171. The St. Patrick’s Day XXIV for 2020

IPSD is February 20th.
Please read the note at the end of the blog on how we can celebrate!

If the St. Patrick’s Day commemorative has flagged a bit in inventiveness from time to time over its 22 year history, things have certainly been building in the past three years: 2018’s brilliant Dublin-era parting shot of sterling-mount, yellow acrylic with imbedded aluminum P; 2019’s unheard-of SPD System, and now the artisan-blast St. Patrick’s Day XXIV for 2020—“XXIV” as in twenty-four shapes, that is.

I can hear some taking exception to my use of “artisan blast,” which is why I’m not only including a gallery of all 24 shapes on offer, but double-shots of a few. As Sykes Wilford explained on the release of the 20th Anniversary SPC Peterson small batch in January, sandblasted bowls are separated into four grades, dependent on grain structure and blast depth.

As seen in an earlier post, Peterson has three craftsmen who, among their other skills, comprise Peterson’s sandblasting team: Willy Murray, who grades the bowls, Michail Galimov, who I think does much of the blasting, and Jonathan Fields, factory manager, who does the rest.

Take a look at this double shot of shape 107 and you can see what I’m talking about (remember you can click on the photos to make them larger). At $90 to $100, the SPD2020 offers one-of-a-kind pipes. I realize that every pipe is in many senses unique because of its grain structure, briar hardness, curing and the specificities of its manufacture. But what I’m talking about here is that when you go to pick out anSPD2020 and say you want a B10, well, no two are going to have the same blast pattern.

Old Pete fans know this was not always the case. Outsourced blasting for many years looked almost like it had been stamped on the wood because the bowl was laid on one side, blasted, and then turned over and blasted again for a shorter period of time. Then toward the end of the Dublin era, the pattern was varied, now going from the front bottom of the bowl toward the top and back. But if you look at those pipes they still can look almost identical, because they were all blasted the same way in an assembly-line fashion.

The only way to get spectacular blasts during the Dublin era was to find a Pete made in collaboration with Mario Lubinski for the Italian market. Those, I confess, could be absolutely breath-taking, like this XL21 silver cap from 1991 (and yes, those waves go all the way around the bowl):

But when Michail and Jonathan step up to the blasting booth, they’ve got their game on and are looking to see what they can make of each bowl, and the wood responds to them in unique ways. Look at these two shape 999s for instance:

The semi-matte green over black stain this year is also fascinating and unlike anything from Peterson’s previous green efforts. Sometimes it seems to take very dark and sometimes much lighter, as in these two X220s, which are also amazing for the different end results achieved in each blast:

And when the stain, blast and contrast-revealed grain all converge, you can get two very different-looking pipes, as seen in this pair of B11s:

The pair of 68s below shows just how different a “lunar” almost strawberry-wood type of blast can look next to one which radiates out from the top center of the bowl and down the sides:

Sometimes the blasts are so unique, like the 304 on the right in the photo below, that the impulse to buy is almost irresistible. That pipe on the right, I kid you not, looks like some kind of Irish hornet’s nest to me. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the sheer peculiarity of it fascinates me:

This also marks the first year that 24 shapes have been released. The rule of thumb during the Dublin Era (1998-2018) was to release a dozen shapes of the SPD and Christmas commemoratives. When I inquired, Josh Burgess, Managing Director at Peterson, wrote and said,

I know that green pipes aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but St. Patrick’s Day is an occasion for us to have some fun. We were really pleased to do a large shape variety this year. That’s partly the result of having people who are enthusiastic pipe smokers involved in these sorts of decisions. Someone always says, “Oh but I love the 406! We can’t leave that one out.” We also know that each pipe fills a niche for a certain type of smoker.

There’s no special shape this year, unless it’s the Tankard from the Specialty Quartet, which seems to have appeared in much smaller numbers than the other shapes.

The 24 shapes include the 01, 03, 05, 15, 68, 69, 87, 106, 107, 120, 221,304, 338, 406, 408, 608, 999, B10, B11, Tankard, X105, X220, XL90 and XL02. If you secretly believe, as I do, that there are really two XL02 shapes being released, then that makes a total of 25. The one on the left is the original 1979 shape with its very fat-bottom and heavy shank. The one on the right is what most would call a classic apple, although I’d call it a ball. I’m not prejudiced, as I companion one of each:

The stamping on the bowls this year is in my opinion spot-on perfect, with the classic fork-tail P Peterson’s over Dublin stamp. Under that is the St. PATRICK’S over DAY stamp. Nearby is the shape stamp and the year stamp. That’s four hand-stamping operations that should equal one very happy Pete Freek and pipe collector.

As we say in The Peterson Pipe book and I have said elsewhere in these posts, Peterson is the second most-datable pipe after Dunhill, but in many cases individual Peterson pipes are easier to date than Dunhills, being quite straight-forward with year and line data and requiring no code book arcania.

The nickel mounts are higher polished than some previous years, carrying the classic 1890s “Maker’s Mark” of K&P in large letters over PETERSON.

The bowl coating looks slightly different from what’s been going on in recent months, a little grittier as you can see in the photo below. I contacted Josh Burgess about it and he said it’s been in use “for a while now. We switched to an organic charcoal powder–mostly because it’s available in bulk. It’s a little coarser than what we were using before, but I quite liked the results. The basic recipe remains the same: gum arabic, charcoal powder and water.” And in fact, when I smoked a bowl, it produced the same wonderful “no flavor,” which means fantastic. You can expect a kind of curly residue in the bottom of the first bowl, a combination of the gum arabic and tobacco remnants I suppose, but the carbon cake builds up fast and sweet and is so far superior to what I’ve sample from other factory pipes and many artisan pipes that I can’t recommend it highly enough.

The mortise in the pipes I’ve looked at has just a bit of “tear away” (wood shavings caused by the air way drilling that remain attached to the mortise). Just remember to take your tube brush or bristle cleaner and swab them out before your first smoke and you’ll be fine. (If this seems unreasonable to you at the $90 price bracket, I’m currently breaking in a fantastic hawk bill from an American artisan that had a bit of something in the airway and it cost four times as much. I just don’t worry about such things, remembering the old adage: buy the pipes you like and like (as in treat well) the pipes you buy.

Here’s the remaining shapes to complete the SPD 2020 gallery, but be sure and read the note at the end of the post—I need your help for IPSD, which is just ten days away:

 

Photos courtesy Smokingpipes.com
Thanks to Laudisi, Peterson & Josh Burgess
XL21 Silver Cap photo courtesy LePipe.it
Banner photo and detail photos Chas. Mundungus

For International Pipe Smoking Day 2020, Thursday, February 20th,

my friend Charles Mundungus has asked if we can do
a special “Sweet Petes” post featuring
photos of readers’ favorite Petes.
So I asked my internet tech, and she obliged.

Send a photo of your favorite Pete or you and your favorite Pete,
where you’re from and maybe a line about yourself, to

ipsd@petersonpipenotes.org.

It would be fantastic to have participants from all over the globe.
Here’s a sample that Charles sent me using his smart phone:

Charles Mundungus, Lake Geneva, Switzerland. Retired concert pianist & amateur historian. B22 / Antique Collection 1904.

 

The IPSD email address will be operative until February 19th.
I do hope you will take a minute,
snap a photo, email it
be a part of the
IPSD Sweet Petes 2020.

 

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