71. Reading the Story of A Premier System

According to my co-author Gary Malmberg, Petersons are the second most-datable pipes with a long history, after Dunhills post-1920 (which as a rule all have a date code) and Ashton. Every pipe has a story, even if most of those stories are lost, but one of the things we hope the Peterson book and a few of the major catalog reprints will do is help collectors learn how to read the story of each Peterson they companion or are thinking of adding to their rotation.

I thought I might use the pipe pictured above as an example, which arrived a few weeks ago. The pipe we’re looking at appears to be new, or at least “new / old stock,” but how old, exactly?

 

The Bowl

The first place to begin, of course, is with the bowl itself. When dealing with a Peterson pipe, this means knowing a little about the bowl’s line, shape number(s), shape changes, and chuck marks.

Unlike many other pipe-makers who sand out the chuck marks from the lathe inside the chamber, Peterson has, since the beginning, simply left them.  Usually these four bands of pin-points can be seen even when covered by the dark vegetable-base “paint” used in later years (which is not a pre-carb, by the way). The chuck marks are your guarantee that what you’re buying is really “new / old stock” and not a pipe that has been expertly reconditioned. A minor point, but fun to know, I think.

The 300 shape series numbers were in place by the 1937 catalog, and the book details the evolution of how they came about, as well as providing a cross-reference table of System shapes with other series numbers. Originally this was a Patent shape 11, described in the ephemera as a “large billiard.” Today’s 11S is the shape as it is deployed in the De Luxe System line. The shape has had two other numbers: the X220, also in use today in the Classic (or non-System) Range, and the 72, its old Dunmore Premier System number. This only tells us what we will find out from other evidence: that the pipe was made after 1937 or so. But redundancy, as communication theorists know, is a welcome tool.

While the vast majority of shapes in the Peterson catalog have exactly the same external dimensions they did when they were first introduced (barring slight differences caused by sanding and sandblasting), there are a few that have changed slightly over the years. The 999 springs to mind as the most obvious example, morphing as it did from a chubby author (“John Bull”) to a leaner rhodesian.

But the 312 has also changed over the years, becoming slightly less curvy, a little thinner in the shank, and a bit shorter. You can see this in the two photos below. In the first, from left to right are height examples from the Eire era, the Early Republic era, the Late Republic era, and the Dublin (present) era. As you can see, the two on the left are the same height and the two on the right are the same. At some point between the late 1940s and the late 1970s, the bowl was shortened a bit and given a slightly thinner shank. You can see this in second photo, but I’ll be the first to admit it’s easier to grasp what I’m saying if you have several examples laying in front of you that you can pick up and measure with a caliper.

 

The Ferrule

When a Peterson has a band or a ferrule, this is often the best place to begin. Peterson has only had five or six silversmiths in its long history (an amazing fact), and each has had his distinctive style of turning. The pipe shown here has a sterling band, and is stamped with the old maker’s mark K & P in shields over STERLING over SILVER and to the right PETERSON over a ruled line over DUBLIN. Looking at the hallmark chart in the encyclopedia chapter, we read that, having no hallmarks, this ferrule was turned between 1939 and 1968. During many of those years and even today in some lines, the K & P shields are used as a sterling mark.

 

The Bowl Stampings

Because many Peterson pipes don’t have silver or banded work, many pipemen begin their reading with the nomenclature on the briar itself. In the case of this pipe, we begin with the COM or Country of Manufacture stamp on the reverse side, which reads MADE IN over IRELAND in two lines. Consulting the encyclopedia, we find that this stamp, alas, doesn’t help us at all, as it has been used since the early 1920s, although it was aggressively revived in the late 1940s. It has, furthermore, been used in most every decade since it appeared. Still, let’s hold on to that “aggressively revived in the late 1940s” as a clue.

The obverse stamping bears an arched forked-P PETERSON’S over arched SYSTEM over a straight PREMIER. “At last!” we think—that forked-P must mean it’s an older pipe, what pipemen have called “Pre-Republic” before they were able to consult the book and learn a more precise taxonomy. But alas, no. According to the encyclopedia, the forked-P in several variations, while it was in use from the earliest Patent days, has also been used with some frequency well after 1949.

 

The Stem

Let’s move on to the stem. Here we have our first real advance within the 1939 – 1968 perimeter. In the chapter on smoking the System pipe, we find a sidebar on stem bends, and throughout the book there are representative catalog pages from each era of Peterson production. This particular bend, called in the book a “boomerang,” occurs at the middle of the stem and is approximately 120 degrees. I love this bend, because it brings the pipe closer to the smoker, making it weigh less when clinched than other bends (the “moment arm,” I think my dad the engineer calls it).

Examples of the boomerang are found as early as the 1896 catalog, but became widespread in the late 1940s, then seem to have disappeared entirely by the early 1960s, which is why they look so striking to contemporary pipemen.

Then there’s the tenon extension, and here we hit another piece of vital information. It’s white, and it’s made of bone. If we needed any additional proof that this is an unsmoked pipe (!), this is it, as the bone tenon colors immediately with the first smoke. The bone tenon, according to the craftsmanship chapter’s interviews with artisans at the factory, was discontinued around 1960, when it was replaced by aluminum. So now we have a pipe whose vintage lies between 1938 and 1960 – a period of 22 years. So much for the evidence of the pipe itself.

 

The Box and Papers

The reason I always go on about saving the box and papers of a pipe comes into play here, as the pipe was received in the sock, box, and with the papers shown below. It is, of course, possible that someone found this old box in an attic and just stuck the pipe in it, but it seems unlikely. That the box has been hand-marked “9s” on the end is typical for the age of brick-and-mortar pipe shops, when boxes were stored under the counter or in cabinets behind the counters. If you’ve ever bought a pipe in a real pipe shop, you’ll know what I mean: the clerk is anxious to make the sale and has no time (or interest) in finding the right box, if he still even has it. Having said that, the papers, while incomplete, do contain the “Chat with the Smoker” brochure, which we discuss in the book and I won’t spoil for you here. But that brochure tells us the pipe, if this was the box it was sold in, wasn’t made before 1955.

Taken together, the clues indicate that this 312 Premier was in all probability made in the Early Republic period between 1955 and 1960. Premiers, as the book tells us, also seem to be fewer in number than their De Luxe kin, so this is something rather special, all told.

Now all you need to do this kind of reading for yourself is get a copy of the book and those catalog reprints, right? We’re working on it. Almost half-way through the book’s layout & design!

 

Cataloging

Bowl Stamps Obverse: Arched Forked-P PETERSON’S over arched SYSTEM over straight SYSTEM
Bowl Stamps Reverse: MADE IN over IRELAND; 312 to lower right
Ferrule Stamps: K & P separately, in shields (maker’s mark) over STERLING over SILVER; PETERSON over ruled line over DUBLIN
Weight: 2.10 oz. / 60 gr.
Bowl Height: 2.032 in. / 51.61 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.62 in. / 41.31 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.747 in. / 18.98 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.48 in. / 37.82 mm
Stem Bend: “Boomerang”
Tenon Extension: bone
Shape: “Large Billiard”
Box and Papers: Green Peterson’s De Luxe Pipe with white printing box, 7.5 x 2 x 3 inches; c. 1955 “Chat with A Smoker” brochure; cream padded rayon pipe sock, maroon lettering and draw-string
Date of Manufacture: 1955-1960

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

70. Peterson “A” Shapes (the 1995 Antique Collection)

Note: For those so inclined, I have put two pipes appearing in the book up for sale in the “FOR SALE & TRADE” page found on the navigation bar at the top. There is also some Penzance and other tobaccos I’m looking to trade, if anyone has an excess of virginia tobaccos on hand. If you buy either of them, I will be glad to list your name as “from the collection of” in the photo credits at the back of the book!

 

 

The “A” Shapes — all in one go!  This must be the smallest shape group in the entire Peterson catalog. Certainly, it’s the smallest one I know about, consisting of just four numbers, A1 – A4. They all derive from Peterson’s first full-blown foray into antique reproductions. They weren’t the company’s first look back, the 1981 Mark Twain and a few other pieces having appeared in the late 1970s, but they remain the finest presented set, and were made available in a leather companion cased set as well as individually cased, beginning in 1995 and running through 1999 or so.

 

A1 (1910 – Straight Bulldog P-Lip Army Mount)

The inspiration for the “1910” A1 could very well be the bulldog System 35 pictured on p. 42 of the 1906 catalog. Alone of the four original antique shapes, the A1 has remained in the catalog, and has been available in several lines over the years, including the St. Patrick’s Day for 2008 (2nd below) and 2011, the Donegal Rocky, the Smokingpipes.com exclusive Aran sandblast, and the Derry Rustic (first below). It’s just a great bulldog shape, not too big, not too small.

 

 

A2 (1905 – P-Lip Army Mount Billiard)

The “1905” A2 seems to be a copy of the System 29, also on p. 42 of the 1906 catalog, where it is displayed with an AB long, or army-mount tapered long stem. Here the Dublin-Era designers of the mid-1990s one-upped the original catalog illustrations, opting for a chubby AB stem that I’ve always admired. The reproduction, of course, was not drilled for a System, which means the chamber is significantly deeper, and from personal experience, I can say it smokes very well indeed as a P-Lip. In its A-shape release, I’ve only been able to track it as appearing in the 2002 St. Patrick’s Day line, although I wouldn’t be surprised if it appeared in other lines as well.

 

A3 (1909 – Bent System with Space-Fitting Mount)

The A3 derives from the so-called “1909” bent System with Space-Fitting Mount. I say “so-called” because the shank angle and size of the bowl most closely resemble the System Ball shape 15 seen on p. 24 of the 1906 catalog, but the A3 is actually more of a chopped billiard than a ball. My sense of this shape is that whoever cut it did not have a clear understanding of the three basic Patent shapes (the ball, the billiard, the straight billiard or “dutch”). Perhaps making a ball shape is something contemporary cutters no longer know how to do.  In any event, what the Peterson aficionado is left with is, in fact, an original System shape with a functioning System design, which is kind of fun, really, as this makes it one of the rarest of all System shapes.  Like the A2, it is hard to track in subsequent lines. I’ve only found it appearing in the extremely handsome and remarkably P-lipped St. Patrick’s Day 2000 release. As you can see in the photo below from Smokingpipes.com, it is easily the handsomest of all the A shape releases, somewhat resembling the Sherlock Holmes Moriarty, although smaller in size.

 

 

A4 (1903 – Dublin with Space-Fitting Mount)

Originally the 31S System in the 1906 catalog (seen here as a 31A), like the “1905,” this great dublin-on-steroids shape wasn’t made in the Antique Reproduction collection as a true System, but did have a tenon extension built into the mouthpiece (also true of the “1909”) and performs quite well as a P-Lip.  It appeared subsequently as an A4 in the incredible sterling-mount P-Lip 1999 July 4th line and the 2002 St. Patrick’s Day F/T nickel-band.

 

 

Photographs courtesy
Danishpipeshop.com
Smokingpipes.com

 

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