Cleaning up a Beautiful Il Ceppo Lumberman

Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the worktable from the lot that my brother picked up at an estate sale recently is a beautifully grained Il Ceppo Lumberman. It is a large pipe, which is well laid out with the grain of the briar. The look of the briar and the stem contrast beautifully and accent the beauty of the pipe. The shape is part of the Canadian shape family. It is similar to the smaller Lovat (saddle stem) and Liverpool (taper stem) in that it has a round shank unlike the oval shank of a Canadian.I am pretty much a novice when it comes to the world of mid to high end Italian pipes. I have a few a couple of nice Castellos and a Le Nuvole but other than that, I know next to nothing about Italian pipes. It is fascinating that in this batch of estates most of them are Italian made and toward the mid to high end range. Over the past years of pipe repair and restoration I have read of the Il Ceppo brand but this is the first one that I have seen up close. I did some research on the brand on the internet so that I could learn a bit of the history and possibly identify the maker of this particular pipe. I found quite a bit of information. I have digested it below for quick reference.

I found that RD Field give a great summary of the history of the brand. You can read it at the following link: or you can read the part that I have included here. The IL CEPPO brand has been in production since the late 1970’s but, in spite of its overall good value, is not well known in all parts of the United States. Partly this is because of a limited supply of pipes and partly because the brand has not been put in front of the pipe smoking public through a national venue.

The Il Ceppo brand is made in Pesaro, Italy and is part of the famous Pesaro school of design that has also produced Mastro de Paja and Ser Jacopo. That all three brands have similar characteristics can be seen at a glance, but they all have significant differences as well.

Giorgio Imperatori, an architect, had a passion for pipes and in 1978 begun to design and make IL CEPPO. Always considered a good value and very good for smoking the brand did not make folks stop and take notice until 1995 when Franco Rossi joined the firm. He brought with him a true elegance of design and a unique flair that now helps IL CEPPO stand apart. Giorgio has retired to his farmhouse and the pipes are now all made by Franco and his sister Nadia.

I found this Il Ceppo Leaflet online as well and have included it here for reference. Be sure to click on it and read it. There is some great information included.I looked on Marty Pulvers site and found some more brief and interesting information. I quote here: They consistently have some of the finest grained sandblasts in the field. They use top notch, well aged briar and are made and overseen by just one artisan, Franco Rossi. The problem? Possibly the name, which may suggest “cheap” to some (it simply refers to the briar burl from which pipes are made) or the unfortunately large, and to some reversed “C” logo on the stem. (Marty has a sandblast pipe on his site for sale for $275.)

I read in Jose Manuel Lopes, “Pipes, Artisans and Trademarks” brief article on the brand that Mario Lubinski formed the company in 1978. Franco Rossi arrived in 1995 and the name was changed to Il Ceppo (the root). Grading: “9” (rustic), “1” (sandblast), “2” (semi rustic) “3” (semi sandblast) “4” to “7” (smooth), with Fiammata being the top of the range. There I learned a couple of interesting facts that help me place this pipe. It came after the name change in 1995 and that the pipe was made by Franco Rossi. I also learned a bit about the grading system of the pipes.

Further searching found a great digest of the Grading System. I found it on the PipePhil website: I have included the summary of the grading of the pipes during the two periods of Il Ceppo pipe history. I also found a retail price list from March 2008 that I have included to give an idea of the range of prices for the various grades of pipes in the Il Ceppo line.

The pipe is excellent condition with a very well done finish on the bowl. The Lucite stem has a lot of tooth chatter and tooth marks on both sides of the stem near the button. The stamping on the left side of the shank reads Il Ceppo with the number 4 in a circle. Next to that, it reads Hand Made over Italy.

From the first chart to the left, I could determine both the period and the Grade of the pipe I had. It was from the second period (1995-Present) and it was a Grade 4 smooth. From the second chart I had a pretty good idea that the pipe sold for $430 US in 2008.

My brother took the first photo above and the following photos to show the condition of the pipe before he cleaned it up to send to me. It really is a beautiful pipe underneath the grime and dirt. The next two photos show the rim top and the cake in the bowl from two different angles. There was a fairly thick cake in the bowl and the lava flowed over the rim top. It was thicker toward the back of the bowl but did go all the way around the bowl. It would need to be cleaned up before I would know if there was any damage to the inner edge of the rim.The next two photos show the grain on the bowl sides and bottom. It is a very pretty piece of briar and the pipe is laid out to maximize the grain.The shank is stamped on the left side with il ceppo and underneath that it read Hand Made over Italy. There was a stylized 4 in a circle to the left of the stamping. The thin silver band is oxidized.The saddle portion of the Lucite stem had a large white C on the top side. It was in really good shape and showed no wear or tear.The next two photos show the tooth marks and chatter on the topside and underside of the stem. The first photo shows the top. Notice the chatter on the top of the button as well as the stem just in front of the button. The second photo shows the underside and the chatter and tooth marks at that point.I took the next four photos of the pipe when I brought it to my worktable. My brother had done a great job reaming and cleaning the interior and the exterior of the pipe. It was pretty spotless by the time I worked on it. The photo below of the rim top shows the cleaned top with a bit of darkening toward the back of the bowl.My brother’s cleaning job highlighted the tooth chatter and marks on both sides of the stem.I sanded out the tooth chatter and marks with 320 grit sandpaper to remove all of the marks. It did not take too much to remove the marks because they were not very deep in the surface of the Lucite.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped down the stem with a damp cotton pad after sanding with each grit of micromesh. The process is shown in the photos below. I gently cleaned up the remaining cake in the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I wanted to clean up the little bits of remaining cake on the bowl walls.I polished the silver band with a jeweler’s cloth to polish off the tarnish.I ran a pipe cleaner through the mortise in the bowl and the airway in both the stem and shank. It was very clean so it did not take too much.I buffed the stem and bowl with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to remove the last of the light scratches that were still in the briar and the Lucite. I gave them both several coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is a beautiful piece of briar with a bowl that flows with the grain. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outer diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Inner chamber diameter: ¾ inches. This pipe will make a great addition to someone’s pipe rack. It is available on the rebornpipes store. Email me at or send me a private message on FaceBook. Thanks for looking.





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