237. Documenting A Late Patent / Irish Free State DeLuxe Billiard

I recently had the opportunity to acquire a handful of what look to be interesting Petes, this little billiard among them. Looking through the available catalogs and brochures, the first pipe it resembles is from the Kapet line, the R14 shape found in the Philipp Weiss & Söhne tri-fold from c. 1925:

The illustrations on the tri-fold are not printed at scale (nor are there scale indicators) and can make shapes like this difficult to ascertain with any certainty.

Fast forward to the 1937 catalog and there it is: a dead-ringer, thanks to the catalog being printed at scale:

For the “K” and 1st Quality lines, the shape bears the 1073 number, while for the Kapet & De Luxe it’s shape 400.

As you cans see in this montage from the pages of the 1937 catalog, the De Luxe featured a “rich dark color” and a “special bone extension” as well as “Hand cut para-vulcanite mouthpiece.” I can testify to the quality of the vulcanite—it’s in better condition than some of the Petes in my rack that are only 10 or 20 years old.

The long, thin tenon extension is cross-vented at 120° and comes right up to the airhole entering the bowl’s chamber. The design language here is full-on K&P, as the shank has to house a formidable tenon. The button is thick—6.2 mm—but I’d have to say it’s totally worth it for the graceful, gorgeous converging angles of the shank and stem. The rim of the bowl is canted forward just a few degrees, creating a dynamism with the back-flow of the shank’s top line. I also love the forward curve at the base of the bowl, which begins exactly at the dead-center of the bowl.

Although shape 400 doesn’t appear after the 1937 catalog, it was obviously made for a few years afterwards. And the fact that it isn’t seen in the 1906 catalog doesn’t mean it wasn’t in production shortly thereafter. What is interesting is that there is no country of manufacture stamp. On straight round shank K&Ps these could occur on the bottom at the end of the shank or on the reverse side (on oval shanks, the stamp would be on the bottom in the middle of the shank).

Normally when a K&P has no country of manufacture stamp and it’s this old, I would date it during the final years of what we call the Patent era—really after the Patent expired in 1912 but before the Irish Free State era. The IFS stamp seems to have come into use almost simultaneously with the change in national identity, while K&Ps before that time never had country of manufacture stamps. 1

While I don’t offer it as conclusive evidence, K&P’s “Chip of the Old Block” poster from 1917—the first ephemera we have for the DeLuxe line—does seem to illustration both shape 400 and the type of stamp used on the De Luxe. Of course, this stamp may have been used up through 1940 as well. But it’s fun, nevertheless, to daydream that the pipe may actually have been made as early as the late 1910s.

 

The Restoration

The Finish

For those interested in the 400’s restoration, I’ll try to be brief. While the original stain is specified as “a rich dark color,” 80 to 110 years of aging meant to me that I wanted to clarify and sharpen the underlying grain without over-staining or removing the essential color.

So the first thing I did was place the stummel in 91% isopropyl alcohol overnight. I don’t do this very much, but in this case I wanted to soften the oils and tars in the mortise, de-ghost the chamber and dissolve dirts, waxes and debris on the outside of the bowl. Most of the time on newer estates I simply clean the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap, which usually does a fantastic job in making the bowl look like new. But the bowl was going to need sanding, anyway, and this seemed the best way to proceed.

Coming out of the alcohol, the bowl smelled totally neutral after drying. I cleaned the internals of the airway and mortise with a shank brush dipped and redipped in isopropyl and was astonished at just how dirty it was. But having softened overnight, the debris was cleaned out much quicker than I’d thought possible and it wasn’t but a few minutes before bristle and then soft pipe cleaners were coming out absolutely clean.

I’ve learned through trial and error that few brown-stained Petes need restaining. There seems to be a vestigial color memory in the wood that allows one to sand to even 220 grit and then bring it back the original color back by sanding up through 12,000 followed by two or three careful applications of carnauba wax on the buffer.

To preserve the bowl stamping, I covered it with painter’s tape for the 400, 600, and 1000 grit, then removed it and carefully used 1200 and then through the grades of Micromesh without losing any discernible detail.

The wood on this De Luxe was flawless. No pits, no fills.

 

Rim

The rim needed some love. “Topping” is a scary word and often implies that an estate has been chopped down to remove substantial char and damage around the rim. I have found that micro-topping (1 to 2.5 mm) a rim carefully can really make a tired Pete look new without discernibly altering its original appearance.

I’ve learned to begin aggressively with 150 or 220 grit, being careful to err on the side of too little rather than too much. The original smoker did some damage knocking out his ashes on the obverse side of the rim as well as lightly scorching the top in several places.

One trick to make a pipe look fresh is to give a slight bevel to the inner rim. This cuts away the black scarring at the edge of a non-beveled rim like this one. You have to get below the match burns and scorched edge for this to be effective. I use a dowel wrapped with sandpaper and angle it down into the chamber as I go around. I begin with 220 grit and move up the grades. I’ve noticed that the entire rim often needs a second sanding beginning again at 400 and going lightly to remove all the scratches.

After topping and sanding through 12,000. No stain applied, the color just returned.
Notice the black edge of the inner rim before beveling.

After the beveling and sanding up through 12,000.
The entire rim will need to be sanded again from 400 through 12,000.

The 400 De Luxe must have looked something very close to this when it was new.

I did take out a number of dents and bumps using the tried-and-true method of flat-head screwdriver tip heated on the kitchen stove ring and applied to wet t-shirting directly onto the dent in the wood. I have learned to place a few drops of water directly on the wood before placing the wet t-shirt over it to give the hot screwdriver extra moisture with which to steam. I invariably miss a few dents, but this method goes a long way to giving the bowl a new look.

You can just make out an “N” above the “L.” Brian 500s and Gary Malmberg have been
documented pipes with the N [slash] L, but no one knows what it means.

If I know I’m selling the pipe (as I am with this piece), I’ll wipe olive oil inside the bowl followed by charcoal powder on my finger. This gives the new owner a bit of protection as well as giving the pipe a finished look. If I was keeping the pipe, I would have used the charcoal powder with food-grade gum arabic mixture as a pre-carb as detailed in an earlier post. But I don’t want anyone to freak out when the pre-carb does its thing, so I never do this on pipes I’m selling.

See those spots on the lower rim? I tried to clean the clear acrylic base I photograph on with Windex while the pipe still on it!
It spotted the carnauba. It wiped off, but I don’t recommend applying an ammonia cleaner to your freshly-buffed pipe.

 

Stem

When I got the pipe, the airway in the stem was blocked and the bone tenon frozen. The previous smoker may never even have used a pipe cleaner in it, which didn’t become commonplace until the 1940s. 2 Using a bristle cleaner soaked with isopropyl alcohol, I eventually broke through the clog and was able to completely clean the airway. The drilling is such that a cleaner runs freely from the P-Lip tip through the tenon extension without a hitch. DeLuxe, indeed.

The mortise had enough debris had built up in it o push the stem out about 4 mm, but after thoroughly cleaning it and sanding a bit at the mortise, I was able to re-seat the stem correctly.

I didn’t want to risk the stem in the Before & After solution, not wanting to deal with getting that stuff out of the bone tenon extension and its cross vents. Perhaps because the stem is a hand-cut, high-quality piece of vulcanite, there was was very little oxidation, so that after sanding through the various grades of Micromesh, I was able to simply buff it with white compound.

If you look at the gash in the unrestored stem on the obverse side, you’ll see that I had to do a bit of creative sanding there. I could have just left it, but as I wanted to bring the pipe to looking as pristine as possible, decided to see if I could judiciously sand so that it wouldn’t be noticed. There is a very slight movement in the line of the stem just where the gash was, but you have to know what you’re looking for to find it.

Much more than K&P’s current line of straight billiards like the 101, 104, 105 and 106, this one exudes the house style. Part of it is in the Irish “don’t give a damn” swagger of the bowl, with its thrusting chin and rakish slight-forward slant of the rim. Part of it is in the muscular tapered lines from the stummel back to the button. It bespeaks power and masculinity. At five inches and with an 18 x 31 mm chamber, it’s also the sort of shirt-pocket pipe that seems to appeal to so many pipemen just now. I suspect it will be a simply terrific smoker. 3

 

Measurements & Other Details

Length: 5 in / 127 mm
Weight: 29 gr / 1.0 oz
Bowl Height: 1.62 in / 41.1 mm
Chamber Depth:  1.25 in / 31.8 mm
Chamber Diameter: 0.71 in / 18.1 mm
Outside Diameter: 1.28 in / 32.6 mm
Stem: P-Lip vulcanite w/ cross-vent bone tenon extension
Era: c. Late Patent (after 1912) through Irish Free State (before 1938)

 

 

1 My theory is that K&P’s Country of Manufacture stamp may initially have been a patriotic act as much as a reaction to similar stamps by English pipe factories, however much such stamps afterwards have helped collectors in dating their pipes.

2 At the Al Pascià website we read, “At the turn of the twentieth century most pipes were set aside after a few years because their insides got clogged up. In 1911 Dunhill found the solution to this problem by inventing an  aluminium inner tube that could be inserted into the pipe and replaced when necessary. Thus, a pipe could last a lifetime and stay clean. This method was in use up to the 1930s, when pipe cleaners were introduced.” The inner tube was copied by K&P as early as the 1937 catalog, where it was used on the Kapet and “K” lines. It was used in the Donegal Rocky line up through the 1980s. Pipe cleaners, by the way, were invented by American John Harry Stedman and Charles Angel in the early 1900s, who sold the rights to the B. J. Long company, who still produces them.

3 It is on eBay with two other interesting Petes (including the B35 “Holy Grail” this week here).

 

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