A Simple Refurbishing Of A Peterson’s System 31 Billiard Pipe.

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

Two years ago, I had restored a rusticated Peterson’s “System 31, Made in Eire”, from my inherited pipes. Here is the link to the write up, my first post on Reborn pipes!!


Being from 1938-41 time period, I could never get myself around to enjoy a smoke in this pipe. However, I always wanted to try out the system # 31 pipes and thus when I came across one on eBay at an attractive price point, I made it a point to purchase it.

The smooth stummel of this pipe has beautiful mixed grain all round with distinct cross grain to the side and on the shank. It is stamped to the left on the shank as “PETERSON’S” over “SYSTEM” in capital letters with a forked P in Peterson’s. The right side of the shank is stamped as “MADE IN THE” over “REPUBLIC” over “OF IRELAND” in capital letters with the numeral “31” towards the stummel shank junction. The shank end is adorned with a nickel ferule that is stamped as “K & P” over three faux hallmarks a Shamrock, a Prone Fox, and a Stone Tower. Further to the right, it is stamped as “PETERSON’S”. The stampings are crisp and easily readable. Having researched and worked on a few early Peterson’s pipes, I knew that the stampings identified this pipe as being from Republic era i.e. 1949 to until the present, making it a newer generation pipe. This fact is further authenticated by the article I found on pipedia.org on Peterson’s System pipes;


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 aluminum.

With this information, I now know that this pipe is an expensive system pipe from the newer generation and now that my curiosity is satiated, I move ahead with my initial visual inspection.

Initial Visual Inspection
The pipe, as it sits on my work table, is dirty with a thick layer of cake covered in dust and grime with many scratches and a lightly oxidized stem. Here are a few pictures of the pipe before I proceed with a detailed visual inspection of each part of the pipe. The smooth stummel on this pipe is covered in a thick layer of dust and grime giving it a dull and lackluster appearance. Through all the grime, beautiful grains can be still seen. The rim top surface is also covered in dust, lava overflow, grime and will need to be cleaned and polished. The stummel has developed a nice patina which I shall endeavor to preserve. The stummel surface is peppered with many minor scratches and nicks, notably over the foot of the stummel. The chamber has a thick cake with lava overflow over the rim top surface. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber will be ascertained once the existing cake has been taken down to the bare briar. The inner and outer rim edges appear to be in good condition, however, the same will be ascertained once the cake and lava overflow from the chamber and rim top is entirely removed. There is a very strong smell to the cake which, perhaps, may reduce appreciably after the chamber has been cleaned. The draught hole has reduced considerably in diameter causing air flow through it to being restricted. The mortise is filled with oils and tars and specks of dried ash are seen on the walls of the mortise. The sump is filled with dried oils, tars and gunk. The walls, however, are intact and well protected under the nickel ferule. The nickel ferule at the shank end appears dull due to oxidation. The saving grace is that it is intact and undamaged.The P-Lip straight vulcanite stem is lightly oxidized with few tooth indentations on the button edge and chatter on either surfaces of the stem in the bite zone. The aluminum tenon extension shows traces of dried oils and tars and remnants of black color at the base. This should be a relatively simple cleaning up job of the stem. The Process
I began the process of refurbishing this pipe by reaming the chamber with a Castleford reamer tool, using the second head. Using my fabricated knife; I further took the cake down to the bare briar. With a 150 grit sand paper, the walls of the chamber were rid of all the remnants of the cake, revealing smooth chamber walls. With my modified and straightened cloth hanger, I cleaned the grime and cake that covered the draught hole at the heel of the stummel. I further wiped the chamber with a cotton swab wetted with isopropyl alcohol to completely remove the sanding dust. I gently scraped the lava overflow from the rim top. The inner and outer rim edge is in good condition. I scraped the shank internals with a fabricated tool to remove all the crud that had accumulated along the shank walls and further cleaned it with bristled and regular pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. The sump was cleaned using q-tips wetted with isopropyl alcohol. I also cleaned the sump with rolled paper napkins. A few hours later and after a lot of patience, elbow grease and q-tips, the sump is finally cleaned to a great extent. I shall further draw out all the residual oils, tars and gunk by subjecting the chamber and the shank to a salt and alcohol bath.I continued the cleaning of the chamber and shank internals with a salt and alcohol bath. I use cotton balls which is an at par substitute as I have realized over the years. I draw out a wick from the cotton and along with a folded regular pipe cleaner; insert it in to the mortise and through the draught hole in to the chamber. Thereafter, I packed the chamber with cotton balls to about quarter of an inch below the rim inner edge and soaked the cotton balls with isopropyl alcohol up to the brim. About half an hour later, the level of alcohol had gone down, having being absorbed by the cotton. I topped it up once again and set it aside overnight. By next afternoon, the cotton and alcohol had drawn out all the remaining oils and tars from the chamber and mortise, fulfilling its intended task. I removed the cotton balls and ran pipe cleaners through the mortise to clean out all the loosened tars and gunk. Using my fabricated tool, I scraped out the entire loosed gunk from the sump and further cleaned it with alcohol and q-tips. The chamber now smells clean and fresh. I set the stummel to dry out naturally. Now that the internals of the stummel were cleaned, I scrubbed the external surface of the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s oil soap and hard bristled tooth brush. I deliberately cleaned the rim top surface with Scotch Brite and a soft bristled brass wire brush to remove the entire lava overflow and dried it using paper towels and soft cotton cloth. On close inspection of the stummel, I noticed a superficial and light burn mark on the front of the bowl in 11 o’clock direction and darkened inner rim edge at 12 o’clock. The saving grace was that the briar at both these places was solid. I shall decide if I would need to resort to more invasive processes like topping after I have polished the stummel with micromesh pads. To address the issue of the light superficial burn mark to the front of the stummel, I lightly sanded the burn mark with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. Thereafter, I polished the entire stummel with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 pads. I wiped the surface with a soft moist cloth at the end of the micromesh cycle. The stummel looks amazing with a deep shine and beautiful grains popping over the stummel surface. The burn mark, though lightened considerably, is still visible. The rim top surface, however, looks pristine with the issue of darkened inner edge entirely addressed. The third issue that was addressed to a great extent was that of the numerous scratches and nicks that were observed on the foot and on the sides of the stummel. A few minor nicks can still be seen but to address them, I would have to compromise on the patina, which I did not desire. These minor nicks are a part of the journey of this beautiful pipe and I shall let them be.  I am very happy with the appearance of the rim top and stummel at this stage. I rubbed a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to briar and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance with the dark hues of the grain contrasting with the rest of the stummel surface. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. With the stummel refurbishing completed, I turned my attention to the stem. The stem air way was filthy to say the least. Using a shank brush and dish washing soap, I cleaned the stem air way. I further cleaned the stem internals with hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol. A lot of elbow grease and a pile of pipe cleaners later, the pipe cleaners emerged white and I knew that the stem internals were now clean and fresh. I wiped the aluminum tenon extension with alcohol and cotton swabs.I sand the entire stem surface with a folded piece of a 220 grit sand paper to remove the tooth chatter and minor oxidation from the stem surface. With the same piece of sand paper, I sharpened the button edges on both the upper and lower surface. I wiped the stem with a cotton swab and Murphy’s oil soap to further remove the oxidation. I further sand the stem with 600 and 800 grit sand paper. I wiped the stem with cotton pad dipped in alcohol to remove the resultant dust. I rubbed some extra virgin olive oil in to the stem and set it aside to be absorbed in to stem. I polished the stem with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 grit pads. I rubbed a little extra virgin olive oil in to the stem at the end of all the micromesh pads. I finish the polishing of the stem by rubbing a small quantity of Paragon wax and giving it a final polish with a soft cotton cloth. The stem is now nice, smooth and shiny. I cleaned the Sterling Silver shank band with a local compound that Abha, my wife, uses to polish her silver and gold jewelry and cutlery. This compound is a very fine powder and least abrasive with fantastic results. The results were appreciated by Steve during his visit to India. The band is now a nice shining piece of nickel and provides a nice contrast to the shining black stem and the dark brown stummel. Unfortunately, I missed out on taking pictures as I was keen to finish this pipe and enjoy a bowl!

To apply the finishing touches, I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool and apply a coat of Blue Diamond to the stem to polish out the minor scratches. With a cotton buffing wheel that I use for carnauba wax, I apply a coat of carnauba wax to the stummel and stem and continued to work on it till the complete coat of wax had been polished out. I mount a clean cotton cloth buffing wheel and gave the entire pipe a once over buff. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. The finished pipe is shown below. P.S. – Since the completion of this restoration, I have smoked this pipe and included it in my rotation. Believe you me; this pipe smokes perfect with a nice, smooth draw right to the end. No wonder then that the System pipes from Peterson’s are so much preferred amongst pipers. I am really privileged to have had an opportunity to carry forward the trust that the previous owner had posed in his pipes. Thanks for your patience and looking forward to inputs about the write up. Cheers…

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