Peterson Shape 56 Mystery – Solved!

By Al Jones

July 31,2019 UPDATE:
Well, the Shape 56 mystery is now resolved. Despite all my google efforts, I yielded only two other hits on the Shape 56, as detailed below. Mark Irwin was also stumped but came up with the theory below, that the Shape 56 was for the British market only. Well, further sleuthing from the worlds foremost Peterson authority yielded an answer – which came directly from a blog entry here on Reborn Pipes, by our very own Steven Laug. In 2015, Steve posted a catalog from Canadian importer, Genin, Trudeau & Co. which shows their unique numbering system. I even comment that the Shape 56 looks like a 9BC! So, all the while, the answer was hiding on this blog! Below is that brochure page showing the Shape 56. Steven comments that the postal code used in the address dates the brochure to between 1962 and 1969. I guess not many Canadians appreciated the shape, so they are pretty uncommon. Thanks to Mark Irwin for his superior memory and to Steve for making this type of ephemera available, you never know when it will come in handy.

Genin, Trudeau & Co. Brochure

Original Entry:

If you read any of my posts here or on the PipesMagazine forum, you’ll quickly learn that I am partial to a few select pipe shapes, primarily the Rhodesian. But my all-time favorite shape is the Peterson 9BC, chubby bent billiard. I learned about this shape several years ago on Mark Irwins blog, “Peterson Pipe Notes”.

Peterson Pipe Notes

Mark is a great friend and incredible resource for all things Peterson. He is also the co-author of The Peterson Pipe, a must have for anyone who enjoys and collects Peterson pipes.

Over the past few years, I’ve acquired several 9BC’s in various finishes, including a Shamrock that I featured in this blog a few months ago. I can usually spy a 9BC, despite the way it may be listed. I found this pipe advertised as a Shape 56 Kapruf, which puzzled me, as I never encountered this shape number. It definitely looked like a 9BC or the modern version, the XL90. However the nomenclature did indeed look like it was a “56”. The 9BC is a pre-Republic shape and this pipe was stamped “Made in the Republic of Ireland”, so I assume it was made after 1949. It’s not too often that I get a thrill from an estate pipe. However working on a shape I’ve never encountered definitely gets me excited.

When the pipe arrived, sure enough, it was identical to my 9BC’s in all aspects, save one. The button was significantly slimmer than those on either my 9BC’s or XL90. The stem had what looked like a factory P stamp. I searched thru my old catalog scans and pored over Mark’s new book, looking for this shape number, but to no avail. I then spent a good bit of time Googling the Peterson Shape 56 and I found only two other examples. One theory I had about the shape was that it was a transition piece, between the 9BC and XL90. However, that theory didn’t hold as one of those two found also had pre-Republic stamping.

One Republic era Shape 56 Kapruf was sold by Smokers Haven. It had an incredible blast, pictured below.

The other was from an undated Ebay ad, and it was advertised as belonging to noted collector, Barry Levin. This one had pre-Republic stamping.

These pictures show the slim button of the 56 versus the 9BC, which flares out at the P-lip. It is also shown with my 9BC Shamrock, and as you can see, they are nearly identical. This includes a flat nomenclature panel. I suppose the original owner could have sent the pipe back to Peterson for a replacement stem, which might explain the slimmer button profile. The other two shapes above, don’t show this detail, so I have no comparison.

The pipe was in very good condition, but had some curious damage marks on the stem. It appeared as though someone had pierced the stem in two places with a hot nail, creating gouge-like marks. The bowl interior looked terrific, with very little cake. There were a few shallow dents on the underside of the button and just a small amount of oxidation. Below is the pipe as it was received. The sandblast was terrific, particularly on the cross-grain section, which had a lunar landscape like appearance.

This picture shows the most severe of the two gouge marks.

I used some 320 sandpaper to remove the very slight cake reside from the bowl and filled it with sea salt and isopropyl alchohol and let it soak for several hours. While the bowl was soaking, I used a heat gun to warm the two gouge marks and I was able to work some of the rubber back into the mark. After the soak, I removed the salt/alcohol and cleaned the shank. The stem was mounted and the gouge marks smooth with 400 grit wet paper, then 1500, and 2000 grades. One mark all but disappeared and the other had only a slight mark remaining. It was underneath, so I left well enough alone. I worked around the P stamp. The stem was then buffed with White Diamond and Meguiars Plastic Polish. I used some Halycon wax on the briar to bring up the luster.

After the repair and buff, the gouge mark was barely visible.

I’m hopeful that Mark might be able to dig out some additional information about this mystery shape, and I’m quite pleased to add it to my collection. I’m particularly interested in how the slim button smokes, as a smaller profile button is typically my preference. Below is the finished pipe.

UPDATE – July 28, 2019:
Mark Irwin did get back to me with a theory about this shape. He noticed that the 9BC shape is only listed in US or Rogers catalogs. I noticed in the recent 1939 Peterson/Rogers catalog recently shared thru his blog that that the Kapruf finish is described “the earthy finish of Kapruf is achieved by a special carving proceess”. In the 1940 Peterson catalog scan he shared several years ago, the Kapruf finish is described as sandblasted. He further comments below.

I thought I’d figured it out, but my best guess at this point has to do with the two-digit shape numbers assigned to Classic Range pipes through the 1950s. None of the catalogs I have shows a 56, of course, but there the 1955 London & Dublin catalogs shows a 65, 69 and 70 bent billiard. I’m speculating that the 56 was part of that numbering system, which may explain why you found the button slightly different than the 9BC. I also believe the 9BC to be a US-market Rogers Imports number, as I don’t see it in any of the European or non-Rogers catalogs.
Oh well, a brilliant pipe and a wonderful problem to have. Whatever they used to do the blast is also quite singular. I have an 02 Shamrock that’s close, with those circular, almost lunar patterns, but how they achieve that is shrouded, as is so much in our hobby, in pipe smoke and mystery.


Pictured below is a group comparison shot, from top to bottom:
XL90 Supreme
9BC Shamrock
9BC Kapruff
56 Kapruff

6 thoughts on “Peterson Shape 56 Mystery – Solved!

  1. Pingback: Another Peterson Shape 56 (9BC) | rebornpipes

  2. Pingback: Back to Bob Kerr’s Estate – Another Canadian Import Peterson’s “Kapruf” a 54 | rebornpipes

  3. Pingback: Back to Bob Kerr’s Estate – Linking Peterson’s “Kapruf” 9BC with the 56 shape number | rebornpipes

  4. rebornpipes

    Great job Al. I am just finally getting around to reading this. I actually am working on a Peterson’s “Kapruf” 9BC pipe that also has the 56 stamp on the shank. It is very similar to yours but has both stamps 9BC and underneath it 56. I will put the blog up shortly. Thanks


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