I found this Peterson pipe at a local antique mall a few months ago and finally had the chance to pull it from the refurb box and clean it up.
As you can see from the attached pics, it had some cosmetic issues to contend with, mainly a heavily oxidized and mineral crusted stem. Made from Vulcanite, the stem was discoloured a yucky yellow-brown and the P-Lip and bite area showed several layers of white mineral accretions. These “salt crusts” are the result of chemical reactions between the Vulcanite and the smoker’s saliva. It doesn’t happen to every piper, but rather depends highly on the individual’s chemical makeup. Thankfully, though they look bad, the accretions are easily cleaned up.
The stummel was in fairly good estate condition, showing a light cake in the bowl and a bit of tar on the rusticated rim. The exterior of the briar was also quite dirty, with oils and dirt jammed into the rustication.
The nickel shank cap is stamped “K&P” over “PETERSONS”. The stamps on the stummel are a bit harder to work out, as they overlap slightly. They read “PETERSON” over “SYSTEM” over “STANDARD”, then “MADE IN THE” over “REPUBLIC” over “OF IRELAND”, and then the shape number, “312”.
While researching to see if I could date this pipe, I had a close look at the “P” in “Peterson”. It’s a bit hard to see in the photo below, but the P on this pipe has a forked tail. According to Pipedia, Peterson used a few versions of the forked P over time. If I’m reading things correctly, the “P” on this pipe, similar to that in the the photo inset to the right, dates this particular System Standard to the 1970s or early 1980s.
I started the refurbishment of this Pete 312 by reaming the chamber to clear out the old cake. Underneath, the briar was in fairly good nick, with only a few tiny heat fissures showing.
A quick scrub with 0000 steel wool cleaned the grime and gunk off the nickel shank cap. The internals of the stummel took a bit more effort – I used a handful of pipe cleaners and cotton swabs dipped in 99% isopropyl alcohol to clear the old tars and debris from the shank and airway.
As it was nearing the end of the day, I set up the stummel with an alcohol treatment to clear out any remaining tars and freshen the pipe. I used cotton balls in the chamber this time instead of kosher salt as the briar wasn’t that smelly. When the stummel was ready, I dropped the stem into a warm bath of Oxyclean and water and left both parts of the pipe to sit overnight.
The next day, I removed the now-discoloured cotton from the stummel and set it aside to air out while I worked on the stem. This pic shows how much tar and dirt had been dissolved by the alcohol and absorbed by the cotton.
Pulling the stem from the Oxy bath, I scrubbed at the softened oxidation with 0000 steel wool and Magic Eraser until the stem was clean. These pics show that there was still a fair amount of oxidation in the Vulcanite; to remove the last of it, I wet-sanded the stem with 600 and 2000 grit sandpapers.
Moving back to the stummel, I cleaned the exterior with a good scrub of Murphy’s Oil Soap and a toothbrush. This lifted a surprising amount of dirt from the finish, and left the briar nice and clean.
I refreshed the finish by wiping on a coat of Fiebing’s Dark Brown leather dye. When the dye had dried, I hand buffed the excess away with a towel and then wiped the briar with a small amount of mineral oil on a cotton pad. This helps to revitalize the wood and add a bit of moisture back into the briar.
The stummel was now ready for final buffing, so I set it aside so I could deal with the stem. Cleaning away the oxidation and salt deposits had revealed some light tooth chatter, which sanded out easily, and some damage to the underside of the P-Lip which I would have to fill,
To accomplish this task, I mixed a bit of thick CA glue with activated charcoal powder and applied this patch material to the damaged button. I let the patch cure, then filed and sanded the repair to blend it into the stem. A bit of sanding from 220 through 2000 grits prepped the repair for final polishing on the wheel.
I took both stem and stummel to the wheel for a run of White Diamond compound and several light coats of Carnauba wax to shine and protect the rejuvenated finish.
I was all set to take the final pics for this restoration, and then had another look at the chamber walls and realized that I had forgotten to address a small bit of scorching inside the bowl.
As has become my standard repair for internal damages, I mixed up a small dab of JB Weld and pressed it into the burnt area to fill the depression and firm up the briar. After sanding away the excess epoxy, I applied a bowl coating of maple syrup and activated charcoal to dress off the repair and give the chamber walls a nice grippy surface onto which the next piper can build a new cake layer.
The finished pipe stands as a testament to the power of a good cleaning to transform a tired and rather manky-looking estate pipe into a vintage briar worthy of any piper’s rack and rotation. Apart from the small button repair, all this pipe needed was a bit of basic maintenance – if only all estate pipes were like this!
This Peterson System Standard 312 has already found a new home with a new piper. I wish him many happy smokes with his new Irish briar companion.
Thanks for joining me for this quick refurb. Until next time, Happy Piping!
Here’s the finished pipe.