“It’s like there’s nothing between me & the tobacco.”
—Shane Ireland, on the NAP Reproduction Mouthpiece
Early Saturday evening, November 2nd, just after the West Coast Pipe Show closed for the day at the Palace Station hotel and casino, several members of the NAP reproduction vetting group met in the old buffet room to talk about their experiences with Charles Peterson’s NAP Patent System pipe.
L to R: Andy Camire, Todd Becker, Shane Ireland and Rick Newcombe
The group included Silver Gray and Brad Pohlmann, the artisans responsible for re-creating the NAP mouthpiece; “Apostle of Pipes” Rick Newcombe, author of In Search of Pipe Dreams (2006) and Still Searching for Pipe Dreams (2013); Todd Becker, dba Deadmanspipes and fellow Pete Freek; Andy Camire, long-time member of the Sherlock Holmes Pipe Club of Boston; and James Foster, aka “Pylorns” on the web, writer for PipesMagazine.com and founder of the Texas Pipe Show. Shane Ireland, Director of Smokingpipes.com, received his own commissioned NAP at the show and also joined us, as well as several guests who just wanted to hear what the NAP is all about.
The conversation naturally fell into two parts—the vetting group’s experiences smoking the NAP, followed by an extensive Q&A with Silver Gray and Brad Pohlmann about the engineering of the stems.
First Impressions: Smoking the NAP Patent
Silver: This was my first time smoking a Peterson, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to get Brad’s and mine done in time for the show. But I made time to do it. And my experience is that with the Peterson as a brand new pipe, I put a half bowl in it and smoked it right to the bottom. And then I ran another bowl through it, and t smoked right to the bottom. And I’m not a right-to-the-bottom kind of girl. I usually dump out the last third because I don’t like the taste of it because it gets strong at that point. But I was able to smoke it down no issue whatsoever. I am sold on this button because I think it made all the difference for me.
Brad: I have a Peterson 314 stummel my mother bought at a garage sale years ago, without a mouthpiece years ago. And I had a cheap, acrylic mouth piece made for it. As you can see, I’ve replaced it with the NAP mouthpiece. And I just finished two bowls back-to-back during the show today, and this pipe has never smoked better. I find that the NAP mouthpiece invites you to sip the smoke far more [than a traditional mouthpiece]. And because you can’t put a pipe cleaner down through it while you’re smoking it, the NAP forces you to take full advantage of the inherent design of the pipe as far as taking advantage of the military mount and absorbing the excess moisture if that happens during the smoke.
My first impressions are of the way the mouth fills with smoke: it’s evenly distributed across the mouth. And the tactile feel over the tongue with the ridges [on the clamshell button] is unique.
Rick: I like Peterson pipes, and I love the P-Lip as a change of pace. I have probably smoked one Peterson every week for more than 40 years. When I smoked the NAP mouthpiece, it was just a different experience.
On the positive side, I like the feel of it. You know, I put my tongue in it. It felt good. I seem to get more nicotine, more juice, from using the NAP mouthpiece. I find my lip somehow becomes a little “crinkly” or something—it’s dryer from the smoke going in there. But I really like it, and I’m glad to do it as an experiment. It’s fun.
Shane: One of the first nice pipes that I bought was actually a System Rustic, about 12 years ago. and I smoked it for awhile, and I don’t think I really understood the System and how to use it, being a less skilled pipe smoker in general back then. It’s something that I didn’t end up keeping, which I now regret. It’s only been in the recent past that I’ve revisited the System.
I had my NAP reproductions made for the the two System pipes that I’ve been smoking with a regular P-Lip for the past two years. I had found that the P-Lip was a really, really good way to test a fresh tobacco, like a fresh Virginia. It rounded out the smooth edges, and I was able to actually get an idea of the flavor and get a cool smoke and all that kind of stuff.
I’ve put maybe four bowls through one of the pipes that I had modified to have the NAP lip, and initially, I was struggling a little bit because I felt like I was maybe puffing a little bit too fast. It’s so open feeling. I mean, it feels somehow more open than even a cob stem. And it took a little getting used to, but I feel like it’s something a lot of us might have said was [just] a novelty from back in the day, but really it’s actually sort of ingenious. And I’m getting a lot of flavor, definitely a cool smoke.
But most notably I think is the lack of resistance. After the first couple of bowls, I think I said to Brad that it felt like there was nothing between my lips and the bowl, and there’s zero resistance. I think it feels good also: it’s an ergonomic sort of a mouthpiece. But for me the mouthpiece’s most notable feature is how wide open it is, how effortless.
You draw very little to produce a big volume of smoke. And at that point you end up smoking slower, and I think generally speaking, the slower you smoke and the cooler you smoke [and] the more flavor you’re going to get from your tobacco. It’ll be interesting over the coming months to see what kind of results I get as I get better at smoking it.
But my first impressions are that it seems even more open than a pipe where the airway is four millimeters the whole way through. It feels like a straight injection onto your palate.
Todd Becker: I agree with a lot of things that the group has been saying. I’m actually, like Mark, traditionally a P-Lip guy, and also a 9mm filter guy, surprising to a lot of people. Maybe it’s because I’m German, but I actually like a little resistance on my jaw. People have encouraged me to smoke pipes with a more open draft. And what I’ve found with this is that it’s incredible—it’s become my new favorite pipe. The mouth feel, like Shane was mentioning, somehow disperses the smoke in a way that I’ve never felt before. There’s no moisture. I’m not in need of a nine millimeter filter.
I was a bit skeptical up front: was it a novelty when it was created? Why did they create it? Why did they discontinue it? I would love to see it put into production. It’s fantastic all around. I went with the AB [tapered stem] style, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s just wide open, no moisture, smooth and enhances the flavor like Shane was saying. Just an absolutely incredible pipe all around.
Andy: I’ve been a fan of the P-Lip for probably 40 years or more. And this is the first time I’ve ever seen such a unique stylized lip on a stem. According to the drawings that we’ve seen, from the way it’s made it does exactly what it’s supposed to do. I feel like it really spreads the smoke out over your palate, and it’s effortless. I can honestly say this pipe basically smokes itself. You nearly have to sip it, and the draw is just incredible.
If I could, I’d put this on many of the pipes that I own presently. It’s just amazing, a wonderful addition to the Peterson line, and hope we can see more of it in the future.
James: I’ve only put about eight bowls through my NAP pipe. The first couple of ones, I was telling Silver earlier, burnt the tip of my tongue. But I was smoking it straight on, where the pipe was straight on.
After talking to Silver, I decided to stop and set aside some time and try again. So I came here to the lounge and I smoked it from the the corner of my mouth [rather than straight on]. For the first time, I could feel the smoke fanning out across my palate, and it was a perfect smoke all the way down. I also felt like the flavor profile changed a little bit [from the P-Lip to the NAP]. Maybe brighter, more smoke?
It was also interesting because I was paying attention to it and not engaged in conversation: it smoked perfect. Giving myself time, sitting down, being a little slower and more methodical made it work like a champ.
Mark: When Gary Malmberg sent me his original IFS NAP to smoke, the experience came as a complete surprise. My first two smokes were amazing, and then—because I’m a recovering ‘chuffer,’ I noticed something like what Rick has already mentioned, some dryness or dehydration on my lips. As a P- Lip user, I have a cadence of long, deep draws. But this kind of mouthpiece doesn’t work that way. As everyone has said, it’s for sipping, like the finest artisan engineered pipes.
The first tobacco I smoked in it was McClelland’s Dark Star, and I couldn’t get to the end of the bowl. I was two and a half hours into it and still smoking. I thought, ‘What’s going on here?’ Normally I smoke a chamber about 20mm x 42mm (the typical 309) in about two hours, but with this, I was only half way through the bowl! Shane, what is the System bowl you’ve got on the NAP stem you’re smoking? Have you noticed this phenomenon?
Shane: It’s a 317. I’m going on two hours with it now, and it’s not done. My second and third bowls ran about an hour and twenty minutes each.
Mark: What do you think accounts for the longer smoking time as compare to the P-Lip?
Shane: I think the reason is that the smoke is fanning out and you’re getting more nicotine absorption and therefore more flavor from every small sip.
And a wide open pipe does the same thing. It forces you to smoke slower because if there’s a lot of flavor and a lot of nicotine, if you’re really puffing on it, you’re going to feel it. You know what I mean?
You learn to pace yourself. I have a bunch of pipes that are about this size, group one, group two. And in most of them, if I’m smoking a Virginia Flake rubbed out completely, I can still smoke about an hour in a pipe that is 17mm x 20 mm. A lot of people kind of are surprised by that. They say, ‘A pipe like that must be a 20 minute smoke for you,’ and I’m like, ‘No, it’s about an hour.’ And it’s because of the lower puffs or beats per minute, however you want to say it.
So if you cut your cadence in half, [then you need] your smoke intake to double. And I think that’s what it is: you’re getting more nicotine than you’re used to in every puff of the NAP. And you’re getting more flavor than you’re used to in every puff, which also has something to do with it.
Mark: That makes complete sense to me. I feel totally satiated about half-way through the bowl. I find myself just putting it down, saying ‘Okay. That’s it. I’m done,’ and I’m the kind of guy who lights his P-Lip System after supper and smokes ’til bedtime, 2 ½ or 3 hours straight. But I can’t do that with the NAP. It’s a much-higher octane experience.
NAP Roundtable: Q&A on Engineering the Mouthpiece
If you’re interested in obtaining a NAP reproduction mouthpiece,
contact Silver Gray at email@example.com
Thanks to everyone who participated in the NAP Project
Roundtable photography by Marie Irwin
Special thanks to Truett Smith, lead copywriter at Smokingpipes.com,
for providing a transcript of the NAP roundtable recording;
additional pipe photography by Chas. Mundungus
Good morning. I was not at the show as America is such a big country and you could get lost there. No one get lost here. I got my NAP 11. Sept. Looked at it until 20. Okt. when I sat it on fire. It is now well broken in and until now I have had 82 NAP bowls and some p lips. If I have lived next door to Ms Silver I would take an unsmoked Premier from stock and asked her to make a NAP to it. Her work is supreme. I am pleased Mark asked me to… Read more »
Thank you, Jorgen, for being part of the group. 82 NAP Bowls!! I think you are the NAP Record holder.
By the way, I would like to get lost in your Pipe Room sometime.
Loving my NAP. At first it was a struggle. I smoke mostly VA flake and I was finding that i was smoking it way to hot due to the incredible draw. After adjusting and taking much smaller puffs I was able to smoke it cool enough for VA blends…..I am constantly wowed by the flavor profiles I am able to generate from this pipe. It’s hard to smoke anything else.
I’m glad you got a shot at this pipe Sam! I was at the shop last week and asked about you. Sound like you are enjoying the NAP experience!
Hi Sam, I’m so glad you’re pleased with your NAP! Like you, I smoke mostly VA flakes, but I’m still having to work on my cadence.
Mark, I was just wondering about the “NAP Experience” and how things were going?? Also, as I was reading this and mulling over the NAP, I was wondering if the reason they may not have “worked out” in the past was the high skill, high labor cost to make them? I would be curious if the external grooves on the NAP could be eliminated? It would seem to me that the cross-slot is the most important part of the experience by what is being described as “flowing across the palate”. I am no expert, and have not smoked one so… Read more »
Actually, John, at my presentation I showed Charles Peterson’s first NAP patent–no “grooves”! That was in February of 1905. By July, he had added the upper and lower “grooves” or vents on the final patent version. I assure you, they are very much necessary to what he was trying to achieve, although your idea of a “February NAP Patent” sounds really fascinating. I’m sure Silver would be happy to make one for you! If you decide to go for it, let me know and I’ll find a 3rd partner, as she gives a discount for 3-at-once and now you’ve got… Read more »
I was looking at Silver’s rendition of the NAP bit and noticed that the grooves look parallel to each other, is this correct? The Peterson Patent drawing I remember has the grooves in a radius fan shape. Does the original NAP pipe that you have smoked have the parallel or radius grooves? The radius “vents” would be much more difficult to make, unless they are molded right into the stem, then it should not matter. I am still thinking about making my own NAP stem, I have the tooling and skills to taper bore, cross bore, and form the bit.… Read more »
Silver’s reproductions match the vulcanite IFS. The Patent drawing, and Patent specs, didn’t even specify the number of vents, did it? “3 to 5” or something like that. Actual production settled the matter at 3. The NAP amber “A” mouthpiece, shown in the sandblast post, does indeed have radius grooves–the two outer ones on top and bottom. I’ve sent you a detail. As for molding–Brad Pohlmann is convinced these were all hand-cut. Andy Camire, an engineer by trade, believes a pro-CAC machine could do this work. Would it smoke any different? The radius grooves should disperse the smoke in a… Read more »
The figures #5 and #6 on the patent drawings have the radius/fan layout, especially #6. Figure #6 is quite an elaborate design. The IFS stem and the amber stem pics look parallel to my eye. My guess is that three grooves were settled on as the tools and/or processes, most likely hand files especially in amber (real amber is probably difficult or impossible to mold into shape) or if a molded vulcanite stem, the mold…did not have the resolution to accomplish such narrow grooves with any consistency. I am drawn more and more to trying a NAP ?
John, interesting question about the amber. You’ve piqued my interest in how amber is carved. It cannot be molded, as it is a soft stone. Loads of good info out there, but try https://www.amberpieces.com/knowledge-base to get started. I found, for example, that the Charles Peterson NAP amber is “honey”–one of 6 colors the site lists. And that he got it–no surprises–in the Baltic, maybe even in Latvia.
Thanks for the link, I will take a look. I have been wanting more info on amber.
I have been trying to find information on how to work (bend) amber for stems. I have read somewhere that hot oil is used, but I do not know what kind of oil or what temperature. My guess would be mineral oil? Still looking ? I have worked on an old Wally Frank Gold banded Meerschaum Billiard with a broken amber stem. There was enough stem length and girth left to file in a new button to turn it into a 4/5 size nose-warmer…maybe a nose-heater? Big pipe? The only issue is that the stem was originally a deep yellow/orange,… Read more »
A newspaper article from 1910 reported that Charles Peterson bent his over a candle. Fact.
Thanks for the info. Sounds scary? I’d hate to mess up an amber stem?
I sent you a detail of CP’s button, where you can see the radius vents quite distinctly.
Hmm, I missed (grooves) when comparing the IFS and amber stems as being parallel. Figure #6 grooves have a common center point the grooves radiate from.
I would agree with Andy Camire’s thought that a CNC/3-D router should be able to replicate any of the NAP patent forms/designs fairly easily and quickly.
Yesterday I had NAP bowlfull number 104. It has been a pleasure. I do not think I will count anymore, just smoke.
Next time will be when I take one of my amber spigots in use.
104??!! I think you win the prize, sir. Do you find the NAP better or worse or just different than the P-Lip?