Blog by Dal Stanton
This Peterson’s System Standard Republic 312 came to me in the Lot of 66 that I secured last year on the eBay auction block. This eclectic collection of pipes has been good to me and beneficial for the Daughters of Bulgaria as I’ve recommissioned many pipes of this Lot and they are now in the hands of new stewards. This Pete can be found in the picture below just cattycorner to the lower left of the Sculpted Gourd Calabash that was already recommissioned and with a new steward in Washington State, USA – a US Airforce pipe man serving his country. The Pete now on my worktable was commissioned by a long-time friend and colleague who worked with us while we lived in Ukraine several years ago – before we lived here in Bulgaria. Debbie contacted me from her present home in the US state of Montana about acquiring a special pipe for her husband’s birthday. Unfortunately, James’ birthday was coming on a faster timetable than I could accommodate, so we settled on a special Christmas gift. She looked through the offerings on the www.ThePipeSteward.com section called, For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only and after getting input from James’ best friend, settled on the Pete. When I asked her why the Pete, the response was that it was a manly looking pipe as well as its origins – the Republic of Ireland. James’ rich heritage finds Irish roots, and Debbie felt that this Pete’s disposition would suit James well. What a great wife! So, in the queue the Pete 312 went and now he’s on my worktable.
Not long ago, I enjoyed restoring my first Peterson’s – a System Standard 313 which allowed me the opportunity to look more closely at the history of this well-known Irish pipe name. What I found interesting and helpful was the description of the classic Peterson System Pipe. When this design hit the market in the late 1800s it was innovative then and continues to be popular today. Two design innovations were the focus: a trap (or sump) that collected the moisture in the mortise and the well-known ‘P-Lip’ stem, which stands for ‘Peterson’. This design was supposed to be superior by directing the smoke to the upper part of the mouth rather than burning the tongue. It is also engineered to compress the air as it moves toward the button with an internal narrowing of the airway. I found this helpful cut-out of the System Pipe at Pipedia’s article about Peterson.The System 313, I last restored, was quite a bit smaller than this larger System Standard 312. I found a very helpful Peterson’s System Standard shapes chart at the ‘Amazingmisterp’ blog site – link. It helpfully situated the 313 and 312 next to each other for an easy comparison – circled below. I enjoy looking at the nuanced shapes that Peterson has produced through the years. I can understand why they continue to be a very collectable pipe name and why it would be a great challenge to add to your collection the entire roster! As a ‘Made in the Republic of Ireland’ stamped Peterson, it is considered to be Republic Era which spans anywhere from 1949 until the present (from the Pipedia article: A Peterson Dating Guide; A Rule of Thumb, by Mike Leverette).The Peterson history is captured in a short article found in Pipedia which included a bit here:
History pertinent to our purposes began in the year 1865; the year Charles Peterson opened a small tobacco shop in Dublin. Later in 1875, Charles Peterson approached the Kapp brothers, Friedrich and Heinrich, with a new pipe design and with this, a very long-lived partnership was formed, Kapp & Peterson. This new pipe design is the now famous Peterson Patented System Smoking Pipe. By 1890, Kapp & Peterson was the most respected pipe and tobacco manufacturer in Ireland and rapidly gaining followers in England and America. In 1898 another of Peterson’s remarkable inventions became available, the Peterson-Lip (P-Lip) mouthpiece, also known as the Steck mouthpiece. So, for the purpose of this dating guide, we will study Irish history, relevant to our pipe dating needs, from 1870s until now.
With the Peterson’s System Standard 312 now on my worktable, I take some pictures to get a closer look and assess his condition. The nomenclature is clear. On the left side of the shank is stamped in arched fashion, ‘PETERSON’S’ over ‘SYSTEM’ over ‘STANDARD’ in straight letters. Above this stamp, on the nickel ferule is ‘K&P PETERSONS’. The right side of the shank bears the ‘MADE IN THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND’ placing it in the Republic Era – from 1949 until the present (from the Pipedia article: A Peterson Dating Guide; A Rule of Thumb, by Mike Leverette) The shape number, 312, is below it.
Assessing the condition of this larger, stately Pete, there’s cake in the chamber that needs to be cleared to allow fresh start. The rim has some lava caked on it and some burn damage from lighting the tobacco. The left front of the stummel is darkened from the briar over-heating in the same area that appears to be the lighting point over the rim. I see very nice briar under the dull finish. The heel of the stummel appears to have two larger fills that I’ll need to take a closer look at. The heel is also skinned up. The P-Lip stem has heavy and deep oxidation as well as calcification on the button and some tooth chatter. I also detect two deep gashes on the upper and on the lower stem – almost like something sharp was clenching the stem. That will need repair.
With the assessment completed, I start the restoration of James’ Christmas Pete by placing the heavily oxidized P-Lip stem in a bath of Before & After Deoxidizer along with five other pipes’ stems that are in queue for restoration. The Pete is on the far left – first in line of this batch.While the stem is soaking for several hours in the Deoxidizer, I turn to the Peterson stummel. I start my using the Pipnet Reaming Kit. Starting with the smallest blade head, I go to work. I use two of the four blades available to do the heavy lifting on cake removal. I then fine tune the reaming by utilizing the Savinelli Fitsall Tool by scaping the chamber wall. Then, after wrapping 240 grade paper around a Sharpie Pen, I sand the chamber revealing fresh briar. Finally, I clean the chamber using cotton pads wetted with isopropyl 95% to remove the residual carbon dust. With the carbon cake removed, I inspect the chamber and it looks great. No problems with crack or heat fissures. The pictures show the progress. Now I turn to cleaning the external bowl using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and cotton pads. I also utilize a brass wire brush on the rim. After scrubbing, I rinse the bowl in cool tap water. The rim is not in good shape and will have to be topped to clean it up. The two fills I saw on the heel of the stummel are not solid and are not flush with the surface. I use a sharp dental probe to dig out the old filler. I will patch these later. With my day ending, I decide to move forward on the heel fill patches to allow them time to cure through the night. I do additional excavation of the old fill material with a sharp dental probe to remove what I can. I then wipe the area with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to assure that it is clean. I mix a small batch of CA glue and briar dust to create a putty. Using a toothpick, I gradually mix the CA glue with the briar dust until it reaches the viscosity of molasses and then apply the briar dust putty to the old fills using a dental spatula. I apply more than needed to create a mound to be sanded down and blended after cured. I set the stummel aside and turn off the lights. Morning has come and first order of business before heading out for the workday is to pluck the P-Lip military style stem out of the Before and After Deoxidizer bath. I allow the stem to drain for a few minutes then I use cotton pads with light paraffin oil to wipe the raised oxidation off the stem. I also use alcohol to clean the surface as well as with pipe cleaners to make sure the airway is cleared. The Deoxidizer has done a good job, but I still detect oxidation that will require sanding the vulcanite. The button also is rough with a combination of tooth dents and calcification ridges that linger. Of course, the twin ‘pincer’ gashes remain at the mid-stem. The Before & After Deoxidizer bath is the first salvo.I decide that the second more aggressive salvo to attack the deep oxidation, gashes and tooth dents is to use 240 grade sanding paper over the entire surface of the P-Lip stem – of course, care is given to safe-guard the ‘P’ embedded on the stem. After completing sanding with 240 grade paper, I wet sand the stem using 600 grade paper. Then, using 0000 grade steel wool, I sand/buff up the stem. The sanding process removed the major difficulties with the dents and gashes. I’m hopeful as well, that the oxidation was also dispatched.While my focus is still on the stem, I apply Before & After Fine Polish, working the polish in with my fingers. After letting it set a few minutes I wipe the polish off with a cotton pad then in the same way, apply Before & After Extra Fine Polish and let it absorb for a few minutes. I then wipe it down again with a cotton pad. These polishes not only help to revitalize the vulcanite but also to continue removing the oxidation.Moving forward, using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400, I wet sand the stem. Following this, I dry sand using pads 3200 to 4000 then 6000 to 12000. After each set of 3 I apply Obsidian Oil to continue refreshing the vulcanite P-Stem. I love the glossy pop of the vulcanite after the micromesh process. I take pictures to show the progress and I put the stem aside to dry. Turning to the Peterson stummel, the briar dust and CA glue patches have cured and time to file and sand the mounds down. First, using a flat needle file I file down the excess putty mounds almost to the briar surface. I take a picture of the starting point, then the filing process. Then, switching to 240 grit paper I continue the sanding process to the briar surface. The picture below shows how after the excess is sanded away, the briar dust putty is left providing a new, stronger fill in the briar blemishes. I then switch to 600 grade paper to finish the sanding to this point. Flipping the stummel over, I tackle the significant rim damage. I take a picture to get a closer look. The rim is darkened from scorching but also it has developed dips in the surface plane from burn damage. To repair the rim and establish a clean, new plane surface, I top the bowl. Using a kitchen chopping board, I place 240 grit paper on it and gently rotate the inverted stummel in circles – checking often to make sure I’m not leaning into a soft area. After a few rotations I take a picture of the rim. The picture below shows the degree of damage to the rim by revealing where the board is not making contact with briar – the dips in the rim. The next picture shows where I stop topping with the 240 grit paper. I don’t want to take more briar off the top. I kept my eye on the nickel shank ferule which was very close to the rim plane as I was topping. I did not want to scratch it up! After the 240 grit, I replaced it with a sheet of 600 grit paper to erase the scratching created by the 240 grit paper.The darkened areas on the rim (picture above) are residual effects of scorching. To minimize this, I will cut an internal rim bevel to remove the damage as well as adding a touch of class to this already classy Peterson’s System Standard. I start with a coarse 120 grit paper to do the initial beveling. I pinch the rolled piece with my thumb and rotate it around the internal rim circumference creating the even bevel. I follow the 120 paper with a rolled piece of 240 grade paper then 600. I repeat the same process for the external rim circumference. The bevel looks good. The pictures show the progression. I just realize that I became so involved in the technical aspects of this restoration that I forgot to clean the internals of the stummel! Back to the dirty work. I use pipe cleaners and cotton buds dipped in isopropyl 95% and go to work. I also use dental spatulas and probes to scrape the mortise walls. I also utilize a shank brush to scrub the airway and the mortise walls. I read how challenging Petersons are in the clean-up and this one is no exception. I expend a lot of cotton buds, alcohol and time and I seem to be making no dent in the gunk carnage. I finally halt this approach and decide to let it cook overnight in a kosher salt and alcohol bath. Using a cotton ball, I fashion a wick which I insert down the airway and into the sump area of the mortise. I fill the bowl with kosher salt, which, unlike iodized salt, does not leave an aftertaste. I then fill the bowl with alcohol and let it sit overnight. Time to turn out the lights. The next morning the kosher salt/alcohol bath did the job through the night. The salt is discolored and the cotton ‘wick’ has drawn tars and oils out of the internals. After removing the expended salt into the waste and wiping the old salt out of the chamber with paper towel, I blow through the mortise to clear out salt from the internals. I then follow by using pipe cleaners and cotton buds to make sure things are clean. Oh my…. The grunge continues unabated! This is one of the nastiest pipes I’ve tackled! I’ve read that Petersons are notoriously difficult to clean…. Since I’m running out of time – I need to go to work, I decide to do another kosher salt soak through the day while I’m working. Off I go…hopeful that the second time is the charm.Several hours later, home from work, and again, the salt is discolored, and the wick shows evidence of gunk extraction. Again, I clear the salt from the chamber and use additional cotton buds and pipe cleaners – I’m pleasantly surprised to find that the internals are indeed clean! I use only one cotton bud and pipe cleaner. I can almost guarantee, this Peterson is the cleanest it’s been since it came from the factory in Ireland!Turning to the stummel surface, to remove the old tired surface finish and nicks and cuts from normal wear, I wet sand the stummel using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400. I follow by dry sanding using pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000. I take pictures recording each step of the micromesh process. I enjoy watching the grain emerge – this is one of my favorite parts of restoration. To enrich and deepen the briar grain, I then apply Before & After Restoration Balm to the stummel surface. I apply some to my finger and work the Balm into the briar. It starts with having a light oil texture and then thickens as it’s worked into the surface – taking on a wax-like texture. I take a picture of the Balm on the stummel surface and set it aside to allow the Balm to absorb.After about 45 minutes, I use a cloth and wipe the Before & After Restoration off the stummel. As I wipe and rub it begins to start buffing up. I like how the Balm works – it is a subtle enhancement to the briar grain hue that deepens the color. I now mount the Dremel with a cotton cloth buffing wheel, set the speed to the slowest, and apply Blue Diamond compound to both stem and stummel. I apply the compound methodically around the briar surface using the table lamp to see the movement of the compound on the surface as I move the buffing wheel. As a fine abrasive, the compound removes the very fine blemishes on the stem and stummel surface – buffing the surface to it natural sheen. I change to another cotton cloth wheel and use the Blue Diamond to clean/buff the Peterson’s classic nickel ferule. When I finish applying the compound, I wipe the stummel and stem with a felt cloth to remove the compound dust in preparation for the carnauba wax application.Before I move on to applying the wax, I have one more project. The Peterson ‘P’ stamp on the stem needs some touching up. I use white acrylic paint to do the enhancement. I lightly apply a coat of the paint over the ‘P’ stamping and while still wet, I dab it very lightly with a cotton pad leaving a film – in the second picture below. It doesn’t take long to dry, leaving the ‘P’ filled with paint. I then lightly scrape the dried paint off the surface using the middle, flat section of a toothpick. The toothpick slides over the top of the ‘P’ leaving the freshened stamping. It looks great! I now mount another cotton cloth wheel to the Dremel, increase the speed to about 40% of full power, and apply carnauba wax to both stummel and stem. I follow this by giving the stummel and P-Lip stem a hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine.
My oh my, did this Peterson come out nicely – he is stately. The stem reach gives a long flowing impression. The briar grain is rich with bird’s eye and swirls – pleasing to the eye. The 312 is a larger System pipe and feels full in the palm. I’m sure James will appreciate the gift that his wife has provided him under the tree this year and I’m thankful their support of the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited. Thank you, James and Debbie! Debbie found this Peterson’s System Standard Republic 312 in the “For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only” section of The Pipe Steward website where many pipes are available to be commissioned – all benefitting the Daughters of Bulgaria – a great cause helping women who are/were enslaved. Thank you for joining me! I start with a ‘Before & After’ picture lest we forget – an amazing transformation!