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.

 

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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.”

 

68. Preserving A 356 System Oom Paul

I had thought to finish up the B shapes this time around, but placed a half-serious bid on eBay and found myself the winner, to my consternation (at first), but delight (on actually examining the pipe). Sometimes the most exciting auctions seem to involve sellers who don’t know what they’re selling or auctions with photos that are just fuzzy enough to create a certain amount of uncertainty as to what, exactly, the shape is, or what condition the pipe is in.  I thought it might be the O2 house pipe (that’s “O” for “oversize,” as we explain in the book), and in a moment of madness bid on it, although I rarely smoke such behemoths. I fully expected to be outbid as the auction had 5 days left to run, but no one did.

It didn’t turn out to be the O2, but a shape I reach for much more often, the first, chubby version of the 02.  This is Peterson’s classic Oom-Paul shape, going back to the patent shapes of 1896. I love the size of chamber on these pipes, which is usually about 19mm x 48, one of the best in my smoking experience for Virginias and VaPers.

By the 1937 catalog the original 02 shape had three numbers: 02 for DeLuxe, 305 for 2nd grade, and 356 for the 3rd grade – 2nd being today’s Premier, 3rd being today’s Standard.  One of first things I knew we needed for The Peterson Pipe book was a cross-reference shape chart of shapes that bridges System and Classic Range, and just last week I had a question about an unfamiliar System shape that turned out to date from the 1930s.

I have a hunch based on the Peterson ephemera and the 02 shapes I’ve seen that sometime during the 1940s the original chubby 02 was modified, slimming down the shape, but not the chamber size, as you can see in the Shamrock 02 photo above. My reason for believing this has to do with the disappearance of the chubby original 02 shape from the catalogs after 1937, the appearance of the 02BB shape in the 1940s, and the transition to simply the 02 number before it was finally discontinued in the c. 1973 Associated Imports catalog.

Why the “BB” you may ask? I can offer you my fairly educated guess: the second “B” just stands for a tapered stem (fact), an old Peterson practice still in use with saddle stems, which are marked “S.” The first “B” (supposition) stands for a tapered bowl.  Like I said, that’s just a guess, but until I get another chance to dig through the Peterson archives, I suppose it’s as good as anyone’s.

When the pipe arrived, I was delighted to find it stamped IRISH FREE STATE, which means it was cut between 1922 to 1937, although my co-author has never logged a hallmarked IFS early than ’27. Even so, to companion and smoke a Peterson that’s going on 80 years old is a marvelous thing. The only rarer COM stamp would be the EIRE, that short period from 1938 – 1948.

As received, the 356 wasn’t in anything like the condition that Steve Laug routinely deals with on a daily basis over at Reborn Pipes, but in what I call the “well-beloved” state, meaning that while it looks pretty nasty, the owner actually took extremely good care of it, apart from neglecting to ream the carbon-cake! Some dental chatter, lava flow, extreme cake, a small burn mark at the front of the crown, and some small cracks under the ferrule at the mortise are all I had to contend with, all well within my DIY skill-set. The vulcanite testified to use, but not abuse, and certainly hadn’t been out in daylight for a long while.

The wood itself is what I call “classic standard-grade Peterson” – good, strong birdseye covering most of the bowl, and better than many, many Standard Systems. The only fill – and what made it a 3rd (Standard) grade – is on the back toward the mortise. It is fairly small, black and still strong after all these years, so no need to pick and refill it.

The three cracks at the mortise deserve mentioning, because the 02 shape, like the 14, has an enormous opening here, making the briar extremely thin. It’s not surprising that the company eventually moved away from such extremes, although I wonder (as I always do) how this gigantic opening and its accompanying reservoir impacts the smoking qualities of the pipe. I know my System shape 14 pipes (which have the same huge mortise) perform extremely well.

The ferrule was loose, and on backwards. I had worried from the eBay pictures that the soldered band was cracked or had been inexpertly repaired, but such was not the case – it had just discolored, as solder will do on a nickel band. If you’re new to the world of vintage Petes, you can expect such solder marks as an indicator that the pipe dates to before 1963.  I was surprised by the brass color of the solder, as when most old Pete bands are polished up, the solder simply disappears until the band becomes oxidized again.  Doesn’t look like silver, doesn’t it? Metallurgists (Al?) can you shed some light on this?

You can see in the various photos the discolored white glue the craftsmen used to seat the ferrule. I’ll use Liquid Nails to re-seat it onto the stummel, because I’m in the habit of polishing Peterson bands with a silver cloth on a routine basis, which can break the hold when using white glue. On Al’s advice, I wasn’t as aggressive in polishing the nickel mount this time, and while Fabulustre didn’t quite do it for me, white diamond did enough to keep me happy & keep the nickel intact and the nomenclature clear and crisp.

Also notice that on these hand-soldered nickel mounts, a bevel has been turned down where the band meets the wood, something you unfortunately don’t see on post-1963 machined-pressed nickel mounts.

The bowl smelled like its previous companioner had smoked non-aromatic tobacco, and using the smallest head on my PipNet, it came out like sand with just gentle turns, telling me the pipe had not been smoked in many years. No heat fissures beneath, and a pleasant smell, so I opted for Steve’s trick of using cotton pads instead of sea salt for an overnight alcohol soak. It passed the olfactory test the following morning, and when I cleaned out the shank it also didn’t take much – a tube-brush scrub and 7 or 8 pipe-cleaners and it was clean.

As a help to those interested in such things, I include a side-by-side comparison of the tenon end of the mouthpiece with a recent-production mouthpiece: the tenon extension juts straight out on the recent one, but is conical on the original. Note the width of this thing—6.5 mm!

The rule of thumb for a System graduated mouthpiece is 1.5 mm at the button, 5 mm at the tenon. (And no, if you’re wondering, the old Systems never had filters.) Premier and DeLuxe Systems dating from the same era would have had hand-cut vulcanite stems with screw-in bone extensions, if they had not been erroneously removed by unknowing owners.

I’ve become convinced over the years that a tight fit on the mortise-tenon juncture is essential to good performance on a System (or any army mount): it creates a much better, cooler, more flavorful airflow. One way to spot a replacement stem is simply to notice the fit. An original will probably bear a ring scar from where it hits the ferrule. A replacement won’t seat as well. This is one reason the company won’t just send customers a mouthpiece: they know it needs to be fitted by hand, by an expert.

I decided to strengthen the three hairline cracks in the mortise with clear CA glue. Not really necessary with the ferrule glued over it, but as long as it’s off, it’s just a bit of extra insurance to prolong the life of the pipe. While the excess glue wouldn’t show, I did need to smooth off the excess glue on the inside of the mortise (with a small dowel and 220 grit) for the tenon to fit securely.

I was careful not to soak the crown of the pipe long enough in alcohol to lighten the stain around the top. The original 3rd Grade Systems, according to the ’37 catalog, were stained “medium walnut.” One of the things I don’t like about many restorations I see is that, in re-dying a bowl, the original grain is often obscured. Fortunately, I read Charles Lemon’s latest post at Dad’s Pipes, and got out the mineral oil instead.

I coated the pipe with a cotton pad, then stood it up in my makeshift dyeing / drying rack (pipe reamer inserted in beer bottle). I had intended to go back and wipe it down, but got distracted, and when I came back, the wood had soaked it all in! More importantly, it was gorgeous. The following day, I applied some carnuba with the Foredom to let the oil set up a bit. This was a revelation for me. I’ve never seen carnuba take to a Pete bowl like this before, and all I can conclude is that the mineral oil was the magic here. Charles, I am indebted to you!

I’ve learned from bitter experience that breaking in a pipe this old can be every bit as hazardous and worrying as any new pipe, so I gave some thought to giving it a very light coat of pipe mud, just enough to help get the new carbon cake started and prevent undo any heat from burning the bowl. I say this because I once companioned a Patent pipe, which I had paid dearly for, only to have a giant burnout develop down at the airhole. It was devastating to think I’d mucked up a 100-year-old pipe, and so I’ve vowed to take much greater precautions with old wood ever since. I don’t like the taste of cigar (being mostly a Virginia user), so I decided in the end not to apply it. I hope I don’t live to regret that decision! If anyone has suggestions for breaking in old briar like this, please let me know. I can use all the help I can get.

The stem work was routine – after internal cleaning, I pulled out nearly all the dental chatter with soft passes of the lighter. I’m more a preservation than a restoration guy, so I left two little dents on the bottom of the button rather than resort to CA glue.

I soaked the mouthpiece in Oxyclean for about 4 hours, then went to work with micromesh pads. This time I thought I’d try wet-sanding with each grade, just to see if the work went more quickly. I confess, this is the most tedious part of the job for me, but I hate stems that are still brown under the shine. I’m sure it was hard on the pads, but the work went much quicker, and while I stopped (again, like my hero Steve) between every three grades to wipe it down with Obsidian oil, the results were noticeably better than usual, so I think I’ll make wet-sanding a habit.

The bend on the stem does not conform to the 1937 catalog, giving the pipe an extra .25 inches in length over a similar 356 with the 1937 bend. I decided to leave as it was.

P-Lip army mounts are among the worst to restore, at least for me, because of the P-Lip and the shoulders on the mount. I always seem to have a fine light brown haze around the shoulders and a thin brown line at the juncture of the upper and lower walls of the button. This time I used a small diamond file to carefully cut through the oxidation on the walls at the button, followed by careful use of a split 2400 micromesh pad, before running the gauntlet from 1800 to 12,000. It’s been my experience that if you don’t cut through the oxidation at the beginning, you’re going to see it when you’re done. I also put more effort into those shoulders, and I’m pleased to report (as maybe you can see) that under the Ott-Lite, all is a glossy obsidian.

And finally, the finished pipe:

Cataloging Information

Stamps:
Peterson’s over System (fork-tail P) over 3 (in a circle) on obverse;
356 stamp, lower reverse side of stummel;
IRISH over FREE STATE on obverse of stummel, just below ferrule

Year: Cut between 1922 – c. 1940
Mouthpiece: Probably original
Length: 6.25 in. / 159 mm.
Weight: 2.15 oz. / 60 gr.
Bowl Height: 2.22 in. / 56.61 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.9 in. / 48.45 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.762 in. / 19.35 mm
Outside Diameter: 1.37 in. / 34.97 mm

 

 

Shamrock 02 photo courtesy Smokingpipes.com

 

 

 

 

54. A Quick DIY for Nickel Mounts

01-p1110002Mod had several definitions in my generation, but my favorite is from the ’60s and ’70s, when guys would routinely spend their weekends and pocket money taking a beloved car and making it look or perform better—mod meaning modification. These guys didn’t drive the Alphas, Porches or Vettes. They drove whatever they could afford, from VWs and MGs to Cameros, Novas, and Mustangs if they were lucky.  

So, here’s a quick mod for a nickel-mount Pete to make it shine like sterling – almost. I thought of it over the holiday when I picked up my Derry Rustic, then set it down, vaguely dissatisfied.  I picked up my 2016 Elf Army and found the same mysterious disappointment. I don’t smoke pipes that don’t give me that spark of joy that marks a true pipe companion, and I thought, “Uh oh, what’s wrong?” They both smoke fine, even the acrylic f/t not being too bothersome, so what was the problem? As I held them in my hand, one after another, what I saw it as a disparity between the finish and mouthpiece on the one hand and the nickel mount on the other.

Peterson’s nickel ferrules have had their ups and downs over the years. The pressed mounts, which came into use in the early 1960s, are outsourced, of course, and vary in their degree of polish by industry standards and by the era they were made. Sometimes you’ll see a System estate with a fairly polished mount, sometimes one that’s rough. The same seems to be true on new Petes. There’s different finishes and grades of nickel for varying applications, from refrigerators and toasters to automotive and medical equipment. I have no idea what grade Peterson uses, but it would be interesting to find out.

02-p1110004The Derry Rustic Mount as Received

The mounts on Derry Rustic and Elf Army I worked on for this blog are about average, neither better nor worse in their finish than previous years. That is, except for the bevel, which seems to have gone missing! The bevel is that place at the end of the cup that laps over the briar, and in years’ past it was a hallowed tradition at K&P to make sure that it was turned down to meet the wood snugly. You can tell it’s there — sort of — in the following photo, but what there is doesn’t chase around the entire cup.

Peterson’s nickel mounts throughout the years are of a sufficiently high quality to take a much higher polish, albeit with the loss of a bit of the K&P over PETERSON stamping. (That stamping, by the way, goes back to their earliest registered assays marks with the Goldsmiths of Dublin, and is just about the only place you’ll see “K&P” –Kapp & Peterson – these days on a Peterson pipe.) If you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of sharpness in the stamping for a near-sterling look, go for it, I say.

03-p1110007Back Side of the Unmodified Derry Rustic Mount–the bevel barely discernible

Perhaps I should add that a true mod is not a grumble or complaint, but making good on an opportunity to make something you could afford just a little better than it was to begin with.

You’ll need your buffer, perhaps some Tripoli (use sparingly, if at all), some White Diamond, and masking tape. The results you can see for yourself.

04-p1110012Remember to give yourself plenty of play on the buffer. Too much taping can’t hurt.

05-p1110014Here it is after the Tripoli (brown) compound. You can see how the Tripoli ate away a bit of the stamping, but what a difference it made for the mounting! I hasten to add that after reading this blog, my friend Al Jones cautioned against using Tripoli, as it can quickly eat right through the nickel. While this didn’t happen for me, I suspect it was just dumb luck on my part, and you’d do better to begin with the white diamond.

06-p1110016And here it is after the White Diamond. Like I said, “almost sterling,” right?

07-p1110027And the finished pipe.

 

Coming up:
Sweet Petes of 2016
and More B Shapes