Blog by Steve Laug
The second pipe I have chosen to work on in 2020 is a Republic Era Peterson’s System Standard 311. It was in rough condition when it came to me but it was clear that it was stamped Peterson’s System Standard vertically on the left side of the shank next to the band. The right side of the shank was stamped Made in the Republic of Ireland over the shape number 311. It has some stunning grain around the bowl and shank that can be seen under the thick grime. The bowl had been reamed recently so there were just remnants of cake on the walls that were uneven giving the bowl a pitted appearance. The rim top was cleaned and appeared to have been sanded. There were sanding marks in the briar. The inner and outer edges of the rim had damage. The bowl was out of round and there was some burn damage on the front inner and outer edge. The exterior of the bowl is dirty and has some pits and marks that are a part of its story. The nickel ferrule on the shank end was oxidized and was rough at the opening to the mortise. It is stamped on the left side K&P over three hallmarks. That is followed by Petersons. It is not dented or damaged. The stem was the biggest issue with this pipe. Someone had carved a groove in the top side of the stem in front of the p-lip almost trying to make it a dental bit. The underside of the stem had a tooth mark that had punctured the surface leaving a hole in a tooth crater. I took photos of the pipe before I started my cleanup work on it. I took close up photos of the bowl and rim top to show the inside of the bowl and the damages on the rim top and edges of the bowl. You can see where someone had taken sand paper to the top and removed the lava and left sanding marks. You can also see the burned areas on the inner and outer front edges of the bowl. The photos of the stem also clearly show the issues that need to be addressed. I took photos of the stamping on the left side of the bowl and shank. The vertical stamping on the left side was readable as you can see from the photos. It read Peterson’s System Standard. The stamp on the right side of the shank read Made in the Republic of Ireland with the shape number 311 underneath. The nickel ferrule on the shank end is stamped on the left side K&P over three hallmarks – a Shamrock, a shape that looks like a reclining lion and a tower. Typically these hallmarks are not like those in silver that help to date a pipe but are rather marks that make it clear that the pipe was made in Ireland. Following the hallmarks it is stamped Petersons. I am including some information from Pipedia’s article on Peterson pipes. It is a great read in terms of the history of the brand (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Peterson). I have included a bit of the pertinent history on the Republic Era below.
1950 – 1989 The Republic Era – From 1950 to the present time, the stamp for this era is “Made in the Republic of Ireland” in a block format generally in three lines but two lines have been used with or without Republic being abbreviated.
Pipedia also included a section of information on the System pipes including a cutaway diagram of the interior of the system pipe (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Peterson#Republic_Era_Pipes). I quote a section of the article in part and include a link to another article on Pipedia on the System pipe.
The Peterson System pipes are the standard bearers of the Peterson pipe family, famous for the excellent smoking pleasure they provide. Often imitated but never equaled, the Peterson System smokes dry, cool and sweet, thanks to the scientiﬁc effectiveness of the original design. The heart of the System is the unique graduated bore in the mouthpiece. This makes the suction applied by the smoker 15 times weaker by the time it reaches the tobacco chamber. The result is that all the moisture ﬂows into the reservoir and, thus cannot reach the smoker’s mouth. The Peterson Lip further enhances the effectiveness of the graduated bore by directing the ﬂow of smoke upwards and away from the tongue. This achieves a uniquely even distribution of smoke and virtually eliminates any chance of tongue bite or bitterness. Furthermore, the shape is contoured so that the tongue rests comfortably in the depression under the opening. Each “PLip” mouthpiece is made from Vulcanite. For the Peterson System pipes to work properly, the stem/tenon has to have an extension, the tip of which will pass by the draft hole from the bowl and into the sump. Upon the smoker drawing in smoke, this extension then directs the smoke down and around the sump to dispense a lot of the moisture before the smoke enters the extension and stem. On the System Standards and other less expensive systems, this extension with be made of Vulcanite turned integrally with the stem. On the more expensive System pipes this extension will be made of metal which screws into the Vulcanite stem. This extension on the earlier pipes will be of brass and the newer pipes will be of aluminium. Most smokers not knowing this function of the metal extension, assumes that it is a condenser/stinger and will remove it as they do with the metal condensers of Kaywoodie, etc. Should you have a System pipe with this metal extension, do not remove it for it will make the System function properly and give you a dryer smoke (https://pipedia.org/wiki/A_closer_look_at_the_famous_Peterson_Standard_System_Pipe).
With that information in hand I knew what I was dealing with in terms of the stamping and the age of this pipe. I knew from the information that the pipe was made during the Republic Era between 1950 and 1989. It was an antique mall find so I was happy with the age and condition. Now it was time to work on the pipe.
This is one that I have to do the cleanup work on and not have Jeff’s help. Doing the work I am really glad that Jeff is willing to take on cleaning the pipes that we purchase as estates of hunting finds – but enough of that. I have to clean this one! The pipe appeared to have been reamed somewhat recently in its life. However there was some pitting in the cake on the walls of the pipe so I cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I decided to start the process by dealing with the damage to the inner edge and top of the rim. I wiped it down with alcohol on a cotton pad and filled in the damaged edge and rim top with clear Krazy Glue. Once the repair cured I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to clean up the repair on the rim top and to give the inner edge a very light bevel. Between the repair and the bevel it took care of the damage on the inner edge. The third photo shows the rim top after the shaping. I polished the entire bowl and rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads and I wiped the bowl down after each sanding pad with a damp cloth. The bowl began to take on a finished shine. (I carefully avoided the stamping in the process of polishing the bowl and shank.) I rubbed the bowl and rim 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. I really like watching the Balm do its magic and bring the briar alive. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. The stem was a mess of issues. The first ones that I decided to address were the deep groove on the top side and the bite through on the underside. In preparation for the repair I cleaned out the airway in the stem with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and alcohol. I greased a pipe cleaner with Vaseline Petroleum Jelly and slid it in the airway from the button end. I had bent it before putting it in the stem so that it would fit tightly against the bite through. I gathered the components of the repair together. I put a piece of packing tape on a cardboard square that I use for mixing a putty mixture of charcoal powder and black super glue. The tape buys me more time to mix up the putty without it reacting to the cardboard. I took out two charcoal capsules, the super glue and a dental spatula. Now I was ready to do the patching.I mixed the putty with the dental spatula and when I had a thick mixture I applied it to the stem surface with the spatula. I pressed it into the trough on the top side and the bite through on the underside. I don’t worry to much about a clean patch at this point I really want to make sure it is covered. Once it cures I can reshape it with a file and sandpaper.I sprayed the repair with an accelerator that hardens the surface of the repair and allows me to pull the pipe cleaner from the airway. I took photos of the repair at this point in the process. It is truly ugly but it has accomplished what I wanted. The groove and bite through were gone. Now all that was left was a lot of shaping and sanding. Oh, by the way I always blow air through the stem to make sure that I have not sealed it with the repair!! I set the stem aside for the evening and enjoyed some time with the family.In the morning I tackled shaping the stem. I use a needle file and a rasp to take down the excess and to shape the button edge on the stem. It is tedious work that requires patience that Paresh in India has far more of than me but I finished the rough shape with the files. Once I had the rough shape done I continued to use a combination of the needle file and 220 grit sandpaper to remove the excess material of the repair and shape the stem surface. The photos show the progress in the process. The shape is beginning to show clearly! The trough on the top side is gone and the bit mark on the underside it also repaired.I continued to shape the stem with the 220 and 400 grit sandpaper. I had to fill in some air pockets in the repair with clear Krazy Glue and I built up the curve of the button on the top and the ledge on the backside. When I got the stem to the point I was happy with the repair and shape it was time to begin polishing it. I rubbed the stem down with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish. It does a pretty good job polishing the stem. 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 a coat of a new product I am experimenting with from Briarville Pipe Repair. It is called “No Oxy Oil” and it is made to protect the stem from oxidizing. I set it aside to dry. I am excited to be on the homestretch with this old Republic Era Peterson System Standard. 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 is quite stunning and really pops with the wax and polish. The repaired black vulcanite stem actually looks quite nice and is a great contrast to the browns of the bowl and thick shank. This Peterson’s System Standard 311 Bent Billiard was another fun pipe to work on even though I did the entire process here. The polished nickel Ferrule works as a contrast between the stem and the briar and binds it all together. It really is a nice piece of briar whose nicks and marks testify to the travels of this old pipe. The pipe is 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 old pipe will be going back to a fellow referred to me by City Cigar in Vancouver. Even though I am not adding new work at the moment I have a commitment with them that I will repair pipes for their customers. 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.