Friday, 25 March 2011

Spring Break.

Spring Break.

Just to let regular followers know I am taking a break for a few weeks to re-charge my batteries.The Pete Bog will be back on line from Easter Good Friday (UK) 22nd April.

Kindest regards to all.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

An Interview with Tom Palmer.

Peterson Today(March 2011) – An Interview with Tom Palmer, Managing Director of Peterson of Dublin.

Recently Tom Palmer,the managing director of Peterson of Dublin, was approached to ask if he would give consideration to answering some enthusiast's questions, relevant to current Peterson pipes and production. He subsequently responded to say that he would be pleased to do so.

The following is a synopsis of the interview questions and answers put to Mr Palmer by Jim Lilley co-founder of the International Peterson Pipe Club.

Question 1. Many Peterson pipesters have been disappointed with their smoking experience because their pipes gurgle a lot. It is suggested that the draft holes on some may be too small, at 2mm and with the practice of drilling all the mortices for 9mm filters now. It has been suggested that difference will cause moisture to gather around the entrance to the hole in the tenon.
It seems a pity that this can't be addressed before the pipes leave the factory. However we do recognise that when you only have 25 people on the floor turning out 2000 pipes a week, attention to detail will suffer. Is there any hope that future production could increase the draft hole sizes to improve the draw on, in particular, the entry level classic pipes?
Answer to question1. Yes we have had this complaint before---it is rare but not new. We will try your suggestion of increasing the size of the draft hole.
Question 2. One of the most common complaints in the last few years has been the dipping/treatment of certain series of pipes,resulting in the ingress of the composite mixture into the pipe bowls, which produces an unpleasant chemical taste for the initial few smokes of the pipes breaking in period. Some reports suggest that this practice may have ceased recently,can you confirm this please?
Answer to question2.. For about 2 years we have being  putting a cork into the bowl of all classic pipes to prevent stain seeping into the bowl , so this problem should not  exist for any classic pipe made in the last 2 years. We still use the old way for system pipes .
Question 3. Another recurring complaint , is the constant reference by many owners to Peterson pipes having an unacceptable number of bowl fills. Even out with the entry level pipes, there is a perception that the briar quality on certain series has started to deteriorate further in the last couple of years. Would you care to comment?
Answer to question3.At the outset can I say that about 95 % of all smokers pipes have fills---some manufacturers may be better at hiding them than others. We grade bowls into 7 different qualities with only the very top---Straight Grain and Supreme s , De Luxe Systems etc.  having no fills and ,working its way down the grading scale some bowls may have as little as 2 minor fills  and lower qualities some more.  The ultimate price of the pipe is dictated by whichever one of these grades it is taken from and in addition the extent to which we have used silver or gold in mounting that pipe. Peterson is priced in the middle to top of the pipe market where most smokers look for a quality product that is reasonably priced. If we could organise our business just selling Straight Grains there would be a hell of a lot less Peterson pipe smokers in the world. The irony is that , as a general rule, the lower the quality of the bowl the more labour intensive it is but  it is also the pipe we earn the least revenue from !!  
Question 4. Lacquer finishes on bowls are another major complaint. Many enthusiasts would prefer that fewer pipes had the bowls coated with what is perceived to be shiny varnish and a means of hiding flaws and fills. Many prefer a more natural finish to show off the wood grain?
Answer to question 4.About 80% of our production is non lacquered pipes but there is a market for the more glossy finish ---it is all about taste, price and personal preference. And of course I understand that a lot of smokers prefer to have a hand stained pipe showing nice grain. At Peterson we believe that we produce pipes to suit all tastes and most price points.
Question 5. Another major issue which has become highly topical, is the difficulties which seem peculiar to Peterson, in the sourcing of the briar for the pipe production. Not just for the basic entry level pipes, but for the various ranges. Many prospective purchasers have expressed great disappointment in not getting firm confirmation of delivery of pipes being ordered within a reasonable period. Some have reported waiting for 12 months or so. No other pipe brand seems to have such briar sourcing problems at this time?
Answer to question 5.We are having  problems getting briar in sufficient quality and quantity to meet demand. In my 20 years in this business the demand for Peterson pipes has never been higher----we are definitely seeing new pipe smokers and we have opened many new markets in the last 10 years where pipe smoking is becoming increasingly popular. As a company we have taken on new staff---50% of our manufacturing staff are under 30 years of age but it takes at least 6 months for a new employee to become efficient and learn the skills. As you will appreciate pipe making is a craft and not an assembly line  type of production.  I can only talk for my company but demand is simply incredible at the moment and our bowl suppliers are having difficulties servicing our needs. We have started with new suppliers but in fairness to them they also need time to increase their production capabilities.  At this moment in time our production is fully booked  until the end of September.
Question 6.In light of recent comments that have come from Peterson's themselves, regarding a backlog which has been caused by it becoming increasingly difficult to source quality Briar, will Peterson be taking steps to ensure that new stocks are being planted for future generations. Are the supplies sustainable?
Answer to question 6.The best thing we can do to ensure continuity of supply is to place large orders with our suppliers which will give them the confidence to   source the  briar for our bowls. Again over the years the number of factories turning bowls has reduced and we are heavily dependant on a few key suppliers
Question 7.I've gathered recently , that not only that the quality briar required is becoming more scarce, but also employing people willing to dig it up, they appear to becoming fewer each year. Can this situation be sustained? We understand that the briar is coming from Spain. How is the briar selected prior to turning in Spain?
Answer to question 7.Our bowls are mainly  from Italy , Spain and Algeria and Morocco through Spain. The selection is done by the turners in those countries but more importantly we grade everything sent to us to ensure it  conforms to our standards before we accept delivery.
Question 8. Finally, there is a feeling amongst the Peterson enthusiasts that the issue of so many new series is starting to impact adversely on the quality and production of pipes in the last couple of years. Would you care to comment?
Answer to question 8.I sincerely doubt that ! New products or series are eagerly awaited every year by our distributors. In fact I believe that Peterson offers more new  lines than any other manufacturer in the world !!
The feedback we get is extremely positive from retailers and smokers alike. On the general question of quality I can guarantee you that each and every pipe that we make gets the same care and attention. That is not  to say that everyone is perfect---they are a handmade product from a natural raw material and therefore 100% perfection is by definition impossible. But I would also like to say that our returns run at an annualised figure of 1% of our total production. This I am sure you will agree is not bad !!!!
 Tom, I would like to thank you for agreeing to participate in this inquisition by the Peterson enthusiast and collector fraternity. Your honest and forthright responses are very much appreciated. I for one certainly appreciate getting the answers straight from the 'Horses Mouth'.On behalf of all of the Pete Nuts throughout the world,a big thank you to you and your staff for the pleasure you bring to us though your wonderful products.
Jim Lilley.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Darwin Deluxe Red.

Darwin Deluxe Red.

Well it has arrived at long last.My new Darwin Deluxe special limited edition, custom made 'Red'.
As most regulars will know I am besotted with the Darwin series of Peterson pipes,currently owning several variants in my collection,consisting of Deluxe natural,Premier smooth natural, Premier smooth Red,Smooth,Rustic,Ebony and Sandblast.
The Darwin Deluxe is a stunningly handsome pipe in my humble opinion,however I had to wonder what it would look like in a red finish,so I asked Peterson if they could do one for me.After a worthwhile long wait it has arrived and I am very pleased with it.Judge for yourselves?

Friday, 11 March 2011

Peterson Today.

Peterson Today.

I am reminded of a quote by the late Mike Leverette, on the quality of the modern Peterson pipes.

“In 1992, the ownership of Peterson was purchased by Tom Palmer.  However and it's my opinion only, Tom speeded up production which resulted in pipes with more fills, dip staining, etc. resulting in inferior pipes, as compared to pipes produced before then. I have an Irish Second made in the 1960s which has less fills than pipes with the Peterson name on them made after 1992.  He also introduced many new series which I cannot seem to keep up with, so I cannot speak for these; pro or con”.

To a certain extent ,I have to agree with that observation by Mike, even allowing for the passage of time since he made the quote. I am constantly defending the brand in the face of repeating criticism of the points raised in Mikes quote. I do feel that there are quality control issues that still need to be addressed, particularly with the entry level pipes.
Another major issue which has become highly topical, is the difficulties peculiar to Peterson, in the sourcing of the briar for their pipe production. Not just for the basic entry level pipes, but for all across the various ranges. Many prospective purchasers have expressed great disappointment in not getting firm confirmation of delivery of pipes being ordered within a reasonable period. No other pipe brand seems to have such briar sourcing problems at this time.
I have to wonder at the causes of these problems and ponder whether the desire to cut costs, streamline production, introducing too many new series and increase trade to more global markets are now impacting on the quality and type of pipes we have come to expect and admire.
Would it not be better to take a step back in time and not loose sight of the classical elegance and the quality craftsmanship that made the Peterson brand what it was, without cutting corners in the name of efficiencies and economies.
I can only hope and wish that  the current production strategy undergoes a review to bring it back in line with the traditional Peterson values which Peterson enthusiasts have come to expect.

On a more positive note, there is hope that in spite of these turbulent times, that Peterson pipes can continue to succeed against the various global issues facing the production of a good quality classical pipe.
Flying in the face of the condemnation of smoking on health grounds,the pipe appears to be going through a gradual upturn in popularity. No longer considered the province of older middle aged males,it appears to be gaining in popularity,particularly with significant numbers of younger people.

Rising pipe tobacco sales suggest that pipe-smoking is making an unlikely comeback. Many old things eventually become trendy again and the latest yesteryear  fashion making a comeback, appears to be pipe smoking. No one tracks how many young people smoke pipe tobacco. But the evidence, at least in the US, is of a renaissance.
This modest increase is credited by many to retro-loving students. Facebook and MySpace have thousands of members signed up to groups such as “The Ladies’ Pipe Smoking Salon”.
The most popular Facebook group is “The Collegiate Gentlemen’s Pipe Smoking League”, with around 1,800 members globally.
The Scotsman paper reported:-
PIPE smoking could be set to become the latest craze among the trendy. After a big increase in pipe and tobacco sales in the United States, experts believe it could undergo a revival in Britain. Supporters claim pipe smoking is the perfect antidote to the hectic pace of modern life and say it relaxes both mind and body. With celebrity trend-setters Robbie Williams and Chris Evans known to be fans, many claim it could even catch on among the younger generation. Kate Neil, of the Pipe-smokers' Council, said: ''It is no exaggeration to say that this might be the next cult thing. I have heard from tobacconists across the country who have noticed a steadily increasing number of young people enquiring about pipes.'There are around half a million pipe smokers in the UK and the majority are middle or old aged.  Well-known Scots adherents to the practice include the actor and comedian Billy Connolly and the Glasgow Queens Counsel, Donald Findlay. The manager of a large tobacconists in Edinburgh, said she had noticed a significant change in the age of pipe smokers. ''We have a growing number of young people coming into the shop out of curiosity, nostalgia or to wean themselves off cigarettes,'' she added.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Pipe Focus - The Writers Series.

The Writers Series.

When Peterson first issued this limited edition series, I was curious, but not impressed by them.
With hindsight I think it was the new unique shapes that I could not warm to. Being a traditionalist, I suppose they were at first glance,a bit quirky for my taste. However I have since managed to see them up close and slowly come round to appreciate them more, particularly as individual pipes.

Inspired by four of Ireland' s most famous writers, James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde and William Butler Yeates.
Each pipe comes engraved with a symbol of a writing quill in the silver band. All are fitted with fishtail mouthpieces and two of the pipes are fitted with 9mm filters.

Weight: each approx.2.11oz 59.8g
Stem Material: Vulcanite
Material: Briar
Finish: Smooth,ebony,rustic and sandblast.
Band: Sterling Silver(hallmarked)
Lip: Fishtail

Prices for boxed sets can vary between $600 and $900 depending on choice of finish.

The James Joyce fittingly, is a remarkable and interesting shape. The egg shaped bowl, with a pinched shank junction, widens out some before tapering off through the stem. Quirky and without convention, it's appropriately named Joyce.

The Shaw, sharp in angle and profile, is the most active shape of the series. The dynamism of form costs nothing in comfort, being superbly enjoyable in hand, especially in this smooth finish.

The Oscar Wilde, is celebrated as this graceful Dublin which is stained in cherry red. Evocative of the wit and charm that personified the ingenious celebrity.

The stem of this Yeats shape, adds a sense of dynamism to the overall form, complimented by the bowl's canted angle. The red finish and sterling silver band, serve greatly to accentuate the impression.

Overall, I am humbled by having to admit, that I have been too quick to judge this series on the basis of an initial cursory impression. I am warming to the unique shapes,but in particular I am mightily impressed by the superb construction and finish of this smooth set. The bowls are all thick walled , the pipes regardless of shape are very tactile and pleasant to hold. Although mine will be kept in pristine boxed condition and remain un- smoked, I can tell from the good construction that they all will have excellent draws.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

New Irish Web Site.

How refreshing in these times to be reporting the emergence of a brand new web site in Ireland, dedicated to selling, solely Peterson pipes.

The site is being run by Denis Foley from the West coast of Ireland.The site is very much in its early formative stages and should be considered a work in progress.The quality of information and illustrations is outstanding and promises great potential for the future development of the sale of the Peterson brand of pipe.
Denis's prices seem to be very competitive,I hope that will continue.He has a limited stock currently, but is expecting to increase his stock levels substantially in the next few months.
I hope all of you Blog followers will join with me in wishing Denis the best of Irish luck in his new venture,I am sure he will appreciate your support.