220. Peterson Paisley: It’s in the Grain

Every great pipe maker and artisan has a design language that identifies them to their devotees. For K&P, there are multiple entry-points into a house style that began with Charles Peterson and has followed trends and fashions in pipe making for over 150 years without losing its visual sensibility and fascination.

A Shannon 05 (Dublin Era)

I know Pete Geeks who are enamored of special shapes, unique lines, particular stain colors, era-specific blasts or rustications and even specific engineering procedures. For me, one of the things I’ve always loved is Peterson grain, especially the holy grail of paisley, seen in this amazing Dublin-era Shannon 05 calabash.

From the 1940 Catalog

I’ve only seen three Peterson pipes with paisley in a lifetime of looking at Petes: a POY, a 4S Supreme and a Shannon 05. I’m sure there’s others out there, but those are the only ones I’ve seen.

This POY 2008 was the first I’d ever seen, advertised as an estate for SPC in 2010. It was already sold by the time I saw it, but it did create a deep appreciation for both the shape and the grain.

We all know that K&P uses ebauchon blocks on everything except the rare Plato line, which means that great grain on a Pete is much scarcer and harder to come by than the everyday plateau straight grain on almost any artisan pipe. An artisan can choose her blocks, then line up the grain and go for the shape she wants, and if a sandpit appears, well—it’s time to make a blast. But for K&P it’s entirely a matter of statistics—or luck.

Since K&P’s briar comes to them already roughed-out in the shapes designed by K&P, the briar they use will yields a wide variety of grain patterns, resulting in visually flawless bowls to those that need a bit of putty. There are also flawless bowls that are completely bald. These are important in making high-grade ebony spigots, which won’t accept fills. Smooth bowls range from flame to straight grain to birdseye, with all manner of variations in between courtesy of Mother Nature. And all of them have a place in the different types of lines produced. This is true, of course, at every other pipe factory. Dunhill is a good comparison in this regard, as you’ll see about the same proportion of smooth, natural, flame and straight grains on the market as you see from K&P. It’s just that people never stop to think about just how many dark, darker and really dark finishes as well as how many blasts Dunhill produces.

Anyway, for me the top of K&P’s grain list is what I like to call “Peterson Paisley.” It’s really just an extreme form of birdseye, but it’s so dense that, to the eye, it seems to be a kind of organically-occurring paisley, especially when black stain is used to bring it out.

This 4S Supreme from 1979 is the only Supreme I’ve ever seen with paisley. It’s muted a bit because of the single-color stain, but still quite obvious. But when I saw the Shannon 05, I knew it would make a perfect illustration for the next Peterson book.

Dia leat

 

 

 

Incidentally, if you’re interested in the Shannon 05, it’s on eBay this week. I sometimes have people ask why I’m selling a pipe, and the answer in this case is that I obtained the pipe as a fantastic example of Peterson paisley. I actually companion the larger calabash DeLuxe 05 and Standard XL305. If you hate bidding on eBay but but really think you need this pipe, drop me a line and maybe we can work something out.

 

MORE ON CONDENSERS…

I can’t imagine that “the Thinking Man” applies to aficionados of other marques the way it does to Kapp & Peterson. I am constantly amazed by what I learn from my fellow Pete Geeks. This week I want to show you some photos of Prof. John Schantz, CPG. He was asked by friend Lance to recreate one of the narrow cross-drilled condensers used on the Centenary Pipes back in 1975:

I asked John where he got these incredible skills. He said, “All the tools are hobby related, mostly all self taught. I did take a basic machining course in college and a machine practices course as well, but they were very basic, especially the machine practices course. I was doing that kind of fabrication at twelve years old, it was basically Junior High level stuff. I never took any shop or art classes in either Junior High or High School, I was in band, clarinet, even though I always wanted to play the sax. They said I was too small to play a sax, I think the band teacher just needed someone to play the clarinet as it was not as popular. I did end up in first chair playing the clarinet though.”

I think I’m glad he never got that sax.

 

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