Daily Archives: January 6, 2019

Restoring a Second Savinelli Autograph 3 Bent Billiard

Blog by Steve Laug

It is the last day of my Christmas/New Year holidays. Tomorrow I go back to work so I am taking some time today to work on more pipes. My wife and kids are convinced it is an illness but at least it keeps me out of their way! I am taking another break from the Bob Kerr estates since I have already finished 14 of them. They are piled in boxes around my basement shop and need to look at something different from the Dunhills of his estate. Though this picture is not from today the posture today remains the same, I am still working under the watchful eye of my buddy and Shop Foreman, Spencer. He has seriously enjoyed having me at home with him the past two weeks. 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 figured out from the title I am working on another pipe from Italy. This is the second Savinelli Autograph 3 (the second pipe down in the photo below). It reads Savinelli over Autograph on the left side of the shank. On the right side of the shank it is stamped Italy. The underside shank is sandblasted while the rest of the pipe is smooth. The vulcante stem is stamped with the autograph. 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 two Mastro de Paja that I have worked on already, these two Savinelli Autographs and a Bacchus Carved and Cased Meerschaum. I decided to work on the second Autograph next as it was different from the last run of straight billiards that I have been working on these past weeks. 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. Like his other pipes this second Savinelli Autograph 3 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 photos of the side and bottom of the bowl to give a good idea of what it looked like. The last photo shows the sandblast finish on the bottom of the bowl and shank. Jeff also included some photos of the stamping on the shank sides. The stamping on the left side of the shank was quite clear though the 3 stamp was fainter. The stamping on the right side – Italy was readable but quite faint.The vulcanite stem was in excellent condition. It was made for the Savinelli Balsa filter system or for their 9mm filter. 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.The Autograph stamp on the left side of the taper stem was in pretty decent condition.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 was a bit surprised when I took of the stem and had a closer look at it. Turns out that this stem is also a filter stem and made for a 9mm filter or for a Savinelli Balsa Filter system. I found photos of the system online and have included them here. If you choose not to use a filter there is an adapter that can be purchased to fill in the tenon in place of the filter. 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. There is some rim darkening along the beveled inner edge and on the top of the bowl. There were also nicks and scratches on the smooth surface of the rim top. The stem was oxidized and there were tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button.I have included the information I included on the previous Autograph blog so that you can do a quick review on this line of Savinelli pipes.

I turned first to the Pipephil website (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-savinelli1.html) to get a brief overview of the Autograph line. There I found out that the Autographs were hand made and unique. The Autograph Grading system is ascending: 3, 4, … 8, 0, 00, 000.

I turned then to Pipedia to get a more background on the Autograph line. I had the outline I needed from pipephil for the pipe but wanted more (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Savinelli). I quote in part from the article on that site.

While Savinelli’s serially produced pipes account for around 98% of annual production, the marque also creates a number of artisanal, handmade pieces as well. The Autographs, the Creativity line, and the Mr. A. line are all the result of Savinelli’s unique handmade process, with the Autographs reflecting the larger Freehand aesthetic, the Creativity line delving into more complex hand carving, and the Mr. A. line sidestepping the standard shape chart for remarkable and unusual pipes.

All of the briar for Savinelli’s Autographs and other freehand pipes is sourced specifically for those pieces. While the majority of the marque’s serial production is made from extra grade ebauchon blocks, Savinelli keeps a separate supply of Extra Extra plateau blocks for Freehands. This variety of briar is much larger, and of a higher quality, which explains why so many Autographs and Savinelli handmades are naturally larger designs.

These handmade pieces are shaped much like traditional Danish Freehands: they are shaped first and drilled second. Using this method, Savinelli’s team of artisans is able to showcase their own creativity, as it maximizes flexibility and facilitates a more grain-centric approach to shaping. The resulting Freehand designs are at once both a departure from the marque’s classical standard shapes, yet very much still “Savinelli” in their nature—i.e. proportioned so that the bowl is the visual focus when viewed from the profile, juxtaposed by the comparatively trim lines of the shank and stem. To provide a little more insight into the differences between Savinelli’s standard production and freehand lines, Luisa Bozzetti comments:

“When we choose to make Freehand pipes we must stop production on the standard shapes. The process for Freehands is much more involved and takes much more time. Finding the best people from the production line and pulling them to make Freehands is challenging since it’s not an assembly line, but rather a one or two man operation.

 After the rough shaping of the stummel, we must get together and brainstorm which style of stem will be paired before the pipe can be finished since we do not use pre-shaped stems. All accents and stems for the Freehands are cut from rod here in the factory. A lot of care goes into the few pieces lucky enough to make the cut; to end up with a certain number of Autographs, for instance, means that many, many more will be made, and only the few will be selected.”

The quality control process for Savinelli handmades is even more rigorous than that employed in the standard lineup. Many blocks are started and later discarded because of pits or defects. While Savinelli’s briar sourcing is a constant process, working with some of Italy’s top cutters to ensure only the finest and most suitable blocks make their way to the factory, it’s impossible to source plateau briar that’s completely free from flaws. That’s just nature. Savinelli creates the standard for quality by working through the rough (a very high-quality rough, mind you) to find that shining diamond with the potential to become a Savinelli handmade.

It looks like the Autograph 3 I am working is pretty high in the hierarchy of the line. This Autograph is more typical of the ones that I have worked on in the past though it does not have the unique twist to the vulcanite stem. The pipe is a nice straight grain all around the bowl sides with birdseye on the top of the rim. The bottom of the shank is sandblasted and looks very good in that location.

Armed with that information on the brand it was time to work on the pipe. I decided to begin by addressing the damage to the rim top and inner edge. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the darkening and the damage to the rim surface. The rim really needed to have the damaged areas smoothed out and blended into the rest of the briar. I polished the freshly sanded rim top and the rest of 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 used an Oak stain pen to blend the colour of the rim top to match the rest of the bowl. I rubbed it down with some of the Restoration Balm to even out the finish.I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I sanded out the tooth marks and worked on removing the oxidation on the stem with 220 grit sandpaper. I carefully avoided sanding the autograph stamp on the left side of the stem.I polished the stem with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish to take out the oxidation at the button edge and on the end of the mouthpiece. I also worked hard to scrub it from the surface of the stem at the tenon end and around the stamping on the left side of the shank.I wet sanded 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 touched up the stamping on the stem side using a white out pen. I let it dry and buffed it off with a micromesh sanding pad. The photos tell the story. The stamping is still visible with some places that are quite weak. 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 dark and medium browns of the briar with the polished black vulcanite Savinelli Balsa Filter system stem is quite stunning. The mix of straight grain and flame grain around the bowl and shank combined with the birdseye on the rim is quite remarkable. This is another 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 1/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. I have restored quite a few Autographs over the years and this estate is another rare beauty. I will be putting it 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.  

Restoring the 14th and Final Shell from Bob Kerr’s Estate – A Dunhill Shell Briar 660 F/T Billiard

Blog by Steve Laug

With this Dunhill Shell Briar my ongoing work on Bob Kerr’s is truly making a dent. This is the last of the Shell and Tanshell pipes in his Dunhill Collection. I am cleaning them for the family and moving them out into the hands of pipemen and women who will carry on the trust that began with Bob and in some pipes was carried on by Bob. In the collection along with the Dunhills are a good bevy of Petersons, some Comoy’s and Barlings as well as a lot of other pipes – a total of 125 pipes along with a box of parts. This is the largest estate that I have had the opportunity to work on. I put together a spread sheet of the pipes and stampings to create an invoice. I was taking on what would take me a fair amount of time to clean up. I could not pass up the opportunity to work on these pipes though. They were just too tempting.

I sorted the pipes into groups of the various brands and had a box of 25 different Dunhill pipes in different shapes, styles and sizes. I decided to work on the Dunhills first. It was a great chance to see the shape variety up close and personal. The photo below shows the box of Dunhill pipes.With the completion of the restoration on this one there are only 11 more Dunhills of the original 25 left to work on – all smooth finished pipes in a variety of shapes. I went through the box of Dunhills shown above and chose the 14th and final sandblast pipe to work on – it is another Group 4 Shell Briar Billiard. It is stamped on the underside of the bowl heel and the shank with the following information. On the heel it is stamped with the shape number 660F/T and next to that Dunhill over Shell Briar. That is followed by Made in England 9 with an upside down 14 off to the right and above the England 9 stamping. Typically the second number was a stamp when it was sold which would make it a pipe made in 1970 and sold in 1975. I am not sure in this case if that is true the positioning of the second number is odd.  Next to the shank/stem union it is stamped Circle 4S – Group 4 size Shell. The round shank flows into a saddle fishtail stem that is oxidized and has tooth marks and chatter near the button. There is some calcification on the first inch of the stem ahead of the button and there is some light damage to the top of the button. The Shell Briar finish is dirty but like the other pipes in Bob’s collection there is something quite beautiful about the pipe. There is grime and tars filling in much of the sandblast. The bowl had a thick cake and some lava overflowed on the rim top. There appears to be a little damage on the front inner edge of the rim but after cleaning I will know more. I took pictures of the pipe before I started working on it. I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem to show what I was dealing with. This Shell Briar Billiard was in decent shape all things considered. The cake in the bowl was quite thick and the lava on the rim top was also very present. You can see the cake and tobacco in the bowl. The stem was dirty, oxidized, calcified and had a lot of tooth chatter on the top and underside for about an inch ahead of the button.I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the bowl and shank. It was very sharp and readable. The stamping on the heel was a bit lighter than the rest but still readable.I am sure if you have read the restoration work on the 13 previous pipes you have already read what I included about Bob Kerr, the pipeman who held these pipes in trust before I came to work on them. Also, if you have followed the blog for long you will already know that I like to include background information on the pipeman whose pipes I am restoring. For me, when I am working on an estate I really like to have a sense of the person who held the pipes in trust before I worked on them. It gives me another dimension of the restoration work. I asked Brian if he or his wife would like to write a brief biographical tribute to her father, Bob. His daughter worked on it and I received the following short write up on him and some pictures to go along with the words. Thank you Brian and tell your wife thank you as well.

I am delighted to pass on these beloved pipes of my father’s. I hope each user gets many hours of contemplative pleasure as he did. I remember the aroma of tobacco in the rec room, as he put up his feet on his lazy boy. He’d be first at the paper then, no one could touch it before him. Maybe there would be a movie on with an actor smoking a pipe. He would have very definite opinions on whether the performer was a ‘real’ smoker or not, a distinction which I could never see but it would be very clear to him. He worked by day as a sales manager of a paper products company, a job he hated. What he longed for was the life of an artist, so on the weekends and sometimes mid-week evenings he would journey to his workshop and come out with wood sculptures, all of which he declared as crap but every one of them treasured by my sister and myself. Enjoy the pipes, and maybe a little of his creative spirit will enter you!

I have included one of Bob’s wood carvings to give you an idea of what he daughter wrote about above. You can see his artistry in the carving that is patterned after British Columbia’s Coastal First Nations people. To me this is a sea otter but perhaps a reader may enlighten us.Having already worked on 13 other pipes from Bob’s estate I think I understood how he used and viewed his pipes. I am coming to the end of the Shell and Tanshell pipes. This is the last of the sandblast pipes. I had learned to tell which pipes were his favoured ones and which were his work horses. He really loved his billiards. I could get a sense of the ones that accompanied him into his carving shop. In many ways it was as if he was standing over my shoulder while I cleaned up his pipes.

With that in mind I turned to work on the 14th of his pipes. I reamed the bowl to remove the cake on the walls and the debris of tobacco shards that still remained. I used a PipNet pipe reamer to start the process. I followed that with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to clean up the remaining cake in the conical bottom of the bowl. I sanded the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel. It smooths out the walls and also helps bring the inner edges back to round. Often when I get into the rhythm of the restoration I can easily move through the process without remembering to take photos along the way. This was one of those times. I was working on the pipe and just following my steps while listening to some favourite music and lost in the world of my own head. I cleaned up the rim top and removed the thick lava coat in the blast of the rim. I used the Savinelli Fitsall knife to scrape away the high spots of lava and a brass bristle tire brush to work on the rim top and remove the buildup there. I used it to also minimize the rim damage a bit. Sorry but imagination will have to do instead of photos.

I quickly moved on, scrubbing the sandblast finish with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap. Using a tooth brush I worked over the sandblast finish on the bowl, shank and rim. I spent extra time working on the rim top to make sure I was able to remove all of the grime. I rinsed the pipe under running water to remove the grime. I dried it off with a soft towel. If you have followed me long you will recognize that this is the process my brother and I use in cleaning all of our pipes. The pictures below show the finish after scrubbing and rinsing. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the sandblast finish of the bowl and the rim top. I worked it into the nooks and crannies of the sandblast surface with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the wood. I let the balm sit for about 20 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth and then polished it with a horsehair shoe brush. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process to show what the bowl looked like at this point. I scraped out the inside of the mortise with a pen knife to break away the tarry buildup on the walls of the shank. I cleaned out the internals of the bowl, shank and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until they came out clean. It was very dirty in the shank and stem but now it not only looks clean but smells clean.  I gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed it with a shoe brush after each coat of wax to raise the shine. The bowl looks really good at this point. The sandblast grain just shines and is showing all of the different layers of colour that make up a Dunhill Shell Briar finish. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded out the majority of the marks and tooth chatter on the surface of the vulcanite with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I followed the 220 grit sandpaper with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to minimize the scratching. The two papers combined did a pretty decent job of getting rid of the tooth marks and chatter as well as the oxidation and calcification. I polished the stem with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish to take out the oxidation at the button edge and on the end of the mouthpiece. I also worked hard to scrub it from the surface of the stem at the tenon end. I polished out the scratches with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. Once I had finished the polishing I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. 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, the nickel band and the vulcanite. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the 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 colours that show up in the sandblast of the Shell Briar bowl looked good with the polished black vulcanite. This Shell Briar 660 F/T Saddle Stem Billiard will soon be posted on the rebornpipes store. It really has that classic Dunhill Shell Briar Billiard look that catches the eye. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. This is the 14th Dunhill Shell Briars and Tanshells from the many pipes that will be coming onto the work table from the estate. With this one I have finished the last of the sandblasted Dunhill Pipes. What will follow are 11 smooth finished Dunhills – Root Briar, Bruyere etc. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. I am having fun working on this estate.