Blog by Dal Stanton
I’ve grown to like L J Peretti pipes and I guess you could say, that I’ve started collecting them. Why? My son gave me my first Peretti for Christmas which I restored by splicing the missing part of the stem by cannibalizing another: A Christmas Gift in need of a stem splice – L J Peretti Squared Shank Billiard. It turned out to be a great smoker and I like the stout squared shank.It was my research with this pipe that I discovered the mystique of the Boston-based, L. J. Peretti name and its place in Americana pipe history as the second oldest US Tobacconist started in 1870 (Quoted from Lopes in Pipedia). The L J Peretti Co. continues to serve patrons today in their Boston shop on 2 ½ Park Square by being one of the few places where one can bring his/her pipe and be guided by experienced tobacconists and test several selections before deciding to purchase! I was also attracted to the Peretti story because Boston is a cool city – my son lived there and I enjoyed my visits.The next Peretti I serendipitously received was from a colleague working in Ukraine – a square shanked Rhodesian. He brought it to me when we met last winter in Oslo, Norway, to watch a world-class Biathlon event (skiing and shooting). He wasn’t utilizing him anymore and asked me if I would. Yes! It’s a smaller pipe and good for a shorter smoke. Suddenly, I had two Perettis of Boston! Both, strong, squared shanks – I liked them.Then I drank the Peretti Kool Aid. I bought my own Peretti – well, that’s not the whole truth. I bought 10 pipes of Peretti in a lot for sale on eBay from a seller located in Everett, Massachusetts, just north of Boston. I guess you could say that I’m now a Peretti collector! Of the 10 pictured from the eBay seller below, I chose 4 to add to my personal collection – one of the Oom Paul’s (many to choose from!), the Calabash (top left), the Billiard EX (bottom), and the massive Full Bent Egg in the center of the picture. The remaining Peretti cousins will eventually be restored and put up for adoption in The Pipe Steward Store Front to benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria. I’m pressing to restore and ready the Peretti Full Bent Egg for service because my wife and I will be returning to the US from Bulgaria for a few months and I was hoping to bring this new Peretti along! Now on my worktable, on the 10th floor of a former Communist block apartment building, I take some pictures of the L J Peretti Full Bent Egg in the condition he arrived from Everett, Mass. The pipe is generally in good shape. It shows normal wear and usage. The briar surface is grimy. The narrow, cylindrical bowl is laden with cake which needs removal. The stem is heavily oxidized with tooth chatter and some compressions present. This L J Peretti has enjoyed a lot of use showing that the former steward enjoyed his company. The nomenclature is situated on the left-side of the shank and simply reads, ‘LJ PERETTI CO’ and is very worn. I’ll be careful to preserve it. There are no other markings that I can tell. I take a magnifying glass to the left side of the full bent saddle stem to see if there might be a Peretti ‘P’ stamp hiding in the oxidation, but I see no sign. I’m anxious to recommission this newest of my L J Perretti collection – an extra-large Full Bent Egg. The first step is to put the full bent stem into the OxiClean bath to raise the serious oxidation on the stem. I leave it in the bath overnight. Then, using the Pipnet Reaming Kit (minus blade #3 which broke during the last restoration), I attack the cake in the chamber. I use only the smallest two blades, and the cake easily surrenders. The carbon cake was crusty – like hard toast, and it comes out readily. I finetune the reaming with the Savinelli Fitsall Reaming Knife which can reach down the long, deep chamber. To clean the walls further and to reveal fresh briar for a new start, I wrap 240 grade paper around a Sharpie Pen and sand the chamber. Finally, I wipe out the chamber with a cotton pad and alcohol – ridding the chamber of the carbon dust resulting from the reaming. The chamber condition looks good. The pictures show the progress. Next, I clean the external briar surface. I do this using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a cotton pad. I also employ the use of a brass wire brush to work on the tight rim of the Egg shape as well as my thumb nail to scrape the crusted briar and lava. Grimy was an understatement. The stummel was dirty and the rim came clean through the process, but revealed some burn damage to the slender, vulnerable rim. I’ll need to top the rim gently to remove the scorched, ‘charcoaly’ wood. The cleaning also reveals a beautiful piece of briar – inspecting the surface I find no fills. The large Egg bowl shows a lot of grain movement – very nice! My day is ending and I will let the internals of the stummel clean through the night using a kosher salt/alcohol soak. I’ve never started with the soak before. I’ve always worked first on the internals with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and isopropyl 95% and then followed with a soak. I’ll do the soak and see how it does. I fill the chamber with the kosher salt, that does not leave an aftertaste as does the iodized variety. Then I fashion a cotton wick by stretching and twisting a cotton ball and then stuffing it down the mortise. Its purpose is to draw the tars and oils out during the soak. I then fill the chamber with alcohol using a large eye dropper until it surfaces over the salt. I wait a few minutes and top off the alcohol once more. Then I set the stummel in an egg cart and turn off the lights. Morning has arrived and I check out the progress with the salt/alcohol soak. Both the kosher salt and the cotton wick have darkened indicating the nocturnal stealth activities of cleaning. I remove the expended salt and wipe the chamber with a paper towel and run long-wired bristled brushes in the bowl and through the mortise to remove salt crystals. I then use pipe cleaners and cotton swabs dipped in isopropyl 95% to clean up the leftover gunk from the soak. There were additional oils and tars in the mortise – in the moisture trap underneath the airway drilling, but all clean up quickly and well. I also scrape the mortise walls with dental probes and a pointed needle file to augment the cleaning. Internals clean!It’s time to take the stem out of the OxiClean bath and clean it up. The oxidation has surfaced well during the soak and using 600 grit sanding paper I wet sand the stem to remove the top layer of oxidation and tooth damage to the bit. I follow with 0000 steel wool to reduce the oxidation further and buff up the vulcanite. I now take a closer look at the bit to see what tooth chatter remains. Using 240 grit paper I sand the areas where tooth dents remain on the top and bottom bit. There also remains a dent on the lower button lip. At this point I use the heat method to help minimize the dents that remain. With a lighter, I pass the flame over the bit area and ‘paint’ the vulcanite surface. I don’t want to ‘cook’ the vulcanite but warm it sufficiently to expand the rubber. When this happens, the dents seek their original pre-dental positions. This works very well and the dent on the lower button lip has all but disappeared. I return to using 240 grit paper, followed by 600 then steel wool and the damaged bit areas look great. This time around I will not need to use CA glue to repair the dents.With the stem in hand I turn to cleaning the internal airway. Using only a few pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol and the stem is good to go!Looking now at the scorched rim, I need to remove the charred briar at the 1 to 2 o’clock position on the rim in the picture below. The Egg shape bowl sets off the rim as the shape tightens as it moves toward the rim. It creates a very tight look with the top. The rim appears originally to have been crowned – a gently rounded rim. I will aim toward restoring the crowned rim. First, I top the rim very little – it’s not easy as the shank extends further than the plane of the rim so it will not sit on the topping board. I must hang the shank over the topping board edge to allow the rim to sit flat. I then gently rotate the stummel in a limited fashion. I don’t take much off and then switch to 600 grit paper on the board and rotate the stummel more. Now, using 240 grit paper rolled, I sand the inside of the rim creating a beveling effect and removing the remaining damaged briar. After beveling and cleaning the internal rim lip, I gently bevel the outer lip of the rim. This is sharpening and restoring a rounding of the tight rim. I follow using 600 grit paper which smooth the rim more and enhances the crowned effect I want. The pictures show the results – I like the look of the rim – it enhances the Egg shape.Looking at this large block of briar, the Bird’s Eye grains are wonderfully portrayed in the first 2 pictures below – large landscapes of grain movement – I like that! From my original Peretti research I emailed the L J Peretti Tobacconist Shop in Boston with a question about where their pipes were manufactured. Tom was kind enough to respond, saying that over the years they had used many different sources, but most had been produced by Arlington Briars. I found this about Arlington in Pipedia:
Arlington Briar Pipes Corporation was founded in 1919 in Brooklyn, New York, and produced the Arlington, Briarlee, Firethorn, Krona and Olde London brands among dozens of others, primarily acting as a subcontractor making pipes to be sold under other brand names. Among others, in the 1950’s, Arlington turned pipes for the famed Wilke Pipe Shop in New York City. The corporation was dissolved by the State of New York as inactive on December 6, 1978.
Where ever this L J Peretti Full Bent Egg was birthed, the block of briar used was an excellent specimen and it is now showcased in this striking pipe. I see no fills on this stummel, only minor nicks which is normal for any pipe’s experience. I use a two grades of light sanding sponges to remove these small imperfections. I continue with the grain’s emergence using micromesh pads. I begin by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400, followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000, then 6000 to 12000. There is nothing quite like the natural briar shine that emerges during the micromesh process. The pictures show the transformation. I will stain the bowl keeping it on the lighter side by using Fiebing’s Light Brown Leather Dye and adding alcohol to it. I use a 2 to 1 ratio of Light Brown to alcohol. I first clean the stummel with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol. I mix the ratio of dye/alcohol in a shot glass and insert a cork into the shank to serve as a handle. I heat the stummel with a hot air gun to expand the briar better to receive the dye. After warmed, I use a folded pipe cleaner to apply the dye to the bowl. After fully covered with dye, I fire the aniline dye using a lit candle. The alcohol burns off setting the pigment in the grain. I wait a few minutes then repeat the process. I then put the stummel aside to rest. With the stummel resting, I turn again to the stem and wet sand it using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400, then dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000, then 6000 to 12000. After each cycle, I apply Obsidian Oil to restore vitality to the vulcanite. The full bent saddle stem was a chore to hang on to and sand with the tight angles, but the stem looks good and has that new vulcanite pop! It is finally time to unwrap the stained and fired stummel to see what we have underneath! I enjoy this part of the restoration process primarily to see the grain emerge – this large Egg shaped stummel holds great promise. I mount a felt buffing wheel onto the Dremel and set the speed at the lowest which is 20% of its power. I apply the more abrasive Tripoli compound to the stummel to do the unwrapping of the crusted shell. To reach into the crook between the shank and stummel, I switch to an angled felt buffing wheel to remove the wrapper from the hard to reach place. To lighten the stain and to blend the dye, using a cotton pad wetted with alcohol, I wipe the stummel. This is an advantage of using aniline dyes for staining. The alcohol wipe clouds the finish but this is normal. I follow now by mounting a cotton cloth buffing wheel onto the Dremel and set at 40% speed, I apply the less abrasive Blue Diamond compound to buff-sand the stummel, as well as the full bent saddle stem which I remount. After completing the application of Blue Diamond compound on stem and stummel, to remove compound dust before waxing, I buff the pipe with a felt cloth. Then, I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel and maintain the speed at 40% and apply several coats of carnauba wax to the Egg shape stummel and full bent saddle stem. The wax protects the surfaces but it also causes the shine and natural gloss of the briar to shine – I don’t know how to describe the natural beauty of briar when it shines through – and this L J Peretti is making a statement! After completing the application of carnauba wax I give the pipe a rigorous hand buffing and I’m enjoying the view.This L J Peretti Full Bent Egg is a beautiful example of briar grain coming and going. The size and the feel of the large Egg stummel in my hand fits like a glove. The tight, cylindrical bowl’s apex with the thin, crowned rim is classy. I’m happy to add this Peretti to my Peretti collection and I look forward to trying him out with a bowl of my favorite blend, Lane BC. The pipes I restore and don’t adopt myself, are put in The Pipe Steward Store Front which benefits our work with the Daughters of Bulgaria, women and girls who have been sexually exploited and trafficked. Thanks for joining me!