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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Special Thanks:

Albierto Paronelli, www.paronelli.it

Mario Lubinski, www.lubinski.it

Charles Lemon, www.dadspipes.com

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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82. A Tour of the Gavirate Pipe Museum

Happy International Pipe Smoker’s Day!

I received an unusual Peterson not long ago from northern Italy. I’ll tell you the pipe’s story next time, but today, being IPSD, I thought I’d share the pipe’s back-story by taking everyone on a field trip to the Gavirate Pipe Museum, one of the most amazing museums I’ve ever visited, in the lovely, quiet little town of the same name in northern Italy. I’ve long wanted to visit Italy, and when I do, this is one stop I’ll be making.

Gavirate (pop. 9400) is near Varese, and about 50 km. from Milan, nestled in the great of one of the world’s great pipe-making communities. It’s not far from the old Rossi pipe-making factory, which you should by all means read about over at Pipedia.

I dislike people who talk in a museum, and usually find myself taking hours longer than anyone else (I routinely park myself in front of something that fascinates me and just sit for half an hour or so). So apart from indicating the room or its contents, I won’t offer any commentary.

Oh, but before we go in, you should know that what you’re looking in some respects is the lifetime’s work of one of the most versatile and amazing artists (who worked in other media besides pipes, as you will see) in the world, Jean Marie Alberto Paronelli (1914 – 2004). Most of the artwork you’ll see and many of the pipes are his creations. He collected almost all the artifacts you see in the museum over the course of his life. Each photo is absolutely packed with fascinating stuff, so if you’ve got a large format monitor, by all means click on the images and take a peek.

J. M. Alberto Paronelli’s work has been continued by his nephew Antonio Paolo Paronelli and his grandsons, artisan pipe-makers in their right, Ariberto Paronelli (Paronelli Pipes) and Alberto Paronelli (Volkan Pipes). More about all the Paronellis and the Peterson pipe Ariberto sent me that started all this next time. For now, let’s go in!

Museum of the Pipe, Gavirate

 

 

Entrance Hall

 

 

Hand-painted gourd chandelier
(hanging in the Entrance Hall–see above)

 

Original meeting room of the
International Pipe Academy

 

 

The Champion Room: the world’s foremost collection of
F. Rossi pipes

 

 

Caricature pipe of F. Illi Rossi,
in the Champion Room

 

 

Despite the book on the case, Ariberto labeled this photo
from the Champion Room “French pipes.”

 

Detail of F. Rossi pipe cabinets in the Champion Room

 

Savoia Cavalry pipe, by F. Illi Rossi

 

Display of Cuttys, labeled
“Ultralight and Monoblock pipes”

 

Old English clays

 

The European Pipe Hall

 

Machinery and Tools Room —
antiques rescued from the old Rossi factory

 

Antique wooden French lathe

 

900 pipe-making tools!

 

Exotic Pipe Room

 

Cobra Pipe, covered in python skin

 

Alaskan Eskimo pipe

 

Chinese rooster-claw pipe

 

Pipe of the Shah of Persia

 

Terracotta pipe made by J. M. Alberto Paronelli
(can anyone read the Hebrew?)

 

Pipe plates and porcelain pipes

 

Austrian porcelain pipes

 

Austrian pipes and detail of the pipe plates

 

 

“When I Am Dead”: pipe plate written and painted by
J. M. Alberto Paronelli

 

from
“When I Am Dead”

It is like as not, when I am dead,
All I have done, and thought, and sung and said
Will be but as the transitory smoke
That from my Pipe from sight so swiftly sped.

When I am dead, mayhap from out my tomb
The green tobacco plant will rise and bloom
Whose blossoms will remind folks of my songs,
While ghosts will haunt them of my pipe’s perfume.

I sang of love, of girls, of birds and flowers;
I sang of clouded and of sun-lit hours;
I sang of smoke, and dreamed perhaps of fame;
Yet knew I well that all things time devours.

Where are the songs that charmed the early times,
That rose and flourished in how many climes?
In the great limbs of forgotten things
They rest and so perhaps will fare my rhymes.

Alberto Paronelli’s text spirals around and around after this poem, with what looks like story, verse, and anecdotes. I will leave the mysteries of it to you–

Astonishing, isn’t it? If you want to take a second, even more interesting visit, Ariberto has an amazing 360 degree tour of the museum available on the Paronelli website that I discovered just a few minutes ago while finalizing the blog. You know where I’ll be.

 

Many thanks to Ariberto Paronelli
for permission to use his photographs!
Visit him at Paronelli.it

Fumare in Pax!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Appraisal

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

 

Stem and Spigot

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

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

 

Ferrule

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

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

 

Bowl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

And so, the finished pipe:

 

 

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

**From the Osmo website:

OSMO Polyx-Oil (the Original Hardwax Oil)

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

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

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

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

Ingredients:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Some People Meditate. I Smoke a Pipe.

Charles sounds a keynote for me in pipe-smoking: it is at its heart a contemplative practice, connecting body and soul, head and heart. His words on breath and smoke are not so very different from those found in the Perennial Tradition, from Black Elk to Eckhart Tolle. Enjoy!

DadsPipes

I sometimes get asked why I smoke a pipe. It is, after all, the rarest method of tobacco consumption in Canada these days (only about half of one percent of tobacco users are pipe smokers). If it’s nicotine you’re after, there are more efficient, though arguably more diabolical, delivery methods than a cantankerous old briar. A pipe is also regarded by many as an anachronism, something belonging to the past that reminds one of leather-bound books, slightly damp tweed and Granddad telling stories by the fire.

Similar to a cigar, the smoke from a pipe is tasted rather than inhaled, so I don’t crave nicotine from my pipe, but I must admit to harbouring a bit of sentimentality when it comes to the hobby. My father smoked a pipe, and though he passed when I was still quite young, the olfactory memory kicks in when I catch a whiff of…

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