80. Sweet Petes: The Language of Pipes

One part of the joy of pipe-smoking has to do with the “language” of pipes: how is it that a shape, texture, and color combine in a particular piece of briar (or other medium) to say something significant, something important, something magical to the smoker?

How form and function synergize to create meaning is an endless mystery that never loses its fascination for me. And one of the chapters I’m proudest of in the book discusses just this topic—the Peterson house style. So while we wait for the book to be completed, let me show you some of the most interesting pipes that have spoken to me over the past year, sharing stories of new lines and old, antique, entry-level, obscure and high-grade.

Shape D21 as Amber Spigot

At the top of my list is the reappearance of a shape from 1906, the 2017 POTY, shape D21, which scores for me on many levels. I confess it was love at first sight back when I first saw it in the 1906 catalog. Later I learned I wasn’t alone in my admiration – Chuck Wright was another devoted admirer, and we’d tell anyone who would listen about these shapes. He finally acquired a set for a while, one in briar and one in meerschaum, which he gifted at his death to Tom Palmer a few years ago. But it’s more than a shape—it’s one of the great smokers in my rotation, and the proof for me of any pipe is in the end how it smokes. But the proof of the shape is in the smoking, and it has established itself in my rotation with its great conical chamber, always delivering an effortless, flavorful smoke.

 

 

Shape D18 as De Luxe System

A second favorite, now trickling its way down (or out of) the POY series, is 2015’s shape D18, the Founder’s Edition. I have been hoping my body chemistry would revert to its old latakia-loving ways, and while it’s recovered somewhat from the traumas of recent years, I still don’t turn to big chambers like this very often. That being said, I had the D18 De Luxe System in my cart at Smokingpipes long enough to have someone else scoop it out from under me. When a second one came up on their site the following week, I was just strong enough to resist the urge, realizing I wouldn’t smoke it enough to justify putting it in the rack. I did write Joe Kenny at the factory, however, asking if the D18 would be a permanent addition to the System lineup, as its shape is spot-on perfect for the System reservoir. He said that no, it wasn’t, these were just one-off whimsies.

D18 Kapp-Royal: Amazing Grain

Just as beautiful, though not a System, is the Kapp-Royal version for the Italian market. I sometimes wish Peterson would release a few of the POY as naturals, or super-high grades.

 

 

Here’s a shape from Marc Brosseau’s collection that I think Peterson ought to consider re-releasing: the 36, which was originally (as seen) a small straight System.  This amber-stemmed meer, hallmarked for 1901, is proof that amber isn’t as delicate as some people think. What makes it so amazing is the chubby effect achieved by the short stem. Mark’s version seems to be the shortest that was offered, as per the 1906 catalog.

Shape 36 from the 1906 catalog. Notice it was available
in even shorter mouthpiece lengths!

 

 

This Sherlock Holmes “Original” is hallmarked N for 1900, and was up on Mike Gluckler’s Briar Blues site for a while. It’s the only time I’ve seen the 05 given a precious metal rim treatment, and it makes a fabulous calabash, don’t you think? It’s the kind of rugged-looking smoking instrument one can envision the Great Detective picking up for an evening’s ruminations.

 

 

Going out beyond the stars (at least for me) was 2017’s Master Craftsmen series, ten Amber Spigots in a custom leather presentation package designed by Claudio Albieri. The last time Peterson did something on this level of extravagance was in the mid-1990s. I read a lot of harsh criticism about the MC on one of the forums, which was fascinating. Peterson seems to attract more than its share of negative criticism, and it sometimes seems like their pipes are never what some folks want them to be: their low end isn’t high enough, their high end isn’t good enough, their grain is never flawless enough.

My two visual picks from the Makers Series, although the chambers in both are larger than I normally smoke, would be the B65 (2014’s POY) straight-grain and the B42 contrast-stained sandblast. The B42 I’ve long admired as one of the strangest shapes Peterson has ever released, and here it looks positively organic and handmade.

The B65, 2014’s POY, my least favorite of all the POYs, but in the MC treatment it Peterson’s language comes to life: massive, masculine, full of sunlight. You can check out the Smokingpipes video and notes here.

 

 

Coming back closer to my realm of pipe-possibilities is the Ebony Tank Spigot, shape D19, from the 2010 Mark Twain collection. This unique realization, with its sterling spigot and rim cap, is surprising and even a little startling, and gives off a kind of steampunk aura to me, like it’s ready for some serious mind-bending adventures.

 

 

At the opposite end of the spectrum from the LT Ebony Spigot comes this exquisite high-grade Dublin & London B10. We haven’t seen many pipes from this 2016 line because of the high-quality grain requirements, but when they are released, they are always something to behold.

 

 

This 124 cutty shape is a scarce and unusual entry in the Peterson shape catalog. Its first appearance is seen in the 1950 Briars by Peterson’s White Catalog. It then appears in a 1973 shape chart from Associated Imports (see below, fourth row down). It also appeared in the 1996 Old English Collection and has been seen in the churchwarden releases of recent years. The chamber is too small for me, but the lines on this Flame Grain with its stretch acrylic marmalade mouthpiece, are beautiful.

 

This House Pipe, purportedly used in an Alfred Hitchcock film, is one of those outrageous pipes that used to have a prominent place in any truly respectable tobacconist’s shop. This one looks like it could have been made anywhere from the late 1950s through the 1980s, but I couldn’t get any information on whether it had a hallmark or not.

 

Shape 68 Cork

The Cork is another seldom-seen line, this pipe from the collection of the Snowy Owl, Thomas Carrollan. The glossary in the Peterson book gives this information:

Cork  c. 2000 –  Higher-grade orange stain line, no band, 9mm filter, with amber-colored acrylic fishtail stem and aluminum P. European-market only.

It’s also one of the earliest (if not the earliest) of Peterson acrylic mouthpieces. I’ve just recently discovered this shape on my own: the 68 is a real chunk, a handful of solid briar. It may not look it in the picture, but it’s a big, solid piece of smoking furniture, as big or bigger than the 307 / XL90, but cut not for System use but for an army or navy-mount. I’ll talk more about it in another blog.

 

 

The B5 was the earliest of the B shapes to find a lasting place in the shape chart, back in the early 1990s. This gold-band Supreme, hallmarked for 1998, shows us why: it’s just a classic. It’s from Al Jones’s collection.

 

 

Here’s another line we won’t see here in the US, Mario Lubinski’s Rugby, a matte green finish with a white striated acrylic mouthpiece and hot foil P, with, of course, the obligatory Lubinski sterling mount. Many of the ferrules, as you can see in the 05 and XL20 above, feature the Hinch mount.

 

 

And I’ll end with what is surely the finest small batch line Peterson has ever made, in collaboration with Laudisi (Smokingpipes.com): the Arklow. As the B10 just recently appeared, I thought I’d share it with you.

 

And of course,
I can’t end without a shot of my favorite
Peterson shape – where are they getting these XL339s? –
in its Arklow dress:

Seen at top: Makers Series 1 of 10, shape B42
(Courtesy Smokingpipes.com)

Thanks to all the usual folks for use of their photos–
they’re all listed in the Blogroll.

Fumare in pace

 

74. An Amber Spigot Gallery Walk at the Black Swan Shoppe

There are folks who are passionate about pipes, those who are passionate about selling pipes, and those who are passionate about Peterson pipes. But how many people do you know that comfortably fit in all three circles? Few, I’d think, especially of that final category. But Kris Parry at the Black Swan Shoppe is one of the few. You may remember him from an earlier blog I did on Peterson’s rarest line, the Plato.*

Kris and I were emailing a few weeks ago about some Peterson pipes (of course), and he mentioned that at the recent UK trade show Peterson was offering what is probably the last installment of the real amber spigots. Kris told me, “the UK got 50 and retailers were falling over themselves to snap some up. The show opened at 9:00am and they were all gone by 10am. I was the first on the stand and managed to select the 10 best pieces. I then gave other eager retailers a chance to grab some (we are all friends in the trade) and took what was left at 10am.”

When he offered to let me see what Black Swan had received a few days ago, my eyes popped. It’s not just the amber spigots, nor the incredible “A” bowls with their breath-taking birdseye or flame grain, but the combination that is so pleasing. And to see all these pipes together was so remarkable that I thought I’d pass along that experience to you with a minimum of commentary.

Before beginning your tour, I would like to point out a few things about the mouthpieces. Notice as you go along that there are three distinct types of mouthpiece: a round-end with the draft hole in the middle, a flattened button which isn’t quite a fishtail, and a P-Lip. While the 50 kilos or so of amber mouthpieces were inventoried in the late 1930s, the three styles of mouthpieces tell us a little bit more. The orifice or round-end style predates P-Lip production and was abandoned during the 1890s, meaning these mouthpieces were fashioned no later than that decade. The almost-fishtail stems could date anywhere from the late 1890s to the time of inventory. The P-Lips, of course, date no earlier to the time of the 3rd patent in 1898.

We know Charles Peterson and his young hand Jimmy Malone both worked amber, so there is the very real possibility that either CP or Malone actually crafted some of these stems. In the photo session Thomas Mason (the famous Irish photographer) did for the 1906 catalog, CP and Henry Kapp chose the amber and meerschaum work station not only for its prestige value, I think, but because Charles was justifiably proud of his skill as a craftsman. He always chose to wear his workman’s smock in any indoor photograph, while the other execs wore suits (that photo, of course, is in the forthcoming book).

 

 

B10 P-Lip (1 of 2)

 

 

999 P-Lip w/bone tenon extension

 

 

124 P-Lip

 

X220 Flame P-Lip (2of 3), bone tenon (11S DeLuxe or 312 System),
with bone tenon extension (a System)

 

120 (1 of 5) with either orifice or early flat button

 

X220 Flame P-Lip (1 of 3), bone tenon (11S DeLuxe or 312 System),
with bone tenon extension (a System)

 

106 P-Lip

 

120 (2 of 5) P-Lip Flame

 

230 P-Lip (a small billiard, same as 12 1/2 De Luxe or 317 System),
with bone tenon extension

 

15 P-Lip

 

120 (3 of 5) orifice button: probably the earliest-made amber in the gallery

 


X220 Flame P-Lip (3of 3), bone tenon (11S DeLuxe or 312 System),
with bone tenon extension (a System)

 

120 Flame (4 of 5), P-Lip

 

 

408 P-Lip

 

B10 (2 of 2)

 

120 Flame (5 of 5) with flat button

 

This release of the amber spigots comes with a second mouthpiece, black acrylic fishtail. The first release in the U.S. came with no extra stem, while the Lubinski / Italian releases have routinely featured an extra acrylic fishtail spigot mouthpiece. As expensive as the extra spigot mouthpiece makes the pipe, I think I would’ve preferred that if I was going to invest in one of these beauties. I wouldn’t let that stop me, of course, if I wanted one, as Peterson is willing to make an extra spigot mouthpiece for a very reasonable price. Kris said with this release there’s a new padded, hinged box:

I know some folk have been a bit hesitant because of the hoop-lah over the fragility of the amber. There are still lots of vintage Petes in circulation with amber bits, some with quite a bit of dental chatter, and of course as a semi-precious “stone,” amber is brittle. But it’s not more brittle now than it was when Peterson craftsmen originally formed it, and there’s loads of advice on how to take care of it and bring back its luster if it gets a little sun (a drop of olive oil and a silver polishing cloth). But if you decide to invest, I hope you’ll take my old friend “Trucker” Chuck Wright’s advice: “it’s just a piece of wood unless you smoke it. Then it becomes a pipe.” Fumare in pace!

The acrylic black fishtail mouthpiece

You can view available Amber Spigots from the Black Swan at
https://www.thebackyshop.co.uk/categories/peterson-briar-pipes-peterson-antique-amber-pipes

Photos courtesy Kris Parry, Black Swan Shoppe,
https://www.thebackyshop.co.uk/

 

 

If you’re ever in Scarborough, be sure to drop by and introduce yourself to Kris Parry at the Black Swan Shoppe. If you click on the photo below, you can see a card of Peterson pipes in the upper right side of the window display.

* See https://petersonpipenotes.wordpress.com/2017/04/08/60-peterson-2017-product-catalog-a-well-kept-secret/.  Kris has several of the latest gen Platos in stock, as you can see. It looks like some have the new acrylic P-Lips, some still have the vulcanite P-Lips. “Worth a peek,” as the old duffer says.

 

 

 

 

56. Sweet Petes: A 2016 Gallery

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

 

I. The Amber Spigots

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

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

 

II. The 2016 Limited Edition

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

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

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

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

 

III. Derry Rustic

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

 

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

 

IV. Patent Brevet Clay

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

 

V. 1906 Bog Oak

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

09-1906-bog-oak-front-harp

 

VI. 109 Diamond Shank Billiard

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

Measurements:

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

 

VII. 261 Belge-Canadian

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

Measurements:

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

 

 

VIII. Pickaxe

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

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

 

IX. FS4 Freestyle

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

15-freestyle-fs4-obverse-2

 

 

X. O.3. Extra Large Patent

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

Measurements:

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

 

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

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