By Al Jones
As a fan of the classic British Author shape, the Sasieni Ashford is one of my favorite pipe shapes. The Ashford is also known as Shape 88 on the Sasieni shape chart. Sasieni made pipes in several finishes, most notably the Ruff Root (sandblast), Walnut (dark smooth) and the Natural (clear stain). The Natural finish was the top of the Sasieni grading system, second to the “Straight Grain” pipes. The “Four Dot” stamping also denoted a top of the line Sasieni pipe.
I recently acquired this Ashford Natural, in an unsmoked condition. Unsmoked doesn’t always mean pristine, and many times an older pipe picks up handling marks, dings, dents, etc. Fortunately this piece was in mint condition on all accounts.
The nomenclature combination of “Four Dot”, the “Sasieni” script, use of the Ashford town shape were all used between 1946 and 1979. The Ashford was also available with a saddle stem and an added “S” by the town name. My preference is a tapered stem.
I have two other Ashford shapes, the Ruff Root and Rustic. My Walnut Ashford was sold to fund this purchase. You can read that blog entry in the link below. Curiously, this Natural pipe is slightly longer, and less chubby than the other two. It also weighs a few more grams (43 grams). To my eye, the shape is similar to the Comoys 256 Author, a shape that still eludes me.
As you can see from photograph of the bowl, Sasieni did “carbonize” their bowls. I was unaware of this Sasieni practice and a thread on the PipesMagazine.com forums brought some interesting information to light. One forum member found this description in a 1960’s Sasieni catalog, from the Chris Keene Pipe Pages, as below.
“One of the processes to which all of our bowls are subjected is the special Sasieni carbonising process. During this treatment the bowls are subjected to high temperatures under scientifically controlled conditions. As a result the interior of the bowl is carbonised to the exact degree necessary to ensure a sweet mellow smoke from the start. This treatment also serves to remove the last vestiges of bitter oils or sap and also uncovers any hidden flaws which might otherwise pass unnoticed.”
I enjoy my other two Ashford shapes, so for now, this one will remain unsmoked. I’ll wait for a significant life event to enjoy this one.