all” bit which is not only much less comfortable but also diminishes the original shape’s chunky masculinity. The Dunmore 71 is still available, remarkably, at Bonds of Oxford on Ebay.


XI. The Sherlock Spigots

SH Original SpigotEvery year Mario Lubinski, Peterson’s distributor for the Italian market and long-time collaborator, releases a handful of what I think of as Peterson special edition lines. I’ll look at what he’s done for the past two or three years in the next few blogs, but for now, something absolutely gorgeous: the Sherlock Holmes shapes in Spigot dress. Why didn’t anyone think of this before? They’re incredible. They almost make me want to smoke a meer, but not quite. If you’re a meerschaum smoker, however, check these out before they disappear. The Lubinski lines last about 24 months, sometimes not that long, then they just evaporate. I found these, as you can see from the watermarking, at an Italian Ebay site which also posts on the U.S. site.

SH Baskerville Spigot


XII. An Old Friend

I can’t end without a parting glance at my favorite shape, the old 309 / 4 / 339, which was discontinued in 2013. Toward the end of that year I was doing research on the wide variety of mounts available on early Patent pipes, and one I found very striking—the “F” or “Facing” mount. I wanted to see an XL339 with an F mount (although Peterson doesn’t call it that, or anything else, these days) so I talked to Tony Whelan, Jr. about it. He said they only had a very few XL339 bowls left, and this is what he came up with. I was pleased.

26 339FXL339 P-Lip Spigot “F”

*By the way, that marvelous shot of the FE at the top of the blog is courtesy Smokers-Lounge.co.uk, who get in some fabulous Petes.