Blog by Dal Stanton
I acquired a pair of Savinelli Dry System pipes on the eBay auction block from a seller in Poughkeepsie, New York. I initially was attracted by the ‘Peterson-like’ description of the pair – ‘Dry System’. I also liked the tight bend and the ‘Dublin-esque’ bowls. Both are ¾ bent with a conical bowl – a tight configuration that I liked immediately. They almost seemed identical, but one had the shape number 362, the one on my worktable now, and the other had 3621. When I unpacked them here in Bulgaria and took a closer look, I could see the differences. Both have identical shapes but the 362 is a lighter rusticated finish with a smooth rim. The 3621 is a darker blasted finish with a blasted rim. These pictures show the differences.A friend of mine here in Bulgaria, Teo, saw the Savinelli pair on my website in the ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” Only!’ collection and inquired about them. I was very happy that he commissioned the 362 to add to his collection which will benefit our work here in Bulgaria with the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited. Pipe smoking is very rare here in my adopted country of Bulgaria. In the 13 years we have lived and worked in Bulgaria, I can count on one hand how many times I have seen a Bulgarian smoking a pipe! After restoring the pipe, and if Teo decides to adopt it (it’s not obligatory for those who commission – they have the first opportunity to acquire it), I’ll look forward to sharing a bowl with him! Here are more pictures of the Savinelli Dry System 362 on my worktable. The smooth underside panel holds the nomenclature. To the left is stamped ‘DRY SYSTEM’ then the Savinelli ‘S’ logo. To the right of the logo is 362 [over] ITALY. The nickel shank cap is stamped on the left side with ‘SAVINELLI’ along with ‘S’ on the topside of the military stem. I found nothing about the Dry System on Pipedia but Pipephil.eu came through with some very helpful information – especially about the shape number differences. Looking at the Savinelli shapes chart on Pipedia’s Savinelli article, shapes 362 or 3621 were not among those listed. Pipephil provided this on the Savinelli Dry System with the information that the Dry System could be stamped with either 3 or 4 digits for the shape number:The panel above also references a link comparing Savinelli’s Dry System P-Lip stem with the Peterson standard. I found the most information about the Savinelli Dry System on another site as I broadened my online search. A South African based tobacconist, Wesley’s (See LINK), provided a gold mine of information about the Savinelli Dry System:
Launched in 1981, it had taken several years of research into the negative points of existing system pipes, in order to improve on them. Perseverance paid off – by combining trap and filter, and enlarging the smoke hole, Savinelli achieved the “Dry System”, which in our opinion is the best answer to “Wet Smoking” so far developed.
Especially for new pipe smokers, the Savinelli Dry System pipe incorporates everything needed to provide a cool, dry smoke.
The name “Dry” comes from the introduction of the Balsa “filter” into the traditional system pipe – the “System” being the presence of the built-in moisture trap in the shank, linked with the “smokehole on the top” mouthpiece. The balsa mops up the moisture in the smoke hence the term “Dry” system, and if the pipe is smoked without the balsa all that will happen is that this moisture will condense and collect in the trap. It can then either be mopped up with a folded pipe cleaner or flicked out. Just be careful where you flick it!
Put this all together and you can see why we say these are technically our best designed pipes. But the technical qualities are not all these pipes have to offer. Extra bonuses are the feel, the finishes and the balance.
This information marks the genesis of the Savinelli Dry System line in 1981. Added to this information, Wesley’s included the following benefits of the Savinelli system with a helpful cut-away showing the internals:The description of the ‘smokehole’ of the mouthpiece, is interesting in the way it disperses the smoke so that it avoids tongue burn as well as keeping moisture entering the stem from the mouth. The trademark filtering system is also optional – use of the balsa insert which I use with great satisfaction with some of my own Savinellis. Yet, even if you do not utilize the absorbing qualities of the balsa insert, the built-in moisture trap will hold the moisture for clean-up after smoking. Sounds good!
Wesley’s Tobacconist also included this helpful Shapes Chart for the Savinelli Dry System pipes. The description for the 3621 suggests:
Regular shapes 3613 & 3621 are ideal for the new pipe smoker or for a short smoke for anybody.
As I look at the Savinelli Dry System 362 now on my worktable, I’m wondering if it too is actually a 3621 and the craftsman applying the rustication was a bit overzealous. I take a close-up to show that the latter half of ‘ITALY’ also succumbed to the rustication!Notwithstanding, this 362* is a sharp looking pipe in relatively good condition. The chamber shows moderate cake build-up and the smooth, internally beveled rim is darkened with some lava buildup. The rustication process is very tight and attractive and only needs some cleaning of the normal grime buildup. The nickel shank cap will shine up nicely. The Savinelli P-Lip stem has a good bit of oxidation and the P-Lip button shows almost no biting damage. Overall, I’m hopeful of a smooth cleanup! I begin the restoration by cleaning the airway of the stem with a pipe cleaner dipped in isopropyl 95% and then I place the stem in a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer along with other pipes in the queue. My wife captured this Pipe Steward cameo appearance at the worktable! After several hours in the soak, I fish out the Savinelli stem and wipe it down with cotton pads wetted with alcohol to remove the raised oxidation. I also run pipe cleaners through the airway to clear the excess Deoxidizer. I can attest to the fact that this P-Lip stem is easier to clean than the Peterson version!To begin rejuvenating the vulcanite, a coat of paraffin oil on the stem does the job and I put the Savinelli P-Lip aside to absorb the oil.The chamber has a moderate cake build up and removing it to give the briar a fresh start and to inspect the chamber walls is the next step.Using only the smallest blade head of the Pipnet Reaming Kit, it becomes clear very soon how quickly the canonical chamber narrows toward the floor. I do not force the blade downward with much pressure to avoid digging into the lower chamber wall to form a reaming ledge. This has been evident on several pipes where I’ve seen the results of overzealous reaming. Utilizing the Savinelli Fitsall tool next, the blade is better suited to the contours of the chamber wall. To remove the final carbon residue from the chamber wall, sanding the walls with a Sharpie Pen wrapped with 240 grade paper does the job well. Finally, the chamber is cleaned of carbon dust with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%. Inspection of the chamber walls reveals a very healthy block of briar.Moving now to cleaning the external briar surface, undiluted Murphy’s Oil soap is applied to a cotton pad to scrub the rim and rusticated surface. A bristled toothbrush also works well on the rough surface freeing it of dirt and grime. Utilizing both a brass bristled brush and the sharp edge of the Winchester pocketknife, the darkened areas on the rim give way. With a very gentle touch with the blade, the excess carbon gives way on the rim and the sharp internal bevel. Taking the stummel to the sink and using warm water the cleaning continues with anti-oil dish soap and shank brushes to clean the internals. After thoroughly rinsing, the internal cleaning continues at the worktable with pipe cleaners and cotton buds wetted with isopropyl 95%. As cotton buds are dipped in and out of the mortise, the schematic of the internals included above comes to mind. Without doubt, the trap system works! What a muck of gunk is excavated from the trap as dental spatula and spoon are utilized to scrape the mortise walls and trap. Finally, cotton buds and pipe cleaners start emerging lighter and I move on with clean internals left behind.Before moving on to the stem, I decide to apply the coup de grâce to the internal cleaning process first. While working on the stem, a kosher salt and alcohol soak will continue the cleaning passively and freshen the bowl for the new steward. I form a mortise ‘wick’ first by pulling and stretching a cotton ball. I guide the end of the wick into the airway cut-away with the help of a stiff wire. Following this, more of the cotton wick is stuffed down into the trap. With the wick in place, after kosher salt is added almost filling the chamber, the stummel is placed in an egg crate providing stability to the operation. Using a large eye dropper, isopropyl 95% is then added to the bowl until it surfaces over the salt. After a few minutes the alcohol is absorbed, the bowl is topped off with alcohol once again and the bowl is set aside to allow the soak to do its thing. Moving now to the stem, closeups of the upper- and lower-bit area show little tooth compression damage but the condition of the vulcanite is very rough.This is addressed by sanding the entire stem with 240 and 470 grade papers followed by wet sanding with 600 grade paper and finishing by applying 000 steel wool – throughout, care is given to sand around the Savinelli ‘S’ stamping on the upper side. Straight away, using the full regimen of micromesh pads, with pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand, followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000. Between each set of 3 pads an application of Obsidian Oil further rejuvenates the vulcanite. The stem looks great and I put it aside and turn to the bowl. The stummel has benefited from a kosher salt and alcohol soak through the night. The soiled salt and wick reveal the extricating process of drawing the tars and oils out of the internal briar. After clearing the used salt to the waste and blowing through the bowl and wiping it out with paper towel, to make sure all is cleaned and refreshed, another pipe cleaner and cotton bud are wetted with isopropyl 95% and inserted. They reveal almost no soiling. All is clean and I move on.Looking at the smooth rim, it is attractive and shows very nice potential of contrasting rough briar and smooth briar grain. I appreciate contrasting briar textures in a pipe’s presentation.The rim has scratches and residual discoloration. To address this, both 240 and 600 grade papers are utilized to sand the rim and freshen the distinctive internal bevel. Sanding very lightly, the patina is preserved while still cleaning the top surface.To now fully bring out the grain, I sand the rim with the full battery of micromesh pads – wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400 and from 3200 to 12000 dry sanding does the job. I’m really liking how this Savinelli Dry System is shaping up!I take another close look at the Savinelli rusticated surface. I’m attracted to the tight, distinct pattern of the rustication. The reddish hue stands out nicely. I always look forward to the application of Before & After Restoration Balm to briar surfaces – both smooth and rough. The effect of deepening of the hues subtly is why I like this product. I apply some of the Balm to my fingers and rub it in very thoroughly over the rustication and rim. As I’ve described before, the Balm starts with a cream-like viscosity and gradually thickens into a wax-like consistency as it is worked into the briar surface. After the application of Balm is completed, it stands for about 20 minutes ( the next two pictures below) and then using a cloth I wipe off the excess and buff up the surface with a microfiber cloth. I love the results! Before moving on with the next stage, the nickel shank cap needs addressing. It is somewhat colored and dirty with fine scratches. It will shine up nicely.To do the initial cleaning, Tarn-X is a product I acquired in the US and it works well. After applying some of the solution with a cotton pad and scrubbing the nickel, I rinse it with tap water and dry. I’m careful to keep the solution off the briar. It does a great job.After the cleaning with Tarn-X is complete, there remains the roughness of wear and tear shown in the picture below.To address this, a dedicated cotton cloth buffing wheel is mounted onto the Dremel with a speed set at about 40% full power and I apply Blue Diamond compound to address the scratches and fine lines in the nickel. I’m careful to keep the wheel over the nickel and not overrun on the briar. This process can stain the briar very easily with a blackish hue. Not good.The results are great providing Savinelli shank cap bling!Moving on with Blue Diamond compound, I mount another cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel, maintain the same speed and apply the compound to the smooth briar rim and stem. I do not apply the compound to the rusticated briar surface. I’m afraid it will gum-up the surface and be a bear to clean.Looking more closely at the stem…, well, my OCD pipe restoration tendencies would not allow me to ignore some residual oxidation making an appearance as I fine tune the buffing with the compound. The next picture, lightened to show what I’m seeing, reveals the oxidation around the ‘S’ stamping as well on the edges of the hump of the stem rise. The stamping was intentionally protected from sanding to preserve the Savinelli ‘S’. Yet, I’m not satisfied with the wide birth of oxidation that I’ve left! And the residue on the sides – just will not do.I begin a more conservative approach to remove these vestiges of oxidation. I start with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser with little success.Then I use Before & After Fine and Extra fine polishes which are supposed to continue the oxidation removal process. I apply the polishes successively, rubbing in then wiping off. The polishes may have helped marginally. Not satisfied, sanding with 470, then 600 following again by applying 000 steel addresses the oxidation.As before, the full regimen of micromesh pads from 1500 to 12000 precedes applying Blue Diamond compound with the Dremel. I’m satisfied with the results this time around! The oxidation encompassing the ‘S’ stamping is much tighter now and the oxidation spots that were on both sides of the hump have been eradicated. I move on.Before applying the final touch of polishing with carnauba wax, I freshen the Savinelli ‘S’ stem stamping using white acrylic paint. I spread some paint over the stamping and daub it with a cotton pad to remove the excess. Using a toothpick, I very lightly scrape the paint removing the excess leaving the ‘S’ somewhat filled. I repeated this process a few times to get it as right as possible. The paint grips but not perfectly and the final ‘S’ isn’t as solid as I like, but it’s better than it was! To complete the restoration of this nice looking Savinelli Dry Air System 362, after a cotton cloth buffing wheel is mounted onto the Dremel and speed set and 40 percent full power, I apply carnauba wax to the stem and rim. In applying carnauba to the rusticated surface, I increase the speed to about 60% full power. This aids the heating and assimilation of the wax into the rougher surface. After applying a few coats, I give the pipe a rigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine.
This Savinelli Dry System came out well. The rustication is striking, and the deep reddish hues of the finish are a very nice contrast to the smooth briar rim. The tight bent Dublin-esque fits well in the hand. I appreciated learning more about the enhancements that Savinelli made to its Dry System and I look forward to hearing whether it truly does provide a step toward the pipe smokers holy grail – a dryer and cooler smoke! Teo commissioned this pipe which benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited, and he will have the first opportunity to acquire it in The Pipe Steward Store. Thanks for joining me!