Daily Archives: December 20, 2014

Restoring a Republic Era Shamrock 999 Rhodesian

Blog by Steve Laug

peterson When I saw this pipe on Ebay I immediately threw in a low bid. The seller included two photos the clear side view of the pipe shown below and the second photo below – an out of focus picture of the stem end. It was obvious there was damage to the stem and that it would take some work but it was still interesting to me. I was the only bidder so the pipe became mine.Shamrock1

Shamrock2 It was stamped Shamrock on the left side of the shank in capital letters (once it arrived I saw that on the right side of the shank it bore the stamping “A Peterson Product” over Made in the Republic of Ireland with 999 stamped next to that). While the seller never revealed the data stamped on the right side of the shank or the shape number it was clearly a Peterson 999 – one of my favourite shapes. I am particularly fond of the thick shanked older versions of the shape but this one looked workable. While I waited for it I did some research on the brand. I have several Shamrock pipes and fortunately all of them are very nicely grained briar.

I wrote to a favourite source of all things Peterson, Mark Irwin, to inquire about the mark. He responded with the following helpful information. “There were two Shamrock lines—the Rogers Import U.S.-only line with the nickel band, and the Peterson unmounted line with a white “S” stamped on the mouthpiece. This line—which is what your pipe is from—debuted in the 1945 catalog in the 30 classic shapes then being offered, in both smooth and sandblast, always with a fishtail mouthpiece, and continued with the same finish and “S” stamp until the 1975 catalog. It was a “Product” line, so look carefully for fills, as Peterson always strives to get the most mileage out of their briar. If it does indeed lack fills, someone messed up in the workshop, as it would normally have been released in a much higher line. The name was subsequently used on newer “Shamrock” lines with various finishes and stains until very recently, but always as an entry-grade line.”

I also was a bit more information on the stamping on the other side of the shank so I read more on dating Peterson Pipes in an article here on the blog by Mike Leverette. In it I found that pipes that bore the Republic of Ireland stamping came from the Republic Era which extended from 1949 until the present. “The Republic of Ireland was formed on 17 April 1949. From 1949 to present the stamp for this era is “Made in the Republic of Ireland” in a block format generally in three lines but two lines have been used with or without Republic being abbreviated.”

Mike also addressed a further question on the stamping “A Peterson Product”. He wrote: “Also, we must address the stamp “A Peterson Product.” During the last few years of the Pre-Republic era and throughout the Republic era, Peterson began stamping their other lines, such as Shamrocks and Killarneys, with “A Peterson Product” over the COM stamp. So a pipe stamped thusly will have been made say from 1948 to the present with the COM stamp identifying it as a pre-Republic or a Republic pipe.”

That was helpful information. With Mark’s and Mike’s information I had learned a lot about my pipe even before it arrived. It came from the earlier Shamrock line which debuted in 1945 and continued until 1975. It certainly fit in the description of a classic shape and an unmounted line with a white S on the stem. It was a Republic Era pipe which put it after 1949 and bore the Peterson Product stamp which put it in the same time frame. That is as specific as I can get in dating this pipe.

When the pipe arrived I opened the box and took it out of the bubble wrap. The stem was frozen in the shank and did not fit against the shank. The grain was beautiful and the natural finish was dirty. The bowl had a thick cake and still had a half bowl of unsmoked tobacco. The rim had a build up of tar on it that was thick. The inner and outer edge of the rim was undamaged and the bowl was still round. The stem was oxidized and the button end had significant damage as can be seen in the third photo below.Shamrock3



Shamrock6 I put the pipe in the freezer and left it overnight so that the temperature change would do its magic and loosen the stem in the shank. In the morning I took it out and was able to remove the stem with no problems. The photo below shows the damage to the button very clearly. There is also a sand pit visible in the side of the bowl. It is unfilled and from what I could see of the rest of the bowl there were not any fills.Shamrock7 I left the tobacco in the bowl while I worked on the rim. I scrubbed it with saliva and cotton pads until I was able to remove all of the tarry build up. I also scrubbed down the rest of the exterior of the bowl and shank.Shamrock8 I removed the tobacco with a dental pick and then reamed the pipe with a PipNet reamer and took the cake back to bare wood.Shamrock9 I used the dental pick to also clean out the twin rings around the bowl. These were packed with dust and wax from previous buffing.Shamrock10I set up my retort and put the tube on the broken stem. I loosely stuff a cotton ball in the bowl and heated the alcohol over a tea light candle. I ran the alcohol through until it came out a rich brown. I emptied the test tube and refilled it with alcohol and repeated the process. The second time the alcohol came out clean. I removed the retort and cleaned out the shank and bowl with cotton swabs and pipe cleaners.Shamrock11


Shamrock12 I debated for a long time what to do with the damaged stem. I could try a stem splice or replace the stem. I could also cut off the stem and reshape the button. In looking over the stem I decided there was enough length and material to allow me to cut if off and reshape it. I used a Dremel with a sanding drum to remove the broken part of the stem. I squared it off on the topping board and I was ready to recut the button.Shamrock13


Shamrock15 I use needle files to cut the lines of the new button. They give me a good square edge and let me cut the basic shape of the button.Shamrock16

Shamrock17 Once the line is cut I use a variety of tools to trim back the taper from the line back toward the shank. I used an emery board to work on the shape of the stem. Often this is all I need but in this case it was not enough.Shamrock18

Shamrock19 I used a knife blade shaped needle file to shave the stem back to the button. With this blade I removed a lot of the excess material and the button began to take shape. I also used the file to begin to shape the oval of the button and to open up the slot in the end of the button. I continued to work on the taper of the stem and smoothed out the flow o the stem to the button using 220 grit sandpaper.Shamrock20


Shamrock22 Once I had the shape and the taper of the stem correct I put a washer on the tenon and inserted it in the shank so that I could work on the stem. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation and then sanded it with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge. I carefully avoided damaging the logo stamp on the stem. I also rubbed the bowl down with a little olive oil on a cotton pad. It really enlivened the grain on the pipe. I buffed it lightly with White Diamond and then gave it several coats of carnauba wax.Shamrock23



Shamrock26 Once the oxidation was taken care of I used some liquid paper to re-whiten the S on the stem. The photos below show the shape of the button and the stem at this point in the process. The new button works well and the shortening of the stem did not too seriously damage the appearance of the pipe.IMG_3070



IMG_3073 I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil between each set of three grits of micromesh sanding pads.Shamrock31



Shamrock34 I rubbed it down with a final coat of Obsidian Oil and once it had been absorbed into the vulcanite I hand buffed it with a soft cloth and took the next two photos to show the finished look of the stem.IMG_3091

IMG_3092 The finished pipe is shown below. The two profile photos show the look of the new button and the revised taper of the stem. It feels great in the hand and in the mouth. The bend matches my other 999 pipes and the overall length actually is the same as the chunkier stemmed early 999s that I have in my collection. I buffed the pipe and stem with White Diamond and gave it several coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a soft flannel buff to raise the shine on the pipe. It looks and smells fresh and clean. It is ready to load with a bowl of Virginia and give an inaugural smoke. In closing look at the grain on this old Shamrock – for the life of me I can find no fills in the briar. It is clean – two or three smalls sandpits but they in no way effect the overall look of the pipe. Amazing, I think that it did indeed slip through during production. No problem for me, I will enjoy it.Shamrock37




A Review – a Jobert Olive Liverpool

Blog by Steve Laug

Johan_SlabbertMany years ago while I was active on the Yahoo pipes page I had conversations with Johan via email and public posts regarding some of his pipes. I was intrigued with the varieties of African wood that he used for his pipes. Good friend John Offerdahl had several pipes made by Johan and I liked the look and feel of them. Over time I settled on an olive wood Liverpool shaped pipe. I contacted Johan and the deal was struck. My olive wood pipe was on its way to Canada.

Recently I had the pipe out and was smoking it and wondered what had ever happened to Johan. I had heard that he had been ill and was no longer making pipes. I had emailed a few times and gotten no response. His website was down and unavailable so that did not bode well in my opinion. When I decided to write up a review of my wonderful pipe by Johan Slabbert the creator and crafter of Jobert pipes I went digging on the web to see if I could find more information regarding what had happened to him. I found a good write up on Pipedia.org http://pipedia.org/wiki/Jobert

The opening two sentences of the article gave me the information I was seeking. All of the posts and interactions I had read had spoken of a serious health issue for Johan. While that may be true it seems that his pipe making was cut short by “the untimely death of his friend and fellow pipe maker Leon du Preez…” Since that time Johan Slabbert no longer made pipes. The opening paragraph goes on to say that this information“was confirmed by his wife”.

The article also included the following for Johan himself. It reminds of what was originally on his website but I cannot confirm that at this point. I have copied the article here for ease of reference:

“I am Johan Slabbert from Goodwood, a suburb of the Cape Peninsula, South Africa.”

“I am a self trained pipe maker and a wood lover. Since my retirement in 1992, I kept myself busy with woodcarving, sculpturing, wood turning and restoring/renovating antique furniture. I also collect antique carpenters’ tools and other memorabilia.”

“During October 2000, while pondering what else I could do, I took one of my old collectors’ pipes and after 30 years I lit up a pipe again. While smoking, the idea came to me to try pipe making. Well, you are seeing the results now.”

“No Briar was available and I used our local obtainable wood like Wild Olive, Leadwood, Mopane, Black Hookthorn and African Black wood, which turned out to be very good smokers and popular among the local pipe smokers. I have since obtained some Briar, which I cherish.”

“My pipes are specially engraved with my logo “JOBERT”, an abbreviation of my first and last names.”
“Since I started creating pipes, I made a lot of pipe smoking friends on the Internet. I am also a member of the “Stuttgarter Pfeifen Freunde-79”, the “Buenos Aires Pipa Club” and the “Confraria Do Cachimbo” of Brazil.”

My own Jobert is a large Liverpool shaped pipe crafted of Wild Olive wood. It is a heavy piece of wood – far heavier than briar of the same size. It is 6 inches long and almost 2 inches tall. The tobacco chamber is 1 9/16 inches deep and 7/8 inches in diameter. The stem is handmade from vulcanite and its taper is smooth enough to make a comfortable stem. The shape execution is well done, though not quite ‘classic’. Johan takes a unique interpretation of traditional shapes. The craftsmanship, drilling and fit are all precise. This finish is natural, and no attempt has been made to mask or cover any imperfections in the graining of the wood. Wild Olive is visually stunning and unique in its pattern and flow.Jobert 1 The look of the pipe, the natural wood and feel of it in my hand continues to keep me coming back to this pipe. I remember when the pipe arrived. I cut open the package, removed the bubble wrapped package on the inside and took the pipe out. I was immediately struck by the look and feel of this pipe. Johan had done a magnificent job on this one and it was beautiful. There is something about the smell and feel of a new pipe that is unique and special. In this case I could almost taste my favourite green olives in the aroma of the new pipe. The grain pattern swirls around the bowl and shank with a contrast between the dark lines and the warm light colour wood between the lines.Examining at it I can see Johan’s masterful plan in laying out the cutting pattern of the piece of wood he chose. It is a beautifully laid out pipe.

The stamping on the shank reads SOUTH AFRICA on the left side neat to the shank/stem union. On the other side it is stamped Jobert in script. The overall flow of the pipe from the bowl to the stem well executed. The natural colours of the olive wood bowl and shank are a stark contrast with the black of the tapered stem. The combination really sets off the pipe and gives it an air of distinction.Jobert 2 The inner mechanics of the pipe are perfect. The drilling is straight and true from the shank and into the bowl – coming out exactly centre in the bottom of the bowl. The airway from the bowl into the mortise is centered. It is smooth in its entrance to the mortise and the mortise itself is also smooth with no rough spot left by drill bit. The end of the shank is sanded smooth and is finished. There is a bevel in the shank end to accommodate the tenon and provide a smooth fit against the shank. The bowl itself is U shaped and smooth from sides to bottom. The air way enters the bowl and is smooth and clean. The draught on the bowl is wide open and effortless. The bowl was bare – no bowl coating had been used to prepare the bowl.Jobert 3 The stem is either hand cut vulcanite or a modified stem blank; it is very hard to tell. The shaping and flow are nicely done and descend gently to the button leaving a good thin bit for the mouth. The taper is even on both sides and the bottom with good even angles top and bottom progressing from the shank to the button. The bit end of the stem is thin and very comfortable. Johan did a great job shaping the stem and capturing a shape that really works with this pipe. The tenon is cut from the vulcanite stem and is quite short and compact. The airway is drilled wide open and lines up with the one in the mortise end. There is a gap between the end of the tenon and the base of the mortise that serves as a short condensation chamber.

The draught of the stem is unrestricted and open. When the pipe is put together the draught is effortless. The fit of the stem to the shank is very well done. The button is cut with a good sharp inner edge and tapered to the tip. It is a thicker button compared to most of my pipes but still works for me. The edge provides a place for the button to fit behind the teeth. The slot is a straight rectangle and fanned out from the slot to the airway in the stem. The inside of the slot is sanded smooth and polished. The airway is absolutely smooth from slot to tenon.Jobert 4 The overall construction of this pipe is very good. While not a work of art per se it is highly functional and delivers a flavourful and cool smoke. The finish is probably the biggest weakness in this pipe. It is rough with sanding scratch marks left behind. More time spent with higher grit sandpaper would have polished the wood to a glassy finish. Over time my hands have rubbed the finish smooth. One day I may well sand it down and refinish it myself but have not done that yet. The pipe is slightly heavier than a briar that is similar in size. It is well balanced and fits well in the hand. I have smoked the pipe a lot since I got it and have chosen to keep it as a designated English or Balkan pipe. Latakia smokes exceptionally well in it and seems to deliver a fuller range of flavours than some of my briar pipes. From the first bowl I smoked in it the pipe delivered a good smoke and continues to do so. It draws well; the lighting has never been a problem and continues to be an effortless smoke.

Thanks Johan for delivering a beautifully grained, well-made functional pipe that remains a very good smoking pipe to this day. Over the years the grain has darkened and both the lighter and darker portions of the bowl have acquired a grey brown hue that is quite nice.Jobert5

Jobert6 If you can acquire a Jobert pipe, regardless of the type of wood, it will not disappoint you. It consistently delivers a great smoke. It may well become a favourite in your rack. For those who have never owned or smoked a Wild Olive pipe, try to find one you like and purchase one, you will not be sorry. Like others have said before me, Olive wood pipes initially impart a very nutty quality to a bowl of tobacco. Eventually as the cake develops in the bowl this property fades.Jobert7

Jobert8 I am sure that this will not be the last Jobert that own. I am on the prowl for one that fits the styles that I am now collecting. One day it will turn up and I will pounce on it. Until then I will continue to look and enjoy smoking this Liverpool. If anyone has heard on Johan is doing I would love to hear from you. If Johan, you happen to read this review of your pipe, I hope that you are well. Know that I continue to enjoy this beauty that was made for me.