I do not understand why Peterson coats some of their pipes with a thick varnish coat

Blog by Steve Laug

Yesterday afternoon Dallas (a long time pipe friend) stopped by to pick up a pipe I had repaired for him and to sit on the front porch and enjoy a bowl and some fellowship with each other. Due to COVID-19 we have only had virtual visits for over a year now so it was really good to see him and posit our solutions to the world’s problems. We covered a lot of topics that come naturally to men of a certain age! In the course of our discussion he brought out a very shiny Peterson’s Kinsale XL25 Made in the Republic of Ireland. The pipe was very glossy and it was one that he had in his collection for a long time. It should have been showing wear on the finish but this “plastic” coated looking finish was impervious to time and use it appeared. There was a slight bit of peeling on the rim top but other than that it looked like new. He handed it to me and told me his woes with this pipe. He said that the pipe became extremely hot when he smoked it. He had tried everything to change that but nothing mattered. Dallas has been smoking  a pipe for almost 60 years now so it is not a technique issue. I am certain it  is the fault of the thick “plastic” looking finish on the pipe. I have stripped other Peterson’s that had the same issue for him and the work always improves the dispersal of the heat. He wanted me to do the same with this pipe. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the thickness of the cake and the peeling varnish on the rim top. The edges look very good and other than the bubbles in the varnish coat the top looks good. The stem is also shown to show the light oxidation of time on the vulcanite and the tooth marks and chatter that come from use.I took photos of the stamping on the shank to show the brand and the age of the pipe. It reads Peterson’s Kinsale on the top of the shank and Made in the Republic of Ireland on the underside. On the right side of the shank was the shape number XL25. The varnish had filled in the numbers showing that it had been varnished after stamping.I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the left side of the bowl to try to capture the shape and the grain. It really is a beauty.I like working on clean pipes so I reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer to take the cake back to bare briar. I cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I sanded the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel. Once finished the bowl was clean and smooth. Now it was time to tackle the obnoxious varnish coat. I tried to remove it with straight acetone and came up with nothing. The seal on the finish was solid and seemingly impervious to my work at this point. I lightly sanded the finish on the bowl with a folded piece of 220 sandpaper to break through the surface. Once I had done that the acetone worked well to remove the finish from the briar. I repeated the process until the shiny coat was gone and I could feel the briar in my hand and see the grain without the top coat over it. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the briar down after each pad. The grain began to really come alive through the polishing. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my finger tips. The product is incredible and the way it brings the grain to the fore is unique. It works to clean, protect and invigorate the wood. There is a rich shine in the briar but it is not that previous plastic-like shine. I cleaned the shank, mortise and airway in the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and isopropyl alcohol to remove the tars. Dallas had mentioned the stem was very tight but once I cleaned it the fit was just the way it should have been.I started polishing the stem with 1500-2400 micromesh sanding pads. I wiped it down after each pad with Obsidian Oil. I paused my polishing to touch up the P stamp on the top of the saddle with some Rub’n Buff Antique Gold. I worked it into the stamp with a tooth pick and buffed it off with a soft towel. I went back to the micromesh and polished the stem with 3200-12000 grit pads, again wiping it down after each pad with Obsidian Oil. I finished the polishing with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish, both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil before putting it back on the shank. Once the varnish was stripped off this is a nice looking Peterson’s Kinsale XL25 Pipe with an oval shank and a vulcanite saddle stem is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored. The briar is clean and the grain really came alive. The rich brown and black stains gave the grain a sense of depth with the polishing and waxing. The grain really popped. I put the vulcanite stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Peterson’s Kinsale XL25 really is a beauty and feels great in the hand and looks very good. I think that Dallas will be very happy with it once he picks it up. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 ¼ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 65 grams/2.29 oz. The pipe looks very good and I look forward to what Dallas thinks of it. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. It was a fun one to work on!

2 thoughts on “I do not understand why Peterson coats some of their pipes with a thick varnish coat

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