Blog by Steve Laug
Sometimes a voice from the past is a good thing for both parties. Many years ago now, here in Vancouver I met Eric at the Vancouver Pipe Club. We talked at pipe club meetings and had a common calling as ministers in within different Christian Churches. Over time Eric moved to Eastern Canada and I moved on to work for an NGO here in Vancouver. Not too long ago I received an email from Eric about some pipes that he had that he wanted me to work on for him. We made arrangements and soon a box with three of his pipes was traveling to me from Ontario. It arrived quite quickly and I opened it when it arrived. Eric had thoughtfully included a tin of Samuel Gawith’s Commonwealth Mixture Full Strength for me to smoke and I was looking forward to cracking it open. Included in the box were three pipes – a Danbark Hand Carved from Denmark that was quite stunning, a Bewlay Sandblast Billiard and a Le Nuvole Long Shank Dublin. Each had different challenges to address but each was a beautiful example of the pipe maker’s craft. I decided to work on the Le Nuvole first. I am not sure why I chose that one first but maybe it is because I have a Le Nuvole Cornetto myself and really enjoy the craftsmanship of the pipe. Or perhaps something about the shape and finish caught my eye.
Whatever the reason, I began with it. The finish on the pipe was very dirty with a lot of grit and grim in the grooves and crevices of the rustication. The rim top was heavily tarred with lava that flowed from a thickly caked bowl. The edges of the rim appeared to be in okay condition though I would not know for sure until I had reamed the bowl and cleaned off the rim top. The inner edge of the bowl was beveled inward and showed promise. The bowl was rusticated all around other than a band of smooth briar around the top of the bowl, rim top and the end of the shank. The rim had twin rings around it and also small spots of inlay between the twin rings at ½ inch intervals. The grain on the smooth parts was very nice. The acrylic stem had the white Le Nuvole squiggle on the top side. There was tooth chatter on both sides at the button and a deeper tooth marks on the top next to the button. The pipe was very dirty and reeked of heavy English tobaccos. I think that the previous owner (before Eric) was a stranger to pipe cleaners. I took photos of the pipe to show the condition it was in when it arrived. I took close up photos of the bowl and rim top to show its condition. You can see the thick cake in the bowl and the overflow of lava onto the inner edge bevel and on the rim. The rim does not look damaged on either the inner or outer edge in this photo. I also took photos of the stem to show the general condition it was in as well. It looked pretty good other than a small tooth mark on the underside of the stem next to the button and tooth chatter on both sides. I decided to read a little about the brand and the couple who made the pipes – Maurizo and Stefania Tombari. I have had my Le Nuvole since the early 90s and it is a great smoking pipe and extremely well made. It has a very similar rustication pattern as this pipe. I did some reading on Pipedia and on PipePhil’s site to remind myself of the history of the brand. I thought I would summarize what I found to give some back story to the pipe.
With Le Nuvole line, founded in 1996, Maurizio Tombari would like to offer a fine artisanal product, coupled with the perfection of the execution and a personal and innovative formal research. This is done by melding long experience matured in the Pesarese workshops with the “uncontaminated” creative vision of his wife, Stefania, his partner for the stylistic designs.
Ambitious conductor theme “Ambizioso tema conduttore”: joining functionality and elegance. A particular concession to the fantasy of the shapes and a digression from rationality, is reserved for the ZED line of pipes, an exiguous series of exclusive and numbered models.
Maurizio produces 230 pieces per year; each piece is realized with the same meticulousness and care of details. The ageing of at least 3 years of the briar (from Calabria and Tuscany), stored in an insulated room, plays a vital role in the smokability and the ‘flavour’ of the pipes. The special processing and finishing of the methacrylate(acrylic) mouthpieces ensures a perfect “suitability” of the pipe.
Maurizio Tombari was born in Pesaro in 1953 and received a diploma in painting at Accademia di Belle Arti in Urbino in 1978. Since then until 1996 he worked for pipe makers Mastro de Paja and Ser Jacopo. At the same time, he was an interior designer and he took part in painting exhibitions. https://pipedia.org/wiki/Le_Nuvole
From the PipePhil website I quote: Artisan: Maurizio Tombari (born 1952) collaborates with his wife Stefania. This brand founded in 1996 offers amazing shapes.
Gradings: a number above a cloud. Smooth pipes (ascending): 3 to 8; Sandblast pipes: S1 to S3; Rusticated pipes: 1 and 2. Dating: From Jan 1st, 2012 the pipes are stamped with a 2 digits number (12=2012). http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-l3.html
The Le Nuvole I am working on is stamped on the underside of the bowl and shank with the following information: Lavorate A Mano over in Italia. Next to that is the brand Le Nuvole followed by the cloud stamp with a number one over it. The stamping tells me that the pipe is a Grade 1 Rusticated pipe. The photo below shows the stamping on the bowl and shank. Maurizio’s handmade stems have a funneled airway leading through the tenon to the flared slot in the end of the stem. He does beautiful work. I started the restoration of this beautiful pipe by reaming the bowl. I wanted to clean out the cake and examine the inside of the bowl and the edges of the inner beveled rim. I reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer starting with the smallest cutting head and working up to the second cutting head. The bowl is slightly narrower toward the bottom so I used the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to finish the reaming.I cleaned out the interior of the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. Cleaning the stem took the same amount of pipe cleaners as the shank but I forgot to include a photo of that. I cleaned it until the cleaners came out white.I carefully scraped the cake on the rim with the edge of the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to remove the heavy buildup on the bevel and the top. I sanded it gently with a worn piece of 220 sandpaper and wet sanded it with some 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I polished the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down after each pad with a damp cloth. The photos below tell the story of the polishing of the rim top. I scrubbed the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm working it into the nooks and crannies of the rusticated finish. The balm cleans, enlivens and protects the briar and removes the dust and debris in the rustication. It also brought new life to the rim top. I rubbed it in and let it sit for a little while before rubbing it off with a cotton cloth. The photos below show the progress of the polishing. I polished the briar with a horsehair shoe brush to raise a shine in the nooks and crannies of the rustication. The pipe is beginning to look fresh and new. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded out the tooth mark on the top side next to the button and the tooth chatter on both sides of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper. I followed that with 400 grit wet/dry sanded paper – wet sanding until the scratches were beginning to blend into the surface of the acrylic. I polished the acrylic with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down after each pad with a damp cloth. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both the Fine and Extra Fine. I wiped it down and gave it a shine with some Obsidian Oil. With the stem polished I put it back on the shank and polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I used a light touch on the briar so as not to fill in the rustication or the rings with buffing compound and a slightly heavier touch on the acrylic stem. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax by hand rubbing it into the finish and the stem multiple coats of carnauba on the buffing wheel. I buffed the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine on the briar and the acrylic. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos that follow. It is a beautiful piece of pipe crafting. I am sure Eric will enjoy this beauty once it heads back to Ontario. Just two more of his pipes to work on before they all travel east. Thanks for walking with me through the restoration. Cheers.