03. The Rathbone (XL20): Introducing the Return of Sherlock Holmes.

I want to talk about this pipe while it’s still fresh in my memory from my foray into the Sherlock Holmes films of Basil Rathbone this spring. The Rathbone was the first pipe released in The Return of Sherlock Holmes series, appearing in 1991 and announced in that year’s “Flat Bottom” brochure.

Rathbone Natural (Courtesy AlPasica)

Paddy Larrigan told me at the factory last summer that he designed the first seven, but none after that. Whoever was responsible for The Rathbone, however, was both a skilled designer and cineasté, because the pipe takes the two pipes Rathbone smoked in his 14-film series and blends them into a single homage worthy of both pipes and of Rathbone himself: slim, large, and dynamic.

Dunhill LC

In the first two Twentieth-Century Fox films Rathbone smoked what appears to be a Dunhill LC / Parker, from which the designer extracted the Rathbone’s graceful “Swan Neck.”

1937 Catalog Illustration of 4AB (top); New 309 w/AB stem (bottom)

For the bowl, the designer pays homage to the Peterson 4AB’s straight-sided “Dutch billiard” (as K&P has always called it), which Rathbone smoked throughout the remaining twelve Universal films.

 The pipe was initially released in a smooth, orange finish, but also in a very handsome rusticated finish. Later on it was released in the less-expensive Kinsale line. It has also appeared in a Natural finish, as well as in natural with a gold band, and continues in production.

Rathbone, Peterson 4AB, and Nigel Bruce from Kiss of the Spider-Woman (1943)

I companion a Rathbone in the Natural finish and use it for all manner of Virginia tobaccos, as I find this type of chamber size and geometry respond extremely well to them. It’s just light enough to smoke hands-free.

Length: 5.80 in / 147 mm
Weight: 2.00 oz / 57 gr
Bowl Height: 2.19 in / 56 mm
Chamber Depth: 1.88 in / 48 mm
Chamber Diameter: 0.80 in / 20 mm
Outside Diameter: 1.44 in / 37 mm

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mark Domingues
Mark Domingues
6 years ago

Informative article, love it. Keep em coming.

Mark Domingues
Mark Domingues
6 years ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

Mark, can you briefly tell me about the Z series pipe? Thanks, Mark

Mark Domingues
Mark Domingues
6 years ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

Mark, My rusticated 1993 Rathbone came in from ebay yesterday. It should clean up like new. Can you briefly tell me about the Z series pipe? Thanks, Mark

Tim Bonine
Tim Bonine
1 year ago

Do you know any pipe repair shops that can make a custom vulcanite stem for a System 309 to approximate the 4AB look?

Mark Irwin
1 year ago
Reply to  Tim Bonine

Probably your best bet, Tim, is to send the bowl to Peterson and ask for a tapered P-Lip in vulcanite. It will be much less expensive than asking an artisan-maker to custom craft one for you. Aside from the postage, I don’t think the mouthpiece will run you more than $40 or so, although sending an email to Peterson can confirm that. It’s been awhile since I had them make mine, but sending the pipe will ensure that the mouthpiece is correctly fitted. It might also be worth sending an email to Charles Lemon at Dad’s Pipes or Steve Laug… Read more »