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401. On The Road To Emerald City (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bend)

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PSA: Last call for the Pete Geek Leather Pipe Rest!
I can’t get over the Celtic Shamrock–well done, Nate.
(see end of post for ordering)

 

ON THE ROAD TO EMERALD CITY
(OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BEND)

by D. H. Billings

May 6th, 2024. I am (foolishly) working at the hospital for the 6th day in a row, and am excitedly awaiting two new pipes in the mail. One is a fat Radice reverse calabash (actually seen in Mark’s April Fool’s post) that my wife had bought for me as a combination graduation/wedding anniversary gift, and the other is a Peterson XL02 in the Emerald finish that I used some trade credit on.

This latter pipe has some amazing rustication and a thicker shank than I’d seen on other XL02s in this finish, but one of the things that made this particular pipe stand out more than others is the band. It has a wider center with a paler green acrylic insert more akin to Burmese jade. It’s clearly one of the leftovers from the previous incarnation of this line (something Mark discussed in his original post about the new Emerald pipes), and it simply speaks to me.

The pipes arrive. I go home. The Radice is everything I hoped it would be, and the Peterson is even better than what the pictures had shown. The shaping of the bowl right to my liking, the rustication amazing and tactile, the stem delightfully thick, and the band beautifully subtle.

There are a couple of things I realize that I may want to do and a couple of things that I absolutely must do in order to make the pipe just right for my personal preferences. Knowing the XL02 is the traditional version of the System 302, I’m unsure if I want to create a well similar to a System pipe – but that’s something I can figure after I see how it smokes untampered. Beyond that, I am also unsure if I want to open up the airway; unlike System pipes, which start out at 5 mm at the tenon and taper down to 1 mm at the P-Lip, the stem on this pipe starts out at 3 mm. Again, something I can figure out after seeing how it smokes. As for the two things that I must do: I need to smooth out the chamferred tenon and I need to rebend the stem to my exact liking. But before I mess with the bend, I need to smoke the pipe so I can see if it’s necessary to do anything at all with the drilling.

I set out some Westminster that’s as old as my daughter and I get to work on the tenon. I take my 1/2″ countersink drill bit and – holding it in my hand without a drill – spin it in the base of the stem airway. This widens the chamfer a little bit and also smooths out the rough patches that were present from the original drilling. Moreover, in doing it by hand instead of with a drill, I am able to keep things from heating up. This prevents the tenon from gumming up and I thus have no need to smooth it out afterwards.

After that… it’s smokin’ time!

Despite my trepidation regarding the airway diameter, the pipe smokes like a champ – just as well as any Deluxe System with nary a gurgle. It takes me about 0.3 seconds to realize that the only thing that is actually needed is for me to fix the bend to my liking, which is the real purpose of this writing….

☘️🇮🇪☘️

When I was a young pipe smoker, I picked up an ebony System Standard 302 with a fishtail stem. I knew a bit about the brand and the System design at the time, but the big thing was I liked its steampunk nature combined with how it felt in hand. It was my first big apple, and I loved it.

In time, I ended up parting ways with that pipe as my tastes changed; I realized that I prefer to see the briar itself as opposed to the smooth black finish of the Ebony finish. I still liked the shape, though, and bought a few more – all of them the “302b” shape with the more rounded bottom (see Mark’s post on the 2019 St. Patrick’s Day line for more information about the two different versions of this shape).

But then in early 2023… I saw it: a System Standard 302 with some gnarly rustication and a much steeper bend than I was used to with the shape. The way the pipe was angled in the online picture, it was hard to tell if this was a “302a” or “b,” but I knew that I had to see it in person. I placed my order and waited.

When the pipe came in, I was gobsmacked. The bottom of this pipe was almost perfectly flat – which was something that I had hated up until that point – but the hang was absolutely magnificent. It hung like a Baskerville, but had that wonderfully rounded bowl that I had come to appreciate. Almost instantly, this pipe became a favorite and I went from being a “302a” hater to an enthusiastic convert.

Over the next year, I sold off my other 302s, used the funds from those sales to replace them with their flat-bottomed counterparts, and purchased another in the 2023 Halloween finish. When each new pipe came in, I pulled out my heat gun and rebent the stem to match the one on that magic rusticated pipe. In the end, each of these 302s now features a hard 80° angle with the bend starting a touch below the halfway mark of the stem; when clenched, this meant the shank and stem are naturally vertical as the P-Lip rests on top of the tongue. It’s incredibly comfortable to clench.

The same is now true for the Emerald XL02. It took a lot of heat and a good deal of time to be able to get the bend to that 80° because it’s the same basic stem as the Baskerville, but that is where it now sits. It’s not the “Larrigan” bend on a 309, but it is a different shape and the bowl drop is the same at about 20-30°.

And it works beautifully for the 302a. 10 out of ten.

 

Al Jones CPG has just posted his cleanup of a lovely Premier 02 oom paul over at Steve Laug’s Reborn Pipes. Here’s a preview of his work:

 

Clint Stacey CPG sent this beautiful image back in March, which I just rediscovered. Can you believe it? A paper package of Peterson pipe-cleaners. Now it’s your turn:

A paper package of Peterson pipe-cleaners.A paper package of Peterson pipe-cleaners.A paper package of Peterson pipe-cleaners.A paper package of Peterson pipe-cleaners.A paper package of Peterson pipe-cleaners.A paper package of Peterson pipe-cleaners.A paper package of Peterson pipe-cleaners.A paper package of Peterson pipe-cleaners.A paper package of Peterson pipe-cleaners.A paper package of Peterson pipe-cleaners.A paper package of Peterson pipe-cleaners.A paper package of Peterson pipe-cleaners.A paper package of Peterson pipe-cleaners.A paper package of Peterson pipe-cleaners.A paper package of Peterson pipe-cleaners.A paper package of Peterson pipe-cleaners.A paper package of Peterson pipe-cleaners.

And don’t forget to hold on to that Peterson ephemera!

 

A CPG  Event
NATE LYNN’S PETE GEEK LEATHER PIPE REST

Last chance to order: Monday, June 3rd (tomorrow) @ 12 noon CST

Nate Lynn, CPG presents the latest Pete Geek Event, a leather loop pipe rest with double brass snaps for variable sizing, the CPG logo on the left side and your choice of a Celtic Knots Shamrock or Sherlock Holmes profile on the right. He’s making them available in green, black, natural, and mahogany, shown below with the Celtic Shamrocks reverse side:

I’m left-handed, and if it matters to you, Nate will print CPG on the obverse and the Celtic Shamrock or SH logo on the reverse.

  • Price is $20 each, including shipping in the US 
  • Price is $40 each , including shipping internationally via FedEx International Connect (this does NOT include any customs/import fees) 
  • Deadline: Monday, 3rd June, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. CST (GMT-6)
  • You will invoiced through PayPal when the pipe rests are ready to ship. I will send a reminder when I’m ready to invoice
  • Estimated to ship mid-late June
  • You MUST fill out the Google form below to order
  • Questions? Send email to petegeek1896@gmail.com

click here to fill out order form

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Martin
Martin
19 days ago

Nice read thank you. I agree with you about the degree of the bend and I am looking for jaw hangers with exactly that. But the 302 Fat Bottom version is nut my cup of tea.
Do you stick a pipe cleaner in before you altering the bent ? I fear the collapse of the airway.

D.H. Billings
D.H. Billings
19 days ago
Reply to  Martin

If the 302 isn’t for you, there are other shapes from Peterson that also work well 👍 As for your pipe cleaner question, I’ve honestly never tried it or even worried about it since the airway is drilled out as opposed to having been pushed open. That being said, I have certainly heard of people doing that with the pipe cleaner as well

S.H. Wilson
S.H. Wilson
19 days ago

Mr. Billings, a kindred spirit. I too smoke, nearly exclusively, Peterson bents, several 302 styles. I also clench and use the rubber stem protectors. Some people do not like them, but I feel they protect the stem and give me something to bite down on whilst reading or typing.
Thanks for a fine article on the bend. I have received some pipes from Pete that have a ‘twist’ in the bend and have had no problems straightening them out using the heat gun or propane torch.
I also purchased a Halloween pipe, which my wife calls “cute”.

Gary Hamilton
Gary Hamilton
19 days ago

Good morning D.H. and a perfect job on the chamfering, it cleaned up really nice. Those Emeralds, or at least the ones I have from the long ago original release, all seem to suffer from fading in the once bright emerald green accent band. Thanks for sharing the story, a most enjoyable read this morning.

Nevaditude
Nevaditude
18 days ago

DH- an excellent read, thank you for sharing. Like you, I enjoy the 302 shape and have made a SH Lestrade into a fine smoking System pipe. Pete’s are the best! Thanks Mark, the blog never disappoints- with great CPG’s passing on all their knowledge, how can it?