Blog by Steve Laug
It is the second day of the New Year 2019 and I am continuing to work on pipes. My wife and kids are convinced it is an illness but at least it keeps me out of their way! I am continuing my break from the Bob Kerr estates that I have piled in boxes around my basement shop to work on another different pipe. I am still working under the watchful eye of my buddy and Shop Foreman, Spencer. His life is pretty much laying on a blanket by my feet while I am fiddling with pipes. At 14+ years old my fiddling does not faze him much him, he just wants to make sure I stay put with him in the basement. He snoozes, comes over to me now and then to smack my leg and beg for a treat and then retreats to nap again. He really is company in the shop and keeps me mindful to get up and move around now and then.As you might have read in the title I am switching things up to work on an Italian pipe. It is a Mastro de Paja Fatta A Mano Chubby Shank Billiard (the third pipe down in the photo below). It reads that on the left side of the diamond shank. On the underside of the shank it is stamped Media with 3B in a circle that I am assuming is the grade stamp, there is also a P near the shank/stem union. Under that is a Sun stamp that is common the MP pipes. In the Sun stamp there is a tiny fill – the only one on the pipe. On the right side of the shank it is stamped Pesario (the city in Italy where it was made). On the underside of the saddle portion of the stem it is stamped with a Sun. There is an inset briar ring on the Lucite stem. The Mastro de Paja gold inset is on the top of the saddle stem. The pipe came to me in a lot of five pipes that I bought from a pipeman in Florida. The other pipes in the lot were the first Mastro de Paja I worked on already, two Savinelli Autographs and a Bacchus Carved and Cased Meerschaum. I decided to work on the Mastro Billiard/Brandy next.I had the fellow in Florida send the pipes to my brother Jeff in Idaho for the cleanup work. He does a great job and expedites my restoration process a lot. He took the following photos of the pipe before he worked his magic on them. This second Mastro de Paja pipe must also have been a terrific smoker because the bowl was pretty clogged up with cake and lava flowing over the rim top. It really was a mess and the cake was hard from sitting. The Florida pipeman had laid aside his pipe some 15-20 years earlier and it had been in storage. It was going to take some work to clean out that bowl and be able to see what the rim looked like underneath the layer of lava. The rest of the bowl looked dirty but the amazing grain shone through. Jeff included some photos of the sides and bottom of the bowl to give a good idea of what it looked like.The next photos try to capture the stamping around the sides of the shank. They read as I have noted above. The acrylic/Lucite stem was in excellent condition. It was dirty and had light tooth chatter but no deep tooth marks in the stem surface. The button also looks pretty good but I would know more once it arrived in Vancouver.Jeff cleaned the pipe with his usual thoroughness – reaming the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaning up the remnants with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the internals of the bowl, shank and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior with Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean off the dust and grime on the finish. The rim top looked very good under the thick lava coat. There were just a few nicks and scratches to deal with. The inside of the bowl itself looked great. The stem was in great shape other than a bit of tooth chatter. I took photos of the pipe when it arrived here. I took some close up photos of the rim top, bowl and stem to show what they looked like after Jeff’s cleanup. It is a startling difference. The rim top will take some work to take care of the damage. The stem will take very little to polish out the tooth chatter on both sides and give it a deep shine. I was a bit surprised when I took of the stem and had a closer look at it. Turns out that the stem is a filter stem and made for a 9mm filter.I am including the information that I included in the previous Mastro de Paja blog.
I turned first to Pipedia to get a feel for the pipe (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Mastro_de_Paja). I quote in part from the article on that site.
In 1972 Giancarlo Guidi, after having spent some time as a hobbyist in producing pipes, decided to officially found a production workshop called “Mastro de Paja”. Mastro: obviously as a master craftsman, De Paja: it derives from the name with which he was affectionately called by friends “Pajetta” because of his curly hair and translated into a dialectal expression “de Paja”.
Spadoni Giannino joins him shortly after that, at the time he was a salesman and among the products he sold there were also pipes. A professional wedding that turned out to be perfect immediately, in no time the new company “MASTRO DE PAJA di Guidi e Spadoni” immediately became one of the most respected manufacturers of pipes in Italy for the quality of production and lines that for those times were innovative, fascinating and even if coarse they immediately met the consent of enthusiasts and collectors.
Unfortunately, the professional marriage between Guidi and Spadoni, due to disagreements and different views on strategies, stopped in 1981. Guidi left the company to found a personal one. In Mastro de Paja which in the meantime became a real company with a production staff remained with Spadoni. Unfortunately, after a very short time, due to economic and financial problems that put the possibility of continuing the business at risk, Spadoni is forced to ask for help and finds it with the intervention of the Pesaro-based entrepreneur Terenzio Cecchini who, despite being burdened by his multiple industrial activities, sees in Mastro de Paja a valid expression of high craftsmanship and takes over as majority shareholder and acquires the position of director.
Soon after even Spadoni decides to leave (and create his own new company), Cecchini then puts his eyes on a very smart young man which he considered capable of giving new glaze to the Mastro de Paja which, meanwhile, inevitably presented some productive and commercial problems. That young man is called Alberto Montini and he started in his thirties his beautiful adventure in the pipes world… He was contacted by the surveyor Terenzio Cecchini at the time the only owner of the Mastro, to take care of it in every aspect, first as an employee, then as an administrator and later as a partner of Mastro de Paja and afterwards with the passing of Mr. Cecchini he became the sole owner.
…Currently the Mastro produces about 2 thousand pipes a year with strictly artisan procedure, at the Mastro currently reigns a warm harmony, is a group of friends who strives to get the best. This also stems from the fact that pipes for Mastro de Paja are not to be considered as any other object to be produced and sold following cold strategies common to everyone in the business world, it’s completely different, it is necessary to love it, it is a style of being, a philosophy of life that can only be appreciated by a noble soul and not noble by title but by principles.
I read further in the article and found the following information on the stamping and the circle 3A stamp. I quote:
Mastro de Paja “ELITE COLLECTION” It is the production of pipes made entirely by hand, even they are unique but of regular production On all “Mastro de Paja” pipes you can see fire stamped all the informations for tracing the value of each creation.
2D: Half rusticated
3A: Brown and orange stain
3C: Perfect grain
It looks like the 3B is pretty high in the hierarchy of the Mastro pipes, with just the 3C Perfect Grain ahead of it. It is described as having a Natural Finish. That pretty well describes the pipe I have in my hands today – it has darkened with use but the train is quite nice.
I turned to the Pipephil website (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-m3.html) and added the following summary of information on the brand.
Brand founded in 1972 by Giancarlo Guidi. He left it for Ser Jacopo in 1982. Alberto Montini became the owner of the brand in 1995. Production (2010): ~ 5000 pipes / year. Seconds: Calibano, Montini
Armed with that information on the brand it was time to work on the pipe. I decided to begin by addressing the fill on the bottom of the shank. It was solid and in the middle of the stamping so it would take a few tricks to make it disappear. I used a black Sharpie pen to touch up the fill area and viola it was much less visible! I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratches and to try to lighten the finish a bit – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the briar down after each pad to remove the sanding dust and get a sense of the how the finish was developing. The photos show the progress. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the briar on the bowl and the rim top. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the wood. I kept it clear of building up in the twin groove around the bowl below the bowl cap. Once the bowl was covered with the balm I let it sit for about 20 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth and then polished it with a microfiber cloth. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process to show what the bowl looked like at this point. I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I wet sanded the tooth chatter on both sides of the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I was able to remove it. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads to polish it further. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I finished polishing the stem with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine polishes. I wiped the stem down with a damp cotton pad afterwards and buffed it with a soft microfiber cloth. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and the Lucite. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The contrast of the beautiful browns and orange of the briar with the polished black Lucite 9mm filter stem is quite stunning. The Mix of straight grain, flame and birdseye around the bowl and shank is quite remarkable. This is truly a beautiful pipe that is for sure. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/8 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This is the second Mastro de Paja estate that I have worked on recently and it will be going on the rebornpipes store shortly. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me. It was a great break away from the estates that await me. Cheers.