220. Peterson Paisley: It’s in the Grain

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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Stephen
Stephen
1 month ago

Mark,
I have not read the entire article yet, but wanted to get this out to you. The link in the email is not correct. The colon after paisley is missing. I’ll comment further after I read your blog.

Stephen
Stephen
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

They removed the colon from the url. OK now.

Erik Millqvist
Erik Millqvist
1 month ago

As always a interesting and informative text, I really enjoy seeing and learning more about the wonderful world of Peterson. I have a system standard xl 315 and after reading a text a couple of months ago about sanding pipes this one was up for some sanding, the main reason was because of the trouble I’ve had with it. All from having to send it back due to a wonky drilling to having some red coloring my pipe cleaners for a month plus. But after sanding a beautiful birdseye appeared and after reading this article I took a good look… Read more »

Jorgen Jensen
Jorgen Jensen
1 month ago

Good morning. A Paisley you say. Then I know what to call my Shamrock 221 which I picked up at the Chatolic tobacconist in Belfast. One fill on the bowl, otherwise more than perfect.

Jorgen Jensen
Jorgen Jensen
1 month ago

Prof. John is a hard man ! Who else can do that.

Linwood
Linwood
1 month ago

Holy Grail! More rare and desirable than GNARLYBRIAR! For the bowl to be completely covered is such paisley is phenominalllllllllll!!! Thank you Mark!

Love the machining! Great work!

E Baggs
E Baggs
1 month ago

Curiosity has gotten the better of me; I’ve got to ask, just how many Petersons do you have in your collection???

John Schantz
John Schantz
1 month ago

Well Mark, I did get the Sax, but I couldn’t play it, it would always squeal😖. Finally in High School I had a friend that played the sax and asked him to try mine. Apparently, when my parents paid to have it refurbished (they bought it well used) the people that did the rebuild mucked it up. My friend could not play it either. There were several keys that were bent and would not quite close all the way…I had no clue, I thought it was me😖. By that time though, I was done with band, the clarinet included. I… Read more »

John Schantz
John Schantz
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

No, I had quit playing by then. My sister had it “professionally” repaired again. Although, I probably could have😉

Marlowe
Marlowe
1 month ago

What a lovely looking grain. Beautiful pipe altogether.

I have a 68 system that has a small patch of what I’d consider paisley of the side, flame on the other. The stem is plain and it’s a fishtail stem. I really wish I could get a p-lip for it – becoming a bit of a p-lip snob I think!

Thanks for more interesting reading Mark. Really wish I had your book – maybe I’ll do better with the second one!

John Schantz
John Schantz
1 month ago

Paisley, I’m kinda bummed out still. When the new Outdoor Series came out, the dark stain with the brass and emerald shank bands. I saw a D6 with the most awesome paisley grain on TobaccoPipes.com. I’m a smooth straight grain guy myself, but it caught my eye. I ordered it as fast as I could. Little did I know (at that time, I was such a newb) that they did not take individual pictures of each pipe like SPC. I did not get that pipe, boy was I bummed, still bummed. The pipe I received was actually a pretty nicely… Read more »

DOUG OWEN
DOUG OWEN
1 month ago

Hi Mark: Spectacular Paisley, I have heard of these but in 47 years in the business have never actually seen one so of course, my PAD was instantly awakened and I just threw a pretty hefty bid at it. Thanks for the continuing high expertise on all things Peterson and yet again threatening to severely damage my pipe budget. LOL I don’t know if I have mentioned this to you in the past but back in 1974 when I landed my first sales job at the Tinderbox in Portland, Oregon I was one of very few Peterson enthusiasts around that… Read more »

Douglas Owen
Douglas Owen
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Irwin

Thanks for that . They say if you get old enough you eventually accumulate lots of knowledge just because you have been hanging around so long.

Troy L
Troy L
1 month ago

I know of a few pipe enthusiasts who sanded down their rusticated or sandblasted bowls to reveal a spectacular birds-eye grain. I’d reckon alot of pipes out there have this feature. I know for certain a few of my pipes would produce some lovely birds-eye judging by the “knobs” or whatever they are called on the bowl on some of my sandblasted. However I enjoy sandblasts just as much so I’ll leave it up to the staff in Ireland.

Steven Hersey
Steven Hersey
30 days ago

Thank you for the article. The paisley pattern is gorgeous and a feast for the eyes. I think visuals play just as important a role as performance when getting a pipe. It has to feel and look good in addition to smoking well. Lovely tight curls of grain which really do enhance the pleasure here, and the Shannon is a superb example.
It is interesting, too, how ‘plain’ the pipe is – no band, just the natural join of stem and shank, which I think, allows the grain to stand out all by itself.
Appreciated.

Last edited 30 days ago by Steven Hersey