Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe I have chosen to work on is an unsmoked Peterson’s Sterling Billiard. It has a Sterling Silver band around the shank that is tarnished and oxidized. The bowl is raw briar on the inside and unsmoked. There are some obvious fills around the bowl and shank that are ugly in appearance to my mind but they are sound – one on the back, one on the left side of the bowl and the third on the left side of the shank. The exterior is also covered with a shiny coat of varnish that would need to go in my opinion. The stem was in decent condition – it had just lost a bit of its shine. Kind of an anomaly – a shiny plastic looking finish on the bowl and a dull looking stem. The pipe was stamped on the left side of the shank and read Peterson’s Sterling. On the right side it is stamped with the Made in Ireland in a circle and the number 5 identifying the shape. It is an interesting pipe. I took photos of the bowl and rim top to show unsmoked condition of the bowl and rim top. It was truly a pristine looking bowl – and it did not have a bowl coating so that was even a bonus. The silver band was quite oxidized and it was impossible to identify the markings on the silver. I took photos of the top and underside of the stem showing the clean and pristine condition of the stem surfaces. I took the stem out of the shank and was a little surprised by the stinger in the tenon. I don’t know if it was original or had been added somewhere along the way. It too was very clean. It was removable so I took it out of the tenon and took a photo as well. I checked on Pipephil’s website to see what I could learn about the stamping on the pipe. I found the following information that I quote:
The country of manufacture stamp changed from “Made in Eire” to “Made in Ireland” (In circle) about 1945 (this pipe). Later (1947-49) it became “MADE IN IRELAND” (block letters) stamped in one or two lines (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-peterson.html).
I turned to Pipedia’s article on Peterson pipes to see what I could garner from that information. It is a great read in terms of the history of the brand (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Peterson#1950_-_1989_The_Republic_Era). In a section on
Prior to 1920 it was rare for a country of origin to be stamped on the pipe, just Peterson’s Dublin on the band. After 1921/22 if it is stamped “MADE IN IRELAND” and the “Made in” is stacked over “Ireland” or “MADE IN EIRE” or several other forms, it was made between 1922 and 1938. A considerable number of Peterson pipes were stamped “Irish Free State”. From about 1930 to 1949, most of the pipes (those which were stamped) were stamped “Made in Ireland”.” If the stamp reads “MADE IN IRELAND” in a circle, the pipe was made between 1939 and 1948. These are all “prerepublic” pipes.
I then turned to the book I should have consulted first, The Peterson Pipe, by Mark Irwin and Gary Malmberg. On page 155 I found some information on the line.
Peterson’s US distributor during the early Republic era was Rogers Imports, Inc., a New York firm whose catalogs offered all varieties of smoker’s products. Rogers was the exclusive wholesale dealer for several prominent European pipe manufacturers, they also marketed accessories under their own name. On behalf of Kapp & Peterson they registered the Killarney, Shamrock and Sterling trademarks with the US Patent Office in the 1950s, and their catalogs also featured the System, Premier Selection and Supreme.
On page 156-157 in the same book there is a catalogue page with the Sterling shown on it. It sold for $7.50 in 1953. It read:
As the name implies the Sterling quality of this fine pipe is distinguished in a careful selection of its fine Mediterranean Bruyere, its careful workmanship and sparkling finish. Banded with a Sterling Silver band – a Hallmark of quality – the pipe is available in a handsome natural or dark rich walnut finish. Patent P-lip stem. Individually boxed.
With that information in hand I knew what I was dealing with in terms of the stamping on the pipe. It is a late Pre-republic era or early Republic era pipe. The circular Made in Ireland stamp on the right side of the shank tells me it was made between 1939-1948. It showed up in Peterson Catalogue in 1953 and it seems that the pipe has remained unsmoked since the late 40s early 50s.
Now, on to the restoration of this beautifully grained Peterson’s Sterling 5 billiard. The fact that it was an unsmoked pipe meant that I really did not need to clean the pipe. I decided to start the process by addressing the oxidation/tarnish of the Sterling Silver band on the shank. I wiped the band down with a jeweler’s cloth to remove the tarnish. It has three hallmarks stamped toward the top of the left side followed by Sterling Silver and Peterson Dublin. The hallmarks seem to be K&P though they are worn.The bowl had a thick coat of varnish on the surface that was shiny and in some places slightly wrinkled. I wiped the bowl down with a cotton pad and isopropyl alcohol to soften the finish. I wet sanded the briar with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped the bowl surface down with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. Once I finished the exterior of the briar was clean of the shiny varnish coat and the grain really stood out. After sanding the bowl and removing the finished I rubbed it down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. Mark Hoover’s Balm is a product that I have come to appreciate and one I use on every pipe I have been working on. The stem was in very good condition and appeared to be original. It did not have a “P” logo on stem side or top. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. Once I had finished the polishing I gave it final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. As usual at this point in the restoration process I am excited to be on the homestretch. I look forward to the final look when it is put back together, polished and waxed. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and the vulcanite. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The grain really pops with the wax and polish. The shiny black vulcanite stem is a beautiful contrast to the browns of the bowl. This Peterson’s Sterling 5 Billiard a great pipe to spruce up. The Sterling Silver Band around the shank is a great contrast between the browns of the briar and the black of the vulcanite. It is a nice piece of briar whose shape follows the flow of the grain. It is a very comfortable pipe to hold in the hand. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. This beautiful pipe will be going on the rebornpipes store if you would like to add it to your collection and be the first to smoke it. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This is an interesting estate to bring back to life.