138. The Pub Pipe: A New System Shape

Peterson and the oom paul go all the way back to Charles Peterson’s Patent System designs in the 1890s. But it was the friends of South Africa’s President Kruger who, in wanting to find him an appropriate birthday present, accidentally set off a chain of publicity in 1899 that would help establish Kapp & Peterson in the burgeoning global pipe market.

As we relate in one of the double-page spreads in The Peterson Pipe, when Kruger’s friends custom-ordered one of K&P’s oversized House Pipes pipes from the catalog at a French tobacconist’s in Johannesburg, they sparked a political controversy that made its way into all the major papers of the day.  They also created an enduring interest in what K&P originally described as the “straight-sided billiard,” but which would come to be known by returning soldiers after the Boer Wars as the dutch billiard or, in its larger version, the oom paul.

Fast forward to 2019 when, to my delight and doubtless that of many Pete Freeks the world over, Peterson has put the D18, the Founder’s Edition / 2015 POY, into the System line—hopefully for keeps, but in any event for a little while.

Kapp-Royal (left) and Blackrock (right), both from Lubinski

After the D18’s first appearance in 2015, a few of the natural high grade bowls trickled into the Italian-market’s Kapp-Royal line. A few more followed not long afterwards in the Blackrock sterling-mount Italian line.

To my lingering regret, however, three or four D18s appeared as De Luxe Natural Systems with tapered space-fitting tapered vulcanite stems. I had one in my cart and was agonizing over whether I’d really smoke it enough to to push the “buy it” button when it disappeared. Sniff. The sandblasts, with their more typical saddle space-fitting stems were also nice, but none called my name. (Why is it every Peterson aficionado I talk to prefers the tapered space-fitting mount, yet Peterson makes so few of them?)

Left to Right: Tara, Dublin Edition, Arklow Red

In 2017 more D18s found their way into the Summertime / Tara annual. Since then the shape has appeared in the gateway Dublin Edition and the low-profile Arklow Red. But aside from that handful of De Luxe Natural and Sandblast Systems, the D18 has never been issued as a System.

As must be the case for any company making briar pipes, bowls that are purchased need to be used—which is why so many of the fabulous B and XL shapes in the Dublin Era would trickle down into the St. Patrick’s Day or Christmas annuals and why the D18 has already made so many appearances in other lines.

But now, finally, the Pub Pipe is here to realize the D18’s full potential in a space-fitting sterling mount System. I for one am hoping sales might convince Peterson that there are a lot of pipemen besides me who’d like to see the return of a larger traditional oom paul to the catalog.

Josh Burgess, managing director at Peterson, tells how the name of the new System pipe came about:

“On the Pub Pipe, we conceived of it as a companion to the House Pipe. As we worked on the pipe, my mind went often to a pub in Oxford where I was lucky enough to spend a little time as an undergraduate. The pub was the Eagle & Child, famous, of course, for hosting the Inklings more than half a century ago. On one of the beams in the pub, there’s a quote from C.S. Lewis: ‘My happiest hours are spent with 3 or 4 old friends in old clothes tramping together and putting up in small pubs.’ So what sort of pipe does one want in such a setting? It should be generous of chamber–we don’t want to risk breaking up those golden moments with friends simply because we’ve reached the bottom of our pipes. It should also be comfortable, something that can be enjoyed in leisure. The oom paul shape seemed to check both boxes, and being a bit smaller than the House Pipe, it’s still easy to slip into a jacket pocket. The HAND-MADE stamping [which is how the House Pipe is stamped] reflects our idea that this is a companion to the House Pipe.”

For my part, while I appreciate the connection Peterson is establishing between the House Pipe and the Pub Pipe–the inference being that the Pub Pipe may be around for awhile–I’m not happy with the HAND-MADE stamp, either on the Pub Pipe or on the House Pipe—it’s simply confusing as well as invariably misleading to those who don’t know Peterson history.

The XXL House Pipe in oak finish

As discussed in The Peterson Pipe, the House Pipe (actually called a “Hand Made” in the 1984 pipe box brochure) originated from a request by US dealers in the mid-1980s who wanted an XXL shape like those made by Peterson from 1896-1938. What emerged was a hybrid of the XXL O.1 and O.2 shapes. Peterson has always rightly made a fuss about how difficult it is to find decent ebaucheon blocks to make a pipe this large, and for reasons known only to them they decided to stamp them HAND-MADE. The problem is that Peterson also had senior craftsmen like Frank Brady and Paddy Larrigan who were making genuine handmade pipes at the time and also used this stamp. Do you see the potential deception?

Oh well, no one asked me and now the confusion is compounded and there will doubtless be snarking on forums about “that’s not a hand made pipe,” but maybe you can explain it to them. In the meantime, I would have enjoyed a simple PUB PIPE stamp in small caps under PETERSON’S in script, as I’ve always been a fool for alliteration and “The 3Ps System” or Peterson’s Pub Pipe just seems too delicious not to use.

The System Pub Pipe’s nearest kin, however, are seen in the photo above. One commonly seen iteration of the O.2 House Pipe is seen on the left and the original shape 2 (aka 306, 356) on the right. The O.2 and 2 (a 356 version) above are both from the Irish Free State Era (1922-37), which seems to be the period these shapes fell out of the catalog. The 2 / 306 / 356, one of my favorite System shapes, would become in its next iteration the much-celebrated 02BB and 02 at some point during the Éire and Early Republic eras, a thinned-down version (but same chamber and height) that is the Iconic Peterson Oom Paul in the minds of most contemporary pipe smokers and is widely sought after on the estate market. Here’s the measurements of the three shapes:

Measure                                 Oversize 2                  Pub Pipe          Shape 2

Length:                                   156mm                        133mm             156mm
Weight:                                   079gr                           088gr               064gr
Bowl Height:                           062mm                        062mm            056.5mm
Chamber Depth:                     054mm                        051mm            047mm
Chamber Diameter:                021mm                        020.5mm         019mm
Outside Diameter:                  037.5mm                     041mm            034mm
Stem Material:                        P-Lip Vulcanite            P-Lip Acrylic     P-Lip Vulcanite

The visual inspiration for the Pub Pipe would seem to be the 1906 catalog’s O.2, which is considerably different from the IFS version seen above:

The stain color for the smooth Pub Pipe seems like a dead-ringer for the 2013 SPD, with the same hint-of-green in its oak stain. But whereas that line was in matte, the Pub Pipe has a semi-gloss finish.

Per Jonathan Fields, factory manager at Peterson, the mouthpieces are acrylic, not vulcanite (which some retailers are saying, apparently not being able to tell the difference). And of course, as a De Luxe System ought, the Pub Pipe has its obligatory “chimney” or tenon extension. When you see this described by a retailer or spoken of on a forum as a “condenser” or “stinger,” please put on your best teacher voice and say, “EXCUSE ME??! That’s NOT a condenser. It’s part of the System. Jeez. Go to the back of the class.” [Actually you shouldn’t say “Jeez” in public schools.]

As seen below, the Pub Pipe is hand-stamped Peterson’s in script over an all-caps HAND-MADE.

The sterling band is stamped Peterson’s in script over DUBLIN in small caps on the upper front and hallmarked quite legibly “I” for 2019 on the lower back.

Of the two Pub Pipes I’ve looked at, there was a bit of stain in the rustic but not the smooth, and no tear away in the air holes of either. The rusticated version, as you can see, is a dark red over black, not as craggy as the Rosslare Classic, and to my mind a little less appealing than the Aran Rusticated, perhaps because of the soft regularity of its lines, which seem to ripple in wave-like fashion.

All in all, the Pub Pipe is a great and much-needed addition to the System line-up. Coming just a year after the barely-seen Spigot System, it is welcome indeed. If you’re at all interested, like so much in the world of pipes these days, don’t hesitate.

I do have a closing question: if you smoke pipes with chambers this size or larger, what styles and blends of tobacco do you favor in them? At 20.5mm x 50, I wonder if it might do well with some MacBaren Mixture Flake or Bruno’s Flake, but confess the only success I’ve ever had with chambers of this size has been with English and Latakia mixtures.


With thanks to Josh Burgess of Peterson
Photos courtesy
Bollitopipe.com, Lubinski.com, Smokingpipes.com
and Chas. Mundungus
“Bird & Baby: Empty Nest 2005” by C. Mundungus

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