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

 

 

 

 

64. The Next-Gen System?

One of the goals of The Peterson Pipe Book is to delve deeply into the System, Charles Peterson’s flagship line, and recover an understanding of why it is in fact one of the world’s great smoking instruments, deserving of the pipeman’s respect and a prominent place in his rotation. But while the layout & design artist and I are at work this spring and summer getting the book finalized for the publisher, I’ve become aware of a new and interesting development in the System that I want to share. First, some background:

Peterson’s System pipes, as most Peterson smokers (if few others) know, are by definition “system” pipes if they adhere to Charles Peterson’s two patent design principles:

  1. a System reservoir;
  2. a graduated-bore P-Lip stem.

If a pipe lacks either, then it is quite simply not a System pipe, whether considered from the perspective of history, engineering, marketing, or the smoking experience itself.

To the two patents mentioned above, Peterson has traditionally (but not always, as we discuss in the book) added a third, strengthening element, although it’s not in the patent: either a domed army-mount on the Standard and Premier Systems, or a ferrule with Space-Fitting Stem on the De Luxe.

As lovers of estate Petes have noticed time and again, the nickel or sterling mount makes the System (like its cousin the Peterson Army) the toughest pipe on the market, impervious to shank cracks, weather, and too loose or tight tenons. About the only thing that could make it tougher would be a spigot mount.

Never in Peterson’s history, until recently, has there been a genuine spigot System. One was advertised in a Hollco-Rohr distributor catalog c. 1987, but as you can see from the photograph below (which I’ve digitally enhanced to show the mouthpieces more clearly), it actually featured a traditional fishtail spigot mouthpiece and thus violated Charles Peterson’s second design principle. And a fishtail mouthpiece with a reservoir will not smoke like a System pipe. Trust me, I’ve tried it. You get a lot of hot, wet smoke. There’s a reason it’s called a “System”—it needs both parts to function correctly.

The c. 1987 “Spigot” System had a fishtail!

In 2016, for the IPCPR show, Peterson produced a handful of Premier Spigots. “We used Premier-grade bowls and stuck a spigot mouthpiece on them,” Conor Palmer at Peterson recently told me. “We only produced them as a one-off,” he said, “part of some IPCPR picking stock that we created for last year’s show.” As you can see, they all feature the new Hinch flat-nose mount.

XL315 Premier System Spigot

When Laudisi (aka Smokingpipes.com) visited the factory in March, they acquired the remaining pieces and quietly put them up on their Smokingpipes.com site. I have no idea how many, nor what shapes were made, but I did pick up a few photographs and had Laudisi send me a 312 to give it a go.  Because of a quirk in the factory computer program, the boxes were incorrectly labeled “Standard System Premium Spigot,” but the bowls, as Pete freeks quickly noticed and Conor Palmer confirmed, are indeed Premier grade.

A Classic Vulcanite 1979 P-Lip (left) and the 2015 Acrylic P-Lip (right)

The other piece in the next-gen System is a new acrylic P-Lip. As you can see from the comparison photographs, the button has a slightly different shape, but like the best of the vulcanite P-Lips, it has a well-developed upper and lower wall with a wide, flat shelf, elements crucial for comfort and clenching.

Long-time readers of the blog will know I’m something of a Luddite, and an acrylic stem is something I have learned to tolerate rather than admire, although that may be changing. My chompers are as far away from movie-star glam as can be, with pointy dog teeth that always leave a mark. Acrylic is more slippery than vulcanite, but I found after the first smoke that my clenching style adjusted without any problems.

The 2015 Acrylic (top) and 1979 Vulcanite (bottom) mouthpieces:
gorgeous articulation of the walls and clenching shelves!

The acrylic P-Lip not only follows Charles Peterson’s design principles, but even improves on it. The air hole is graduated, as per patent specs, from 1.5mm at the button to 5mm at the base.  The first improvement, seen in the photo above, is in the better articulation of the button walls and clenching shelves. This has been a problem with the Standard and Premier mouthpieces of the past several years and comes as a great return to form.

A second  improvement is in the air hole at the button. It is upturned, as per patent specs, but unlike its vulcanite predecessors it is chamfered, as you may just be able to see from the detail photographs.  This means a better airflow as well as a little greater ease when inserting a pipe cleaner.

5mm Opening, Per Patent Specs

There is no screw-in tenon extension, normally part of the Premier and De Luxe treatment, for two reasons: first, because Peterson hasn’t found a partner who can chase the threads into the acrylic; and second, the company is in the process of finding a new manufacturer for the extensions.

Profile of the New Acrylic Spigot on a 312

An acrylic mount will, of course, be another feather in the System’s cap: stronger and so much easier to maintain than vulcanite. Whatever will the old-time System-user do with all that time freed-up from cleaning and buffing oxidized stems?

303 Premier System Spigot

So how does the System Spigot smoke? Or to use “precision of language,” as Jonas from The Giver might ask, “does it smoke like well-functioning System?” The answer (drum roll, please) is . . . an unequivocal full-on Yes.  The 312 I’m smoking is as cool and dry as the finest Systems in my rotation—at least, after a dozen or so smokes. For me, that’s saying a lot, as I don’t believe there is a pipe that smokers better, all things considered, than a well-made System. I have several fishtail Petes that are absolutely first-rate smokers, but the fact remains that nothing (to my taste) smokes as comfortably between the teeth, as cool and dry, or as flavorful as a graduated P-Lip mouthpiece in conjunction with a System reservoir.

312 Premier System Spigot

There is one final peculiarity to ponder with the System Spigot. I have other 312 Systems in my rotation, but unlike them, the Spigot System smokes my Virginia flakes to absolute ash. It also requires fewer relights. I can only hypothesize that this has to do with the Spigot mount. The metal-on-metal of the tenon-shank connection transfers heat more uniformly than vulcanite-on-briar or acrylic-on-briar, creating a tighter seal when smoking. The tighter seal results in a better airflow.

304 Premier System Spigot

Tom Palmer said he doesn’t know when the company will go ahead with the next-gen System, but here’s hoping it’s soon. Can you imagine some of the multi-color acrylic rod used on new product lines applied to the System?

Tom also said that if the right grade of bowl materializes, there are several shapes that could be used. These include not only traditional System shapes (including the B42 / Darwin), but shapes like the B10 and B11. Even more intriguing was his inclusion of several straight shapes – the 107, X105, and 150 among them. Straight Systems smoke like the Sahara – almost too dry for me. But that’s another story.  In the meantime, it looks like the toughest pipe on the planet  may just get tougher.

307 Premier System Spigot

 

 

Fumare in Pace!

Photographs courtesy Smokingpipes.com
Additional 312 Premier System Spigot Photographs
by C. Mundungus

 

61. The 2017 Peterson Pipe of the Year

Here it is, at last — the 21st annual Peterson Pipe of the Year! Formerly known as the “Limited Edition,” and extending back 1997, if I’m counting right, this is the 22nd pipe to be released in this series (since Y2000 was a pair).

Just a little background to give some context to this year’s pipe: Peterson “shifted gears” back in 2014, as some of you know, so this is the 4th new-generation POTY.

The 2014 POTY was the first to be available only with an acrylic stem, and to bring a slightly different aesthetic than the 1997 – 2013 pipes. 2014 was also the last year the POTY was offered in a numbered series of 1000.

2015 was Peterson’s celebration year, so a bit of a time-out for the POTY, being the year of the Founder’s Edition and a return to the grander visions of earlier POTYs. It was made available in vulcanite P-Lip and fishtail acrylic, with a beautiful gift box and in an edition of 1865 pieces, to celebrate the earliest documented date of Kapp & Peterson. The large number has had the side-benefit of the pipe still being issued in small numbers – in fact, I just recently found my own smooth P-Lip after a long search.

2016 was the first year the line was reduced to 500 pieces, making it scarcer – which is sort of the idea behind a POTY, isn’t it? More importantly, it was the first time the POTY was issued in a non-XL size and without a gift box. But I’m not complaining, as it’s among the most original of all the POTY shapes, and a personal favorite in my rotation.

So here we are at 2017, and as the catalog says, the canted-egg shape takes its inspiration from one of the company’s earliest shapes, the “Large Jap” found in the 1906 catalog. One advantage of the 1906 catalog is that shapes were reproduced full size, which means you can lay the actual pipe on top of the illustration, as I’ve done in the photo below. The 2017 bowl shape and size is an exact reproduction of the original.  (And, if anyone’s asking, the variants of the “Devil Anse” shape so popular a short time ago are very close in size and shape to Peterson’s original.)

There appears to be greater thickness to the 2017 POTY chamber walls as well as a beveled rim – both improvements over the original, to my mind. The 2017 also has a very slightly longer shank. The stems of the two pipes are the same length. The wide saddle bit is quite comfortable, as I knew it would be from smoking Italian chubbies of similar dimensions, making the acrylic a decided plus for me, as I won’t have to keep after it with Obsidian oil to keep it black.

The 1906 original, of course, has a Patent-Lip “B” or tapered stem, something the current market simply won’t accommodate (despite my constant whining). But Pete fans will eventually change all that, as distributors begin hearing from tobacconists that the guys who smoke these pipes want the original graduted bore P-Lip mouthpieces. In the meantime, as you can see in the photo below, Peterson has an excellent deep-slotted, wide-grip comfortable mouthpiece. (This is one of the new-gen mouthpieces I’ve been seeing on all Peterson’s acrylic-stemmed pipes, by the way.)

This year’s pipe is laser-stamped on the bottom, with only the smooth bowls being numbered, as has been Peterson’s practice on all the POTYs (aside from the Founder’s Edition).

The pipe feels good in the hand, but do take notice of the forward-cant of the bowl. It’s not a problem for me, but you should know you won’t be able to see the flame light the tobacco. If you smoke a B35 (the antique Kaffir reproduction) or the 268 Bent Albert (what Pete Freeks call the zulu shape), this won’t be a problem.

The chamber geometry is a steep V or cone, what some called “triangular,” much more so than my Peterson Dublin 120s. I haven’t smoked this pipe enough to tell you how it performs, although that always varies quite a bit from user to user.  I will say that after the 309, my next favorite Pete bowl shape is the 120, as it requires very few relights as compared to a traditional billiard, so that I’m hoping for something similar from the new POTY.

Smooth Measurements
Length: 127 mm. / 5.00 in.
Weight: 48 gr. / 1.70 oz.
Bowl Height: 48.97 mm. / 1.92 in.
Chamber Depth: 41.07 mm. / 1.61 in.
Chamber Diameter: 18.59 mm. / 0.73 in.
Outside Diameter: 39.43 mm. / 1.56 in.
Stem Material: Acrylic
Logo: Embedded Aluminum P
Filter: None
Shape: Canted Egg / “Large Jap” (c. 1906)

Sandblast Measurements
Length: 127 mm. / 5.00 in.
Weight: 47 gr. / 1.65 oz.
Bowl Height: 48.97 mm. / 1.92 in.
Chamber Depth: 41.07 mm. / 1.61 in.
Chamber Diameter: 18.28 mm. / 0.71 in.
Outside Diameter: 38.75 mm. / 1.52 in.
Stem Material: Acrylic
Logo: Embedded Aluminum P
Filter: None
Shape: Canted Egg / “Large Jap” (c. 1906)

Rustic Measurements
Length: 127 mm. / 5.00 in.
Weight: 46 gr. / 1.60 oz.
Bowl Height: 48.61 mm. / 1.91 in.
Chamber Depth: 41.07 mm. / 1.61 in.
Chamber Diameter: 18.43 mm. 0.72 in.
Outside Diameter: 40.23 mm. / 1.58 in.
Stem Material: Acrylic
Logo: Embedded Aluminum P
Filter: None
Shape: Canted Egg / “Large Jap” (c. 1906)

Photographs by Charles Mundungus

Pax in Fumare

 

 

Coda

While you’re waiting for the right 2017 POTY to appear in your mailbox, here’s something else to think about: an 18K gold cap and band rustic 307! Kris told me about it over at Black Swan in Surrey, and I didn’t believe it until I saw it with my own eyes. It’s a one-off unlike anything you’re ever likely to see in the world of Peterson pipes.

The 307 is shape 9 from Charles Peterson’s original Charles Peterson Patent designs in the 1896 catalog, in production for over 120 years. Kris is a deep-down lover of all things Peterson, as you know if you read the last blog on the Peterson Plato shape. You can read the story of this pipe’s creation at the link below. At the time of this posting, it is still available, should you decide to add it to your collection. Tell Kris you saw it here!

http://www.thebackyshop.co.uk/products/rare-stunning-custom-peterson-standard-system-rustic-307-18k-gold-mount-and-cap

 

56. Sweet Petes: A 2016 Gallery

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

 

I. The Amber Spigots

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

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

 

II. The 2016 Limited Edition

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

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

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

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

 

III. Derry Rustic

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

 

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

 

IV. Patent Brevet Clay

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

 

V. 1906 Bog Oak

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

09-1906-bog-oak-front-harp

 

VI. 109 Diamond Shank Billiard

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

Measurements:

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

 

VII. 261 Belge-Canadian

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

Measurements:

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

 

 

VIII. Pickaxe

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

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

 

IX. FS4 Freestyle

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

15-freestyle-fs4-obverse-2

 

 

X. O.3. Extra Large Patent

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

Measurements:

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

 

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

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