226. Documenting the Dunmore System and Classic Lines

Milos “Mike” Bera at PipesPens&More.com on eBay recently wrote me to say that he’d run across two examples of a Peterson Dunmore Classic line he’d never seen before—a higher-grade line with a briar-in-brass sandwich band. As I thought they were not only gorgeous but undocumented, the time seemed right to take a look back at the history of the Dunmore System and Classic lines.

Mike’s “Mystery Dunmores,” shape 68 on left and 80S on right

I’ve been a fan of the Dunmore lines since I first saw them through the case back in the late 1980s and had to have one, a fat-bottom 72 (the 302 equivalent). Like everyone else, I thought there was some kind of mistake—“Where’s the nickel mount?” I remember asking. But the Dunmore System set out to be something a little different, yet within the classic Kapp & Peterson house style.

The Debut of the Dunmore (and Aboriginal), IRC 1971 Catalog

The line originated in collaboration with Iwan Reis in 1971. How it came about is anyone’s guess at this point. Chuck Levi, the man who more than any other was responsible for bringing the great Danish artisan pipes to the US, was working with the creative minds at K&P to bring something new to the IRC catalog, and this was one of about a dozen K&P lines that debuted as exclusives in the Iwan Reis catalogs of that era.

The concept was to modernize the System pipe by removing what was perceived as the old-fashioned nickel mount. And old-fashioned it was—if you look at pipe catalogs from the 1940s on through most of the rest of the 20th century, nickel ferrules and even bands were almost non-existent. K&P was virtually the only hold out, using sterling bands on the Sterling Silver Classic line and on the Premier & De Luxe Systems. A bead was then carved around the stummel at the mortise end. As you can see from the IRC detail, sometimes the contrast stain made the beads stand out, and sometimes not.

But there were two more ingredients to the original Dunmore aesthetic which can be seen the photo below. Paddy Larrigan, K&P’s master-craftsman, was always striving to push the envelope in pipe engineering, and one of the things he dearly loved was a pipe that would sit, so he shaved off the bottom of the shank to allow the Dunmore System to sit on its shank and button, which gives it its uniqueness in the catalog. The downside of this is that I am not convinced that all the Dunmore reservoirs, being slightly smaller than the traditional System, are quite as effective.

The shank and wide-shoulder Comfort P-Lip faux army mount on the Dunmore System 79, rustic and smooth*

The third distinguishing mark of the original Dunmore lines is the stem. Both the System and Classic versions utilized the wide-shoulder “Comfort Lip,” with a painted  gold P on the stem. This doubtless helps the System sit as well as giving it a more muscular visual balance, strength being a long-standing concept in the design language of the company. While it gives the illusion of being an army “push” mount, of course it isn’t, but is a traditional tenon-mortise or “navy mount” as the old hands at K&P used to call it.

The 406 Dunmore Classic. Note it shares the same faux wide-saddle army mount P-Lip

The 1971 IRC catalog description reads, “dunmoor briar IRC ’71 modern system without sterling band, natural $12.00.” This intentional misspelling of “Dunmore” would persist through subsequent IRC catalogs, the copy-writer evidently under the spell of e.e. cummings and favoring an English flavor to his pipes. The name, like almost all K&P line names, is taken from the Irish landscape, in this case the town in County Galway famous for Dunmore Castle.

Dunmore Castle in a photo from the early 1900s

The 1975 Orange Catalog shows the initial Dunmore System release was in only seven shapes:


This was later expanded to include both the original bent dublin shape 5 (75) and XL5 (XL75) and the replacement calabash shape 5 and XL5. The remaining “new” System shapes were also added to the Dunmore lineup, the 01 becoming the Dunmore 73, the 02 the 70 and the 03 the 76. The fact that the 304 and 306 “setters” introduced in 1984 never entered the Dunmore System lineup adds the probability that the line had been discontinued by then.

The smooth Dunmore System features a light brown natural finish, sometimes occurring with broad flames, as can be seen in these photos of an unsmoked 77 System:

Its looks as though this type of banded pipe box was used into the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The rusticated version of the Dunmore System seems to have been finished in at least two techniques or versions. Neither is as deep as the Pebble Rustic finish  but they still feel very therapeutic under thumb and finger.

This XL75a bent dublin may have been what the original rustication looked like.

This 79 rustic came to me faded. When I refinished it, I had no idea of the original color.
Notice the difference in the rustication technique between the 79 and the XL75a.

Even when we were beginning our research on the Peterson book (due out in reprint later this year), most Pete fans had no idea there was also a Dunmore Classics line featuring the same beading at the mortise and wide Comfort Lip mouthpiece. Documentary proof was found in the rare 1978-79 Peterson-Glass catalog:

The Dunmore System and Classic Lines from the 1978-79 Peterson-Glass Catalog

I don’t know whether the Dunmore Classics was a short-lived line or whether it was primarily available in Europe, but it almost never appears on the estate market here in the US. As you can see from the catalog and the 406 pictured above, the same aesthetic was followed for the Classic line—light brown, nearly natural, higher-quality smooth bowl (or dark rustic) and faux army mount with gold-painted P, wide saddle and P-Lip stem. Only the Dunmore System, as far as I have been able to document, had the flattened stummel allowing it to set.

I have always hoped to run across an unsmoked rustic Dunmore System with the dark contrast stains seen in the Peterson-Glass catalog. I wonder if this finish actually went into production, because the ones I’ve seen all look more-or-less like the XL75 shown above.

The original Dunmore lines seemed to have been dropped at about the time the company went through its worst redundancy in 1984, as there are no more traces of it in the company’s ephemera from 1983 on. I remember the proprietor of my B&M, Cavalier Pipe & Tobacco in Barracks Road Shopping Center in Charlottesville, telling me when I bought my shape 73 Dunmore that the line was out of production, so I’d better get it if I wanted it (don’t you miss high-pressure salesmen?)—and that would have been 1986 or ’87.

The second iteration of the Dunmore Classics line is that recently discovered by Mike at PipesPens&More on eBay. I would tentatively date it to c. 1995, well after K&P had gotten on its feet again and was doing some new and fascinating things. It seems to belong with three other briar adornment lines from the same period: Paddy Larrigan’s Briar in a Circle Systems and the Galway and Kapp-Royal higher-grade lines with their wonderful inset briar rings.

Inset briar ring found on the Galway and Kapp-Royal

Stem from the Briar in a Circle Space-Fitting System

Mike’s Dunmore Classics line is certainly on a par, from the two examples he’s found, with the Galway and Kapp Royal briars and maybe better, although probably not as fine as the Briar in a Circle Systems. Take a closer look at this 80S, which Mike sold within 24 hours of posting it on eBay:

We know the line couldn’t be produced before shape 68 was released, which was in the 1979 catalog, so it seems to naturally fall in with the aesthetic of the other three briar adornment lines but well before the change in aesthetic brought about by the Dublin era’s abandonment of P-Lips in nearly all their Classic lines.

Mike’s shape 68 with the brass sandwich and briar ring

The last Dunmore Classics line made a brief appearance in the Dublin era’s second decade, somewhere in the 2000s, probably around 2005 or so. Jim Lilley’s old blog site made a reference to them, and I remember seeing them for sale at internet shops.

The B11 Brandy. Don’t you miss some of these great B shapes?

I know it appeared well before I got interested in writing the Peterson book, because I don’t have any internet images of it in my files. These photos of the B5 and B11 give a good idea of what the line was like, although it appears to have begun in a higher range and then slipped to a lower.


The B5 Dummore Classic, 3rd iteration, from an old SPC listing
Notice the B5 above has a gold-tone aluminum inset P and red finish,
while the B5 here is brown with a white painted P.


Updated Identification Guide

Dunmore  (1971–c. 1984; c. 1995; 2006–2010)   Appeared in 1971 as Iwan Reis & Co. exclusive line “Dunmoor,” Premier-grade unmounted System in smooth natural or rustic dark chocolate contrast in all shapes, with beading at the shank, faux wide-saddle P-Lip with gold paint P.  Documented in Associated Imports catalog from 1973. Classic Range line from 1978 with same faux army mount and finishes. Second scarce Classic Range line, c. 1990, higher-grade smooth bowl with brass sandwich and briar band, P-Lip. A third Classic Range line, 2006–2010, mid-grade, featured standard and some B shapes, with beading around bowl instead of shank-face, for European market.


Many thanks to Mike Bera
Photos of the Dunmore 80s and 68 courtesy Mike’s Pipes Pens & More
Photos of the B5 and 406 Dunmore courtesy Smokingpipes.com


*Restoring a Near-Natural Finish K&P: For the photo of my 79 smooth seen above, I wanted to see if I could restore it to something approaching its original near-natural finish, as I’ve been smoking it for 20 years or so, having acquired it as an estate pipe.

The bowl rim darkening was cleaned with hand sanitizer by letting the surface stand on a cotton pad ringed in sanitizer, then scraping with a clean pad. It needed a small bit of topping to sharpen the edges, which I accomplished with sand paper grits 220, 400, 600, 1000 and 1200, then working up through the Micromesh pads to 12,000.

The bowl was wiped down with Murphy’s Oil Soap applied to a cotton pad several times. This brightened it quite a bit. But to return it to its original light brown / near-natural I opted to sand the entire bowl using the same grits I applied to the rim, carefully avoiding the stamping with the lower grit papers. I then cleaned it with Murphy’s Oil Soap, leaving a wonderful matte finish. To regain a bit of depth and luster, I applied two drops of mineral oil to my thumb and fingers and worked it into the bowl, then polished it vigorously with a cotton rag. This left the bowl as you see it in the photograph, very close to what an unsmoked Dunmore System would have looked like.

K&P’s natural finishes before 2000 or so were a very light brown and sometimes tan on the highest grades of wood. At some point the company switched to the light orange. I don’t believe the tan naturals actually much, if any stain applied to them, but I could be mistaken. I say this because the rim of the 79, which I topped 1 to 2mm, looked like bare wood until I sanded it up through the grits. By the time it reached 12,000 it was the same color as the rest of the bowl and matched three other unsmoked Peterson naturals I’ve owned, an XL339 Spigot, a Trafalgar Square T54 and a Kildare 999 Natural John Bull.

Continue Reading 226. Documenting the Dunmore System and Classic Lines