85. The New Trom Dubh Collection: A Heavy Metal Quartet

Along with other new lines and collections that will soon be available, Peterson has just announced a mid-grade set, the Trom Dubh (which in Irish means “chubby black”). Where to begin?

The first connection between the shapes, as the name indicates, is in the “chubby,” but it’s really a heavy, and by that I don’t mean grams or ounces. It’s a visual heavy, a roundness in the hand, a muscular, massive sense of proportion, like the basalt columns from Giant’s Causeway Peterson chose for the digital strut card pictured above.

Irish shapes have always been heavy-metal rebels when set against their English counterparts, analogous in the world of rock music to bands like Meshuggah, who not only play six and seven-string basses, but down-tune for a giant effect.

The heavy metal analogy works in the second part of the name as well—the dubh, a black-on-black, with just that touch of silver in the hot foil P on the mouthpiece. The retro P-Lip, now in acrylic, just makes them that much tougher.

Taken as a whole, the Trom Dubh collection represents a great juxtaposition of historic shapes and the new design aesthetic we’ve seen in the recent past. I’d probably nickname it the “P-Lip Fat Classics.”

As for the shapes:

THE B.C. is the oldest bowl shape of the quartet still in production, and is a favorite among estate collectors, where it is found as the 9BC, the BC designation indicating a tapered (B) short (C) stem. It originated in the 1896 catalog as shape 9, and most Kappnists* have at least one of these in their rotation in its various permutations—the XL90 Classic Range or 307 Standard or 9S DeLuxe System being the most commonly seen these days. The 9BC came to prominence in the US in the 1950s and seems to have been a special favorite of Rogers Imports Ltd., as most of them are found in the old Rogers Imports Shamrock line.

THE BULL is the gem of the collection, being the original John Bull or 999 shape, a bullmoose which was first cut in the late 1930s or early 1940s. It was in production until the late 1970s, when it was phased out by what was originally called the 998, today’s 999, the little slipper rhodesian that is one of Peterson’s top sellers. Like the B.C., it’s an especial favorite among collectors, and given the popularity of the larger Savinelli 320 author shape (the difference between a bullmoose and an author being that bead around the crown), chances are it will be a solid hit for Peterson.

THE BALL is a shape that was introduced with several other now-classic shapes in the late 1970s as the 02 DeLuxe System, 302 System, or (as it is here) the slightly-larger XL02 in the Classic Range. With the tapered P-Lip, it is solid in the hand and has always looked to me like the “P” in the Peterson logo brought to life in a pipe. Part of the freshness of this shape is that it hasn’t been seen much in this configuration. In fact, I’ve only ever seen it as part of the Emerald line back several years ago, and in the Sterling Silver Italian-release.

THE BILLIARD is another shape introduced in the late 1970s (the 107) without much ado, but is a veritable billiard on steroids, and Peterson’s definitive statement on the subject. ‘Nuff said, as they used to say in the Marvel Bullpen.

If you’ve been watching, Peterson is slowly tooling over to acrylic P-Lips. The choice to use the P-Lip in the Trom Dubh collection is probably risky, given the smoking public’s lack of understanding of how these perform. But it certainly accentuates the “fat” character of the collection, and will deliver superior taste and less moisture over a fishtail mouthpiece every time.

I know I’ve caviled against acrylic stems in the past, but I’ve been smoking not only the 2018 POY, but a 312 acrylic P-Lip for a while now, and my reservations have mostly vanished. I don’t know whether the acrylic has gotten softer, the button a little thinner, or I’ve just gotten used to it, but I do like not having to stress over whether the stem is becoming oxidized.

The combination of gloss black bowl with anodized black aluminum band is the kind of move we’ve come to expect from the new wave of Peterson pipes. I don’t think I’ve seen this kind of band on a pipe from anyone else, and I’m anxious to see one in real life. I’m told the idea for the set came from Fionn mac Cumhaill, one of the Sallynoggin artisans who hails from Northern Ireland.

It looks like there will also be some higher-grade sterling band sets, both in the Trom Dearg (red) finish and in the Trom Natural. I’d expect to see the Natural sets out of Italy first, but maybe a few from Smokingpipes.com as well. These feature the inlaid aluminum P in the mouthpiece.

I know everyone will be wanting THE BULL, and if past Peterson releases are any indication, we can probably expect this shape to appear solo before too long.

The presentation box will feature a black and white photo of the famous basalt columns from Giant’s Causeway. Collectors can expect to pay about $460 in the US. The sterling band Trom Dearg and the Trom Natural will go for about $600 and $800, respectively.

 

*Kappnist—one who studies or admires Kapp (& Peterson) pipes; a Pete Nute or “Pete Freek” with an eye for the history of the marque.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lá na nAmadán
Happy April Fool’s Day!

Photo courtesy Charles Mundungus

 

22. Peterson Chubbies, Part 2: The Old 9BC

A few weeks ago I began thinking about my favorite Peterson Chubbies, beginning with the John Bull 999. Today I want to look at another old-timer, the 9BC. Like the John Bull, the 9BC is something special among Peterson collectors, perhaps because it is hands-down the most sensuously curvy bent billiard Peterson has ever put on the market. You don’t have to take my word for it—Allison Rose Harrell’s photograph for Smokingpipes.com says it all:

9BC Pre Republic9BC Shamrock Natural Finish
(Photo Courtesy Smokingpipes.com)

 So where did it come from, and where did it go?

The shape number of the 9BC tells us that it’s a classic “9”—a Charles Peterson Patent shape that’s been in the catalog since 1896. In the 1906 catalog it was first identified as a 9, which by the late 1940s would become a “307” in the Standard System numbering or 9S in the DeLuxe. It remains a standard in the Peterson catalog and is routinely found in the Classic Lines as the XL90s as well as in its original System versions as the 9s and 307.

This is a big pipe, at least in the traditional sense of the word, with a chamber geometry hovering at 20mm x 42 and a weight of around 65-68 grams. The shape was the largest of the regular System offerings until the B42 / Darwin slightly eclipsed it a few years back.

The “BC” in the shape number designates something special—it refers to the stem style and length, respectively. No other instance in the Peterson catalog is known of a pipe stamped “BC,” although both the 1896 and 1906 catalogs make it plain that a customer could custom-order any Peterson pipe with a BC stem. The “B” tells us the 9BC has a got a tapered, rather than saddle, stem style. The “C” means it’s got a shortened stem, which gives the 9BC pipe its distinctive chubby character.

9BC 1953 Rogers ImportsThe 9BC from the 1953 Rogers Import Catalog Shape Chart

We owe the existence of this shape, apparently, to the enthusiasm of Harry L. Rogers, Peterson’s incredible importer here in the United States from the late 1930s through the 1960s, as it appears nowhere other than in the Rogers ephemera.

The first appearance of the shape I’ve been able to track down is in the 1953 Rogers Imports catalog’s shape chart. It reappears in their “Chat With the Smoker” pipe-box brochure, also issued sometime in the 1950s, as well as their 1957 catalog. In all three cases, it is shown as an unmounted pipe, although the only 9BCs one is likely to run across these days are in its Shamrock dress and, sometimes, in the Sterling line.

The Shamrock was the least expensive of the Rogers Imports “individually boxed” lines during the 1950s and retailed at $3.50, while Peterson’s top of the line, the unmounted Supreme, cost $15.

At some point during the 1950s or early 1960s, I think Shamrocks were given a lighter finish, as can be seen by comparing the following two photographs:

 9BC Shamrock Early Stain Color
Early 9BC Stain Color

 9BC Shamrock Later Stain Color
Later 9BC Stain Color

 I’m quite willing to be proven wrong on this, but if you look at enough Shamrocks, you’ll begin noticing there’s two stain colors, and the earliest catalog descriptions and illustrations are always of the darker stain.

The lighter-finished 9BC’s stem illustrates one problem in sourcing one of these beauties: whoever restored this pipe thinned down the button, and in the process the pipe lost a bit of its chubby charm.

The current production XL90[B]—the pipe with the tapered stem, not what would traditionally have been stamped the XL90s for “saddle” but is not currently so stamped—is for all intents and purposes the same shape as the old 9BC, as a comparison of their measurements reveals. It doesn’t have quite the delirious curve at the button, but is in other respects nearly identical.

For those wanting the original 9BC, Ebay has them on offer almost monthly. Right now there’s a 9BC Sterling whose only problem is a sawed-off P-Lip stem and the need for a bit of reconditioning. The former, of course, can be taken care of by dropping it in the mail to Peterson. For the latter, if you’ve never restored a pipe, you can find all the help you need at Steve Laug’s www.rebornpipes.com blog.

 XL90 Supreme
XL90 Supreme

Next:
“Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
What’s the chubbiest straight of all?”