87. The Antique Nickel Wind Caps

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

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

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

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

 

The 1906 Hinge Cap

1906 Shape 12 AB Hinge Cap

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

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

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

The 1906 Maker’s Mark Stamp

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

A 1906 shape 101 and a 2018 shape X105

 

The c. 1921 Hinge Cap

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

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

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

Shape 03 Sterling Wind Cap

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

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

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

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

 

The 2018 Release

A House Pipe Given ANC Treatment

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

Shape 268

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

Shape 65

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

Shape X220

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

Shape 03

 

Using the Wind Cap

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

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

Advertisements

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

 

74. 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.

 

 

 

 

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)