New Life for a Republic Era Peterson’s System 31 Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe I have chosen is a rusticated Peterson’s System 31 Billiard that was incredibly dirty and worn. The grime on the finish pretty much obscured the rustication around the bowl sides and rim top. The brown stain was tired looking and the grime obscured the texture of the rustication. This one also came to me in a box of parts that were part of an estate I purchased here in Vancouver. It was stamped on the underside of the shank. The stamping was faint but readable. It read Peterson’s in an arc over System on the heel of the bowl followed the shape number 31. After that near the nickel band it read Made in the Republic of Ireland. The nickel band is oxidized and dirty but it has the K & P stamp over Peterson Dublin. The band had some nicks and dents and had been repaired by soldering on the right side (where the green oxidation is shown in the second photo below). It should clean up well. It was in rough condition when I brought it to the table. The finish was dirty with grime ground into the briar sides and rim. There was a thick cake in the bowl and an overflow of lava on the rim top that filled in the rim top and edges. The stem had a long tube I the end that is part of the makeup of the stem. The rest of the stem was oxidized, calcified and had light tooth marks and chatter on the top and underside on and near the button. I took photos of the pipe before I started my cleanup work. They tell the story and give a glimpse of the promise that I see in this pipe.  I took photos of the rim top and stem to show the condition of the bowl and stem. The interior the bowl had a heavy cake that overflowed like lava onto the rim top filling in the sandblast. The stem is oxidized, calcified and has light tooth marks and chatter on the top and underside near the button. I took a photo of the underside of the shank to show the stamping. The stamping is faint but readable in the photos below and is as noted above.  The nickel ferrule is stamped with three shields with the inscriptions ‘K ‘&’ ‘P’ [over] PETERSON [over] DUBLIN.   I took the stem off the shank and took a photo. The stem has a long tube/funnel that is an integral part of the tenon.I am including the 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 here.

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.

During the 1950’s and 60’s the Kapp & Peterson Company was still in the ownership of the Kapp family. However 1964 saw the retiral of the company Managing Director Frederick Henry(Harry) Kapp.

I did a search on Google about the Peterson System 31 Straight Billiard to see if I could learn any specific information on the shape. I found a link to a pipe for sale on Smokingpipes.com. I quote:

The straight-stemmed Peterson System is quite different from their better-known bent-stem version. Rather than a moisture chamber extending past the transition as part of the shank, akin to that of a cavalier-type pipe, the moisture chamber is drilled beneath the bowl itself, with the tobacco chamber’s draft hole drilled straight downward into it. Further, a metal tube is threaded to the base of the vulcanite stem, to extend into the moisture chamber and provide a better, drier smoke (https://www.smokingpipes.com/pipes/new/peterson/moreinfo.cfm?product_id=183783).

Paresh had worked on System 31 pipe so I went back and reread his work on that smooth pipe. It was very helpful for the background information included (https://rebornpipes.com/tag/peterson-system-31-pipe/).

I knew that I was dealing with a Republic Era pipe made between 1950-1989. The K&P mark on the nickel band ties to Kapp & Peterson brings the date to the time between 1950-1964. It was a rusticated Straight billiard with a unique shape and chamber beneath the bottom of the bowl. The finish was stained with a combination of brown and black stains. Now it was time to work on the pipe.

I decided to start my restoration work on this one by starting my cleanup of the bowl. I reamed the thick cake back with a PipNet pipe reamer using the smallest cutting head on this petite pipe. The cake was thick and crumbly and came out easily. I followed that by cleaning up the remnants of cake with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and finish with a piece of dowel wrapped in 220 grit sandpaper. I decided to use the cotton ball and alcohol treatment to remove the stink from the bowl. I stuffed a cotton ball in the bowl of the pipe and twisted a second cotton ball into the shank and sump of the pipe. I filled in the bowl and shank with isopropyl alcohol. I set the pipe aside and let it leach out the tars and oils in the bowl. I let it sit for several hours and then removed the cotton from the bowl and shank. It came with a lot of the tars and oils.   I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to clean up the crevices in the sandblast finish. I rinsed off the debris and the soap with running water and dried the pipe off with a soft towel.    With the exterior clean it was time to deal with the interior. I scrubbed out the shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the tars and oils. I also cleaned out the airway in the stem at the same time with pipe cleaners and alcohol.  I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. With that done the bowl was finished other than a final buffing. I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine.  I am excited to finish this petite Republic Era Peterson’s System 31 Straight Billiard. I put the pipe back together and buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine and followed that with a quick hand buff with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. It is fun to see what the polished bowl looks like with the variations of colour in the rustication on the bowl sides and rim top. Added to that the polished nickel ferrule and black vulcanite stem is a great contrast of colour. This small Peterson’s System 31 Straight Billiard is a great looking pipe and it feels great in my hand. It is light and well balanced. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/8 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. It is a beautiful pipe. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this pipe. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog. Remember we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next pipeman or woman. 

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