“How you get there is where you’ll arrive,” writes poet Phillip Booth. The trouble is, I don’t really like going anywhere. I have more of the Hobbit about me than just a paunchy middle and love of pipes and tobacco. Like the Shire folk, I just don’t venture away from home if I can possibly help it. Tragically, there are times I have to leave the comfort of the Hobbit hole and when I do I always fret about how to take my pipes and tobacco. Which pipes? Which tobaccos? How many of each? There are other points to consider as well, like how many pounds of books I can reasonably carry. Clothing is obviously the last thing to consider—honestly, who needs a fresh shirt or change of underwear if there’s room to pack an extra pipe or book. No one will smell the difference if the tobacco smoke around me is thick enough, anyway.
Back in the 1970s and ’80s when one in four or five older men were still pipe smokers, they all carried a pouch somewhere on their persons, either a drug-store cellophane pack of Sail or some other OTC or, for the more serious, a leather roll up. Their pipe, as often as not, was clenched between their teeth. So like many another young piper, I thought I needed one. But aside from sticking a slice of apple in among the tobacco (to keep the tobacco fresh, we were told), I never got much use out of it because I was just born too late. I didn’t smoke all day, every day like the older guys and I inevitably forgot about the pouch until the next time I needed it, when I found a slice of desiccated apple and some crumbly dust inside.
Fast forward to today, and even in these pandemic times I find myself going away from home for three or four days at a stretch much more often than I’d imagine possible—and not to a pipe show. (For the pipe show, I pull out my old Smokin’ Holster pipe bag because one likes to look one’s best at the show.) Anyway, I’ve struggled for years to figure out how to get there and back again without the disaster of running out of tobacco or facing the dismal prospect of smoking the same pipe every night.
For several years I’ve used a wide black Peterson pipe box I picked up somewhere along the way. It’s a little big and won’t survive the crushing that so delights those in the travel industry, but at least it’s not one of those soft leather roll-ups that you know without thinking will snap a pipe when your knapsack or piece of luggage grazes the asphalt. Enter Ted Swearingen, Our Hero in this morning’s blog post, stage right.
The “P” Zipper Pull
Mark: Ted, the hard shell case and the new leather tobacco jar are both quite different from anything I’ve ever seen in pipe accessories. How did they come about?
Ted: When we took over Peterson one of the projects I took on was revamping the accessories line—everyone was (understandably and correctly) focused on the pipes, but the factory is well outside my remit (by design, to stay focused elsewhere) and I’ve got an eye, a mind, an appreciation for smoking accessories, and I’m deeply involved with vetting and developing them for Laudisi across a handful of brands. I only took up smoking because I needed a way to make use of the first Zippo lighter I ever bought back when I turned eighteen. I’m also keen on design and art and our marketing team works for me directly so I’m very involved in Peterson branding. Case in point, my very first order of business when we closed the deal on Peterson was to identify the Peterson brand color by mapping it to a specific Pantone code so we could refer back to it in order to be consistent with designs. To the best of my knowledge that hadn’t been done.
Mark: Most Pete Geeks are familiar with the Avoca pouches and have seen previous iterations of Classic pouches. They don’t really say much different than anything else on the market.
Ted: Peterson came to us with the Classic and Avoca lines of pouches and I knew immediately that I wanted to make some changes. (I also knew that—since we had identified the Peterson green—I really wanted to steer away from relying on green too heavily in all matters Peterson. I want Peterson to be more than a specific green color.) First was to find a new manufacturer that could make the existing stuff at the same price in addition to custom designs. That took a long time to sort and iron out. Once done I wanted to create more differentiation between the two lines besides just the prices, and here was my chance to use a non-green color, so we created the Grafton line and it’s kicked off with the hard-shell case. I’m glad you like it. The green leather suede bags inside are now the bags we’re using on more expensive Peterson pipes, in case you didn’t know.
Mark: Yes, everyone is really excited about the suede pouches. When I first saw them it reminded me of course of the suede and leather pouches nearly every artisan uses. Just classy. And I like the Grafton line—most Pete Geeks know that K&P’s retail shops were, up until just a few years ago, all along Grafton Street in Dublin. And a few probably remember that there was a
Shape 68 in the Grafton Classic Line (photo courtesy SPC)
Grafton high-grade line during the Dublin era (2010). The color is absolutely spot-on. I wonder how pipe bags have never been made in this most manly of colors (every older man I knew as a kid had a leather shaving kit in this color).
But how did the change come about in the form of the case and pouch? These are really, really different.
Ted: The way to differentiate products is to be really involved in ideation. In ten years I’ve seen about every kind of leather pipe accessory available and I think it’s important to offer pipe smokers alternatives. That’s the hard shell case in a nutshell, and it’s the round pipe jar too—I’d never seen a round leather jar and I was thinking about what would work best when I travel.
Mark: When I first saw the Avoca jar I sprang for it, of course, but wondered whether it would really keep tobacco fresh for several days. I had no idea what the plastic-looking liner was or how it would work. I went back and read the production description at SPC recently where the description said it was elastomer. What’s that?
Ted: The elastomer you refer to is just a certain kind of polymer. The first prototype didn’t keep in moisture so we want back to the manufacturer with some suggestions on how to keep the thing airtight. It’s no good if it doesn’t work!
Mark: Well, it seems to work. I say “seems” because I’ve been doing some field-testing of mine and the tobacco retains humidity after 6 days and 6 openings. That’s better than my roll-up pouches, for sure. The zipper is the key, I guess, as it brings the elastomer top down to a fairly tight seal on the liner. Will we be seeing any
Ted: I want Peterson accessories to stand out, to differ not for the sake of being different, but to add different value or work as alternatives for pipe smokers on account of form and function.
Mark: Do you have plans to add more accessories in either line?
Ted: We’ve got one size in Avoca jar right now, but in a month or two we’ll have a larger size in Avoca and both medium and large sizes in Grafton.
Mark: Anything else?
Ted: We’ll also have in the Grafton line a leather pipe cleaner holder shaped like the jar, though skinnier and taller, that comes with a cap (not a zipper)—again, I was thinking about what I’d like to travel with. Most pipe cleaner holders have cleaners exposed and they get all damaged up top if you don’t keep them carefully.
Mark: Super cool. I’ll be on the lookout for that pipe cleaner holder.
I found out Prof. John Schantz, CPG, shared my enthusiasm for the Grafton hard shell case and asked him if he would share his rationale and some photos of how he might pack it. He sent me back his thoughts for three variations:
The Original (Var. 1)
The original reason I bought one of the cases is to house two of my Amber Spigots in a set. These two originally had the Black boxes and socks. They are, in my opinion, not up-to-snuff for the grade of pipes. Here are the two pipes, an XL220 and an 87 with their extra cumberland and acrylic stems. I packed each pipe in a suede bag with their respective cumberland and acrylic stems. I rolled up the Amber stems each in their own cloth socks and nestled them in the case. Voila!
A Traveling Kit (Var. 2)
And now a little traveling kit setup. This time it’s the Silver Cap Amber Spigot 03 with the extra stem. I have added a Zippo with a Z-Plus butane pipe lighter insert and a tamper/pipe tool I made on the lathe. There is also a cigar punch cutter on the end of the brass scoop / scraper.
The Clown Car (Var. 3)
Finally, just as a fun experiment, I decided to see how many pipes I could get into the case. I forgot I had an 86 Outdoor Natural that I only found when putting the pipes away. I guess that’s what happens when I have 600 or so pipes. I would have put the 86 in the Clown Car and left out either the D6 Outdoor or the 264 Short. I got six of those little guys in the case without much trouble. I couldn’t quite fit the seventh, but hey, you need to have one out to smoke anyway right? There you go, a “Seven Day Set”!
86 (not pictured)
My own take on a traveling kit, The U2 All You Can’t Leave Behind Kit (or Survival Kit for short) looks like this:
A Pebble Grain Rustic Travel Kit
From bottom to top:
* ten pipe cleaners laid out on the bottom of the kit
* tobacco drying paper, folded, on top of the cleaners
* first pipe, bowl to left, in cloth Peterson sock
* Peterson lighter, Gratis Pipe Tool, Peterson Shamrock Pipe holder (for the System to cool) and box of matches (because without them the lighter won’t work properly, don’t ask me why).
You can see this only brings the packing up to the zipper, which leaves the top half of the case open for the second pipe (seen in front), bowl to the right, also in a cloth Peterson sock.
As for the Avoca leather jar, there’s actually plenty of room for two tobaccos (at least for me for a week’s journey), one stored in a small snack bag, although I think for the first trip I’ll just take one. But what about you? I know there are Pete Geek globe trotters, roadies, motorists, truckers, bikers, backpackers and itinerants of every description: what kind of protective gear do you use for your Petes & tobaccos when traveling? How many pipes do you take? How much tobacco?
A Black & Silver Blast Travel Kit
Smokingpipes.eu currently offers the Grafton Hard Shell case
Smokingpipes.com offers both the Hard Shell and the Tobacco Jar (the jar is currently out of stock)
Many thanks to
Ted Swearingen, CPG and John Schantz, CPG
for sharing their expertise