106. Restoring A Late Patent-Era House Pipe (Pt. 2)

It’s System Day 2018, understandably confused in some people’s minds with a national holiday. In Ireland, at least, it should be, right? I can think of no better way to celebrate than with a poem by fellow Pete Freek Bryan J. P. Gesinger. I first saw Bryan’s poem, “My Peterson System Pipe,” hanging in the Peterson Museum in Sallynoggin, and he has graciously allowed me to share it with you:

Warm, season’d briar evokes the Em’rald Isle
Bespeaks the land of Jameson’s and Guinness.
Mystique pervades the ingenious design
Of Charles Peterson’s crowning achievement.
The natural, pure essence of tobacco
Its well-form’d bowl of aged briar yields.
Reflection turns my mind to County Dublin –
In Sallynoggin does my heart repose.

And if you love mystique of Peterson pipes but haven’t really figured out the ingenious design of the System yet, check out the post Adam O’Neill did with me on the Pipe Lines blog at Smokingpipes.com today.

And now, on with the show!
6. Ferrule

Dings, bends and loose ferrules are all common in older estate Petersons, and can often be removed without too much difficulty. The ferrule’s job isn’t primarily aesthetic, but to keep the tenon-mortise strong in the “push” (as Peterson craftsmen call the army mount style). The fit on James’s O1 is quite snug and the glue very strong. It is unusual only in the sense that I’ve never seen one mounted in such a way as the nickel marks are up front, facing the chamber rim, rather than flush to the obverse.

You can see the problem at the shank face, where the ferrule has been pulled up along the edge, presumably through long use in extracting the mouthpiece, which it scarred over the years.

Steve Laug has complete instructions in the Peterson book (by the way, the book is done and off to the indexer) for how to fix almost any problem with a ferrule, so you’ll have to wait for the official version. But this repair is straight-forward. I needed only to use the heat gun to heat the ferrule at the shank face, then roll it on a hard surface—in this case, my all-purpose mat board. The nickel was pushed back to the shank’s opening, and the few tiny crimps were pushed down and sanded with the judicious application of a small flat file.

I can’t sand the nickel cap like I would a sterling one, as it would remove the nickel-plate (the ferrule is nickel-plated brass). But I can use rouge or Tripoli compound along the ragged edge to give it a light sanding.

Before putting the ferrule on the buffing well, I applied Simichrome, my go-to silver polish, to get it as clean as possible and avoid any buffing strain on the nickel. Afterwards, aside from the nickel marks, I gave the ferrule a light buffing with white compound to remove the light surface scratches.  The nickel mark area I went over lightly with a finer jeweler’s compound, Fabulustre.

Some of the tiny dents couldn’t be removed, but any more use of the wheel might buff through the nickel, so these will have to stay as reminders of the pipe’s age and character.

7. Chamber and Air Passage

Before I go on to restaining, I’m ready to stop and clean out the air passage and sweeten the chamber. I might have just submerged the bowl, but the old briar, old putty, and bare chamber walls make the Professor’s Sweetening Method seem like the best way.

When I heated the ferrule to bend down the edges, the reservoir wafted up a strong smell of latakia. I don’t know whether James smokes English or not, but a good cleaning now will allow him to decide what he wants to smoke without the fear of ghosts haunting the bowl. You can see in the photo below that tars saturate the reservoir of a System much more intensely than its chamber.

8. Restaining.

As Steve Laug has often noted, you can match virtually any stain with just a few bottles of Fiebing’s. In my Peterson work, I routinely use medium brown, burgundy, black and orange.

Crown: At the factory, the pipe had been given a typical Peterson contrast stain: first, black over the entire bowl to bring out the grain, then the top stain, in this case a medium brown with just a bare hint of red in it.

To bring the unstained crown into a sustainable finish aligned with the rest of the bowl, I applied a coat of isopropyl-diluted Fiebing’s black aniline dye to the top (fairly weak), wiped it with a cotton pad, reapplied, and burned it in while wet. I then repeated this operation a second time. Afterwards, the crown was sanded not with a Micromesh pad, but with a flat piece of cloth Micromesh so as not to round the corners I have been at such great pains to sharpen. The rim is now ready to restain with the rest of the bowl.

Bowl: What seems to have been original color, as I said, was brown with a bare hint of red. So that’s what I mixed up: 1 drop of burgundy with about 5-6 drops of medium brown in a tiny cup filled with alcohol. I just do tiny batches, enough to treat the bowl with the Fiebing’s applicator. I didn’t burn in the stain (except on the rim), just applying, wiping off with an alcohol pad and making sure it’s uniform. My experience has been that burning in the stain clouds the grain underneath, so if you want the grain to show, don’t burn.


8. Stem

This was one of the yellowest stems I’ve ever seen. In good condition, overall, just extraordinarily oxidized. I soaked it overnight in Oxyclean, then stopped to compare the bend to those seen in the 1896 and 1906 catalogs. It might have had this slight a bend, but bends like this aren’t typically seen until decades later, and I’d like it to look as close as possible to its period. After some thought, given that I believe this is a late Patent-era pipe, I heated the mouthpiece over the heat gun, and brought down the mouthpiece end just a little to bring it into alignment of what would have been typical for the era.

After the slight re-bending, I gave it 30 minutes in a bleach dip, as I haven’t been persuaded there is any other way to get through the oxidation to the black vulcanite underneath. The air hole wasn’t clogged, but was full of tars, as the Oxyclean soak and the bleach dip both confirmed.

Cutting through such thick oxidation is always a trial for me, and I’ve learned over the past several months I can do more with less strain if I use a 500-grit sanding pad on my Foredom lathe at low rpms. The low rpms give me a chance to see what’s being cut and not take off anything but the surface oxidation. And as you can see in the before and after photo above, it worked.

If I had more experience, I might have risked taking the scarred grooves off the tenon-end of the mouthpiece. These were caused over time by the raised ferrule mentioned above. They don’t show when the mouthpiece is inserted into the mortise, and I was afraid that by cutting deeply enough to remove them, I would make the shaft too narrow and the stem wouldn’t seat properly.

9. Final Bowl Finishing

At this point, I took a page from Charles Lemon’s book and used just a little white compound on the bowl. On top of the 2000 grit-sanded surface, I’m in hopes the compound will provide a bit of a finish underneath the carnauba.

10. Pre-carb Coating

Most burnouts, as one knowledgeable estate dealer told me, stem from (1) chuffing pipers who haven’t learned to sip their smoke (yes, I plead guilty, although I’ve learned how to sip in recent years); (2) those who break in their pipes with hotter-burning tobaccos (Virginias and vapers); and (3) really old briar which may not have been smoked in recent years.

To give the pipe a little insurance against such a catastrophe, Charles Lemon at Dad’s Pipes offers my fourth and final take-away: apply a pre-carbon coating made of activated charcoal powder with maple syrup as the binder. You can read about it here.

I’ve used Charles’s method on four Petes now, and can attest to the fact that it not only works, but tastes better than any I’ve ever experienced. Commercial pipe-makers use various products, and some taste downright nasty. For the past 15 or so years, Peterson has used a good one, a vegetable-based paint-like substance, but not as good as Charles’s. His cake has virtually no taste, just a kind of clean sensation, and lets the flavors of the tobacco safely shine through from the first smoke. Moreover, his pre-carbon has done its work in 2-3 bowls, unlike commercial offerings that seem to take forever.

The method is simple: dip your finger in maple syrup (don’t let your wife see you do this if you dip directly from the bottle!) and thoroughly coat the inside of the bowl. Then fill the bowl completely with activated charcoal powder and let it set for a minute or two. Turn the bowl upside down to empty out the charcoal and let the bowl sit to dry for a few days. Before smoking for the first time, gently blow out any residue (you might want to shield your eyes here), and you’re ready to go.

I’d recommend this application anytime you take the chamber back to bare wood, but it should also work well on light cake when you want a little extra protection as you break in an estate. If anything, it will just absorb the tars in the cake underneath and help the pipe smoke sweeter. Of course, James will want to pay attention to the heat of the bowl and flavor of the smoke as he’s breaking it in, but there’s a little more insurance now.

Happy System Day!




104. Restoring A Late Patent-Era House Pipe (Pt. 1)

The System’s 120th Anniversary is September 3rd!

That’s right, next Monday, September 3rd, 2018 marks the 120th anniversary of the 3rd and final patent of Charles Peterson’s celebrated System pipe. I’ve been trying since last spring to get folks interested in celebrating, but it looks like it’ll just be you and me this year.

To start things off, I thought I’d share a detailed look at the history and restoration of a rare System House Pipe in the collection of James Arrington. He and I have been trading emails about a few of his vintage Petes, and when he asked if I knew someone who might be interested in restoring this one, I volunteered for the job. James is a brave soul.

The shape is an O1, and it was one of Charles Peterson’s favorites as Pete Geeks may recall. Peterson, who had a great sense of humor, had the band of his own O1 engraved with the legend, When stolen, please return to 55, Grafton Street. C. Peterson.  The pipe still resides at the factory in Sallynoggin and was commemorated in a limited run 140th Anniversary Pipe reproduction back in 2005:

From 1896 until probably the onset of WWII, Kapp & Peterson made three of these XXL shapes, prefaced in the 1896 and 1906 catalogs with the alphabetical “O” designation. “O” stood for “oversize,” but because the early catalog pictures also illustrate 7″ and 12″ mouthpieces for these pipes—which they called “House Pipe mouthpieces” —the pipes, described in the catalogs as “Extra Large Size,” have become known as house pipes. Here is the 1906 illustration of James’s O1, but with an AB or army-tapered mouthpiece:

In the four-level taxonomy of pipe restoration (easy clean-up, reconditioning, restoration, reclamation), James’s pipe required a deep level 3 restoration. I’ve grouped the jobs as chronologically as I could, although you may notice photographs that run forward or back a little

1. Photos

The first thing to do with a great old pipe like this is get a preliminary set of photographs: its stamps, bowl, chamber, mouthpiece, button and mortise (if it’s a System). These photographs yield clues for restoration as well as documenting its unrestored beauty.

The bowl is stamped Grade 4 in a circle, the first I’ve seen, although my co-author Gary Malmberg says he’s run across this grade from time to time. You can see there are sizable fills on the obverse and a few smaller ones scattered over the rest of the bowl. Had the pipe been made after the introduction of sandblasting or rustication, that’s where it would have gone. But at this early date, the bowl was deemed of sufficient quality not to consign it to the “Dummies” reject line, so K&P created the Grade 4 line, which is not found in Peterson ephemera.

2. Dating the Pipe

Before beginning a restoration, I like to find out as much as I can about when a pipe was made on the basis of the stamps and mouthpiece combined with what can be gleaned from the Peterson ephemera. After working with the pipe and looking at the photographs for a while, I have come to believe this O1 is from the latter part of the Patent Era, for the following reasons:

  • The nickel marks are typical of those found in both the Patent Era and the Irish Free State era (1922-1937), with the mushroom-top, doored round tower and long-necked Wolf Hound. The ribs of the shamrock have either been worn down or were not stamped deeply.
  • The first COM (Country of Manufacture) stamp to appear on K&P pipes was during the Irish Free State era (1922-1937).
  • The bowl has no COM (Country of Manufacture) stamp, which could mean it was either not stamped, it was made in the late Patent Era (1913-1921), or it was made in the IFS era before the COM stamp was used.

  • It is stamped SYSTEM, a stamp which replaced the PATENT stamp at some point after the patent’s expiration in 1912.
  • K&P was advertising the De Luxe System line by 1917.

Taken together, these clues lead me to conjecture the pipe was probably cut between 1917 and 1927 (1927 being the first documented date we have the IFS stamp), which means either the late Patent era or the beginning of the Irish Free State era. Conservative estimate: 100 years ago.

3. Chamber Preliminaries

After the documentary photos, the next job was to ream the bowl and get a sense of how the chamber has fared. The previous owner liked to use a knife to remove dottle, and unsurprising in a chamber this large, often only smoked half the bowl—the cake being noticeably thicker at the top half than the bottom. The cake was all quite old, dense and hard, so he seems to have been a fairly slow, methodical smoker.

After reaming with the PipNet, I used a short dowel rod with 100 grit to remove all the remaining cake and get a good look at the chamber surface beneath. I know some pipemen won’t buy a pipe that’s been reamed back to the bare wood, but with a pipe this old, I felt it was necessary to know what James might be facing as it breaks it in. The chamber was tight and clean, with just a few of the typical “fire veins” or spider webs produced by the heat of the tobacco in any chamber over the years. The draft hole in particular was small and tight. In wood this old, as that’s often where a burnout will begin, another reason to clear it of cake.

4. Restoring the Crown

What immediately draws the eye when looking down on the crown of the bowl is if it is “out of round” and if there are any cuts or nicks along the inner rim. But what is often hidden in plain sight is damage to the outer rim, usually (like this one) softened and beaten down from years of use. At this point, I made the decision to top the crown by a millimeter (less if possible) to bring the sharp edges back.

And here’s take-away #1 for anyone new to pipe restoration, or for those who haven’t worked on many Petes: old Systems, particularly the straight-sided ones like the ‘dutch’ bent shapes (the 02, 4 / 309, and 1 / 301) can often benefit by topping a millimeter or so if the crown has been softened or beaten down. If you’re careful, it won’t affect the visual perception of the shape at all. If you take nothing away from this post, think about trying this step on future projects where it may be indicated.

After reaming the chamber and giving the outside of the briar a good wipe down with isopropyl-soaked cotton pads, I found exactly what I needed to guide my topping job: a small burn mark on the outer rim. It measured .95mm, which should remove enough wood to restore a crisp top and sharp edges to the crown.

After taping the ferrule (very important for System pipes), I began with 100 grit on a flat surface (no pads!) to get through the first .50 mm, then went up to 150 until I hit the burn mark. There followed 220 and 400, where I stopped to put in the bevel.

Take-away #2: When the inner rim of the chamber has been scarred in various places by a knife, it can be made to look almost new with a small bevel commonly used on Petes of mid- and high grades. I suspect one reason such bevels have been used by pipe makers is to aid in getting the ashes out without scarring the rim.

As so often happens, the bowl itself will tell you how deep and wide to make the bevel. On this O1 there is a little nick in the inner rim from the previous owner’s knife-reaming that indicates the depth I want. Achieving that would remove surface imperfections around the inner rim and bring it back into round.

I use the same dowel rod I use to finish the inner chamber to make the bevel, using 150 grit to do most of the shaping, then 220 and 400 to finish the preliminary work.

There are two lines to keep your eyes on when you bevel: the outer line on the top of the crown, and the inner line inside the bowl. The goal, of course, is to make the two lines run parallel to the edge of the bowl and each other. In practice, this isn’t usually possible, because the rim and the chamber are never perfect circles—in fact, they probably weren’t when it was originally drilled.

5. Bowl Surface: Sanding and Fills

Before sanding the bowl, there are some dings to deal with: two little meteor showers, one on each flank of the bowl, and two little pock splashes, one on the bottom of the bowl and one near the crown.

I use a doubled T-shirt fabric, soaking wet, covering the affected area, then heat a flat-head screwdriver on the stove and press it onto the T-shirt, letting the hissing steam pull out the dings. This takes a few applications until you can see and feel the dings rise. There’s usually a ghost left, which sand paper can easily remove.

After raising the dings, I turned to sand the bowl, beginning with a 400-grit pad, then followed with a 500. I find that if I go below 400, I’ll remove most of the original stain, which I don’t want to do if I can help it, as this is a restoration, not a reclamation.

Before you begin, be sure to tape over the stampings! I tell you this as one who has nearly sanded them off before I realized the pad was hitting the affected area. Just sanding with 400 grit makes an old bowl like this feel incredibly smooth. I stopped here to take care of the major fills, but as you can see, at 500 (in the photo below), the briar is already beginning to “glow.”

You may not know this, but Peterson pipes of the last several decades are only sanded up to 400 grit. They tried to go higher at one point—600 or maybe 800 I think Paddy Larrigan told me—but they ran through the paper so quickly they realized it wasn’t financially viable and so settled on 400 as the sweet spot.

Compare that to what one of my favorite artisans, Silver Gray, said in her interview on PipesMagazine Radio Show: she sands her pipes to 12,000 grit. “Light bulb,” as Felonius Gru would say. But before I sand, I need to do the fills and re-stain it.

The obverse has some “acne” (pits, root marks and fills) which I’m leaving, as they give the pipe some of its distinctive character as a Grade 4. The putty seems solid in the tiny fills on this side, so I see no need to pick it out and refill.

I use Steve Laug’s method for filling places where the old putty has fallen out. You need a dental pick, a small sculptor’s tool, or something similar, and of course some briar dust. It doesn’t take much at all, so if you’ve got an old bowl, a minute or two of swipes on 100 or 150 grit will get you all you need.

Here’s Steve explaining his method from a post over at Reborn Pipes:

I then took a tin of briar dust I have saved from pipes I have worked on over the past months. I keep some on hand for patches like these. I wet the end of the dental pick and dipped it into the briar dust and move it around to form a ball of the dust on the end of the pick. I used my finger to move the dust ball into the hole on the shank and the bowl. I patted the dust into the hole with the tip of a knife blade as I wanted a good tight fill. I then squeezed a few drops of super glue into the dust in the hole. As I did this the dust would shrink a bit and I added more dust and more super glue. When I was done the holes were filled and both had a small bump over where they used to be. I always over fill the holes so that when I sand them down they are smooth and I can feather in the fills with the rest of the briar. I was fortunate in this case that the holes were lined up with the grain marking around them. Once the glue dried (very quickly by the way) I sanded and checked to see if I had missed any spots. I wanted the entire surface smooth to the touch and under a jeweler’s loop. I sanded the spots down and blended them into the bowl surface. Once that was done I wiped the bowl down with a cotton cloth dampened with Isopropyl alcohol to remove any remaining dust.

You can see the mistake I probably made. I used amber CA glue instead of black. I’m not sure the black would have colored my briar dust–does anyone know? As glue is over the top of the sanded fills, I’ll need to spot stain these fills afterward, so they will be a bit less obvious to the eye than might have been the case. Oh well. Sorry, James!

And now for take-away #3: sand the bowl all the way through the Micromesh pad set up to 12,000 grit. It’s easy work that costs nothing but a little time and some pad grit, but will tell afterwards in the long-term patina and gloss of the bowl, as well as how it feels between the fingers. So after sanding down the CA glue fills, I continued up from 500 grit to 600, 900, then through the Micromesh grades.  This goes much faster than vulcanite restoration, and I think you’ll see the end result worth the few minutes it takes.


September 3rd: System Day 2018–
The 120th Anniversary of the Final Patent
. . . And the exciting conclusion of
“The Case of Arrington’s O1”. . .


TIN TALK #7: The indisputable connection between
pipe-smoking and ratiocination.



100. The 2018 System Spigot Line

For System fans, there is cause for rejoicing in this year’s new sterling Spigot System line, officially stamped with a Peterson (script) over SYSTEM and engineered with a System reservoir and P-Lip mouthpiece with graduated bore, the 3 requirements for any Peterson to be an authentic System.

I asked Conor Palmer if this meant that a spigot was finally being introduced officially into the System lineup, remarking that I didn’t see a SPIGOT stamp below or next to the SYSTEM stamp. I have been hoping Peterson was going to commit to a System Spigot since the appearance of some “picking stock” acrylic P-Lip System Spigots at the 2016 IPCPR.

Alas, no. The 2018 line is the successor to previous years’ spigot lines, the 2015 Nickel Spigot, the 2016 Roundstone Spigot and the 2017 Newgrange Spigot. Practically speaking, this means (if Peterson releases continue as they have over the past several years), that the System Spigot will be on the market until next year’s Spigot line appears.

It is nice to see the line with the hand-stamping, which includes the reverse side hand-stamped shape number.

The bowl’s inner  rim has been beveled, another indication of a mid to upper-grade Pete, giving it a classy look, as always. The gloss stain is officially dubbed “walnut,” but seems warmer to me, and looking at it with the naked eye in real life and natural light I’d call it mahogany red (Hex color #400303 for those so inclined) and one of the great things about the new line.

The vulcanite mouthpieces are both a blessing and a bit of a curse, at least to me. On the one hand, it’s great to have vulcanite. On the other, the current generation of vulcanite P-Lips are not comfortable and nearly impossible to clinch, especially in large sizes like the XL315 and 307 shown here. Conor and I actually had a long discussion about the degradation of the mouthpiece with its rounded top and lack of a clinching wall, and as usual with the good folks at Peterson, once it was understood that this was something that could be remedied and improved upon by using the available acrylic P-Lips (which are superb), Conor said that later in the year we should see the line with the improved acrylic mouthpiece. At that point, you’ll find me looking for this “big apple” 03, a Pete classic since 1979 (if I can hold out that long):

The hallmarks, as you can see (above), are clear and crisp. Notice the · before the 925 has been removed by the Goldsmiths of Dublin. I think this is something new in 2018, but I’ll have to go back and check to make sure. The hallmarking is placed on the bottom of the ferrule, centered quite nicely, with the Peterson’s script over DUBLIN stamps atop the ferrule, also quite nicely centered (shown below). The mount itself is not what I described on earlier sterling-mounts as a “Hinch mount”—a snub-nosed bullet shape—but a softly squared affair. For reasons known to the Assay office in Dublin, only two of the three hallmarks seem to be required on the spigot.

I know die-hard System freeks will be on the lookout for these, and those looking for a 9mm version are in luck this year, as the line is also available in 9mm. Price looks to be about $170 or so in the US.

Peterson chose a pretty decent cross-section of shapes, as you can see above, although I wish that instead of issuing both the extra-small shapes (the 314 and even tinier 317), they’d opted for the 312, which after the demise of the 309 has become one of my all-time favorites in recent years–it’s a Charles Peterson patent shape, of course, but it’s also just so incredibly versatile, handling any tobacco you can think of with ease and excellent smoking properties.

With thanks for Conor Palmer, as always,
and to Chas. Mundungus
and Smokingpipes.com



Subversive Tin Talk #3*
(download and spread the word: pipe-smoking is
 good thing)






*TIN TALK is a service of Petersonpipenotes:
“Stick it to the man.”







94. The 2018 Natural Outdoor Series & A Look Back at Peterson’s Pocket Pipes

Natural Outdoor Series 2018One unannounced new line for 2018 is the Natural Outdoor Series, a serious upgrade of the Outdoor Series released around 2011. The line features Peterson’s natural finish high-grade bowls, many with flame-grain, a wide double-beaded sterling band, hand-stamping on the briar with the fork-tail P logo and a vulcanite mouthpiece. While sharing photos of the new line (which is in limited release at a few e-tailers here and across the pond), I thought readers might also be interested in a little of the history behind them.

1906 Pal AB System1906: “Pal” AB System

2018 Natural Outdoor, Calabash: Peterson’s Smallest Current Production Pipe

As the world’s longest continuously operating maker of briar pipes, it perhaps comes as no surprise that Peterson has had a long interest in pocket pipes. While there are none found in the 1896 catalog, leafing through the 1906 catalog there are over a dozen shapes that today we’d classify as nose-warmers: oval bowls (sometimes known as “opera pipes”), extra small Patent Systems, straight Systems, bulldogs, and named pipes like the “Pat,” “Jap,” and “R.I.C.” *

Sports Line 19831947: “SPORTS” Line (1983 catalog)

Production of small shapes doubtless continued after the Patent era through the Irish Free State and into the Eire era, but the next concrete evidence we have comes with the “SPORTS” line of pipes released in the late 1940s—the quotation marks and all-capital letters being part of the original line’s name. The Identification Guide chapter of The Peterson Pipe identifies 11 shapes that were made through the years in this line—all of them from full-sized bowls, but not all usually in production at any one time.

One of my only attempts to be a pipe collector (rather than “companioner”) was to gather all eleven “SPORTS,” which I did. My problem then (and now) was that all but the 1947 Shape 5 bulldog had tiny P-Lip mouthpieces that I couldn’t clinch. How someone managed to do so on a golf course or astride his polo horse I have no idea. Maybe there was an optional headset attachment. The line continued in small numbers, on and off, through the end of the twentieth century, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Peterson still makes them on demand.

Outdoor Series 2011 1242011: Outdoor (Shape 124)

In 2011, the company unfurled an updated version of the pocket pipe, utilizing some fantastic shapes from their catalog: the under-utilized and seldom seen 124 canted dublin (as Irish a shape as you’ll ever see), the danish-bent dublin D6, a bent billiard 65 with marvelous upswept mouthpiece, and a very Barry Fitzgeraldesque apple, the 86. These resurface from time to time and are currently available (for example) at Smokingpipes.

2014: Outdoor Sportsman

In 2014, Peterson launched their first-ever line of army-mount pocket pipes with the Outdoor Sportsman line. I say that because the 1906 army-mount pockets were all “Extra Small” P.P.P.s—Peterson Patent Pipes, while the other pockets were navy-mounts. I tried smoking an 01 Outdoor Sportsman for a while, and it wasn’t the smoke that was the problem, but simply how close the bowl was to my face. How close is too close varies according to pipeman, I’m sure, but while I companion some of these little pipes, I felt like I was singeing my eyebrows every time I stuck flame to bowl.

 2014: Fisherman, Shape B47

2014: Hunter, Shape 68

Almost simultaneous with the Outdoor Sportsman release came a few short-stemmed limited run pocket pipes through Mario Lubinski, Peteson’s Italian distributor and long-time collaborator. The Hunter army mount and banded Fisherman come to mind, although there were a few other shapes as well, if memory serves.


2018: Natural Outdoor Series, D6

And that brings us to the new 2018 Natural Outdoor line. Killer looks, right? They’ve taken the concept to new heights, giving it top-drawer treatment.

I really like the super-extra-long band on the Tankard:


Writes Conor Palmer, Commercial Director at Peterson: “The little natural pipes weren’t featured in the catalogue primarily because we don’t have available bowls in sufficient quality to promote them actively. We have called them the ‘Natural Outdoor Series’ and essentially it is made up of 6 shapes – The 124, Calabash, D6, Tankard, 86 and 15. The band is ever so slightly longer than what we usually use, and with a natural finish on the high-quality briar I think they make a nice addition.”

86 Apple

15 Billiard

As with Peterson’s other Natural releases, you may see a few tiny black spots on some pipes, which Peterson takes pride not to hide. These are root marks, not flaws. What you see is what you get—a rare high-grade piece of ebauchon briar with no camouflage.


Moonshine Dublin (top) & Peterson Natural Outdoor 124 (bottom)

Aside from the slightly-larger Peterson Antique Collection “Pat” shapes, I turn to Moonshine pocket pipes for short morning smokes when I get the opportunity, and I thought they might make a good comparison point with the Natural Outdoor Series.

Moonshine is the only company whose primary mission is making pocket pipes. For many smokers, I suspect they’ve become the standard.  They are part of BriarWorks International, a tiny outfit of something like six to eight folks, headed up by artisan-maker Pete Prevost. I’d call them a “hybrid-artisan” pipe company for lack of a better term, because even though their craftsmen and women have designated tasks rather than making each pipe from start to finish, the briar, finishing, stain work, stem work, shapes and low prices continually elicit gasps of wonder from me. **

Like Peterson, Moonshine uses more-or-less standard-size chambers (the Peterson Calabash being the exception). As you can see, both company’s pipes just cross the four-inch mark, which seems to be the standard.

Moonshine Devil Anse & Peterson Natural Outdoor 86

Moonshine pipes have a slightly more fan-shaped fishtail mouthpiece, which I thought would make them more comfortable than the Petes, but between my teeth (and I know this varies from mouth to mouth), the Petes easily found a secure hold. It’s a plus, probably, that Peterson went with a vulcanite mouthpiece here, since it’s softer than acrylic and hence easier to get a grip on it, although the slotting isn’t up to the Moonshine standard.


2018: Ebony Outdoor Series, Shape A1

There have also been a few 2018 Ebony Outdoor releases, also with sterling mount in a very classy matte black finish and the hand-stamped forked-tail P logo and vulcanite mouthpieces. Seen above is the little A1 bulldog.


Shape 86

So if you’re wanting a traveling companion to slip into your coat, something for a short smoke over the morning cuppa, or a meditation break, these might just be the ticket.


Photos courtesy Chas. Mundungus



*Back in 2014, I talked about the army-mount Sportsman line of Peterson pocket pipes then appearing (https://petersonpipenotes.wordpress.com/2014/06/12/the-new-sportsman-line/), which you may want to take a look at if you’re interested in how nose warmers smoke, and why the short mouthpiece doesn’t make for a hotter smoking experience.

**The BriarWorks C111 bullmoose is to my eyes a virtual reproduction of the old Peterson 999 John Bull, and when I saw it at the Chicagoland show in May, I couldn’t resist:

I also like BriarWorks’s wire rustic finish. Probably just a coincidence, but Peterson used a similar rustication technique back in the late 1970s for a special army-mount release:

Moonshine Wire Rustic Pot Still

Iwan Ries Catalog 1978: Peterson Black Brush Rustic Army Mount (left)