112. Franken Petes

Sona Oíche Shamhna! Or, in translation from the Irish, Happy Hallowe’en! Most folks don’t know that All Hallow’s Eve has its origins in the ancient Irish festival of Samhain, although back 2009 Peterson tried to educate the masses with an annual Samhain commemorative pipe for a few years.

I have been promising myself that this year I’d devote a post to an after-market sideshow which we’ll dub the “Franken Pete,” Peterson’s version of the “Frankenpipe.”

Frankenpipes lie at the spectral end of pipe restoration, sometimes going to unearthly lengths to exhume something that will resemble a pipe. A “frankenpipe,” then, can be defined as “a pipe made from spare parts,” and has doubtless been around as long as there have been broken pipes, but I first ran across the grisly science in posts at two of my favorite restoration sites, one at Steve Laug’s Reborn Pipes and one at Charles Lemon’s Dad’s Pipes.

Most frankenpipes are created by using one strand of the System’s engineering: the army-mount. As soon as you have a pipe that readily disassembles (hot or cold) into (somewhat) interchangeable bowls and mouthpieces, you’ve created the opening for design aberrations. And that’s how Franken Petes are made. Sometimes they’re easy to spot, sometimes only a Pete Freek with the heightened powers gained by ingesting Tlachtga Celtic fire can spot them.

(1)

I’ll begin my tour of the Franken Petes with a non-example, just to set a baseline. Here’s a D19, which was originally stamped TANKARD after appearing as the faux-cob pipe in 2010’s Mark Twain set:

This is not a Franken Pete

The would-be mad scientist here didn’t like the stem’s bend. He apparently thought that since the pipe had a flat bottom, the bottom of the bowl ought to fully rest on the landing platform, which it didn’t. He simply heated the pipe stem and rebent it. Anyone with a knowledge of Peterson’s bending practices will at once recognize the incongruity of it. It’s a bit like a kid after-marketing his Honda to give it a little more juice. And if the kid’s happy and his vehicle street legal (me, in this case), that’s all that matters, right?

(2)

“Karloff’s Monster”

With the 307 pictured above we get into basic Franken Pete bowl alterations. Someone new to the brand might not know the bowl was topped. Someone who studied Peterson shape charts like a maniac instead of devoting his life to more profitable ends, should. It’s actually a fun shape, a kind of ladle, resulting from a substantial “topping” of a scorched rim. It gives a pleasing profile and leaves a deep enough chamber to still be serviceable. The problem comes when the buyer (it was me several years ago) is disappointed to find he hasn’t discovered a long-lost Peterson shape, but a “chop”! Caveat emptor, as the saying goes.

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The most common type of Franken Pete occurs when someone has a bowl but not a mouthpiece to go with it and goes to the boneyard. Sometimes the new configurations are quite subtle. Take a look at this pipe, the A2 billiard from the original Antique Reproduction collection back in 1995:

“Doctor Pretorious”

This pipe actually passed under the radar and was sold by a major online retailer. The mouthpiece, however, belongs to the dublin A4 shape from the collection. This one originally had a plump straight taper P-Lip.

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Here’s a gorgeous 4 De Luxe (notice the facing or flat-top ferrule), but again, it’s been bedeviled with a standard army P-Lip mouthpiece:

“The Colin Clive”

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Here’s a more obvious faux pas, one I’ve seen several times on eBay, where someone took a standard army-mount P-Lip from a smaller System and placed it on a larger-bored shape. This is another De Luxe System with a standard System mouthpiece:

“The Igor”

The giveaway, of course, is that the shoulder of the mouthpiece is jammed right next to the ferrule.

(6)

The “Vincent Price”

You can also go to the other extreme, as in this wild example: a straight Patent System Commemorative with what looks like a 307-sized System mouthpiece. Apparently, the Commemorative mouthpiece wasn’t working out? Needed a little more droop? Who knows. It looks sinister. Vincent Price would have loved it, I think.

(7)

These next three photos document my own ultimately unsuccessful attempts to better an Italian-market XL23 Kapp Royal (the Lestrade shape). Here’s the way it came to me:

XL 23 Kapp Royal

Beautiful, right? Kapp Royals are among the elite in Peterson pipes, hand-chosen by Mario Lubinski from the very top tier of Peterson bowls and slotted into the Kapp-Royal line with a marmalade acrylic fishtail mouthpiece, aluminum P and sterling band. I liked it so much, I had a spigot mouthpiece made for it:

“Dr. Alymer’s Georgiana”

This is the pipe at its most beautiful. But the problem back then was that I hadn’t learned how to smoke an army-mount fishtail, puffing on it like it was a System instead of giving it short sips. I knew it was a sweet-smoking bowl, but the army mount made me pass over it again and again. Then I got what I thought was a brainy idea: make it into a System! A Lestrade System–how cool would that be?

I asked them at the factory if they could do it, and they said yes. So back to the factory it went. The problem here was that the P-Lip AB mouthpiece—gorgeous—was much thicker than the original acrylic and the spigot replacement, so the ferrule and bore had to be widened. The thick shank, as I thought, took a reservoir quite easily. Here’s how it came out:

“The Aminadab”

Is it a System? Yes, a Franken System. Did that cure the hot smoke? Yes. It smoked well as a System. But at a visual price. And one that I eventually found I wasn’t willing to pay. It’s not bad looking, but for me the love was gone. The monster, in effect, died on the operating table.

(8)

So now let’s turn to more ghoulish reconstructions, getting closer to the living dead of pipes. First is an elongated stem that’s just a little outré:

“Dr. Moreau”

It’s got a P-Lip mouthpiece, curiously unbent. The bowl is a bit over-reamed, but might smoke just fine.

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But what about this one? It looks like something Charles Laughton left in the meat locker too long in Island of Lost Souls (1932):

“Leave Until Called For”

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And here’s a genuine vintage Patent System bowl with the base of its wind cap still intact and a cheery wood stem with horn mouthpiece:

“Robin Crusoe on Mars”

A fascinating piece, actually, and the reconstruction may have been quite old. I suspect the man who smoked this would have been worth knowing.

(11)

But now, something that should’ve stayed buried. Peterson never made a bowl or a mouthpiece like these. But somehow, a Peterson ferrule found its way into this monster’s construction:

“The Imhotep”

We can only hope its mummy loved it.

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Now for for my “Trilogy of Terror.” Everyone knows a good monster needs megawatts of electricity to bring it to life, right? And here’s three that really give me the shivers. Are they e-pipes? Drug pipes? I don’t know. I don’t care. But we need a mob of angry villagers to put them out of their misery:

“Reanimator 309”

The same mad scientist who designed the 309 Undead above also took this poor Kapmeer into his lab:

“Kapmeer Manimal”

About now you should be hearing the old familiar chant from Tod Browning’s Freaks: One of us, one of us. Gooba-gobble, gooba-gobble. The last of the “trilogy of terror” by the unnamed mad scientist:

“Deerstalker Undead”

(13)

And what of the future, you say? What dystopias lie in store for the unsuspecting? This thirteenth pipe was publicly acknowledged by designer “Jong Hyuk Bae” as a genuine Peterson commission back in 2016. When Tom Palmer, then CEO of the company, heard about it, he told the maker a “cease-and-desist” letter would be forthcoming.

I’ve heard a few pipemen tentatively say some positive things about e-pipes. But an e-pipe, for those theologically so-inclined, has removed itself from the sacramental nature of reality. Pipe tobacco and briar, as well as many of the adornments which are used in pipe-making, are organic. They grow or are produced by the earth. With the combustion of tobacco in the bowl, a third something, the smoke, produces a syzygy in which the pipeman is a participant. Perichoresis is the theological term here, from the early Church Fathers: it’s a divine dance of tobacco, pipe, smoke and piper. With these three sacramentals missing, the e-pipe becomes a parody, a sham or anti-symbol. Bent, as my old friend Ron would say. And that’s about as frightening as it gets.

 

Happy Hallowe’en!

Tin Talk #9: Gateway Drug / Dharma Door

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

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.

 

79. The Wrong Pipe: Reconditioning A MADE IN EIRE 312 System

 I like to tell myself I’m not much of a pipe collector, but work on the Peterson book has forced me into the role more than I’d thought possible, all “for the greater good,” my Pipe Acquisition Disorder tells me. That being the case, during the course of writing and research on the Peterson book a number of interesting pipes have come my way. This MADE IN EIRE (in a circle) 312 Standard System is one of them. There are so many “wrong” things about this pipe that I thought you might find its story interesting.

When it arrived a few years back, at the beginning of our labors on the book, I was delighted because it was the first EIRE stamp I’d ever seen first-hand—EIRE being that very, very short period of Peterson history from 1938 – 1948.

Left to Right: Eire, Early Republic, Late Republic, Dublin Era 312s

The bowl, as you know if you looked at my last 312 blog, is something different from what is being frazed these days, a bit taller, a bit more egg-shaped, and just . . . different.* And that’s not what’s wrong with it—that’s all to the good for a Luddite like myself who usually prefers things as near to their sources as possible. Here’s what it looked like when I first did my reconditioning:

First Restoration

But to my taste, it smoked sourly and so I rarely pick it up. And for me that’s the first wrong thing—a pipe that gathers dust in the rack needs to find a home where someone is smoking it, or at least giving it some serious appreciation. I had restored the pipe to the best of my ability back when I received it, but in beginning to think about letting it go, I decided I’d have a second try at freshening it up, not wanting to sell someone second-rate goods.

So I gave it a 24-hr. dunk in an isopropyl bath, and it popped out smelling clean and sweet. That bit of wrongness, at least, was taken care of, as I proved to myself when I gave it a trial smoke at the end of the reconditioning.

After the alcohol soak, inasmuch as the wood is at the very least 70 years old, I thought I’d treat it to a coat of mineral oil, as Charles Lemon has demonstrated on his blog. I don’t think Charles leaves this on for more than 15-20 minutes, and certainly not all night, which I did. This wasn’t a mistake, exactly, but I don’t recommend it, for reasons I’ll explain later.  Anyway, the mineral oil did rejuvenate the wood and break out the grain, but it also re-darkened it and gave it a matte finish.

The black walnut stain is another “wrong” thing, albeit from a purely subjective standpoint, as it is unusual among the Peterson Systems I’ve seen. At first it was off-putting, as it obscured so much of the grain, and I’d hoped after the alcohol soak and clean-up I might be able to lighten the pipe a little which would make it more pleasing to me.

You can see that it’s not a bad piece of briar: some small minor fills, great birds eye on reverse side, but there is a major bald spot on the reverse above the stamp on the bowl (which I failed to photograph, but you get the picture). And that, I suspect, in combination with the 3 or 4 little fills, is what made it a Standard System, and what made giving it a black walnut stain the right thing to do.

Here’s the third bit of “wrongness.” The alcohol soak, as it often does, loosened the ferrule and so I took it off to have a look under the hood, so to speak. And take a look at it. It’s not nickel-soldered, it’s pressed! There’s no solder line on the outside or inside of the cup. “Wrong” is the incorrect word, of course. Surprising is more apt. You see, we know from the K&P Employee Register that K&P employed nickel-solderers for decades. And we (that’s my co-author Gary Malmberg and myself) had been thinking all along that all nickel mounts were hand-soldered in the factory before about 1961.

I went scurrying over to my rotation and pulled off the pre-1961 Standard Systems, and sure enough, some have that tell-tale solder-mark on the outside, others don’t. What’s the answer? I don’t know, but I do know the later pressed ferrules lacked the faux hallmarks (shamrock, wolf hound, round tower), and this one has them (although they’ve been almost eradicated by buffing), indicating that it was made prior to 1961, when the faux-marks were discontinued.

A fourth “wrong” that bothered me about this pipe: it’s a 312 Standard System, quite plainly marked, and the MADE IN EIRE stamp is supposed to mean it was made while Ireland officially knew itself as “Eire.” But during those years, a 312 was a second-grade pipe, not a third, and would have had a sterling mount, right? The shape number for a third grade (with nickel mount) was 362 in the 1937 catalog. In addition, it should have had a “3” stamped under PETERSON’S over SYSTEM on the obverse of the bowl, instead of STANDARD.

The explanation, of course, is that K&P abandoned the complicated second and third grade double numbering system sometime after 1937, but before the end of the Eire era in 1948. What I’d been thinking of as a “wrong” thing turns out to simply help date the pipe to sometime closer to the end of the era. At this point I began to get excited, having discovered something new about dating Petersons. There was also a bit of humility seeing in the rear view mirror another part of me, the guy who says, “Don’t tell me the facts; my mind’s made up.”

Replicating the 1937 Catalog Bend

A fifth, minor “wrong,” and one easily corrected, was simply that the mouthpiece looks like a replacement. The arch bend (which became more-or-less standard by the late 1980s) just didn’t ring true to the Eire era. After a few attempts with the heat gun and some dips in a bowl of cold water, I gave it a bend more typical of its era, seen in the 1937 catalog.

I followed the stem restoration with some final touches to the bowl, giving it a few coats of carnuba. Now, remember a moment ago when I talked about the mineral oil? When I smoked the pipe to check the bowl for sweetness, the oil pressed outward–I could see it visibly evaporate–necessitating a fresh coat of carnuba. I smoked it a second time just to be sure the mineral oil had dried, and it had.

Finally, of course, a pipe is simply “wrong” for the pipeman if he doesn’t appreciate it, which in my way of understanding (which is not everyone’s) means smoking it.

I did smoke it twice to assure myself it was sweet and clean, but after such a problematic relationship, and with other established 312s in the rack, I knew I’d never give it the attention it deserves: respect but not companionship, I suppose. So I gave it a final touch-up, cleaning out the mouthpiece again and giving the bowl a light cotton-pad and isopropyl treatment before putting it on the market. And as of this writing, I’m happy to report it has found a new home in Waco, Texas, where I understand it is being treated with the admiration it so richly deserves.

Rath Dé ort!

 

*FRAZING MACHINE: A machine which guides briar block against cutters to duplicate preselected pipe shape. A clamp-fitted shaft and a cam follows a master model to shape shank and lower half of bowl.

I haven’t been able to find a photograph of a frazing machine, but Pipedia gives us this additional information: “A frazing machine has been used in the manufacture of Pipes. Its general structure is such that a pattern of the pipe or pattern of a section of a pipe is mounted in the machine and then the stummel is installed in the same machine. When the frazing machine is started the pattern pre-installed in the machine is then recreated on the surface of the stummel. In other industries of modern methods of manufacture, they are referred to as pantograph machines and pattern makers. Some pipe makers do not use such machinery and rely on the person crafting the pipe as the three-dimensional view provided is believed to produce a more acceptable and aesthetic appearance. Such companies that do utilize frazing machines reserve them for ‘roughing in’ the stummel only when manufacturing multiple pipes of exactly the same style.”