163. Documenting a Long Shank Canadian

A few months ago I received a remarkable Peterson shape from Robert Babic, a skilled restorationist working in Slovenia. I’d heard about this shape, but never seen one—a “long-shank” canadian.

Gary Malmberg has several early canadians documented in his mammoth “Master Log” of hallmarked Peterson pipes, beginning with a shape 994 Irish Free State (1922-37) and followed by a 980 De Luxe and a 980 “K,” also from the IFS, as well as two more with neither line-name or shape number stamps from the thirty year hallmark hiatus, 1938-1968.

But the 994, as you can see from the scale drawing in the 1939 Rogers Imports catalog, measures a mere 6 ¾ inches. It was available across all the Classic Range lines: De Luxe, First Quality, Kapruf, Kapet, Stering, Killarny and Shamrock. I haven’t been able to document the 980, so I can’t tell you how long it is, but Peterson’s other canadian shapes tend to extend to about 6 to 6.50 inches, none of these approaching Babic’s rusticated long shank, which comes in at 7.25 inches.

The first time I heard about the Peterson long shank was from the late Tony Soderman, the Minneapolis attorney who called himself “Mr Can” on eBay and was an established fixture at the Chicagoland Show for years beyond count. I was tagging along with my then-future co-author to visit Tony’s room at the Chicago show in 2012, as we watched him wheel in box after box of amazing estate pipes.

Tony had displayed his collection of long shanks at the 2004 show, and if memory serves, was as we were standing in his room in 2012 enthusing about Peterson long shanks. It was Tony’s firm conviction that Peterson had a factory in Australia, incidentally, that led me to document that “factory” and how it operated back in the 1950s, when Australia was Peterson’s fourth largest export market after the US, the UK and Germany.

Dating the pipe was simple. The sterling has the older K & P maker’s mark in shields (the later ones without the points) and no hallmarks, which narrowed the window to 1938-68. But it also has the three-line MADE IN THE over REPUBLIC over OF IRELAND, which narrows the window to 1948-68 (since hallmarking resumed in 1969 and the stamp was used no earlier than 1948). There’s no shape number on the bowl, as you can see in the photo below, which makes me wonder if it was a one-off, a special order or whether it just didn’t get stamped.

When I received the pipe from Robert Babic, he had done most everything that needed doing for this pipe, bringing it back to nearly “as new,” and as I looked at it and thought about it, I only found three minor improvements that could be made.

The first thing I noticed, after having the pipe on my writing desk for several days, was that the rim was probably in need of re-staining. I couldn’t imagine this was what it looked like originally, although it wasn’t unpleasing as it was.

So I diluted some Fiebing’s Medium Brown and gave it a few washes, lighting the stain while wet to help it burn in. I gave it a coat of Halcyon II wax with my fingers, followed by a buff with a bristle nail brush, and then a coat or two of carnauba on the Foredom wheel, also followed by the bristle nail brush.

One thing it still needs—and I can use your advice here—is how to give the rim a permanent shine like the rest of the bowl and shank. I don’t know what Robert used elsewhere, whether a very light lacquer or some other kind of polish, but he really brought out the facets of the pipe’s amazing chisel-cut rustication. But after I smoked the pipe a half-dozen times, as you might expect, the rim is much duller than the sides.

The second thing the pipe needed was a little TLC on the sterling band, supplied by a quick buff with FabuLustre, a jeweler’s compound that’s much finer than white compound and much safer to use on hallmarks and letter stamping.

The final thing was to give the stem a going over. Robert had almost completely removed evidence of the dental marks on the upper button, which were much further up the button than normal, probably because of the weight of the pipe.

The white P had mostly faded, but was still in evidence, so I thought I’d see if I could repaint it. Quite often this stamp is so shallow that one might as well buff it off and be done with it, but in this case the imprint was deep.

I know every one has a different method of doing this, but while I’ve tried other techniques, I’ve never found one that worked better for me that daubing white acrylic paint into the channels of the imprint with a flat tooth pick, letting it stand for 15 or 20 seconds, then giving it a wipe with a folded tissue. I usually have to make two passes to get the imprint filled, and then take a fingernail to flake off the paint on the surface.

Robert said he hadn’t cleaned the internals, but the pipe smelled very clean and he had removed nearly all the cake, leaving just the barest hint. As it smelled clean and a pipe cleaner came out clean from the airhole, all I did for my final prep was to add Charles Lemon’s “Maple Cake” precarb. Charles doesn’t call it this, but I do in his honor because all one does is surreptitiously raid the frig for genuine maple syrup (being careful the Significant Other in your life doesn’t see what you’re doing), stick a finger in and coat the bowl. Then I spoon activated charcoal powder in—sometimes filling up the chamber, sometimes just shaking it around—and dump it out. I give it three days to dry out, or longer if I’m in no hurry. This, to me, is one of the great secrets of an easy break-in and delightful first smoke for any estate pipe.

At 7.25 inches in length, the pipe also needed, as I promptly discovered, some churchwarden-length pipe cleaners if I wanted to swab out the air hole right after a smoke. But it’s worth the investment, as a pipe with a mouthpiece this long smokes just differently enough to make you sit up and think, “Wow! That’s different.”

The rustication, which Todd Becker of Deadmanspipes called “chisel cut” (which seems an apt description) is unique in my personal experience of Peterson, although others have probably encountered it before. If you look closely, it seems to be composed of little squares or rectangles. Someone skilled in pipe-making could say what kind of tool was used to do it, but it’s extremely tactile and a joy to look at: crystalline is the adjective that comes to mind. There’s a little divot on the lower left portion of the bowl, just where my thumb likes to rest, which probably explains why it was rusticated—a sand pit or some other such soft spot that needed to be removed. Thank God for negative spaces, right?

I don’t know how many of these rogue long-shanks Peterson made or when they quit making them, but the shape has been a bit of a Holy Grail one for me, one I never thought I’d see. Bill Burney, the genius behind the old ASP pipe shape charts, has said he doesn’t see any difference in the smoking qualities of one of these 7+ inches canadians and any other pipe. That’s not been my experience—it’s very different. Very cool. Flavor a bit less intense, perhaps, but quite pleasing. If you have one of these super long-shanks in your collection, send me some photos—I’d love to see more examples.


Early Republic Long-Shank Canadian

Measurements & Other Details
Era: Early Republic (1948-1968)
Length: 7.25 in. / 185 mm.
Weight: 1.85 oz. / 52 gr.
Bowl Height: 1.88 in. / 47.8 mm.
Chamber Depth: 1.50 in./38.2 mm.
Chamber Diameter: 0.73 in./18.6 mm.
Outside Diameter: 1.52 in./38.6 mm.
Stem Material: Vulcanite

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