Blog by Robert M. Boughton
Imitation is the greatest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.
— Oscar Wilde
In their definitive history of the Irish pipe maker and innovator, The Peterson Pipe: The Story of Kapp & Peterson, Mark Irwin and Gary Malmberg describe the key features of the System pipe: “An army mount, an internal reservoir to collect moisture from the smoke and the graduated bore P-Lip mouthpiece.” (Quoted from Peterson Pipe Notes.) The Trident homage to the Peterson System has all three. If pipes had nine lives as the ancient Egyptians were the first to impute to cats, then the Trident already would have used up four of them, at least that I know about, counting the two prior lives and now this latest I have restored to the interesting pipe. Its continuing worthiness of restoration shows that not all imitations are mediocre.
Another indication of the Trident’s quality is its apparent lineage, which in my first two restorations of this well smoked pipe – read abused – I only found misleads to E. Deguingand & Son and Comoy’s, both of England, and even flowery carved pear wood things from Ukraine. Here is my Trident system pipe as I first found and restored it and again just two months later after rescuing it from the trash, where my second roommate tossed it because “it didn’t work out.” My best efforts to stifle the flush of outrage I felt as I hastened to my feet at the appalling admission and stomped outside to the garbage bins failed somewhat, to put it in the nicest light I can bring off even at this late date. While I attribute fatal flaws such as burnouts or through and through cracks to over enthusiastic dedication to a pipe or pipes, I hope I never become inured to the wanton disrespect some pipe smokers unleash on these fine tools in the pursuit of self-gratification. This time, after scouring cyberspace for hours, I lighted upon a Reborn Pipes blog by Dal Stanton, the Pipe Steward, about another fine Trident, a sandblasted bent billiard. Dal’s work on that pipe is remarkable for his skill in enhancing its original beauty and his tireless quest for the Trident’s provenance. An arduous course of leaps, hops and steps led Dal to the conclusion, with little doubt, that the brand was a second of the William Demuth Co. of New York, which lasted from 1835-1911 – making the Trident an antique. Here are before and afters of Dal’s Trident and an early 20th century WDC Wellington Dal compared it to, the latter courtesy of Doug Valitchka and Pipedia. Now I offer one more photo I found, showing another Wellington with the same style of band Dal’s and mine had at our introductions. This one, from Worthpoint, ends any reservation I had regarding the Trident’s WDC connection.RESTORATION The rounded end cap with which I replaced the original brass band was functional except for three hallmarks that were placed as a charade. I never cared for the marks, which I considered distracting, but in a misguided fit to make the previous dress version more Petersonian, I went with it. I have read other blogs discussing the meaning of EP in an oval on certain bands and understood it to stand for Electro Plated, a process of adding a thin layer of silver to the nickel. I found an online dictionary of silver band makers that claims the EP on the end cap stands for Edward Powers, who with his brother John began operation as the Powers Brothers tobacconist in Dublin in 1900. The end cap indeed could be called Petersonian (more or less, whatever the true meaning of EP!). At any rate, the end cap had to go, and I was happy it came off with the 12-hour Isopropyl soak, which removed little else. That’s the problem with a well-done black stain and shellac coat.My 120/180-grit pad removed all remnants of the dress finish faster and far easier on my hand and arm than paper and revealed the total erosion of the one word of nomenclature. I had checked before using the pad to avoid not leaving even a ghost of the block Trident letters. I did not yet grasp how flawed the wood was with almost bottomless scratches and some pits, so I continued with more of the sanding pad followed by 220-1000-grit paper progression. This turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg. There were some black blotches left on the right shank below the opening that took 60-grit paper to eliminate. Nine micro mesh pads later, I accepted the fact that no amount of viable sanding magic would make the pits on both sides of the bowl disappear.I mixed some briar shavings with Super Glue, applied dabs (sort of) to the pits and let it dry. I had missed tiny spots of the pits on the right side the first time, so I added fine drops of Super Glue alone.The 320 paper took off the dried glue, and I followed with 400-1000 before a full micro meshing. Next came an Everclear retort.My Fiebing’s Dark Brown leather dye was evaporated from long disuse, so I fell back on the Moccasin Brown for the stain. With a flick of my Bic, I achieved an excellent flambé effect. After a cool-off, I got rid of the char and gave the briar a shine with micro mesh from 6000-12000. As is apparent in the following shots, some areas were too light, although not all of the pics show just how light. I spot stained under the rim, the difficult to reach space on the back side of the bowl in the curve of the shank and most of the right and front sides. Okay-okay, I revise “some areas” to more or less all! Re-flambéeing the corrected places (I know that wasn’t a word until I added it to my MS Word dictionary), and another four-pad micro mesh were easy. I didn’t bother to memorialize with still more photos the steps that should have been unnecessary. I think 75 will be quite sufficient. Despite repeated staining of the small spot bordering the left side and right front views, I made it a tad better but not gone.Finding the best match for a replacement, straight-edged endcap turned out to be the most challenging aspect of this third reincarnation of the Trident, again as far as I know about. I pawed through way too many candidates from a comprehensive collection I obtained from a friend on the Facebook smokers forums a while back, and after much more time than I had anticipated, I found a match that fit snugly on the shank and needed no Super Glue. The good news is that they are all organized in four baggies now.I put off the stem because, for the first time in my pipe refurbishing life, it didn’t need any sanding – just an Oxi bath and micro mesh.I buffed the stem and stummel with Brown Tripoli and carnauba. While I am unhappy with the tiny flaw on the bowl that remains un-darkened, I am pleased with the overall results. This Trident System, a WDC second made when Peterson’s System was still revolutionary, is a clear tribute to the folks in Dublin. Maybe it was the giant Irish maker that put an end to Trident because of the matter of a little patent infringement technicality! Who knows?