230. K&P’s Apple Tree: A Visual History of the Shape

I love a good apple. That is, a good Malus domestica. Not that it’s easy to find them in most grocery stores. But as a pipe shape? Not really. I’ve just never paid much attention to it, maybe because it’s so omnipresent in the Danish-influenced shape charts of so many contemporary artisans. I know a few high-dollar collectors who only care about artisan apples, whether bent or straight, and to my untrained and plebian eye, they all look more or less alike. An apple is an apple is an apple, even if it’s an expensive one, right? But what about Irish apples? And you know I’m not talking about the Ballyfatten, Bloody Butcher, Green Chisel or Peach Melba (all fine Irish heritage fruits) but Kapp & Peterson apples. That’s a different story. It’s also one that, at least for Pete Geeks, may be a fruit worth their tasting.


K&P’s first documented Apple shape appeared at the tail end of the Patent Era in the c. 1920 Temporary Illustrated Pipe List as the pudgy 1012. It’s already fully-formed as far as the design language of the company is concerned: a plump, full-cheeked bowl with rounded crown and a shank which slopes away from the bowl to the mouthpiece. The muscularity of the shank gives it that distinguishing Irish muscularity for which the company is famous. The stem is short, adding even more punch to its roundhouse.


The next appearance, in the Irish Free State years, came around 1925 for the beautiful tri-fold K&P’s Vienna distributor Phillip Weiss & Söhn issued as the as the R132—which is identical to the 1012. Here, with addition of the P-Lip, is the urtext (or ur-pipe) of K&P’s apple shape. The R90 pictured below it is instrumental in showing K&P’s ability to pitch an English apple for those unable to stomach the stronger Irish fruit.


The so-called “Black & White” 1937 catalog offers the most tantalizing and expansive apples in the history of K&P, with no less than four shapes: the 976 / 90, the 1045 / 86, the 969 / 132 and the 1046 / 458. This is the first sighting of the 86, a number still in use today. Worth calling your attention to is the extraordinary cheeking of these apples. They’re so bulbous and so unlike almost any factory pipe shape from any company today that they fairly take one’s breath away.

This must have been the original expansion of the apple chart, as it would quickly be reduced:

969 / 132: the stoutest apple;
1045 / 86 same as 969 / 132, but with a longer stem;
1046 / 458: the middle-size apple;
976 / 90: the smallest apple. the 976 / 90 is the smallest of the four bowls;

Comparison of the 1937 Irish Stouts: 969 with 1045

I wondered how different the bowls and shanks were of the two chubbiest apples, the 969 / 132 and the 1045 / 86. As you can see, the bowls are identical in size and cheeking, but the 132 still has it over the 86 in the width and heft of its shank.


1939 Shamrock

In the Rogers Imports catalog for 1939, the Dublin factory offered the 5 inch 969 / 132 and the 5 ½ inch 458 in the DeLuxe, First Quality, Sterling, Kapruf, Kapet, Killarney and Shamrock lines. Their London factory counterparts offered a 6 inch apple, the 23, in the Croydon Square (or Croydon □ if you want to get K&P about it).


Just to keep things interesting, this beautiful illustration from the 1940 says the only difference between the 86 and the 458 (see Rogers above) is the length of the stem. So I overlaid the 86 and 458 from the 1937 catalog, and yes, they’re close, but not identical. This was a really tough time in Irish history and this probably didn’t seem very important.

1945 and 1950

The 1945 Red and 1950 White catalogs are not complete shape catalogs, but offer a silhouette of the apple K&P believed had become most popular: the 86. Notice also the introduction of the saddle.


The 1947 shape chart was for distributors and therefore quite probably comprehensive. In it we find the four original apples seen in the 1937 shape chart, albeit with slightly different numbers and their K&P names: the 86 Apple, the 458 Long Apple, the X86 Large Apple and the 132 Stout Apple. If you’ve been concentrating and are numerically inclined (which I am not), then you’ve probably figured out that there’s really just two bowls here: the 86 / 458 and the X86 / 132. The 458 and X86 simply have longer stems. The X86 shape number appears here for the first time. Remember it’s simply the  long version of the original ur-shape, the 969 / 132.


The short and stout was out by 1953, at least according to the Rogers Imports “Classic 24” shape chart.  One nice thing about this chart is the attention to scale. The X86 is portrayed at 6 inches. And that’s the exact length of the X86 seen in the banner photo above. Cool.


The 1955 Dublin & London catalog gathers together everything we’ve seen so far: the two bowls (large and small), the two lengths (longer and shorter) and the saddle version. The 458 Long Apple, 86 Apple and 86S Saddle Apple are all the the smaller bowl and the 132 Stout Apple and X86 Large Apple are the larger bowl, as you can see. The differences have to do with the thickness, shape and length of shank and stem.

Notice the sad (if predictable) loss of the extremities that has occurred: the 458 Long Apple and the 132 Stout Apple have a DISCONTINUED stamp across them, probably applied around 1958 (for reasons I don’t need to go into here).

You might also compare this chart with the 1937 illustration—see how the cheeking has seriously fallen off. It’s difficult to maintain standards over decades of production—as Chinua Achebe says, things are always falling apart. This doesn’t mean that we can’t put them back together again or that entropy is always a cause for despair. The wisdom is to find the best and do our best to sustain, maintain or resurrect it.


Just as the great “big suits and fedoras” men’s fashions went out in the early 1960s, so too, one supposes, did the affection for stout chubby Petes. Thin is in as you can see from this illustration in the 1965 catalog. Even the 86 looks emaciated. Twiggy probably smoked one.


In the 1973 Associated Imports catalog we see our old smoking buddies the 1955 86 Apple and X86 Large Apple, but the X86 shape number has now been retired in favor of “87.” So shape X86 was renamed the 87 c. 1973.


At near the height of K&P’s production, at the 1975 Centenary, the 86 and 87 were pressed into service in both the Irish Army line (which had been launched in earnest after a long absence) and the Dental line. Notice here there is no tapering on the shank of the 87.


In the mid-1970s the X86 was given System engineering, along with the 120. The 120 was issued in the 1950s as a Straight System, so it very well may be that the X86 was as well. (Remember that for both shapes, a very shallow chamber was necessary to create the “reservoir” or mini-reverse calabash chamber underneath the bowl.)


The larger 87 (old 86) is missing from the 1983 catalog, although the smaller 86 is still hanging tough as the “Medium Apple,” and will reappear in the 1987 catalog. The 87 will reappear in the 1988 Hollco Rohr distributor catalog. Finally, in 1992, both shapes will appear together again, seen in the brochure illustration above.


The first catalog in the Dublin era shows both shapes again, but what I’m wondering is how much of the original apple cheeking is left. The same photographs of the two shapes will appear the remaining three Dublin catalogs for 2000, 2005 and 2010.

2021 Deluxe Classic Naturals

And that brings us close to home. Truett Smith, lead copywriter for Smokingpipes.com , distinguishes between the two shapes this way: “While both of Peterson’s 87 and 86 shapes are straight Apples, the 86 hews closer to the classic English pipe chart standard, [while] the ‘87’ adds some of the Irish marque’s signature muscularity about the shank and transition.” The contemporary iterations are fairly close to the early large and small apples, but not quite. I love the 87 (top photo above), but notice it has just the slightest pinch there at the transition between bowl and shank. Still… wow.



If you’ve followed me this far, there ought to be a free K&P Apple of your choice waiting for you to redeem. I’m sorry to report that there’s not. However, here’s what all this gets us for the shape chart in the next Peterson book:

K&P Names / Shape Number(s) / Dates / Notes

Stout Apple (shape numbers 1012 / 969 / 132). Dates from c. 1920. The ur-text Irish Apple. Imported by Rogers as early as 1939. Last seen in the K&P catalog in 1947.

Large Apple (shape numbers 1046 / 458, X86, 87). Dates from 1937. This has the same bowl as 1012 / 969 / 132 but a longer stem. It would become the X86 in 1947 and be renamed the 87 around 1973.

Apple (shape numbers 1045 / 86). Dates from 1937. “The English apple,” shorter bowl with thinner shank than Stout Apple. Continues in production to this day.

Long Apple (shape 1046 / 458). Dates from 1937, same bowl as 1045 / 86, but longer stem.

The Apple of my eye: the earliest, cheekiest and stoutest of them all,
the 132 / 969. . . another unicorn for me!

It’s hard to know when and how the shank of the Stout Apple has changed, but it doesn’t quite seem to be original tapered version seen in the 1012 / 969 / 132 which characterized the larger stummel until the demise of the X86. The cheeking of the K&P has also had its ups and downs. The contemporary versions retain some good cheeking (most of them) and the “rolled” crown, although they’re not in the same cheeky league as the ones depicted in the 1937 catalog. My vote—and I know we all have different aesthetic preferences—would be for (a) a shorter version of the current 87, back to the length of the 5 inch Stout Apple; or, if possible, a make-over with the super cheeks of the ur-shape. How about you?


An X86 Sterling Silver


Stock new and estate Petes courtesy Smokingpipes.com


…and finally, Professor Schantz’s idea of a short 86:

Continue Reading 230. K&P’s Apple Tree: A Visual History of the Shape