Sunday, 17 July 2011

A John Reily Silver Snuff Box

Silver Snuff Box by John Reily, London 1808
This is the other silver snuff I recently acquired. Made by John Reily and hallmarked London, 1808, it really is in remarkably good condition, the engine turned decoration having only minimal wear
Interior gilding
The gold wash inside the box is certainly original and shows only minor scratches. I suspect this box was not as heavily used as the Phipps & Robinson box I posted about yesterday.
Underside of the box
Even the bottom of the box shows only minor wear near the corners. This box is definitely going to get rather more use in my hands!
Interior detail
The hinge is in excellent condition and the box is as near snuff proof as they get.
Main hallmark
Lid hallmark
The hallmarks are crisp and clear, as can be seen in the photographs. The 'IR' mark was registered in February 1801 and the maker seems to have been active until at least the mid-1820s, though the style of the mark changed and was registered in June 1823. John Reily's son Charles was also a London silversmith.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

A Phipps & Robinson Silver Snuff Box

Silver Snuff Box by Phipps & Robinson, London 1810

This rather nice silver snuff box, made by Phipps & Robinson and hallmarked for London, 1810, is one of my recent acquisitions. I was attracted to its clean, Georgian lines (subtle and understated compared to the flowery excesses of later, Victorian boxes) and more particularly to the fact that it already has my inititals engraved on the lid.
The hinge
The hinge is in excellent condition, allowing the box to open and firmly close as well as it was intended and snuff leakage is minimal, as one would expect.
Gold washed interior
The original gilding is present, though a little scratched in places and I did feel the need to give the interior a gentle wash with warm, soapy water and a soft cloth. This successfully removed the residue of old snuff without damaging the finish in any way. The marks on the inside of the lid turned out to be the remains of some sort of sticker and came away cleanly with the use of a small amount of 99% isopropyl alcohol.
The hallmarking is nice and clear and present on both body and lid, as one would expect.
The all important (to me) initials
As can be seen in the photographs, the one small issue with the box is that over the years it has been fairly aggressively polished, resulting in some loss of definition of the lined pattern and the monogram, yet that decorative 'TB' in the central cartouche is still perfectly legible. There is a warning in this - be careful when polishing silver!
Hinge detail
As can be seen above, there is evidence of slight bumping to the corners of the box, though realistically this is to be expected of a snuff box with 201 years of use behind it. It doesn't detract at all for me. In fact I like the signs that the box and been used and loved. What I would give to know who had owned it in the past and which snuffs they filled it with!
Underside of the box
Front edge
In spite of the aggressive polishing the box still weighs in at an impressive 81g retaining a good thickness of silver throughout. Dimensions are 75mm x 45mm x 15mm - perfect for a pocket snuff box. It currently has Mullins & Westley's Jock's Choice in it. I swear it tastes better out of an antique silver box than the tin it came in!
From what I have been able to find out,  Thomas Phipps (-1823) and Edward Robinson (-1816) had premises at 40, Gutter Lane, London. They produced mostly fine boxes (snuff boxes, nutmeg graters and vinaigrettes) in silver and gold, but also wine labels, knife stands, apple corers and other domestic items.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

A small slice of Virginia...

... in my back garden!

Yes, those Indian weeds are growing well!

 Except for one or two strangely stunted ones and a couple that got eaten by the slugs. Hope they enjoyed them.

Peterson System Premier 303

The latest addition to my Peterson herd is this beautiful System Premier 303, ordered from Brucciani's in Carlisle back in March. The System Premier pipes seems to be only available to order these days, rarely can they be found 'off the shelf', and the expected 16 week wait proved to be fairly accurate. I must say it was well worth the wait. A fine piece of briar which I am sure I will be enjoying for many years to come. And of course hats off to Chris at Brucciani's for the excellent service.
Peterson System Premier 303

Peterson System Premier 303

Peterson System Premier 303

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Tonquin Beans

Or tonka beans, or tonkin beans... There are various different ways of spelling the word but these are the beasties and yes, they do look a bit like legless blackclocks (that's cockroaches to the rest of the world). Dipteryx odorata is the Latin name.
Of course they are not really quite that big. Usually they're between 1cm and 2cm long. When you get them they are dry and wrinkly (a bit like me) but they do have a hint of that rather fine smell you get in some Fribourg & Treyer and Samuel Gawith snuffs, not to mention some of the latter's pipe tobaccos (Cob Plug, 1792 Flake and Bracken Flake).

In the past they have often been used to keep snuff moist and also to impart that flavouring. They still do that job well of course. Simply dunk a couple in water overnight and the next day just pop them into your snuff, after dabbing off any excess of water. Rehydration and flavouring all in one go though it does take a couple of days for the best effect.

Recently I tried a little experiment, having ordered a 25g vacuum sealed tin of J&H Wilson's Top Mill No. 1 and having been sent a punch of the little blue tins, which inevitably contained rather dried out snuff. Disappointing, yes, but not an irretrievable situation. I had a go at revitalising some of the snuff with the water soaked tonquin beans and then thought why not use some other liquid? So, a day later, a couple of beans soaked in whisky and a couple in brandy and the now plump and juicy beans were added to two more lots of the Top Mill. Result? Delicious! We'll see what Snuff Head thinks about the result in the pub tonight.

Sources for tonquin beans? Snuff Store has them in stock sometimes. Otherwise I'm sure a Google search will reveal many more sources.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

All change!

I decided it was time I gave the place a lick of paint and some new curtains. Do let me know what you think of the new look!

Snuff Flasks for the Modern Snuff Taker

As anyone who has taken snuff for any length of time will have learned, the enemy of snuff is air. Snuff exposed to the air soon dries out and becomes stale and is rather less than pleasant to take. Snuffers have always used a variety of containers to store their snuff and the aim has always been to keep air away from the snuff as much as possible. Snuff boxes in various materials, silver, wood, horn, pewter, papier mache, china and plastic have all found a place in the snuff taker's pocket and all can be reasonably good at protecting the precious powder, though none of them do a perfect job by any means. But there is a better way to preserve the freshness of our snuff.
Yes, they are small, stainless steel hip flasks. The advantage of a modern stainless steel hip flask for carrying snuff is that these days there is a plastic insert in the lid rather than the older cork insert. Of course, this is really designed to stop ones favourite tipple from dribbling all over the place but is is just as effective as an air seal for keeping snuff fresh. And it really works, and works far better than any of my older style snuff boxes. Okay, so there is less scope for an elaborate flourish when opening and presenting your snuff box to your friends, but I feel the advantages are significant, at least for the moister, coarser snuffs. I still use silver, pewter and wooden boxes for toasts, scotches and the drier SPs, but for Kendal Brown, Black Rappee, Princes or a Schmalzler these little bottles are the canine proverbials.

The largest that I use are the two on the left. They are designed to hold 1.5oz of liquid. The rest are 1oz bottles. Some came with the fitting for attaching to a key ring (which I soon removed), and some have various decorations, often the logos of spirits. None of them were expensive; n fact it is possible to find them online for as little as a couple of quid each. Far cheaper than any snuff box. There is enough variety available to make it easy to use distinctive flasks for each of our snuffs. You will need a small funnel to fill them of course. Lloyds sell a nice one in stainless steel, though the one I use is an older pewter one which came with one of my larger, pewter hip flasks. 

I particularly like the one in the front of the picture. It's in the shape of an old-fashioned pocket watch, making it very comfortable in the pocket. It's an unusual shape but even that one only cost me £6.95 plus postage. It has been filled with J&H Wilson's SP No 1, fresh from a vacuum sealed 25g tin, from the day I got it and it stays perfectly fresh. Some sellers will even engrave them for you for a truly personalised snuff flask. Toque Snuff are selling ones like it for slightly more, but with theirs you get the Toque logo on the front as well so I guess the extra cost is worth it. 

This is the Ebay search I used to seek them out. Substitute '1.5oz' for '1oz' if you want a slightly larger one.

Monday, 11 July 2011


Perhaps surprisingly not every pipe I buy is a Peterson, even though most of them are. I also have a weakness for bulldog pipes, straight or bent, whether they are called bulldogs, bent bulldogs, Rhodesians or anything else. Here I'm only showing with the non-Peterson ones I've picked up recently, plus a couple of pipes I inherited from my dad.

I like the bulldog shape for when I'm working. They're easy to clench, relatively light in weight and not over large in capacity. The diamond shaped shank ensures that they cannot roll off the workbench when I put them down for a moment. A major consideration!
Hardcastle London Made 61, meerschaum lined
Parker Jockey Club 345
Stanwell Deluxe Polished 32
This is just marked "Reject", one of my late dad's pipes. A great  smoker.
Bewlay Popular 014. Another of my late dad's pipes.
I'll finish off with two more of the pipes I inherited from my dad. Both are quite ordinary pipes but I don't seem to see the like on Ebay very often.
Byford 24. This has a curious "stinger" or metal filter system.
Astoria Deluxe

And a few more new Peterson pipes

I received an email from Brucciani's this morning. The Peterson Premier 303 I ordered four months ago is finally ready. In fairness that's about the length of time they said it would take as the Premier system pipes are now made only to order. All being well it will be here tomorrow, giving me a good excuse for another post.

Meanwhile I'll add pictures of some more pipes acquired during my down time.

First up, a Peterson System 3 358. The 358/308 shape is basically the same as the Mark Twain, though having a slightly smaller capacity. The 358/308 shape seems to have been discontinued in the 60s or 70s due, it has been stated, the tendency of the end of the stem inside the pipe to overheat and even melt. I have yet to see that problem with this pipe, or with the sandblasted version I also have.
Smooth 358
Sandblasted 358

Next are the two pipes comprising the new Peterson Mark Twain set, a classic MT and a Poker. Both excellent pipes, though I would have preferred to have had the choice of a P-lip mouth piece on the Poker. It still smokes well though.
Mark Twain Classic
Mark Twain Poker
 I do like the Army Mount pipes from Peterson so when I saw this silver mounted version of the 999 with a P-lip on sale it was an easy decision to buy it. A fine pipe.
Silver Mounted Army 999
Another "had to buy" pipe! A Walnut Silver Spigot with (unusually) a P-lip mouth piece in the 408 shape. Again, these generally come with a fish tail stem so I was pleased to have found this at The Pipe Shop in Edinburgh. Excellent service from them too.
Walnut Silver Spigot 408
Here we have a humble System Standard 304 sitter. A useful pipe for when I'm working as being a sitter I can put it down in the workshop without fear of it falling over and emptying the contents of the well into the chamber... (gross thought, I know!).
System Standard 304
I've been on the look out for one of the older, "chubby" Peterson 999 pipes and finally found one. A hefty chunk of briar which gives a lovely cool smoke.
"Chubby" 999
Finally for today is the 1984 Mark Twain I bought from a guy in the US via Smoker's Forums. A wonderful pipe and an interesting one to compare with the new re-release.
1984 Mark Twain

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Various New Pipes

During my down time I did acquire various new and new to me (ie estate) pipes. Rather than write a new post for each I'll just add a few pictures for now.

This Peterson Darwin Deluxe is probably the cream of the new crop. Availability of the Darwins has always been a bit patchy and the previous time Brucciani's had some in stock I was a little short for readies. This time it wasn't a problem. It's a gem of a pipe and has smoked well from the very first fill.
Darwin Deluxe
I knew from what others have said that was going to be a big pipe. In fact only my Charles Peterson Anniversary pipe is larger. The second photograph gives the idea.
Darwin Deluxe

I had been after a Donegal Rocky for some time but as I prefer the P-lip to a fish-tail mouth piece I had held off until recently. Then this 408 popped up on Ebay. It took a little while to thoroughly exorcise a rather aromatic ghost, but the effort was well worth it. A fine piece of briar indeed.
Donegal Rocky 408

The Galway range of Peterson pipes is a new one to me. This 606s proved to be another good catch on Ebay. I particularly like the briar insert in the mouth piece. Very attractive.
Galway 606s
A month or so back I was driving up the M6/M74 to Falkirk and couldn't resist calling in at Brucciani's in Carlisle on the way past. Fortunately there is good car parking not far from the shop, which proved remarkably easy to find, even though this was my first visit. Inevitably I couldn't resist this Irish Made Army 87. Unusual in that it has a P-lip bit rather than the more usual fish-tail (the P-lip seems much more common on the silver mounted Army pipes). I suspect it may have been in stock for some time. It has a couple of fills but makes for a greater working or driving pipe.
Irish Made Army 87
This 314 shaped Meerschaum with a silver band was another Ebay catch. The hallmark is for 1990.
314 shaped Meerschaum
My younger daughter treated me to this superb Patent Anniversary Oom Paul. I was stunned to say the least! It takes pride of place alongside the Darwin Deluxe and the Charles Peterson Annivesary pipe.
Patent Anniversary Oom Paul
Another good working or driving pipe is this little K Briar 903. No idea how old it might be.
K Briar 903
Finally, for now, when I spotted this silver army mounted Rock of Cashel 03 at I knew I just had to have it! If anything the grain and the sandblast look even better in real life than they do in the photograph so I am very pleased with it indeed. As I have come to expect from any Peterson pipe I buy, it's an excellent smoker. Excellent service from Smokingpipes as well. If it wasn't for shipping costs and the chance of copping for VAT when items come through customs I would certainly use that site more than I do.
Silver Army Mounted Rock of Cashel 03

I probably reach for my 303/3s Petersons more than any others during the day though I wouldn't want to risk damaging this one by using it while working. It's far too nice to spoil!

Saturday, 9 July 2011

While I'm on a roll...

... I'll add another post :)

Just a few pictures taken in May in the back room of the St Johns. Snuff much in evidence as usual, but it seems I was waiting for someone to fill my beer glass at that point!