245. The Adventure of the Sherlock Holmes Christmas Pipes

I had called upon my friend Sherlock Holmes upon the second morning after Christmas, with the intention of wishing him the compliments of the season. He was lounging upon the sofa in a purple dressing-gown, a pipe-rack within his reach upon the right, and a pile of crumpled morning papers, evidently newly studied, near at hand.

—“The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle,” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Kapp & Peterson’s long association with the Great Detective continued yesterday with the release of the 2021 Christmas pipe. This year’s edition features all fourteen current-production Sherlock Holmes shapes.  Each is being released in three finishes: Heritage, Sandblast and Rusticated, for a total of 42 Christmas possibilities. The 2021 pipes feature a copper band with the Sherlock Holmes stamp and and the recently-redesigned acrylic fishtail stem in black, which makes for some amazing variations.Each pipe comes with a Peterson leather pipe holder with the Sherlock Holmes icon, making the series more-or-less a must-have for ephemera hounds. This heavy duty stand was first issued in with the 2021 St. Patrick’s Day pipe in light green with a shamrock icon and subsequently in the general-release Avoca (dark green) and Grafton (tan).

Left to right: 2018, 2019 and 2020 Christmas “Coppers”

The first Christmas “copper” was released as an army mount 2018 and used subsequently in the Christmas pipes for 2019 and 2020. I remain extremely vain about these issues because I harbor a belief that it was my whining and moaning to Conor Palmer about the old nickel-mount marks that gave him the idea to include them on the copper ferrules for those years.

I’m sure you’ve read Chuck Stanion’s recent post on the 2021 Peterson Christmas pipe but in case you haven’t, here’s the backstory:

“’It was Ted Swearingen’s idea,’ says Josh Burgess, managing director of Peterson. Ted is our Chief Operating Officer here at Laudisi Enterprises, which currently stewards Peterson. ‘Ted’s idea was to do a Sherlock Holmes Christmas pipe. He proposed it in 2019 at the Dortmund show. We had finished our setup for the show but it wasn’t open yet, so we were getting ready, and the subject of Christmas pipes came up. Ted pitched this idea for doing copper-mounted Sherlock shapes. We all immediately conjured mental images of Victorian Christmases and Sherlock and Watson smoking pipes. We really liked the marriage of those themes, with the Christmas aesthetic we had established in 2018 of the copper mount. It’s festive in a really Peterson kind of way. It features the sort of metalwork that we’re known for, but with copper for Christmas.’

This is the first year that Peterson Christmas pipes have been released with more than one finish. ‘We’ll have black sandblasts,’ says Josh, ‘and the Heritage finish, which is a smooth, dark burgundy finish. And we’ll also have a rustic offering, which is the red-and-black, rusticated finish that is found on the Sherlock series and lines like the Donegal Rocky.'”

What Chuck didn’t mention but I’m sure he knew was that in the tales of Sherlock Holmes, copper and Christmas go together in more than a superficial way.

When they saw the pipes yesterday, those who’ve read the stories or seen Jeremy Brett’s masterful performances for BBC Granada probably reached involuntarily for their copy of Leslie Klinger’s New Annotated Sherlock Holmes. Filling a pipe, they proceeded to refresh their memory of “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle,” the Christmas story of the Canon. The tale first appeared in the Strand magazine in January1892 and concerns a certain Christmas goose and, as events unfold, a certain blue carbuncle. It’s all great fun.

There’s another design allusion to the stories. It occurs in “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches,” which appeared in the June 1892 issue of The Strand.  Decidedly more sinister than the blue carbuncle investigation, it has more to do with a damsel in duress with copper tresses than the trees which give it its name. Outré reading, this story has also been filmed by Granada and is essential viewing.

This is the first opportunity I’ve stopped to fully consider the rustication work of Peterson craftsman Wojciech Blaszczak, prominently featured in this year’s release. In Stanion’s article, we read:

“Peterson’s rustication has been refined over the past few years, revealing a gnarly, aggressive texture that fills the hand with tactile responsiveness and is endlessly interesting under the finger pads. This technique had been advanced in large part by the efforts of Wojciech Blaszczak, who moved to Ireland from Poland and began working at Peterson in 2015, moving into the manufacturing aspects about two years ago. Whenever you see a recent Peterson rustication, it’s more than likely that Wojciech crafted the texture.

Wojciech was taught the Peterson rustication technique but wanted to make alterations. ‘I had to find my own way to do it,’ he says, ‘so it’s a little bit different than before.’ It was on the Donegal Rocky series that he started to refine and deepen the finish. ‘I do it a little bit deeper than before. With the Donegal Rocky, I was thinking it should be like a rock. So I started it a little bit deeper, which I think is better than before, more interesting. The rustic finish before was a little bit similar to sandblasting, so I decided to carve deeper so it looks and feels more rocky.’

“The texture is carved with a drill bit on a drill press while Wojciech rotates the stummel. Finding the right depth at the correct seemingly random angles is an artform, different for each pipe. ‘I don’t want to do it very deeply because it doesn’t look good, just like too shallow doesn’t look good. And it isn’t good for the pipe to go too deep. But if I have a big pipe, I can carve deeper. Some pipes are very small, so I use a smaller drill bit and am careful about the depth. But overall, the rustic looks much better if you do it a little bit deeper. You have to find that: not too deep and not too shallow. The effect is almost like using a chisel.'”

The Aboriginal Meerschaum from the 1971 Iwan Reis Catalog

I’d have to disagree (at least in part) with Stanion’s definition of Blaszczak’s rustification as “gnarly” and “aggressive.” As one surfer explains it, “etymologists believe that the expression originates from the word gnarled, which means knobbly, rough, and twisted.” Castello, Cavicchi, Dr. Bob and even K&P back several decades have all made what I’d think of as gnarly pipes, but Wojciech’s seems much closer to the Sculpted (briar) and Aboriginal (meer) Peterson – Marxman briars and meers that appeared in the early 1970s.

Having said that, it’s interesting to see how differently the fourteen SH shapes take this kind of treatment and I wish you could hold one in your hand. The Lestrade is marvelous, much rougher than I expected, and the rustication is smaller than on some of the individual pipes I saw today at SPC. In fact, I was prepared from photos to pretty much rank the finishes in order from Heritage to Blast to Rustic. Seeing and holding them in person, I think differently. Of course it will all depend on the pipe and your preference, as the blast, the rustication, the bend and the composition as a whole makes each pipe unique, but for me thinking of Christmas I’d have to place the Rustic first among equals. I seem to divide my smoking time between movies and reading, which may be why I enjoy the tactile sensation of a rusticated pipe so much.

The other fun thing about the rustic pipes is the burgundy shining through on the underside. If you hold one of these pipes close to your ear, you can just hear the Irish elves sing The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York”:

It was Christmas Eve babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me, won’t see another one
And then he sang a song
The Rare Old Mountain Dew
I turned my face away
And dreamed about you
Well, maybe not. But look at the lines of this Watson:

Isn’t it marvelous? Notice in this connection how (as you can see in the photos at the end of the post), under Jonathan Fields’ direction in the factory, the “Peterson bend,” once a fairly uniform, shape and era-specific thing, has turned decidedly postmodern with a plurality of bends on the same shape, further tailoring the pipes to each smoker’s aesthetic and practical consideration.

Now take a look at the Heritage Baskerville. Again, it’s the tapering of the bend that takes my breath away. Very Charles Peterson / Patent era feeling here. Also notice that even though the Heritage finish often looks uniformly dark and without grain in most online pictures, this isn’t actually the case. When you’re outdoors or under decent light you can see the highlights. The contrast is subtle, to be sure, but it’s definitely there in this finish on most of the pipes I’ve seen.

Next take a look at the copper band. I’ll bet you didn’t know the Sherlock icon said “Peterson’s” over the top and “Dublin” at the bottom. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can see that the band is copper coated, not solid. If it were solid, as Giocomo Penzo (Peterson’s pipe specialist) told me, it would be much harder to work. Oh, and while I’m thinking of it, one of the reasons the Christmas SH is so inexpensive is because this is copper and not sterling. Notice also the impressive white P in the stem! It’s been awhile since I’ve seen K&P use this, and I’ve missed it. It’s good-looking, uniform and well-applied on the samples.

The acrylic stems are part of a new generation of mouthpieces at K&P. Those on the SH Christmas pipe are wide with thin, comfortable buttons. The buttons are channeled,chamfered and polished for a minimum of air turbulence.

The tenon has been chamfered, but like other acrylic stems I’ve seen from K&P the heat of the drill has left some tearaway “hair.” This is easily removed with some Micromesh pads, or better, some high-grit sandpaper (600 to 1200 or so). You can probably knock some of it off with a rough pipe cleaner and unless you’re a total Pete Geek you may not even think about it.

On the smooth pipes, the obverse shank stamps give the year, Peterson’s script over Dublin block and the year. The reverse shank stamps include the new MIE (Made in Ireland) SH name.

As has always been K&P’s practice, on the sandblast and rustic pipes all the stamps are positioned in a smooth are on the bottom of the shank.

It’s so much fun to see what the SH Christmas pipes look like across the three finishes that I wanted to leave you with 14 triptychs so you could enlarge each illustration and get the achieved effect across the finishes.  If supplies are limited at your usual online or local pipe shop, don’t worry. I’m sure there is plenty of time for restocking before you hang out your stocking on the mantel.

BAKER STREET

BASKERVILLE

DEERSTALKER

HANSOM

At the time I sent out this post, I didn’t see any rusticated Hansoms. Friend and fellow-Sherocklian Sykes Wilford at Laudisi has the story:

“Some will be along in due time, though perhaps not that many. One of the great challenges of Peterson–and has been for a long time, though I fear Laudisi’s stewardship and our enthusiasm for pipes and concomitant fondness for proliferation of options and variation has perhaps exacerbated this particular problem–is one of completeness when you’re offering so many options at once.

It’s very easy for a Christmas–or other limited edition pipe–to make sure you’ve got them all ready to go if there are nine or twelve shapes in one finish (which is what a sane pipe manufacturing company does). But if you have 84 possible combinations (14 shapes x 3 finishes x 2 filter options), getting everything to happen on time becomes very much a problem of Sherlockian complexity (indeed, a three pipe problem, or a 3,333 pipe problem, depending on what you’re counting).

In a nutshell, we didn’t have enough bowls turned for Hansom and didn’t realize it soon enough: we did short runs for Heritage and Sandblast because we did have a few bowls of appropriate grade, and had to skip Hansom Rustic on the first round.

Indeed, atypical in Victorian London but typical for Peterson, the Hansom will show up, a little late and perhaps somewhat harried, in due time.”

 

HUDSON

LESTRADE

MILVERTON

MYCROFT

ORIGINAL

PROFESSOR

RATHBONE

SQUIRE

STRAND

WATSON

 

 

Thanks to Laudisi Enterprises
for stock photos, samples & permission
to reprint excerpts from The Daily Reader

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