Good news this morning! Kapp & Peterson is releasing their finest Army Mount ever this week. No ifs, no ands, no buts. It’s as perfect a Pete as you could want. Before looking at why the new Short Army is so great and its place in the long history of K&P army mounts, we should begin with essential information regarding Tuesday’s drop party.
Time. Per Andy Wike at Laudisi, “The official retail launch date for Peterson’s Short Army pipes is Tuesday, June 27th at 6:00 p.m. EDT.”
Finishes. The Short Army is being offered in rustic brown and tan contrast, black sandblast and smooth, glossy chestnut.
Shapes. There’s an amazing array of shapes on offer, but if there’s a particular sandblast or smooth shape you’re drawn to, you may want to be at the drop party. I only had access to these thumbnail photos, but remember you can look anything up at SPC or SPE:
MSRP is $110 to $150, so put those prices in your SPC calculator and see what you come up with wherever you do your pipe shopping.
THE NEW EBONITE P-LIP
You’re looking at what makes these pipes so phenomenal: the new ebonite P-Lip stem. It’s a work of aesthetic art and engineering skill.
I’ve been smoking the 68 bent brandy and an 87 apple Short Army for about a month now—something I don’t ordinarily get to do in these Special Bulletins. When I pulled them out of the box I was immediately struck by this new stem. “A lot of time and energy went into getting the stems just right,” Josh Burgess (Managing Director) told me. “Glen Whelan (Director of Sales), Jonathan Fields (Production Manager) and Sinéad Carroll (Production Coordinator) all had a hand in these” as did Josh himself, Sykes and Giacomo Penzo.
“This was a fun project,” Sykes Wilford said. “I think the pipes are just really cool. Funnily, the biggest challenge we ran into was figuring out the stem for them; we made rough samples with other stem designs and then Giacomo Penzo (K&P’s Pipe Specialist) worked out how to do what we did here and I think it looks great.” They require a lot of extra work, Sykes said, but it’s been well worth it as you can see. “We have a handful of interesting stem things over the next few months,” he says, “and the prototypes and samples look really good.”
The stem’s design embraces Charles Peterson’s original vision. Seen above in Fig. 1 is an illustration from the 1906 catalog. While the straight-stem’s smoke channel is exaggerated, the torpedo-ish bulge is quite apparent in Fig. 2, which shows illustrations of three straight Patents from the 1906 catalog. The bulge is necessary for the graduated bore as well as the tenon’s taper. so iconic that it will be reproduced for the 1995 Antique Collection’s “1905” (Fig. 3) and then later for the 2005 Antique Collection (Fig. 4).
For me, the new design improves on the earlier ones in two significant ways: first, the “cuts” at the bend up toward the button give heightened visual interest; second, the reason for those cuts is the widening which occurs as the stem moves to its culmination in the P-Lip. Furthermore, anyone with no previous acquaintance with pipe stems would immediate see a strong family resemblance between this and the System A shouldered stem. 301 Comfort Lip and 87 Supercomfort Lip
Before I ever put flame to tobacco, I knew there was a party going on. It was the button—how it hits the tongue and how comfortable it is between the teeth, how easy to clench. You can do any amount of two-hands work at keyboard, shop or in the stream and not even think about it. It might even bring clenching back as an international style (but don’t count on it). This is one of the finest P-Lip buttons I’ve ever seen, as good or better than any in my rotation. There is a very, very slight convex bend to the upper and lower flats in front of the shelves, just enough to make it grip the teeth and feel fluid in the mouth. The vertical shelves are crisp and well articulated for the teeth to find purchase in front of the button.
The 68 brandy’s button, being bent, goes beyond my former first-choice “Comfort Lip” seen on some of the 1979-84 Systems. It’s better. I’ve already dubbed it the “Supercomfort” and hope we’ll see it on System and Classic Range pipes at some point. While the straight 87 apple is virtually the same, the moment arm and bend of the 68 give it the upper hand in terms of pure comfort over the 87.
The big problem I’ve always had with K&P’s army mounts has been the combination of F/T smoke channel and wide tenon / mortise gap. When these collide with my tobacco preferences and pH, I’m in for a hot smoke. The new stem overcomes all this. Why it should do so is something I cannot explain, only attest.
Visibly, you can see that part of the old problem is overcome by the new chamfering. Sykes Wilford says, “The tenon chamfering on army mounts will be standard across the range going forward for both ebonite and acrylic. This has been on our list for awhile; it’s serendipitous that the Short Army were among the first pipes with it.”
What I can’t see is the inside of the smoke channel itself. On the 87 apple, however, I did measure the opening at the button (2.4mm) and the tenon (4.6mm) and could push a doubled Castello pipe cleaner up from the tenon to the point indicated in the photo above. My inexpert conclusion is that this is a top-tier System-style P-Lip graduated bore stem. My expert opinion on how it smokes for me is that it smokes like a top-tier System-style P-Lip graduated bore stem!
The gap between tenon and mortise is still wider than that found on a Peterson “navy” mount, but narrower than on previous acrylic and ebonite F/T and P-Lip stems by about 5-7mm. The earlier turbulence issue on army mounts is fairly well known and isn’t even a problem for legions of fortunate pipemen. But it can hit hard if you’re smoking a high-sugar content tobacco or one that doesn’t agree with your pH. Artisans, of course, can go to great lengths to make sure the tenon / mortise gap is almost non-existent, but if you haven’t noticed, even they make very few army mounts. The gap is simply unavoidable to allow the “push” on the tenon taper sufficient room in the mortise. What all this means is simply that if it works for naturally difficult tobaccos, it works for all of them.
A SHORT HISTORY OF K&P’S ARMY MOUNTS
To set the Army mount in context it is as well to remember that K&P has always made four unique types of pipe, each designed for a different application and each with unique smoking properties which differ from the others:
- System (1894 – present). The flagship design traditionally observed the presence of the three patents, seen in the reservoir and a graduated bore P-Lip mouthpiece. This is as authentic as it gets with a Peterson and the raison d’être for the company.
- P-Lip (1906 – present). Patent Lips were offered exclusively on K&P pipes until the 1920s, then remained on Peterson’s highest grades until the 1990s, reappearing only in the Laudisi era. A well-made P-Lip consistently outperforms its fishtail rival on any identical straight or bent pipe, rewarding the smoker with a fuller flavor profile (flavor is distributed over the entire palate instead of concentrated only on the tip of the tongue). P-Lips are also dryer than their fishtail counterparts on straight pipes, and will never require a pip cleaner half-way through as F/T pipes often do to remain dry throughout a smoke. Deluxe P-Lips through the 1950s routinely featured bone tenon extensions and specially-drilled mortises to accommodate them, indicative of the company’s understanding of how well this pipe smokes, but even without those advantages, as on, say, the current Deluxe Classics pipes, they’re way, way ahead of pipes without the P-Lip.
- Navy Mount (c. 1906 – present). From the beginning, K&P made pipes with traditional tenon-mortise mounts, albeit not routinely without the P-Lip until 1945 or so, and then only on “Product” lines until the 1990s. Some of Peterson’s highest grade lines have been navy mounts –historically the Deluxe and Dublin & London lines come to mind.
N.b. You’ll notice there’s an unavoidable overlap here between P-Lip and Navy Mount. As fashion moved away from ferrules and bands, devoted Pete Geeks wanted the P-Lip on their non-System pipes while the company knew that to remain competitive they needed to offer orific and then F/T buttons to the philistines who didn’t know better (ouch). Money talks. Poor philistines.
- Army (1906 – present). Known by a wide variety of names since 1949 (Military, Irish Made, Irish Grip, K&P Dublin, “push,” Irish Army, Silver Mounted Army, Irish Made Army and now Short Army), these pipes date from the 1906 catalog and feature thinner shanks than their System counterparts. Army-mount pipes are arguably the strongest pipes that can be made and require the least amount of care: there’s no reservoir moisture to worry about and the pipe is virtually indestructible. Serious cracks in the mortise go unnoticed because they are unseen, lying below the ferrule. There is never a problem with a loose or tight tenon. No need to worry if you’re not the type to fuss over a reservoir. Peterson Army pipes are made for the field (as Peterson indicated in its catalogs through the 1970s) or, as I said, for those will little tolerance for the “fuss” of a System or navy Mount.
The pedigree for the Short Army goes back to the 1906 catalog where K&P’s pipes were divided into two categories: Patent System Pipes and Patent Lip Pipes. The latter all featured the P-Lip but were comprised of five tenon-mortise connections: the army, “push,” “screw,” “central,” “spigot” and “army” or military mount, illustrated in the mock-up catalog page below:
Patent Era (1892-1922)
- In the composite catalog page shown above, the top shape, the 102AB, is what we’d call an army mount today.
- The second down, the 102B, is labeled as a “push,” what craftsmen in Paddy Larrigan’s generation called a “navy” mount or we think of as traditional tenon-mortise friction fit.
- The note at the top of this composite page lets the reader know that the “push” can also be fitted with a “screw” mount. I imagine anyone tempted by vintage estate pipes has bought at least one “screw” mount stem and, on receiving it, be flummoxed by the fact that the tenon and mortise won’t line up! The engineers among us—folk like Charles Lemon, Paul Combs and Gary Hamilton—doubtless know how to correct this problem, but I can see why the screw mounts were dropped pretty early on.
- The third pipe down shows a “central” mount. The rationale for this wholly escapes me. It seems to imply that the ebonite or amber mouthpiece was glued into the button-half of the mount.
- The bottom pipe illustrates the double-bead “spigot” mount, a thing of real beauty.
All of these except perhaps the “central” were made, of course, in bent shapes as well as straight.
IFS Era (1922-38)
We don’t have much ephemera for the IFS, but what little we do have doesn’t show any change from the Patent era.
Éire Era (1938-48)
Military mounts don’t even make an appearance in the K&P 1937 catalog, although they are present in the US-market Rogers Imports 1939 catalog where they’re known as “push bit” mounts.
Early Republic (1948-68)
In the Early Republic era the V.P.B. makes its appearance: a vulcanite mortise attached to the briar shank with a sophisticated P-Lip. The tenon extension on the P-Lip stem makes me think this was probably engineered correctly with little gap. No metal ferrule army mounts are seen in the exhaustive 1955 Dublin & London catalog so that we can say with a fair degree of certainty that this type of pipe wasn’t being made during this period.
Late Republic Era (1968-90)
By the 1975 catalog, which celebrated K&P’s Centenary, military mounts had been reintroduced in what would be the standard for the next several decades: a P-Lip stem for sterling mounts and a F/T for nickel mounts. The shank stamp on the nickel-mount is K&P over IRISH ARMY, while that on the sterling mount is Peterson’s and Dublin2.”
I want to call your attention to that “2,” since it’s caused collectors and Pete Geeks some difficulties, which I’ve discussed with several Pete Geeks over the past year or so. The stamp had been issued and documented by the PGs for previous decades, but it now it comes to be associated solely with the sterling army mount. (Maybe if Laudisi Peterson issues a sterling army, we’ll see this stamp again!)
Dublin Era (1990-2018)
The first ten or twelves years of the Dublin era saw K&P simply carry on what had been established during the Late Republic, with the Sterling Army marked “Dublin2” and the nickel mounts K&P over IRISH ARMY.
Three army mounts from the 2018 catalog
With the rise of interest in acrylic stems, however, a poorly-engineered stem got worse. However much this may have improved brick & mortar sales—which were dying by that point in any event—it didn’t help the engineering of the Peterson army mount. Not only was the smoke channel and button problematic, but now the pipes were difficult to clench as well. There are too many army mount acrylic issues to count, almost, as at least two and sometimes three appeared annually through 2018. Many of these appeared in exemplary lines through Mario Lubinski—exemplary in every way except the dang acrylic mounts. Many of these were quite striking in appearance (do you remember the Linseed Army or the Kapp Royal?) and some featured better buttons than others, but none to my knowledge had chamfered tenons and while I tried almost all of them, none are in my rotation now.
Laudisi (2018- )
And that brings us to the present with the glorious news that the Irish Army is back and absolutely better than ever and about to deploy all across the globe. Lock and load, gentlemen. Lock and load.
Thanks to Sykes Wilford, Josh Burgess, Andy Wikes
and all the talent at K&P and Laudisi
for their help.
…and even a downloadable poster you can print: