Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe I am working on is the fourth Peterson’s and the second pipe in the cased set of Bulldogs that came to me from a friend of mine for me to work on. The pair (pipes 3 and 4) came in a nice leather cast that was travel/time worn on the top and underside and damaged on the edges. I have not finished the 80S Bent Bulldog yet as the stem is taking considerably more time than I expected. I set it aside for a bit take a break from the intensive rebuild work and give the straight Bulldog some attention.
Here are some of the photos of the case and the pipes that I am working on. It was not a large case but a common style carrying case for pipes of this era. I am hoping to do some work and narrow down the dates on the pair of pipes.The inside of the case was lined with soft golden suede. The case was fitted for the pipes that it contained – a straight and a bent bulldog with similar finishes. The lid of the case had a logo on it that was a gold and burgundy oval that read PETERSON’S over Dublin & London. It was dirty but not in bad condition. The finish on both pipes was dirty and tired looking but the grain peeked through the grime and oils on the finish. I decided to work on the bottom pipe next – the Straight Bulldog 493. The rim top had a thick lava build up and some light scratching peeking out from the lava. The inner edges of the rim looked like there was both burn damage and reaming damage but I would not know for sure until it was clean. The outer edge looked good. The stamping on the shank sides was clear and readable. It is stamped on the left side and reads Peterson’s [over] London & Dublin [over] an oval with the word SPECIAL stamped inside. On the right side of the shank it is stamped London Made [over] England. Next to that at the shank/stem joint was the shape number 493. There is no “P” logo on the stem. The stem was oxidized but it was otherwise in good condition. There were tooth marks and chatter on both sides ahead of the button. I have included the pictures that my friend sent me before I took on the pipes. The first shows the rim top with the issues described above. The second and third photos show the stamping as noted above.It took nearly a month for the pipes to arrive in Canada for me to work on. I took photos of the straight Bulldog to have an idea of what I was dealing with. You can see from the photos what I saw. The finish is was dirty but the pipe had some amazing grain on the shank and bowl sides. Rim top had a thick lava build up and it was hard to know what was under that. The inner edge of the bowl had some lava as well but there was some potential damage to the edge. The outer edge of the bowl was in surprisingly good shape. There was tobacco debris in the bowl and a thick cake. The original style stem is present and has a thick coat of oxidation. There were tooth marks and chatter on both sides ahead of the button. I took some photos of the rim top, bowl and stem to capture the condition of the pipe. You can see the cake in the bowl. There is a lava coat and some darkening. There was damage all around the inner edge of the bowl. The P-lip stem appears to be in good condition with oxidation at different levels on each side of the diamond stem. You can see the tooth marks on both sides ahead of the button.I took photos of the stamping on the shank sides. They were clear and readable as noted above.I removed the stem from the bowl and took a photo of it to show its appearance. Before I started the restoration process on the pipe I wanted to see if I could pin down a time period for the London Made England Special.
I turned to the section on that stamping in the book, The Peterson Pipe by Mark Irwin & Gary Malmberg. I quote from the section on the COM stamp on page 296-297 below:
Peterson maintained a factory in England for about a quarter of a century, from the late 1930s to ’62. Corporate transcripts and London business periodicals suggest that the London operation on White Lion Street was about to get underway in ’37. Only a handful of London hallmarked Petersons are documented, stamped with the date marks 1936 and 1939, and these have no COM stamp. Their output would be limited by the onset of the Battle of Britain in July 1940, but it seems reasonable to suppose pipes were made at the London factory during WWII, inasmuch as the K&P Staff Register lists twelve employees earning wages there in January ’44. London hallmarked Petersons have been identified with dates of 1949-54. Most London-made Petersons in a collector’s inventory were made in these postwar years, from 1949 until the closing of the factory in ’62… the presence of one variation of another on a pipe is not by itself a reliable indicator of its age.
That information narrowed the date of manufacture to the time period between 1949-1962. That is not a long period of time to be sure but now it was time to account for the stamping SPECIAL in an oval. What did that mean? Is there more specifics that can be learned with that stamp?
I turned to page 313 of the above Peterson Pipe book and read the following on the SPECIAL Stamp.
SPECIAL Stamp – used on special order or small batch custom pipes, it will often appear under other stamps, such as PETERSON’S SYSTEM, DE LUXE or DUBLIN & LONDON. Used frequently on pipes cut by master carver Paddy Larrigan.
So it appears that this set of Bulldogs were made in London in a limited time period and perhaps were made by Paddy Larrigan himself. Was he perhaps visiting the London factory in those post war years? I guess we will never know for sure but it kind of a nice thought regarding the pipes.
Armed with this information I started working on the pipe. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer to remove the cake from the bowl. I cleaned up the remaining cake with a Savinelli Fistall Pipe Knife. I sanded the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel to smooth out the inside of the bowl. The walls looked very good with no checking or heat damage. I cleaned out the shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and 99% alcohol to remove the oils from the walls. It was filthy and when I was finished it smelled clean and fresh. I cleaned out the inside of the stem with alcohol and pipe cleaners.I scrubbed the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean off the thick oils and grime ground into the surface of the briar. I scrubbed the lava on the rim top with a Scotch Brite pad to remove the build up there. I used a shank brush to clean out the mortise The bowl looked and smelled much better and the grain really began to stand out clearly. I worked over the top and the inner edge of the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the burned edge and the damaged rim top. It definitely came out looking much better. I try to steam out the dents a bit more to reduce them more. The trick on these old pipes is not to go overboard on the repairs but to leave a bit of the story behind as it changes the shape and feel of the pipe. I steamed out the dents/hatch marks on the top of the bowl using a hot butter knife and a wet cloth. I heated the knife on my gas stove and then pressed it against the wet cloth. The steam generated caused the dents to lift. I repeated the process until I was unable to lift them any more. While it is not perfect it is certainly better.I polished the briar (carefully avoiding the areas where the pipe is stamped on the shank sides) with micromesh sanding pads. I dry sanded it with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding debris. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the smooth briar with my finger tips. The product is amazing and works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let it sit on the briar for 10 or more minutes and then buff it off with a soft cloth. It really makes the grain sing. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded the stem surface with 220 grit sandpaper to break up the oxidation and remove the tooth chatter on marks on both sides. I started the polishing of the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads. I used 1500-12000 grit pads to polish the vulcanite. I wiped down the stem with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I have an oil impregnated piece of cloth that I use after each pad. I polished it further with Before & After Stem Polish both Fine and Extra Fine polishes. I gave it a further coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I put the pipe back together – the bowl with its new stem. This smooth finished Peterson’s London & Dublin SPECIAL 493 Straight Bulldog is a real beauty with great grain around the bowl. The thin P-lip style vulcanite stem works very well with the medium brown briar. This English Made Special pipe is a very collectible part of Peterson’s history. The grain on the bowl is quite beautiful and came alive with the buffing. I used Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel on both the bowl and stem. I gave both multiple coats of carnauba wax on the wheel then buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The Peterson’s SPECIAL 493 Straight Bulldog feels great in the hand. It is lightweight and the contrast in the browns of the briar and the polished vulcanite stem is quite amazing. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outer diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 1.34 ounces/38 grams. It really is a beauty. I have one more pipe to work on from my friends collection and then I will send them all back to him. Thanks for walking through the restemming and the restoration with me. Cheers.