55. The New (Vintage) Amber Spigots

peterson-105In late December, Smokingpipes.com received about 30 or so new Peterson vintage amber spigots. By the time I found out about them later in the day, all but four had sold. But recently Conor Palmer, commercial director at Peterson, sent me several photos of these pipes, leading me to wonder if more may hit the internet at some point in the near future. Maybe Peterson just wanted to mark the occasion and had their photographer in that day, but my hunch is that there’s a few more that will be on the market. Either way, I thought I’d post a few of the photos he sent and tell you a little bit more about Peterson’s history with amber mouthpieces.

I won’t repeat what Sykes Wilford and Andrew Wilkes have already written, so you might first want to head over and read what they have to say at https://www.smokingpipes.com/smokingpipesblog/single.cfm/post/amber-stems-and-petersons-amber-spigot-line. Their words of caution for prospective owners are all to the good.

peterson-87-105You’ve probably run across vintage amber-stemmed Petes on eBay and elsewhere, and invariably you’ve found a beautiful old pipe with a broken stem. Arguably the most beautiful mouthpieces ever made for pipes, amber isn’t as durable as horn, and much more brittle. It was bought in lumps (seen in one of the 1906 catalog photos on the bench in front of Chalres Peterson) and worked by Charles and his right-hand man Jimmy Malone into P-Lip mouthpieces until shortly after the Great War, when amber prices went through the ceiling.

Soldiers returning home weren’t nearly as interested in the prestige of an amber stem as they were—quite understandably—in durability. You’ve only got to look at some of the pipes they brought home from that war and the Boer Wars before it to know what I’m talking about. They wanted something that could take quite a bit of abuse, and amber just wasn’t it.

peterson-86-smoothNevertheless, although Peterson quit advertising amber stems, they still had enough call for them to have purchased the raw material and worked the stems until at least 1939—according to the sale receipt found early last year when the Smokingpipes folks were poking around at the factory.

Smokingpipes weren’t the first to stumble upon stores of amber at the factory, nor the first to have them made up into pipes since Peterson quit offering them. That story will have to wait for the Peterson book. But the beautiful idea of sheathing the delicate stems in a spigot is something that hasn’t been seen from Peterson in the last century.

peterson-105-sideOn most of the pipes I’ve seen, the stems do seem short—an optical illusion caused by the fact that they likely weren’t intended for spigot treatment. It’s also possible they may have been intended as “tubes,” or cigarette holders, but could just as easily be adapted for pipe stems. In either case, as any aficionado of Nose-Warmers can tell you, a short stem doesn’t mean a hot smoke.

ft-304-amber-natural-reverseAmber is not for clinching, being harder than either horn or acrylic, but as most of us (at least here in the U.S.) are getting used to the idea of acrylic, the experience shouldn’t be too dissimilar. If you’ve bought any of the recent vintage Ropp horn-stemmed pipes, you’re getting closer to what amber will be like.

While the original P-Lip mouthpieces had a graduated bore, I don’t know if Jason Hinch (silversmith at Peterson) has been able to preserve the graduation or not. It is theoretically possible to make a P-Lip spigot, as I have a P-Lip vulcanite spigot made for me by his predecessor David Blake. My own Peterson spigots do seem to smoke a bit wetter than regular P-Lips, but that’s in no way a complaint, just an observation worth passing on.

x220-p-lip-amberIf they appear again on the market, you can expect to pay around $340 for a natural finish high-grade bowl, or a bit less for a brushed black rustic. If you’ve got deeper pockets (about another $100), there are still a few sites on the Italian market where, quite sensibly, you can get a natural high grade bowl made up with two spigot mouthpieces—one amber, one vulcanite. At either price, not a bad investment to companion a piece of Peterson’s earliest history!

spigot-86-plip-acrylic03-p-lip-amber15-p-lip-amber-natural-obverse87-p-lip-amber220-amber

Top photos courtesy Peterson Pipes
Other photographs courtesy Smokingpipes.com and AlPascia.it

Rath Dé ort!

 

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Kilgore TroutMark IrwinCharles LemonBuroakTom Greene Recent comment authors
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Tom Greene
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Tom Greene

I had an estate Peterson Pipe with fitted case that I purchased from Barry Levin years ago. It was a small vest pocket type pipe with oval bowl and gold band. I was showing to some fellow pipe smokers at the local B&M and accidentally dropped it. Much to my shock and sadness the stem broke in several pieces. I could never reglue the pieces and decided to send to a pipe repair service to have a new stem made. It came back with a lucite stem with P-lip perfectly matching the broken stem but I was never happy that… Read more »

Mark Irwin
Admin

Well, now might be the time for that pipe to make a return trip to Ireland. It’s possible Jason Hinch could fit it up for you.

Buroak
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Buroak

I was able to watch the stocks at Smokingpipes.com quickly melt away. The temptation to buy one was strong, but my finances were saved by two things. One was simply the expense of the pipes. The other was the impracticality of amber stems. As you noted, amber fell out of favor for reasons other than price. Given that I am a smoker far more than a collector, my Pete budget is better allocated to other pipes.

Mark Irwin
Admin

My reasoning process matched yours exactly. I’m no one’s idea of a “collector,” being a “companioner” / smoker. Still… these are amazing pieces.

Buroak
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Buroak

They certainly are amazing. I am not sure I have seen anything quite this intrinsically special produced in decades.

Kilgore Trout
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Buroak….i am still torn as to whether i will use either of my Amber stems, or just stick with the Acrylic stem, with a Softee on it. i have come up with a sweet solution to protect them, should i decide to use them….instead of a Softee, i order some 3M clear heat shrink tubing. Just today, i sleeved the entire amber portion of the Fishtail Stem, and it shrunk to a perfect, airtight fit. i think i now will use this method on all my stems, and give up the Softees, since, once they have any saliva on them,… Read more »

Buroak
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Buroak

A few more showed up in today’s update from Smokingpipes.com.

Charles Lemon
Guest

The amber stems sure look great but for functionality I think I’d prefer an amber lucite stem. Or one lucite & one vulcanite!

Mark Irwin
Admin

That’s what makes the 2-stem idea so appealing to me. I can get along with an acrylic stem, but really, vulcanite has that rugged versatility that I expect and desire from a Pete.

Buroak
Guest
Buroak

Has anyone actually handled one of these? I am curious as to whether the stem airway looks like that of a true P-lip.

Charles Lemon
Guest

So far my only acrylic stem is the one on my 2016 B10 Christmas pipe. It’s a bit of an adjustment from vulcanite but not as much as I had feared it might be. Beautiful smoker too!

Kilgore Trout
Guest

Buroak —as you my have seen in my posts, i purchased One of the Amber stem/Acrylic stem beauties. Mr. Irwin saw the photos. The beauty of this pipe is sublime. The grain is stunning, especially in the honey-toned natural finish, accented by the usual, stunning Sterling Collar and Spigots. Mine, i think is somewhat unusual, in that both stems are fishtail. No P-Lip, even on the amber. i asked Glen Whelan about it to be certain, before asking Smoking Pipes if they had mistaken an acrylic spigot piece for an Amber one, but Glen assured me it was indeed amber.… Read more »

Kilgore Trout
Guest

Mark, i think there may be some variance in what stems get used. i am 99.99999%(repeating) certain that my non amber stem is Acrylic, not Vulcanite or Ebonite. It does not feel similar on the teeth to any of my pipes with the standard Vulcanite. It feels very much like hard plastic. i could be wrong, as i have been many times, but my 27 yr old Nording that Erik made for me at the Most Revered Tabac shop in our area, is on its 2nd Vulcanite stem, and the feel of those stems are as you’d expect Vulcanite to… Read more »

Mark Irwin
Admin

Yes, it is acrylic, you’re right. I can’t say enough good things about the P-Lip acrylic I’ve been smoking, but the fishtail acrylics are not as comfortable to me. Must be the difference in having that upper and lower wall on the P-Lip.

Buroak
Guest
Buroak

Mr. Lemon,

In truth, I am beginning to prefer the new acrylic P-lips. The very thick and round P-lip stems found on current production System pipes are less comfortable than their increasingly common acrylic replacements.

My question about the P-lip amber stems has to do with my concern that pipe cleaners will gouge into the the stems when making the turn at the button. A faux P-lip might avoid that kind of wear.

Kilgore Trout
Guest

Hello, just 6 days ago, i purchased the 2 stem Amber/Acrylic Spigot pipe from SmokingPipes.com. Beautiful Straight grain, all marks and Cartouchés are crisp and defined. Then, one bowl of Burley a day for 5 days, slowly sipping, and it already has a small burnout beginning beside the draftway. SmokingPipes is cool as far as exchange/refund/repair at heir shop. i am first waiting for an email back from Peterson. If it can be repaired in a satisfactory way, fine, but they have no more Amber, so i do not wish to exchange, or get a refund, unless i can find… Read more »

Mark Irwin
Admin

KT, my advice: keep the amber stem, send the bowl back to Peterson for a replacement. The mounts are now all exactly 11mm, according to Joe Kenny at the factory, so it will be easy to replace. They got a new machine installed in 2015 that standardizes all the spigot mortises. I’ve had too many Pete bowls do exactly what you say, and yes, pipe-mud will do the job, but then there’s the fun of smoking the pipe until the cigar taste goes away and always knowing there’s a potential problem there. (Still, I’ve got a 2009 POTY that I… Read more »

Mark Irwin
Admin

KT — just looked at your 15 bowl on Smokingpipes (it was the estate, right?). Yeah, I’d definitely hope they’ll send that back to you. It’s gorgeous. Their policy seems to be that they certainly don’t have any use for it, so why not give it back to you after they’ve taken a look at it? I don’t understand why this happens so frequently (or maybe just to me), but I do know they can only make sure there’s no problems inside the bowl down to about half-way, or so Tony Whelan, Jr. once told me.

Kilgore Trout
Guest

Yes, that’s the one! It had a bit of rim darkening when i took delivery of the pipe, but the bowl looked 100% unsmoked. Its as if someone wanted to give it a try, but gave up after trying to light it. You know from seeing it why i don’t want to turn loose of this beauty. i’d think it would be an incredibly rare happening. i don’t want to send it to smoking pipes, either….if i did, it would be without the amber stem, for them to evaluate, and see i they could get Peterson to take care of… Read more »

Mark Irwin
Admin

Keep me posted, will you? Want to hear how this story turns out.

Kilgore Trout
Guest

Hi Mark, I emailed with Conor on Monday, he and Glen Whelan had selected 10 new bowls to evaluate which is best, and it should have mailed today, latest tomorrow, and as many had suspected, they are sending the defective bowl back, with Glen telling me, “Try some pipe mud on it, it could last for years.” They are flat-out non-pareil when it comes to Customer Appreciation and Service. Sure it takes a little while to get it all done, but done right beats done fast most any day. i will be launching my Youtube Channel when it arrives. i… Read more »

Kilgore Trout
Guest

Hi Mark, Everybody says it, and they live up to it. Just got the email today, and they are actually making a new bowl, to ensure no issues, and sending it out next Thursday. i just cannot say enough about these guys! If they send the previous one back also, that would be excellent(more silver is never bad!), but the fact that they just attacked this issue so positively, i am delighted, either way. My next was going to be a Savinelli, and still may be, but Peterson’s is doing a great deal to earn my loyalty. Still, a Merchants… Read more »

Mark Irwin
Admin

Hey Trout, so lovely to hear your story is having a happy ending. Hope you will smoke it, at least once, when it arrives. Life is always a risk, and remember, it’s just a piece of wood until you smoke it–then it’s a pipe!

Kilgore Trout
Guest

Hi Mark, First off, Thank You very much for pointing me in the right direction. The only way i could be happier would be if my pipe were in my hand right now….Yes, i’m like a kid impatient for Christmas morning, waiting to see the new bowl! i am definitely going to smoke the pipe, but i’ve been mixed on whether to use the amber stem…Think i should give it a go? i’d hope alcohol would clean out any tar discoloration. Since i am mostly bed-bound, the odds of dropping and breaking are quite low, so that doesn’t concern me.… Read more »

Kilgore Trout
Guest

Mark, They outdid themselves, beyond sending the old and new bowls….they sent another amber stem! This time a P-Lip, with a note from Glen Whelan — Enjoy your amber “twins”. i thought there may be a slim chance they might put in a tin of tobacco, but a 2nd amber stem? This guy is a customer for life, full stop i wonder how much amber they have left. Last i had heard it was under 50, but i have to think there may be more, with them freely sending mine, with no need to do so…..Wow, just wow. Bout to… Read more »

Mark Irwin
Admin

K.T., Whoa–a P-Lip AMBER. THAT’S a prize, my friend. Yes, please send video & link for everyone to enjoy. There should be a bone screw-in tenon extension. It does enhance the smoking experience, so you should leave it on. You can clean the mouthpiece without removing it. I knocked a very tiny tip off my P-Lip button trying to insert a pipe cleaner, so I insert from the tenon-end now and am careful not to go out through the P-Lip. Can’t really see it, but I can feel it, and IT HURTS!!!

Kilgore Trout
Guest

Mark…do not despair, it seems that there must be more amber stems…just as your article said…who knows how many. Neither Glen or Conor may know. i definitely feel ya on the “flaw you know about, that no one else will notice”. That is why i wanted to have the original bowl replaced. Sure it may last decades with the repair, but i would always know it had the flawed spot, covered over with ash putty…it would have diminished my love of it, knowing the flaw was there, period— and i could never have sold it in good conscience. You might… Read more »

Mark Irwin
Admin

KT, thanks for the update. I would be honored to post your video here in the blog when you get it finished. No worries about that bone tenon extension. Sooner or later, with your passion, you’ll companion a Peterson with said device!

Kilgore Trout
Guest

Mark, Thank you for being willing to include my video. i also owe you a huge thanks for putting up with my lack of brevity. For the revised video, i have made an outline. i plan to start fresh tomorrow, as i am just not happy with much of my initial efforts at all. i filmed the arrival of the first pipe, and planned to then go thru the chronology of the exceptional Peterson Service. You are name-checked in this, for pointing me in the right direction. i always thank people who help me when i am unsure how to… Read more »

Kilgore Trout
Guest

Through all the stress and distress, and 8 different filmings, i have a version to post! Now i have to figure out a couple of Final Cut Pro editing tricks, and i will finally have a nice video to post. Apologies for it taking so long, life has been more than overwhelming lately, and it doesn’t look as if that will be changing, for a number of reasons, so i am just going to press ahead.

Mark Irwin
Admin

No worries, KT! I have been gone for a few weeks & am just back and settling into the L&D work on the book, so take your time — I know it will be great!

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