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

 

 

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83. Peterson’s First Italian Kapp-Royal Line (1988-1995)

Greetings, fellow Kappnists!*  I like to say “Every pipe has a story,” some of it to be read in the pipe as physical object, some of it in the pipe’s origin and maker, some in the companionship it offers me in my own pilgrimage, and some yet unwritten. An estate pipe always come with a fair amount of mystery: what is its provenance? who companioned it? why did they part company? were they close friends, or mere acquaintances, or even hostile toward one another? Idle speculations, but I can’t help but wonder.

One of my ambitions after quitting my day job is to write a novel about the adventures of a single pipe, similar to the conceit of the classic Tales of Manhattan (1942), which follows a formal tailcoat from one wearer to another (including Henry Fonda and Charles Boyer), affecting each in some way.

When I saw this Kapp-Royal 107 in December, I knew it was unusual: the fine grain, the briar-insert ring, and its point-of-sale—northern Italy. I’m a fan of the 107, Peterson’s stoutest billiard, as you may already know, especially when it’s got a P-Lip. It appeared to be an early Kapp-Royal in the Peterson-Mario Lubinski collaboration, which began back in the mid-1970s and continues to this day.

Over the years, Mario has taken up a handful of Peterson line names that were no longer being used, several from the old Peterson – Iwan Reis collaborations of the 1960s and 70s. None is quite as fortuitous as the Kapp-Royal name, because Mario has always simultaneously been interested in Peterson’s early “Kapps” history and in offering some of the finest pipes Peterson make.

Even Lubinski’s routine Peterson offerings can sometimes be astonishing, because Mario often hand selects the pipes. Look at this Italian-market 309 Standard System, which has no fills and absolutely knock-out Birdseye:

 

The 107 would appear to have been made at about the same time as the higher-grade Galway line iteration from 1983, which likewise featured the very unusual briar-insert ring in the ebonite P-Lip mouthpiece, albeit a bit wider. The finish seemed close from the internet photos, and may even have been identical. I’ve only seen a few examples of the Galway in person, but as you can see from the 268 Zulu below, it was a lovely line, created during a very dark period in Peterson’s history.

107 Kapp-Royal (top) and the 268 Galway (bottom): identical stain,
but note wider briar ring on Galway mouthpiece

What makes this 107 even more appealing to me is that it was originally companioned by Jean Marie Alberto Paronelli (1914 – 2004), surely one of the most fascinating figures in the history of pipe-making, as well as one of the least known here in the US. According to his grandson, pipe maker Ariberto Paronelli, J. M. Alberto Paronelli not only knew Mario Lubinski, but was (like Lubinski) a pipe distributor for about thirty different brands from around 1960 to 1990, with two offices in Milan, and was the first Italian importer of Dunhill.

You know, that looks like a Peterson 11s. It’s unsmoked, as it still has
the paper-slip inventory inside the chamber. I wonder.

Early in his career, Jean Marie Alberto worked for the fabled Rossi pipe factory, but in 1945 at the factory’s closing (if I have this detail correct), he set out on his own. He was a polymath, writing verse, sculpting, painting, creating pipes, running an artisanal pipe company and working as a pipe distributor for Italy. He was involved with the creation of the Académie Internationale de la Pipe, which seems to have held its first meetings in his Gavirate home, and still publishes the (somewhat stuffy) Journal of the society, now based out of England.

When I got in touch with Mario Lubinski to ask him if could tell me anything more about Paronelli’s pipe, he told me that it was indeed the Lubinski version of the Kapp-Royal, and that he not only knew Jean Marie well, but that his own father was in business with Alberto back in the day: “Great fellow, with a strong and unique personality. . . I didn’t know he was a Peterson collector!”

As for the Kapp-Royal line, I struck gold. Mario writes: “the Kapp Royal line was made just for Italy, of XS quality, better-grained than that used for the Galway line. The Galway was the same bowl quality as the Kildare, but with the Kapp-Royal’s distinctive black and white finishing. Our price lists show the Kapp-Royal was originally offered from 1988 to 1995, when it was dropped. I have attached some photos of the line from the old catalog, illustrating the shape range.”

Look carefully at the number of pipes in the shape range: 12 seems to be the magic number for Peterson. We don’t talk about this in the book, and it’s too late to add anything at this point, but the light bulb came on over my head when I saw Mario’s chart: as often as not, any given special Peterson line will contain 12 shapes.**

I suspect there may be Something Significant in the Irish company filling out a line with twelve shapes, but while I have read quite a bit in Celtic mysticism, I have only a slight understanding of the Hermetic Tradition as found in the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faiths.

Ariberto told me the 107 chubby billiard came from his grandfather’s personal collection, and he had cleaned up the outside so well that I thought from the internet photos it really was almost new. It turned out that it needed a bit of internal cleaning, but that was all right, because it told me that Jean Marie had obviously enjoyed the pipe on many occasions and it must have been a good smoker for him. Ariberto also buffed off the white enamel P on the mouthpiece, as you can see from the shape chart above.

I started by reaming the bowl. The carbon-cake was obviously quite old with little odor and came out easily, leaving a clean, unscarred chamber. Then I thought I’d run a few alcohol-soaked bristle cleaners through the air passage to see what the plumbing was like, and there I got a surprise. This pipe had been smoked and smoked and smoked!

After I had cleaned it up, I was dismayed to find the stem and shank faces didn’t meet up. You can see this, actually, in the first photo of the pipe at the top of the page–I just hadn’t noticed it until this point in the reconditioning.

I contacted Charles Lemon over at Dad’s Pipes for help, to see if there was a way to bring the two together. He wrote back with three possible solutions:

  1. Double-check the mortise to make sure you’ve gotten all the muck out. A bit of something blocking the tenon from seating completely is usually the culprit.
  2. One other explanation may be that the pipe has sat unused for some time and the briar has dried out and shrunk slightly. An easy way to test this theory is to smoke the pipe a few times and see if the gap closes.
  3. Another option, if you think the tenon is hitting the end of the mortise before the stem face seats properly, is to sand the end of the tenon slightly to remove the gap.

I was able to do enough measuring and fiddling to figure out #3 wasn’t the culprit (and you can see this for yourself in the top mortise photo, where the tars have built a wall), but as I wasn’t ready to smoke the pipe, thought I’d try #1, even though the chamber appeared from the photographs to be clear. I used Q-tips and isopropyl, getting back into the corners.It turned out the mortise wasn’t as clear of debris as the camera had led me to believe, and the extra cleaning did the trick, as I can no longer capture any light when looking at it over the Ott-light.

I’m looking forward to a first smoke with some Mac Baren Mixture Flake tonight, which I usually use when breaking in older estates, as it burns at a lower temperature than virginias and va/pers and is less likely to instigate a burn-out—something I’ve learned the hard way.

 

 

Special Thanks:

Albierto Paronelli, www.paronelli.it

Mario Lubinski, www.lubinski.it

Charles Lemon, www.dadspipes.com

Photo of the 309 Standard System courtesy Al Pascia, www.alpascia.it

 

*If kapnismology is the study of pipes and pipe-smoking, then Kappnismology is the study of Kapp & Peterson, right? If you are reading this and are so inclined, you have my permission to forthwith refer to yourself as a Kappnist, as in “Mr. Bartleby T. Scrivner, Kappnist.”

**I’m not thinking of big, standard lines like the Aran or Donegal Rocky or other Classic Range lines that draw on nearly the entire shape catalog, but “special” lines like the St. Patrick’s Day and Christmas commemoratives and yearly lines like the recent Waterford or Valencia. It happens frequently enough to warrant mentioning, in any event.

Pictured at Top: Shape 53 lovat and the beloved 90 (aka 9, XL90, 307, 9BC etc.) at bottom, from a period Lubinski sales catalog. If anyone has a copy of the “Chip of the Old Block” poster which Mario Lubinski used as background, please drop me a line. It was available during the 1970s and 80s and I think circulated among collectors a bit, but neither I nor Peterson has a copy, and there’s still time to stick it in the book somewhere! The original appeared in the 1920s, shortly after the System patent expired.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Appraisal

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

 

Stem and Spigot

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

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

 

Ferrule

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

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

 

Bowl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

And so, the finished pipe:

 

 

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

**From the Osmo website:

OSMO Polyx-Oil (the Original Hardwax Oil)

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

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

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

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

Ingredients:

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

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

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

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

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

 

79. The Wrong Pipe: Reconditioning A MADE IN EIRE 312 System

 I like to tell myself I’m not much of a pipe collector, but work on the Peterson book has forced me into the role more than I’d thought possible, all “for the greater good,” my Pipe Acquisition Disorder tells me. That being the case, during the course of writing and research on the Peterson book a number of interesting pipes have come my way. This MADE IN EIRE (in a circle) 312 Standard System is one of them. There are so many “wrong” things about this pipe that I thought you might find its story interesting.

When it arrived a few years back, at the beginning of our labors on the book, I was delighted because it was the first EIRE stamp I’d ever seen first-hand—EIRE being that very, very short period of Peterson history from 1938 – 1948.

Left to Right: Eire, Early Republic, Late Republic, Dublin Era 312s

The bowl, as you know if you looked at my last 312 blog, is something different from what is being frazed these days, a bit taller, a bit more egg-shaped, and just . . . different.* And that’s not what’s wrong with it—that’s all to the good for a Luddite like myself who usually prefers things as near to their sources as possible. Here’s what it looked like when I first did my reconditioning:

First Restoration

But to my taste, it smoked sourly and so I rarely pick it up. And for me that’s the first wrong thing—a pipe that gathers dust in the rack needs to find a home where someone is smoking it, or at least giving it some serious appreciation. I had restored the pipe to the best of my ability back when I received it, but in beginning to think about letting it go, I decided I’d have a second try at freshening it up, not wanting to sell someone second-rate goods.

So I gave it a 24-hr. dunk in an isopropyl bath, and it popped out smelling clean and sweet. That bit of wrongness, at least, was taken care of, as I proved to myself when I gave it a trial smoke at the end of the reconditioning.

After the alcohol soak, inasmuch as the wood is at the very least 70 years old, I thought I’d treat it to a coat of mineral oil, as Charles Lemon has demonstrated on his blog. I don’t think Charles leaves this on for more than 15-20 minutes, and certainly not all night, which I did. This wasn’t a mistake, exactly, but I don’t recommend it, for reasons I’ll explain later.  Anyway, the mineral oil did rejuvenate the wood and break out the grain, but it also re-darkened it and gave it a matte finish.

The black walnut stain is another “wrong” thing, albeit from a purely subjective standpoint, as it is unusual among the Peterson Systems I’ve seen. At first it was off-putting, as it obscured so much of the grain, and I’d hoped after the alcohol soak and clean-up I might be able to lighten the pipe a little which would make it more pleasing to me.

You can see that it’s not a bad piece of briar: some small minor fills, great birds eye on reverse side, but there is a major bald spot on the reverse above the stamp on the bowl (which I failed to photograph, but you get the picture). And that, I suspect, in combination with the 3 or 4 little fills, is what made it a Standard System, and what made giving it a black walnut stain the right thing to do.

Here’s the third bit of “wrongness.” The alcohol soak, as it often does, loosened the ferrule and so I took it off to have a look under the hood, so to speak. And take a look at it. It’s not nickel-soldered, it’s pressed! There’s no solder line on the outside or inside of the cup. “Wrong” is the incorrect word, of course. Surprising is more apt. You see, we know from the K&P Employee Register that K&P employed nickel-solderers for decades. And we (that’s my co-author Gary Malmberg and myself) had been thinking all along that all nickel mounts were hand-soldered in the factory before about 1961.

I went scurrying over to my rotation and pulled off the pre-1961 Standard Systems, and sure enough, some have that tell-tale solder-mark on the outside, others don’t. What’s the answer? I don’t know, but I do know the later pressed ferrules lacked the faux hallmarks (shamrock, wolf hound, round tower), and this one has them (although they’ve been almost eradicated by buffing), indicating that it was made prior to 1961, when the faux-marks were discontinued.

A fourth “wrong” that bothered me about this pipe: it’s a 312 Standard System, quite plainly marked, and the MADE IN EIRE stamp is supposed to mean it was made while Ireland officially knew itself as “Eire.” But during those years, a 312 was a second-grade pipe, not a third, and would have had a sterling mount, right? The shape number for a third grade (with nickel mount) was 362 in the 1937 catalog. In addition, it should have had a “3” stamped under PETERSON’S over SYSTEM on the obverse of the bowl, instead of STANDARD.

The explanation, of course, is that K&P abandoned the complicated second and third grade double numbering system sometime after 1937, but before the end of the Eire era in 1948. What I’d been thinking of as a “wrong” thing turns out to simply help date the pipe to sometime closer to the end of the era. At this point I began to get excited, having discovered something new about dating Petersons. There was also a bit of humility seeing in the rear view mirror another part of me, the guy who says, “Don’t tell me the facts; my mind’s made up.”

Replicating the 1937 Catalog Bend

A fifth, minor “wrong,” and one easily corrected, was simply that the mouthpiece looks like a replacement. The arch bend (which became more-or-less standard by the late 1980s) just didn’t ring true to the Eire era. After a few attempts with the heat gun and some dips in a bowl of cold water, I gave it a bend more typical of its era, seen in the 1937 catalog.

I followed the stem restoration with some final touches to the bowl, giving it a few coats of carnuba. Now, remember a moment ago when I talked about the mineral oil? When I smoked the pipe to check the bowl for sweetness, the oil pressed outward–I could see it visibly evaporate–necessitating a fresh coat of carnuba. I smoked it a second time just to be sure the mineral oil had dried, and it had.

Finally, of course, a pipe is simply “wrong” for the pipeman if he doesn’t appreciate it, which in my way of understanding (which is not everyone’s) means smoking it.

I did smoke it twice to assure myself it was sweet and clean, but after such a problematic relationship, and with other established 312s in the rack, I knew I’d never give it the attention it deserves: respect but not companionship, I suppose. So I gave it a final touch-up, cleaning out the mouthpiece again and giving the bowl a light cotton-pad and isopropyl treatment before putting it on the market. And as of this writing, I’m happy to report it has found a new home in Waco, Texas, where I understand it is being treated with the admiration it so richly deserves.

Rath Dé ort!

 

*FRAZING MACHINE: A machine which guides briar block against cutters to duplicate preselected pipe shape. A clamp-fitted shaft and a cam follows a master model to shape shank and lower half of bowl.

I haven’t been able to find a photograph of a frazing machine, but Pipedia gives us this additional information: “A frazing machine has been used in the manufacture of Pipes. Its general structure is such that a pattern of the pipe or pattern of a section of a pipe is mounted in the machine and then the stummel is installed in the same machine. When the frazing machine is started the pattern pre-installed in the machine is then recreated on the surface of the stummel. In other industries of modern methods of manufacture, they are referred to as pantograph machines and pattern makers. Some pipe makers do not use such machinery and rely on the person crafting the pipe as the three-dimensional view provided is believed to produce a more acceptable and aesthetic appearance. Such companies that do utilize frazing machines reserve them for ‘roughing in’ the stummel only when manufacturing multiple pipes of exactly the same style.”