Blog by Steve Laug
Jeff and I often purchase pipe bowl/stummels of brands that we like and want to restore. These have included a lot of different bowls. If you have followed us for long you know that some of these have included Peterson’s, Dunhill’s, and a wide range of Danish and English pipes. Awhile ago Jeff and I were sorting through the bowls in our collection and pulled out eight Peterson’s bowls that were dirty and stemless. A friend referred us to a contact named Silas Walls, of Walls Pipe Repair in Wallace, Idaho, USA as he seems to have a good supply of original Peterson’s stems. Our friend has had him fit stems for some of his Petes and was very happy with the work. We made contact with him and sent him eight bowls for restemming.
This fourth of them that we cleaned up before mailing them out was a bowl that we purchased on 09/04/2020 from Gonzales, Louisiana, USA. It is stamped on the left side of the shank and reads Peterson’s [over] Mark Twain. On the right side of the shank it is stamped Made in the Republic of Ireland (three lines). It has a tarnished silver ferrule on the shank that is stamped Peterson’s [over] Dublin. Further down the ferrule it is stamped Sterling [over] Silver. Below that are three silver hallmarks – a Hibernia symbol, a harp, and the letter P. This gives the information that it is Irish made, the harp is sign of the quality of silver and the P is the date code. (I will explore that more below). The bowl was dirty with lava on the rim top, darkening on the edge and a moderate cake in the bowl. The finish had a lot of grime ground into the surface of the finish but some nice grain peeked through. The silver ferrule was heavily oxidized. Jeff took photos of the bowl before he did his cleanup work in preparation for sending them to Walls Pipe Repair for their new stem. The photos of the thick cake in the bowl and the lava build up and nicks/scratches in the surface and edges of the rim top. It showed a lot of promise.Jeff took photos of the stamping on the sides of the shank. It is clear and readable as noted above. There is also some great grain around the bowl and shank. As is my habit I turned to Pipephil (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-peterson-ser.html) to get a quick overview of the Mark Twain pipe.When I clicked on the photo of the second pipe above it took me to a photo of the hallmarks that looked identical to the ones on the pipe I am working on. It made me question the date mark and dig further. The note below the photo said, “Peterson Mark Twain (not from the two numbered editions). That photo has a red arrow pointing to the P date stamp. Now to dig a little deeper.I turned to Pipedia and there was nothing specific about that stamping. I am including the link to the 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 turned then to the definitive pipe book, The Peterson Pipe by Mark Irwin and Gary Malmberg to find more information on the pipe and the stamping on it. I turned first to the short entries and on page 308 found the following information.
Mark Twain (1981-) System pipe design copied from a photograph of Samuel L. Clemens’s pipe held at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal, Missouri. Arguably Peterson’s most famous and widely known commemorative, it was first introduced as a limited edition 400 numbered pipes in 1981 and offered in smooth and rusticated finishes to this day. Based on shape 14 from 1906 catalog…
There was also a note to turn to another chapter for further information. There is a section in the book on page 174-176 on the Mark Twain variations. There on page 176 in a paragraph entitled, “The Mark Twain System” I found some helpful information which I quote below.
The Mark Twain System. Usually known as the De Luxe, 2400 unnumbered pipes were originally released in 1981 with the hallmark P, and available in smooth as well as rusticated finishes. It is stamped PETERSON’S in script over Mark Twain on the obverse of the shank. The front side of the mouthpiece is stamped with a white P. The pipe retailed for $75 in a red oversized gift box and sometimes included a reproduction of the John Adams etching. De Luxe Quality models were released several times over the years, with later documented examples bearing hallmarks from 1982, 1984-1987, `990-1991, 1994 and 1997.
This section was extremely helpful in that it described the pipe I was working on to a T. So I knew that the pipe was a Mark Twain System known as the De Luxe. It was one of 2400 pipes that were released in 1981 with the hallmark on the silver ferrule – exactly like the one I was working on. I had no need to go further with the hallmarks in terms of dating the pipe.
Now it was time to work on the pipe. Jeff had done a great job cleaning up the pipe as usual. He reamed the pipe with a PipNet reamer and cut back the cake back to the bare briar. He cleaned up the walls with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the interior of the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the tars and oils. He scrubbed the exterior of the pipe with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime from the finish. He worked on the rim top lava and darkening with the soap and tooth brush. It looked much better. The silver ferrule had a tarnish that I would need to deal with. When the pipes came back to Jeff with their new stems they looked great. When the pipe arrived here this week I took photos of it with its stem so you can see what I see. It is a great looking pipe and the replacement stem works well. I took some close up photos of the rim top and also of the stem surface. I wanted to show how well it had cleaned up. The rim top looked quite good but there was some damage and darkening around the inner edge. It should clean up really well. I also took close up photos of the new stem to show how well it is made! Thanks to Walls Pipe Repair!! I took photos of the stamping on the sides of the shank. You can see that it is stamped as noted above. It is clear and readable. I removed the stem and took a photo of the pipe to have a look at the parts and overall look. The new stem looked really good with the bowl.Since the stem was in perfect condition and would not need work I set it aside and turned to work on the bowl. I decided to address the damage to the inner edge of the bowl and the rim top first. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to give the inner edge of the bowl a slight bevel to minimize the darkening and damage and blend it into the surrounding briar.I polished the silver ferrule with a jeweler’s cloth to remove the tarnish and slow down the tarnishing process. I steamed out the dents and road rash on the left side of the bowl and on the heel with a flat butter knife heated on my gas stove top and a wet cloth. Once finished they were gone and the pipe looked very good.I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. The polishing of the rim top and inner edge brought the rim top colour to match the rest of the bowl. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for 15 minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. Since the stem was new condition the pipe was basically finished. I am excited to put the final touches on this newly restemmed Made in the Republic of Ireland Peterson’s Mark Twain System Pipe. I put the pipe back together and buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I hand buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. It is fun to see what the polished bowl looks like with beautiful mixed grain all around it. Added to that the polished black vulcanite stem combined with the bowl and made a stunning pipe. This smooth Classic Peterson’s Mark Twain System is great looking and the pipe 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 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 66 grams/2.33 ounces. I will be holding on to this one while I decide if I am going to sell it or smoke it. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this pipe. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog.