269. Peterson Rustication, Part 2: The Laudisi Era (2018- )

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Wojciech Blaszczak

In Part 1 of this overview of Kapp & Peterson’s rustication history we looked at the Éire through Dublin eras, from roughly 1937 through 2018. When Laudisi assumed stewardship of the company, the light rustication that was already in place continued, although with the Rosslare Rusticated there was a first attempt at producing something deeper and craggier. In the first half of 2021, craftsman Wojciech Blaszczak created something new that nevertheless had roots to the company’s history.

When encountering something new, I often find myself unsure of my like or dislike. Wojciech’s work certainly fell in that category. It reminded me of the Sculpted and Aboriginal rustication done by the Marxman factory on the I.O.M. for Peterson back in the 1980s, but rougher, gnarlier. At some point—and I think it was the SH Christmas Pipes—I felt the flip switch and found myself thinking here was something that’s awesome, affordable and gnarly. The mot juste in this case is simply bad ass (see the House Pipe billiard below).  I contacted Production Manager Jonathan Fields and we arranged a zoom with Wojciech about the process.

Mark: Wojciech [pronounced voi-czech, I think], I’m so excited about the rustication you and your brother Jaroslaw have been doing that I wanted to talk to you about it, because I’m not sure everyone understands how it’s done and the skill set it takes.

Wojciech: When I first came to Peterson, I worked in the warehouse and labeling tobacco as well. After two or three years I moved to the factory to work on pipes.

Jonathan: The warehouse was getting quite a bit smaller as we changed over to Laudisi, and we needed help out on the floor so we brought Wojciech out to give us a hand, where we tried him out on one or two different jobs—that he didn’t like [laughs] —which happens. Then he tried out on rustication. At the time, I was doing it along with another lad, the lighter rustication that we had previously done at Peterson’s. Wojciech found his own way of doing the rustication, which is much better.

Wojciech: For me, the thought was that the current rustication was too flat. Some of the rustication techniques were very near a shallow sandblast. So we have a pipe—the Donegal Rocky—and I was thinking that should be rockier, deeper, which I think is better than before, more interesting.

The Donegal Rocky takes its name from the sea rocks in southwest Donegal, in County Donegal. Shown above, the famous Sea Stacks at dawn, low tide.

Jonathan: You’ll remember back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, we used to do a much heavier rustication on all the Sherlock Holmes pipes—the Pebble Rustic. And so we’re trying to get back to something much heavier.

Mark: So who else is working in rustication now?

Wojciech: Primarily myself and my brother Jaroslaw Blaszczak.

Jaroslaw (left) and Wojciech Blaszczak

Jonathan: We’re turning this into a family business again! But Wojciech is training others to do this same effect, because we want a certain uniformity here.

Mark: So let me see if I have the run down of rusticated lines currently being produced: Donegal Rocky, Aran, System, Sherlock Holmes, Rosslare, Derry Rustic. Are there any others?

Wojciech: Jekyll & Hyde.

Jonathan: Yeah, but you have to buy two to get a full rusticated (laughs).

A current Jekyll & Hyde Rustic 05

Mark: So when the company transitioned to Laudisi’s era, how soon did in-house rustication begin?

Jonathan: Well, believe it or not, we’d been doing it in house for fifteen years by that point. It just wasn’t at the level we’ve taken it to now. It had to be done quick and fast.

Mark: So Jonathan, you’re responsible for those nasty fish-scale, pineapple monstrosities?

Jonathan: It wasn’t me! (laughing) You’re talking about the rustication that looks kind of like diamonds, right?

Mark: That’s an ironic way of putting it, but yes, I guess so.

Jonathan: Those were coming in from outside. Not the bad ones, the sh***y-sh***y ones. We had to get everything out the door as quick as possible. Now Wojciech and the lads have a bit more time. They’re still on a time schedule, but it’s a much better rustic.

A phenomenal Derry Rustic 01

Mark: Wojciech, about how long does it take to rusticate a bowl using the technique we’ve seen on the Sherlock Holmes Christmas 2021, the POY 2021 and others like them?

Wojciech: Between four and eight minutes, depending on the size of the bowl. Five is the average.

A POY 2021 Rustic

Mark: As I’ve watched this technique develop over the past several months, I’ve been more and more impressed with how well the bowl shape’s integrity is being maintained. I had to have a POY 2021 in the rustic because the lines just blew me away. I’ve never seen the shape 4 with rustication like this. It’s something totally fresh.

Wojciech: I keep a smooth version of the bowl close by while I’m rusticating to help me maintain the lines.

Mark: Not so much with the rustics, but with some of the sandblasts I sometimes see a pipe and I think, “Now what shape is this?

Jonathan: If the shape gets too far off grid, you’ll sometimes see it in the Irish Seconds line.

Mark: I know sandblasting has a tiered grading system. Is there anything like that for the rustics?

A current House Pipe Rustic

Jonathan: No, although we do give thought to the line. For the Pipe of the Year, we knew it had to be just so. And Wojciech and the boys are getting so good that the other lads in the factory are complimenting the rustic—and that’s something I’ve never heard before. Before they’d comment on a sandblast when there’s a lot of grain but they’re doing it on the rustic now as well.

Mark: Off topic question: Jonathan, so if it takes five minutes on average to rusticate a bowl, how long does it take to do a sandblast?

Jonathan: I’d say about four minutes. Might add another minute to chase the grain. With a sandblast, it’s really about chasing the grain.

Stamp area, XL20 Rustic

Mark: So when you’re rusticating or sandblasting, how do you do this part on the bottom of the shank, keeping it smooth [showing the smooth surface underneath the shank where the stamps are placed]?

Jonathan: Ah Mark, now that’s tricks of the trade! We can’t be telling your readers stuff like that! [laughing] . . . It’s just a little piece of masking tape on the sandblasts. On the rustics, the lads do it by eye. Sometimes the smooth area may seem a little too big or a bit too small—that’s because it’s done by eye. Proportions are also observed, of course—a little larger for the bigger bowls, smaller for the smaller ones. And of course, whether sandblasting or rusticating, the lads have to leave a little smooth area around the top of the shank at the mortise for Jason Hinch to fit the band.

Mark: Wojciech, is the rustication done with drill bits? 

Mark: Whoa! Do you take that with you to the pub in case someone gives you a hard time?

Jonathan: Nah, look at the size of him! He doesn’t need anything like that to take care of himself. All he does is stand up and flex his shoulders the other guy says, “Oh, sorry, can I bring you a pint?”

Wojciech: Yes, we rusticate on a drill press as we rotate the stummel by hand. We match the size bit to the size of bowl and go from there.

Mark: I agree with Chuck Stanion, who wrote that “finding the right depth at the correct seemingly random angles is an art form, different for each pipe.”

Wojciech:  “I don’t want to do it very deeply because it doesn’t look good, just like too shallow doesn’t look good. And it isn’t good for the pipe to go too deep. If I have a big pipe, I can carve deeper and so use the larger bit. Some pipes are very small, so I use a smaller drill bit and have to be careful about the depth. The the rustic looks much better in my opinion if it goes a bit deeper. But it’s a fine line—not too deep and not too shallow, kind of like using a chisel.”

Mark: Wojciech, K&P has had a number of very talented craftsmen and women from Poland over the past few decades. Are you just in Dublin for a few years, or how will that work for you?

Wojciech: Actually, my brother and I just bought a house, so we’re here permanently.

Jonathan: The question you want to ask, Mark, is whether he’s going to be at Peterson’s?

Wojciech: No, we’re not going anywhere. We’re here. I’ve been at Peterson’s for six years already.

Jonathan: And he’s got a wife-to-be! I’ll let you know when so you can come to the wedding.

Mark: I’ve got to say that I really like the natural House Pipe Spigots that came out recently.

Jonathan: Yeah, the clear finish on those really shows every little detail of the rustication. Just lovely.

Mark: Jonathan, Wojciech—thanks a mill!

Wojciech: Anytime!

A current rustic Pub Pipe


Factory photos by Jonathan Fields, Production Manager
Stock photography courtesy Laudisi Enterprises

Check out fellow Pete Geek David Billing’s YouTube video on chamfering Peterson acrylic tenons!


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