Daily Archives: April 6, 2015

You Got To Know When To Hold ‘Em – Pap’s Pipes

Blog by Patrick Russell

“On a warm summer’s eve, on a train bound for nowhere, I met up with a gambler; we were both too tired to sleep…” – All italicized quotes are from the Gambler by Kenny Rogers (used without permission).

Last summer I was presented with a wonderful challenge by my good friend Dave. Dave, like me, is a younger pipe man. Okay, he’s almost ten years younger than me… but who’s counting. Dave pulled me aside during a pipe club meeting and said, “Pat, can you do something with these?” Dave put four pipes into my hands, “These are my grand-dad’s pipes. He always had one of them in his mouth. Pap loved these pipes.” Like lots of you folks who clean up estate pipes, I often do resto work for free for friends. More often than not, the friend will dash me a tin of ‘baccy or will send me a tip on an estate lot. But that’s not why I do it. I do free resto work for friends for the same reason you do, because you like the person, and they asked for help. My only rule with this kind of work is that the friend has to be on no timeline. When your wife is pregnant, or you have a seven month old, this is an important rule.

Dave put those pipes into my hand last July, before we had our beautiful baby girl, and before I fell out of the pipe cave and into the blue eyes of my daughter. But I digress. The pipes…

Pap loved those pipes. He really, really, loved those pipes. Dave said that Pap was a stuff ’em and puff ’em guy and a cursory look at the pipes backed up the story. All four airways blocked. Cake thick enough to require the smallest reamer head. There was enough oil on the outside of the pipes that grain was impossible to find, and I’m pretty sure that most of the pipes started with a button. “I’ll do it,” I said.Pat1




Pat5 Dave loved his Pap, and really wanted these pipes in good working order. I really wanted to be the guy to make that happen for Dave.

“He said, ‘Son I’ve made a life out of readin’ people’s faces, knowin’ what the cards were by the way they held their eyes…”

Estate pipes tell you a lot about what can, and can’t, be done to them if you know where and how to look. The first thing I do when I’m cleaning up a pipe is to soak the stems in an Oxyclean bath while I ream the tobacco chamber and then do a surface clean of the rim and stummel. This, generally, lets me investigate the pipe well enough to know what kind of work the resto of it is going to need to get the pipe back into a smoking rotation. I have limits to my skill, some of which I’ll press so I can learn new skills, but never will I do this with pipes that aren’t mine. I sure as hell wasn’t going to go beyond my skill level with Pap’s pipes.Pat6







Pat13“And the night got deathly quiet, and his face lost all expression. He said, ‘If you’re gonna play the game boy, you gotta learn to play it right…”

Did you see what I saw when I was cleaning those pipes? Let me give you a closer look…

Reamed out of round, with a nasty gouge. That wasn’t me… that looks to me like a pocket knife. Rim badly gouged from knocking out on… life. And the coup de grace… a bad split on the top of the shank.Pat14

Pat15 Rim charring doesn’t cover it, this is rim charred. Any more smokes without the cake that I’d just removed and this prince was going to be a cinder.Pat16 Fills the size of Manhattan… I know, they are cosmetic only, but look closely at what lies in the fill on the second pic.Pat17

Pat18 Um… Yep. That’s a burnout, with the Grand Canyon in the middle of it.Pat19

“Every gambler knows that the secret to survivin’ is knowing what to throw away, and knowin’ what to keep…”

I had to stop. I had cleaned the tars off the surface of the pipes. I had cleared the airways and sanitized the stems. I had reamed the tobacco chambers and done three salt and alcohol treatments… and I still hadn’t broken through the collected dottle and juice which had petrified in the draught holes of the stummels. But if I did any more work on these pipes there was every likelihood that Dave wouldn’t have Pap’s pipes anymore.

“And somewhere in the darkness, the gambler he broke even, but in his final words I found an ace that I could keep.”

I returned Pap’s pipes to Dave last month at our pipe club night. Was he disappointed? He would have loved to have smoked them, but I think he’s happiest to still have them.

Preview: Peterson Founder’s Edition / Limited Edition 2015 Pipe

The Founder’s edition shape has the classic Peterson look… hmm should I order one?

peterson pipe notes

Founders Edition LE 2015
It’s almost here, and if you follow Jim Lilley’s Peterson Pipes Pinterest or the IPPC blog, you’ve already seen it—the Limited Edition / Pipe of the Year for 2015.

This year’s pipe is arguably the most important release in the series nineteen-year history, surpassing the Y2000 double-release.* I don’t have one in hand, so I can’t give you the measurements, but Tom Palmer tells me “it’s definitely larger than the Sherlock Holmes series.” The extra-large bowls, or possibly XXL bowls, may mean a bit slower roll-out than usual, Tom says, as this size bowl is more difficult to source.

This year’s LE will have a higher count of numbered pipes than the usual 1,000—1,865, in fact, to celebrate the 150th Anniversary. The POY of course will be issued unnumbered in rustic and sandblast finishes. Both pipes will be available in P-Lip and fishtail, so System users, demand that P-Lip! A…

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Peterson Chubbies, Part 1: The 999 John Bull (Bent Rhodesian)

This has to be my all time favourite shape Mark. Thanks for the write up.

peterson pipe notes

999 John Bull Shamrock

I don’t know how long I’ve been in love with Chubby pipes, but my awareness (so to speak) first dawned when Luca di Piazza teamed up with Luigi Radice several years ago and began releasing the Neatpipes/Radice Chubby Billiard. In the years since, Luca and Luigi have issued a number of chubby shapes, and several of the Italian artisans represented by Luca at his Neatpipes boutique have offered their own versions.

What is it about fat pipes that makes them so… so je ne sais quoi? I can’t speak for others, but for myself it seems to be something to do with comfort. Not only how they feel in the hand, but how they look.*

Anyway, if you’re both a Pete Nut and a Chubby fan, it won’t come as a surprise that Peterson and Chubby go together like Laurel and Hardy, Gilbert and Sullivan, or Sherlock and Watson. We…

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New Peterson Pipes for 2015

Thanks Mark for this catalogue – lots of eye candy to grab our interest.

peterson pipe notes

New Products 2015b

I’m excited to present the Ashton Catalog of New Peterson Products for 2015, which makes its web debut for Pete Nuts here at Peterson Pipe Notes. Some of it you’ve seen from the IPPC Forum, but some of it may be new to you. All the pipes are in production at the moment, although only the St. Patrick’s Day is in wide release. You can expect the others, says Tony Whelan, Jr., factory manager at Sallynoggin, in April–if you’re in Europe. For those on this side of the Pond, factor in about 4-6 weeks pod-travel-time for a mid-May / June arrival. I didn’t see the Christmas Pipe 2015 in the catalog, but I expect it’ll be along later in the year, given the success of the 2014 series.

Conor Palmer forwarded several photos of the new issues for 2015, which I’ve included below. As is so often the case…

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Birth of a Handmade JSEC Egg

Blog by Steve Laug

When I met with James in Stuttgart recently I spoke about ordering another pipe from him. On the evening of the day we met I went on his website and a couple of US based sites that carry his pipes and nothing truly caught my eye. I went through his photo gallery of pipes that he had made over the years and chose two different shapes from his website and sent him my request. I really like his Speckled Egg shape and his uniquely rusticated Ria shape. I emailed him regarding these two pipe shapes and let him know of my interest. He said he would let me know when he cut another one of either pipe.

I traveled from Stuttgart to Berlin to meet with another team and do some development work for the Foundation I work for. Then on my last day in Berlin, before heading back to Canada, I got an email from James about a pipe he was in the process of carving. Here is a portion of that email “…I got the urge to do a Speckled Egg… I’ll send you pictures once it’s done… absolutely zero obligation… I just like making the shape… you have first dibs on it if you want”. I could not believe he was already working on one of the shapes I had mentioned. I have to tell you I was really looking forward to seeing the photos of the pipe that he would send.

I spent Friday in the air between Berlin and Vancouver and thus totally out of the loop for emails. When I arrived back in Canada though, I had an email waiting for me with the first photos of the new pipe he was working on. It is shown in the photo below of a group of four that he is currently working on. The pipe that I was interested in is on the bottom left of the photo below.JSEC1 Included with that photo were several other photos showing the new pipe with the one that he had been smoking when we had coffee together. He wrote the following, “As you can see the bowl is more defined… I placed the other in the pic for comparison… I can bring in the shank side of the bowl a tic more if you prefer that, but it sits really nicer in the hand than the original…This is the how the shape has morphed over the years… I have several… It’s my favorite shape…” With those words and the photos he had me. I wanted this pipe to be mine.JSEC2


JSEC4 Once I had decided that this was the pipe for me James sent me some choices for the stem material. In the above photos he used a black Ebonite and that was beautiful but I had also seen some of his Cumberland stems. There was a particular Cumberland that he had used on other pipes that I liked. It was a Briar Cumberland. That is what I decided to go with and a stain colour that would match. James sent me the following email after I made my choices: “You won’t be disappointed (with the briar Cumberland)… It’s beautiful material… Me and one other guy are the only ones I know using it a lot 😉 The black is a classic color and you can’t go wrong with it, but Cumberland stems are my favorite… I got a lot of criticism from the U.S. Makers early on because of it… Makes me chuckle now… Since they started using different Cumberland mixes in the last year or two. Have a great rest of your weekend… I’ll send you some progression pictures when they warrant it… James”.

Now the wait began. I was looking forward to the updates on the pipe that would come via email. I have to tell you that James letting me be a part of the process of the birth of this pipe was a special bonus for me. I was excited to see how the pipe would develop when he sent the next installments.

I did not have to wait too long. On Sunday morning (Vancouver time) I woke to several more emails from James. These all included updates and photos of the pipe. It had been stained with his contrast colour stains. It looked very similar to the pipe he smoked while we were together in Stuttgart. The newly cut Briar Cumberland stem looked amazing. I could not wait to see it polished. I loved both the shape and the colours of the pipe and stem. The swirls on the Cumberland stem are very similar to the stem on a pipe I had made by Todd Bannard of Briar Sweat and Tears http://www.briarsweatandtears.com/. James included the following message with the photos: “Getting closer… Wait until the stem is polished and bent… ;-)”JSEC5



JSEC8 I wrote James about my excitement at the look of the stem and the pipe. I really liked the way the Cumberland stem had come out and noted that. James replied, “I told you the briar Cumberland is nice… wait till it’s polished up… it will almost match the colors of the pipe itself”.

The next morning when I opened my email there was another email from James that included five more update pictures of the polished stem. He wrote: “I think you’ll be pleased with the stem… I love this material… And it shines up really nice… and has an awesome pattern on it.”

Once again I wrote back letting him know that the pipe was amazing in my book and I was very pleased. I asked him about the dimensions and he responded with a few more pictures and the dimensions of the pipe. Here are the dimensions:

Length: 5″ 127mm
Width: 1 5/8” 41mm
Height: 2″ 51mm
Bowl depth: 1 3/8” – 1 ½” 35-37mm depending on where you fill it to
Weight: 56 grams

James also wrote: “I normally coat my bowls on all my pipes… but if you don’t want the bowl coated, I’ll need to know before the weekend… I don’t mind leaving it bare for you… I’m pretty sure you know how to smoke a pipe… Ha, ha. James.” I wrote back and asked that he leave it bare for me.JSEC9




JSEC13 The rest of the week went past quickly with no updates. I knew James put a finish coat on the pipe to set the stain and then did some more polishing. Whatever the process was he said it took about a week before the pipe was completed. Then on Good Friday I received an email that the pipe was finished. James included the following information in his email: “Steve it’s done…. 😉 I like the way the colors came out… Would you like it mailed via German Mail…I can do that tomorrow… or US Mail…that will have to wait till Monday… the German mail should be quicker by a day or two…would be mailed as an international letter… works like a charm each time.”
James included the following finished photos of the pipe to make me salivate. I can’t wait to see it in person. I paid James via PayPal, sent him and email that German mail would be fine. He sent me a notice that the payment came through and a tracking number to trace the shipment.JSEC14









JSEC23 I have to tell you, I have checked that tracking number on the postal site every day since he sent it to see the progress of the pipe from Stuttgart to Vancouver. Can’t wait until I hold it in hand and see firsthand the workmanship that James puts into his pipes. I am already scheming what tobacco tp break it in with. I have a bit of Mc Clellands 5100 mixed with some Perique that has about 5 years or more in the jar. That may well be my break in smoke. We shall see.

One of the surprises found in the craigslist lot – A Castello Sea Rock 15AF

Blog by Steve Laug

One of the surprises in the craigslist lot I purchased was a Castello Sea Rock 15FA military mount billiard. When I saw the photos in the seller’s advertisement I only saw a rusticated billiard and in the way it laid in the pipe rack it was unclear it was a military mount or a Castello. When I got it home and looked at the assortment I was surprised to see that it was indeed a Castello Sea Rock. It is shown in the photo below – the third pipe down on the right side.craig5 I think this must have been a pipe the seller loved as it was well smoked. There was still a bowl of tobacco unlit in the depths of the bowl. The cake was quite uneven but was thick around the top of the bowl. The rim was overflowing with tars and oils to the point that it had clogged the rustication on the top. It was higher in some places than others from the buildup. The outer edges of the rim were knocked about to the degree that it was work and there were scratches and stain missing from the edges. The stem was dirty on the end like it had sported a softie bit and had some calcification on it. There were also tooth marks on the topside and underside of the stem near the button. The button itself had some damage and scratches. The tenon end was also covered with a buildup of calcium on the end around the insert in the end cap.Cas1 The stem had the “diamond” inset on the side that showed that it was originally made for the North American Market. I did a bit of research and found some information on the stem logo. I quote: “American logo’d Castello pipes use a small round “Diamond” (referred to and looking like, but it is NOT actually a diamond) inlaid into the mouthpiece. This was originally done so that the standard Castello white bar logo did not conflict with another brand and logo that was sold by Wally Frank called the “White Bar Pipe” (in the 1950’s).” I also found that “The SEA ROCK [Carved Black or dark brown] is the lowest grade of the Castello line and is the most common in the USA. Sea Rocks are produced by taking a smooth bowl that has not been “final finished” and surface carving the finish with tools. This “carved” finish is then evened out using a steel wire brush, stained and then waxed.” This information was found and condensed from the PCCA Castello Grade & Style Guide – by Robert C. Hamlin (c) 1988, 1992, 1994.Cas2


Cas4 The two photos below show the buildup on the rim more closely. The thick tars and oils over flowed on the top of the rim. You can see that the rustication is buried under the lava.Cas5

Cas6 The next two close up photos show the stem with the bite marks on the top and the bottom side and the calcification on the surface of the stem. In the second photo there is also buildup around the insert end of the stem.Cas7

Cas8 I reamed back the cake to bare wood to remove the uneven surface with a PipNet reamer. I started with the second cutting head and finished with the third cutting head.Cas9

Cas10 I used a brass wire brush and a dental pick to work on the tars on the rim. I scrubbed it and then used a tooth brush to put Murphy’s Oil Soap on the rim. It softened the tars enough that I scrubbed it again with the wire brush and picked at it with the dental pick. I rinsed off the soap with running water and then dried the bowl.Cas11



Cas14 I restained the worn areas on the top of the rim and the outer edges with a Guardsman Stain pen. I used the dark stain pen as it matched the rest of the bowl. Once I had touched up the stain I rubbed the top of the rim with a cotton cloth to blend the stain into the rest of the rim colour.Cas15

Cas16 I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth chatter and the tooth marks. I also sanded the stem to remove the calcification. I then sanded it with a medium and fine grit sanding sponge to reduce the scratching.Cas17


Cas19 I sanded the stem with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil between each set of three pads.Cas20


Cas22 I also polished the edges of the end cap to remove the worn areas on the surface. I fit the stem back into the shank and hand polished the stem with a cotton polishing cloth. I gave the bowl a coat of Halcyon II wax and buffed it with a shoe brush. The photos below show the pipe after the buff with the brush.Cas23



Cas26 The next close up photo shows the stamping on the pipe. It is stamped CASTELLO over SEA ROCK BRIAR on the flat portion of the shank bottom. To the left of that stamping it reads MADE IN CANTU over ITALY and to the left of it is the number 15 over AF. The end cap is also stamped HAND MADE over CASTELLO over 5.Cas27 The next series of photos shows the finished pipe. I lightly buffed it with a soft flannel buffing pad. It raised the shine on the briar. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond and then gave the stem several coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the entire pipe lightly with the clean soft buff.Cas28




Cas32 After looking at the finished photos I decided to give it a light rubdown with olive oil. I wanted to enliven the finish and what better way than to add some Italian Olive Oil to and Italian briar.Castello1





ADDENDUM: I wrote this while wondering about the 15 AF stamping. I knew that the 15 was the shape stamp but the AF threw me for a loop. I posted on both Smokers Forums and Pipe Smokers Unlimited Forum and asked for help. Many offered suggestions. Several said to write Mike Glukler of Briarblues so I did that. Mike replied fairly quickly that he had no idea about the mystery stamp but sent it on to Marco at Novelli, and Castello collector Dave Peterson. Dave replied that he believes that it stands for Army Fitment. He went on to say that the newer army fit pipes that he has have the letter (SC) size designation and have no AF suffix so he assumes the AF stamp was discontinued in the early 60’s. He also said he would check with some others. So it seems I have a tentative answer regarding the stamping.

ADDENDUM 2: Bill on Pipe Smokers Unlimited wrote to Castello and asked them what the stamping meant. He posted their response this morning:

“Steve here is the Castello response and I think you will be quite pleased and surprised.

Dear Customer,
thank you for your inquiry,
the number stands for the shape 15, the billiard. Then “A” stands for
“amici” = friends, “F” stands for flock.
That is a pipe given to friends (read “not for sale”) with a flock. I
hope it helps.”

You got to love the pipesmoking community and the wealth of information available to us if we ask.