Restorations, Uncategorized

Preserving a Piece of Pipe History – A Peterson Patent Era P-Lip 104 Canadian

This smaller Peterson Canadian came to me in an estate lot I purchased earlier this summer. It was unremarkable at first glance, but I soon took another look at it after noticing the Peterson stamp on top of the slim oval shank.

This series of pics shows the pipe as it was when I first brought it to the worktable. It was dirty, and a little dinged up, most notably at the rear edge of the rim. The Bakelite stem was rather worn on both top and bottom surfaces, though the Patent Lip profile was still easily recognizable.

The pipe is stamped simply “Peterson’s” over “Patent”. There is no shape number or Country of Manufacture stamp.

Given this underwhelming amount of data, I sent a note to Peterson aficionado Mark Irwin to see if he could help fill in some of the blanks. Mark came through with this information:

You’ve got a Patent-era “Peterson Patent Lip,” shape 104, as these are the only Canadians in the Patent era catalog.  I don’t know what the “T” stands for in the attached detail. These are all about 5.25 inches. As you can see, they did screw-in stems. I wouldn’t have known about the Bakelite stems except that my co-author found some Bakelites on our 2013 trip to the factory.

Mark Irwin, Peterson Pipe Notes

The Bakelite stem actually helps to narrow down the date range for the production of this pipe. Bakelite was invented in the United States in 1907. On the opposite end of the bracket, Mark’s book, The Peterson Pipe, indicates that Kapp & Peterson began using a Country of Manufacture stamp in the Eire period beginning in 1922. That means that this pipe was made sometime in the 14 years between 1907 and 1921.

With that knowledge under my belt, I turned back to the pipe itself and went over it again with a more critical eye. I wasn’t quite sure how I’d handle this restoration yet, but I knew I’d have to clean the pipe, so I started that process by reaming the chamber back to briar. The chamber floor and walls were in surprisingly good condition underneath the old cake.

I used a bit of 1000-grit wet sandpaper on my topping board to remove the carbon crust from the rim and true up the rim surface. As these pics show, the rear edge of the rim was rather banged up from careless dottle-knocking.

I finished the initial cleanup of the pipe by running pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol through the shank and airway. This took a bit of doing, as the airway was a bit on the grungy side.

I repeated the process with the short stem and threaded tenon. The Bakelite is stained in places but the airway cleaned up nicely. Sadly I forgot to photograph this bit. Whoops!

Now that the pipe was clean, I had some decisions to make. Exactly how far should I take the restoration of a century-old pipe? In the end, I decided to err on the side of conserving this piece of pipe history rather than completely restoring it to “as new” condition. Bakelite is a difficult material to repair – it develops a patina over time that darkens the exterior, and any sanding will remove this patina and expose the lighter coloured material within.

I learned this the hard way several years ago when I worked on another early 20th Century Canadian shaped pipe. While in theory I could rebuild the contours of the Patent Lip stem using epoxy or perhaps Amber CA glue, this would require quite a bit of invasive filing and sanding. I would have had to sand the entire stem to achieve a homogeneous finish, which could have led to a mismatching of profiles at the shank/stem junction.

Based on this internal discussion, I chose to leave the stem as it was with the exception of a good buffing and waxing to remove some of the exterior discoloration and bring up the shine. The stummel, though, I felt needed a bit of attention, specifically that damaged rim.

To repair the dottle-knocking damage, I first wiped down the briar with alcohol on a cotton pad to strip away the dirt, oils and old wax from the surface. I then mixed up a patch material of thick CA glue and briar dust which I applied to the damaged area, deliberately over-filling the dents and areas of missing briar.

With the pipe looking less than lovely with its odd crust of patch material, I set the stummel aside for the night to let the patch cure completely. When I came back to the shop I used files and sandpaper to carefully remove the excess patch and restore the original line of the rim. The remaining fill is nearly unnoticeable, especially when compared to the original damage.

The closeup pics above show the tiny bubbles that form in CA glue as it cures. These can be filled with thin CA glue, but before I did that I used a stain pen to darken the repair. I allowed the fresh CA glue to cure, then once again sanded everything smooth.

Pleased with the results of the rim repair, I touched up the finish on this old Pete. I applied a coat of Fiebing’s Black water-based leather dye, allowed it to dry, then scrubbed away as much as I could with a damp Magic Eraser. A coat of brown dye went on next, which completed the blending of the repair into the original finish. I hand buffed the excess stain from the pipe after the stain had dried, then gave the briar a wipe with mineral oil to enliven the finish.

I let the oil sit on the stummel for just a few minutes before buffing away the excess with an old towel. Then it was time to go to the buffer where I gave the whole pipe a run on both the Tripoli and White Diamond wheels, followed by a few light coats of Carnauba wax to seal and protect the revived finish.

The completed pipe is still some way from pristine, but if I look this good at 110 years old, I’ll be quite happy! The briar is clean and vibrant and the Bakelite stem, though worn from at least one generation of teeth, is polished and fits the shank perfectly without overclocking like so many screw-in stems tend to do. And while I repaired the worst damage to the pipe, the small nicks, dings and handling marks remain as testament to the many years of service this pipe has given.

This Patent Era “Peterson Patent Lip” 104 Canadian is something special – a bona fide museum-quality piece that is still more than capable of performing its original function as a smoker’s companion. If you’d like to add this pipe to your rack, rotation or collection, it is available on the Pipe Inventory page now.

I hope you enjoyed walking through this pipe conservation with me. Until next time, Happy Piping! Here’s the finished pipe.

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