Blog by Steve Laug
In the pipes that my brother Jeff sent me from his Montana find was a pair of Savinelli made 812 shape pipes. The first is the second pipe down from the top in the picture to the left. That pipe is stamped Citation 812 and made in Italy on the underside of the shank. The stem is a refit and is poorly done. Fortunately it is beat up and missing a large chunk on the underside near the button. The second one is shown in the picture in the second column and is a sandblast without a stem. It is stamped Savinelli Classica with the Savinelli shield and 812 Italy on the underside of the shank. The first is a two toned dark brown and the second is a lighter two toned medium brown.
The pipe I chose to work on first was the Savinelli Classica – the stemless one. It was in pretty decent shape. The finish was dirty but was not worn. It had a great sandblast. The left side of the bowl had a circular grain pattern and the right side was blasted birdseye. The shank had long swirls on the top and sides. The rim had some build up on it and the bowl had a thick cake that plugged the airway and closed off the lower portion of the bowl.
I took a photo of the two pipes together to show the similarities and the differences. The Classica is a bit shorter in terms of shank length and the finish is much more distinctive. The Citation had a nice blast on it but when compared with the Classica it had nothing to compare. Both pipes were the same height. The bowls were the same diameter and the mortise of both held the broken stem with no trouble.
I looked up the Savinelli 812 shape online and found that it originally had a taper stem and that the stem had a slight bend in it at the button. I am not sure if I like the look of it on the Canadian but will think about it as I restore the Classica. I took the next photos of the bowl to show the distinctive sandblast on the bowl. It truly is a beautiful piece of work. The way the bowl was stain highlighted and emphasized the blast rather than muted it. Once I cleaned it up I would need to maintain that look.
The next two photos show the grain on the shank and the tar buildup on the rim. I am pretty sure that the blast is underneath the tars and will look good once it is scraped off. The third photo shows the underside of the shank and the smooth portion that bears the stamping.
I went through my stem can and found the candidate for the tapered Canadian stem for this pipe. I used the PIMO tenon turning tool to take down the tenon to the point that it almost fit the shank. I hand sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to bring it to the correct size. I did not want to crack the shank so I went slowly, checking for the fit often. Once the stem was in place I took some photos to show the excess in diameter on the top and sides and the shaping that would need to be done to get a good match to the shank.
I rough shaped the stem fit with a sanding drum on a Dremel to get it close to the shape of the shank. I have found that if I move slowly and carefully with the Dremel it saves a ton of hand sanding on the stems. Once I had it rough shaped I did the rest of the shaping by hand.
I fine tuned the shape with 220 grit sandpaper and brought it to a smooth transition between the shank and the stem all the way around. I worked on the button area and cleaned up the castings and marks on the slot and the button edges with the sandpaper.
With the new stem fitting and only needing more fine tuning and polishing I decided to ream the bowl and work on the rim. I used a PipNet reamer and a KLEENREEM reamer and a pen knife to cut away the cake in the bowl. It was as hard as the cake in the other two bowls that my brother sent me.
I scrubbed the sandblast with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush and the caked rim with the soap and a brass bristle tire brush. Once the grime was scrubbed off I rinsed the bowl in warm running water and cleaned out the brushes. I dried off the bowl with a towel.
I cleaned out the shank with pipe cleaners, alcohol and cotton swabs. It was plugged in the airway to the bowl so I used the drill bit on the KLEENREEM tool and was able to clear out the gunk in the airway and open it up all the way to the bowl. I wanted to keep the contrast stain on the pipe and not restain it so I gave it a light coat of olive oil to bring life back to the wood. I have found that dry briar absorbs the oil quite quickly and that the oil gives it some colour and life back without masking the original stain.
I wiped the bowl down and rubbed it vigorously with a clean soft towel to remove any of the surface oil and to give it an initial buff. I went to work fine tuning the stem fit. I used micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and rubbing the stem down with Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded with 3200-400 grit pads. I gave it another coat of oil and finished sanding with 6000-12000 grit pads. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and let it dry.
I buffed the stem and lightly buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond and then gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I hand buffed the bowl with Conservators Wax and a small shoe brush to bring out a shine to sand blast finish. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The straight new stem works for me. The pipe is once again a work of beauty. Thanks for looking.