Restoring a Savinelli Autograph 4 Freehand Style Sitter


Blog by Steve Laug

As you might have figured out from the title I am working on another pipe from Italy. This one is a Savinelli Autograph 4. It reads Savinelli over Autograph on the underside of the bowl on a smooth panel. It is also stamped with the Grade number 4 and Italy. The pipe has a beautiful sandblast on the bowl, rim top and shank with plateau on the shank end. There is a smooth portion on the front of the bowl wrapping around the right side of the bowl. The vulcanite stem also is stamped with the autograph just behind the saddle. The pipe came to me in a bag of pipes I brought home with me from Idaho Falls on a recent visit. I decided to work on the Autograph next as it was not a shape I had seen before in my restoration work. I took photos of the pipe before I started my work on it. I took a close up photo of the bowl and rim top to show the condition of the pipe at this point. The bowl has a light cake and some debris in the bottom of the bowl. The rim top is dirty but undamaged. The stem looks pretty good with the autograph stamp readable. There is tooth chatter and marks on the top and underside just ahead of the button on both sides.  I took a photo of the underside of the bowl/heel that is flattened to make the pipe a sitter. You can see the stamping – Savinelli Autograph 4 over Italy. It is stamped on a smooth portion of the heel while leaving the other portion sandblasted. The second photo below shows the plateau on the shank end. It is a really a great looking pipe.I wanted to remind myself a bit about the Autograph line from Savinelli so I reread the last blog I did on the Autograph line (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/01/05/restoring-a-savinelli-autograph-3-rhodesian-dublin-long-shank/). I quote that portion of the blog now:

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 4 I am working is pretty high in the hierarchy of the line. Like other autographs I have worked on in the past this one has a unique twist to the vulcanite stem. The pipe was pretty clean externally so I decided to deal with the internals first. I reamed the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to scrape out the thin cake on the walls and the base of the bowl. I sanded the walls of the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel. I scrubbed the internals of the bowl, shank and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. They were surprisingly clean and the grime came out quickly on the pipe cleaners and the cotton swabs.I used a small brass bristle wire brush to knock of the grime in finish on the rim top. I wiped it down with a damp pad to remove the dust. 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. Once the bowl was covered with the balm I let it sit for about 20 minutes and buffed it off with a shoe brush and then polished it with a microfiber cloth. I took photos of the pipe at this point to show what the bowl looked like at this point. I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I sanded out the tooth marks and chatter on both sides of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper. I polished the sanding marks with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. The photos show the stem at this point.  I wet sanded the tooth chatter on both sides of the stem with 1500 -12000 grit micromesh pads to polish it. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil on a 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 Obsidian Oil afterwards and buffed it on the buffing wheel with Blue Diamond and the finished it with a soft microfiber cloth. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the smooth part of the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and the vulcanite. I gave the smooth part of the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I gave the sandblasted portions several coats of Conservator’s 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 brown stains and the smooth and sandblast finish worked amazingly well with the polished black vulcanite stem. The mix of straight grain sandblast on the rest of the bowl and shank is quite remarkable. This is truly a beautiful Freehand pipe. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 1/2 inches, Height: 2 1/8 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/2 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. Cheers.

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1 thought on “Restoring a Savinelli Autograph 4 Freehand Style Sitter

  1. norman

    wow – that is nice. never smoked a sav and always wanted t get one and there is one that is wild now but ouch for price. Do they smoke nice Steve? boy you have been busy!
    I am curious to see the price. also curious about your comments on sav’s smoking qualities.

    Reply

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