320. A Christmas Pageant of Patent House Pipes: Act II With Paul Combs
Nollaig Shona Daoibh! Merry Christmas to All!
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers—
for whoever smokes his pipe with me today shall be my brother.
However humble his birth, this day shall grant him nobility.
—Henry the Fifth, Act 4, Sc. 3 (early manuscript version)
It’s here at last, and I hope you’re had, are having or will have one or several Christmas smokes in your favorite Pete today. This morning I welcome back Paul Combs, CPG, who has more experience smoking long-stemmed pipes and Patent House Pipes than anyone I know. It’s his belief (and one I share) that Charles Peterson’s personal devotion to the House Pipe stems was a well-deserved one. We’re both hoping K&P might one day bring back the House Pipe stem, which provides a unique and rich smoking experience unlike any other.Merry Christmas to all of you at PPN! I feel privileged to have four Patent Era Peterson House Pipes currently in service. For fun I have given them each a name that reflects something about its character or its place in my pipe family: The Brick, The Prince, The Scholar, and The Queen.
We know from the Peterson literature that house pipe stems of this era were available in 7”, 9”, and 15” lengths and various materials and configurations including thick / thin and wide / narrow (see The Peterson Pipe, p. 166). Among my four house pipes I have two 7”, one 9”, and one 11” (which was shortened due to a repair – original length unknown) and all of them representing a variety of the thin / thick / wide / narrow buttons.
Smoking qualities: These pipes all have a 5/32” (~4mm) draft hole and draw almost effortlessly with an especially ‘open’ feeling. They also have an uncanny ability to stay lit without much effort – on several occasions during a smoke I have set one down to go to the kitchen for a cup of coffee, returned, picked it up and resumed puffing without the need for a re-light. The longer stems provide more cooling than I get from a ‘regular’ sized pipe, and the substantial mass of briar on all of these pipe bowls (except for The Scholar) performs like a heat sink around the chamber providing additional cooling. From a practical standpoint these pipes are not ‘clenchable’ – due to size and weight they want to be held and supported in the hand during use, which I personally find enjoyable – sort of a tactile bonus. They are full in the palm.
The Brick: Patent Grade 3, no date hallmark. Overall length 9-7/8” (251mm), 7” (178mm) Full Size / Space Fitting (‘S’) Bit, Empty Weight 6 ounces (168g). Chamber depth 2.5” (64mm), chamber diameter 15/16” (23.6mm). By far the heaviest of the four and the beefiest bit tip at 15mm wide and 9mm thick right in front of the button – you won’t forget that it is in your mouth but not at all uncomfortable. When this pipe came to me it had a failing bowl liner made of a reddish cement or clay which I replaced with block Meerschaum (a restoration topic for another time). The original tenon extension was missing so I made one out of aluminum. “The Brick” smokes cool with an easy draw and the super-sized Peterson System components definitely do their job keeping the smoke dry. Like all of these house pipes it requires at least one hand at all times and is usually best enjoyed while seated although the occasional stroll in fine weather through the garden while puffing is also pleasant. This pipe is the largest bowl in hand and is almost like holding a small cannonball. Named The Brick not only because of its size and weight but in the British use of the term describing a person it is solid, substantial, and reliable. Because of the travails of its restoration I consider “The Brick” a special companion – we have been through a lot together, and for me it is also a great pipe for trying the occasional new blend: the Meer doesn’t ghost and the pipe’s smoking performance is super-reliable.
The Brick on a chilly evening – I think a giant could smoke this pipe.
The Prince: Patent Shape 01, Hallmarked ‘E’ for the year 1900 with three lucky shamrocks stamped on the right shank. Overall length 9-3/8” (238mm), 7” (178mm) Full Size / Space Fitting (‘S’) Bit, empty weight 4 ounces (111g). Chamber depth 2” (52mm), chamber diameter 7/8” (22.3mm). Button is 14mm wide but a mere 4mm thick, the most petite bit tip of the four. Similar in shape and dimensions to several WDC Wellingtons in my collection but balance in hand and feel of the bit in the mouth are much more refined. A great, long smoker and a fun handful of pipe. Named “The Prince” for sheer beauty (this pipe was restored by Todd Becker) and … cough … how much I paid for it.
The Prince – so refined!
The Scholar: Patent Shape 4, Hallmarked ‘C’ for the year 1898. Overall length 13-1/2” (343mm), 11-5/8” (295mm) Full Size / Space Fitting (‘S’) Bit, empty weight 3.5 ounces (97g). Chamber depth 1.6” (40mm), chamber diameter ¾” (19.6mm). Button is 16mm wide and 5.7mm thick but this is not the original stem button nor the original stem length (see PPN Blog #311 for the backstory on the stem restoration). Named “The Scholar” because in its original state this would have been a ‘Reading’ or ‘Library’ pipe. It has the smallest bowl of the four. I reworked my prior repair a bit to open up the airway nearer to the button and also to improve the visual flow of the bend. I am happy to report that the smoking qualities are now excellent with a very easy draw. The uber-long stem gives it a real fun-factor and “The Scholar” seems to especially enjoy watching college football with me in my study.
The Queen: Patent Era Deluxe, Hallmarked ‘C’ for the year 1918. Overall length is 11-5/8” (295mm), 9” (228mm) Army Push (‘A’) Bit, empty weight 4.7 ounces (131g). Chamber depth 2.4” (61.5mm), chamber diameter ~15/16” (23mm). Button is 14.5mm wide, 5.8 mm thick. This was my very first Peterson House Pipe, and I think there must be something magical about the combination of this stem length / airflow dynamics and the bowl dimensions / engineering because, although all four are wonderful smokers, this pipe is the most amazing of all. She delivers the most nuanced tobacco flavors, the fewest re-lights, the freest draw, and an unmistakable stately visual presence – ergo, she is “The Queen.”
COLLECT ALL THREE!
Many thanks to Brian Heydn, CPG,
artist and designer of the 2022 PPN Christmas Banner.
This is the second panel in the triptych Brian designed for the PPN 2022 Christmas Pageant. Right-click the image to download and come back tomorrow for Act III’s final installment. When placed side by side, you can see the entire image. (A No Prize to the first Pete Geek to correctly identify the pipe shape in the middle of the bow.)