01. “Ceci n’est pas une K&P”: Goodbye Shape 309!

Ceci n'est pas une K&P Irwin entry 032614

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
—T. S. Elliot, “Little Gidding”

There’s nothing like beginning with endings. So it is that I bring some late news you may not have heard—2013 was the final year of production for Shape 4 (the Deluxe 4S), known by most Pete Nuts as the 309, but also seen in the XL339 (Classic Lines).

From its first appearance in the 1896 catalog as one of eight “Straight-Sided Bowls” until last year, the 4 (or 309) was one of a handful of original Patent shapes that defined the System. Indeed, it was featured in the perennial line drawing of The Thinking Man (not the painting) from the time of his appearance around 1909 until now.

The 309 shape, called by Kapp & Peterson throughout most of its history a “Dutch Billiard,” was also the preferred pipe for Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes in the final ten films he made for Universal Studios, probably as the 4AB.*

Its chamber dimensions, averaging about 2.11 : 1.00 of depth by width or 41mm x 19.3mm, make the 309 an ideal Virginia and Virginia flake pipe, qualifying in many pipemen’s thinking as a “short stack,” but not so narrow as to preclude pressing it into service for English and Oriental tobaccos as well.

The market has apparently reached saturation after 118 years (not a bad continuous run for pipe shape), and the demand is now so slight that Tony Whelan Jr., factory manager in Sallynoggin, told me it has been dropped from production with a few other shapes (on which more, later). But don’t be sad, Flying Ace, because there’s still plenty of examples of this fine shape to be had on the estate market, most going for a song. And like other shapes in Peterson’s catalog, it might just resurface. You never know.


Length: 5.23 in. / 132.84 mm.
Weight: 2.00 oz. / 56.70 g.
Bowl Height: 2.08 in. / 52.83 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.60 in. / 40.64 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.73 in. / 18.54 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.28 in. / 32.51 mm.

XL339 Straight Grain Gold
XL339 Gold Straight Grain (Courtesy Smokingpipes.com)

*For more on Basil Rathbone’s use of this pipe, see “The Pipes of Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes: A Visual Essay,” at http://www.neatpipes.com/blog/the-pipes-of-basil-rathbones-sherlock-holmes-a-visual-essay/&id=65 .

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Mark IrwinTim HuberMark IrwinTim BonineMark Irwin Recent comment authors
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Great. Mark introduces me to the 309 / 4S shape, which I now really enjoy, and Peterson is discontinuing it. I hope I’ll be able to find a few more than I’ve acquired….


I have to say the simple lines of this shape make it my favourite of the system pipes. A real pity it is disappearing and I will try to keep as many of them in circulation as possible with my restorations.

Tim Bonine
Tim Bonine

Does anyone know when the 4AB became known as the 309? What marking would have appeared on the 4AB?

Mark Irwin

Hi Tim, it’s all in the Peterson book, but for now: 4 is the basic shape number, 1891 to the present. A 309 is the Standard System number from 1937 to the present. The “AB” means ARMY (A) and TAPERED (B). S is for SADDLE as in the DeLuxe version of this shape, the 4S.

Mark Irwin

Can’t tell you for sure if the bowl would have the 4AB stamp, but if so look for it on the reverse side and fairly small.

Tim Huber
Tim Huber

Would there be a stamped 309 from the patent era pipes, or might there be a ” How many things wrong with this can you find? ” model I can send you photo’s of, it has that chicken with one duck foot feeling.

Mark Irwin

Hi Tim, I answered you directly, but in case anyone’s interested (and the answer is in the book, of course), Peterson penciled the shape numbers inside the chamber until sometime in the IFS era.

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