Blog by Dal Stanton
The Lot of 66 is a gift that simply put, keeps on giving. It was the first time I stuck my neck out to buy a lot of pipes on eBay’s auction block. I’m thankful that I did – it has produced many treasures that are now in the possession of new stewards from a good cause called the “Caring Place” in Georgetown, Texas. The description of the Lot of 66 was “Huge Lot Of 66 Smoking Pipes Pre-Owned Pre-Smoked and Deeply Loved” followed by information that this was one person’s collection that had been donated to benefit the Caring Place helping the community in Georgetown. This Lot of 66 benefiting the community there has also continued to benefit the work of the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited. Here is the picture I saw and the Savinelli Fiammata Briar Calabash now on my table is circled.Most people commission pipes from my online ‘Help Me!’ baskets in the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only collection where pipes in need of adoption may be commissioned by pipe men and women benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria. Jon commissioned two pipes but as a visitor to Bulgaria he was able to peruse the actual boxes and buckets and chose a pipe. Jon was part of a church team from South Florida exploring the work we do in Bulgaria. Of course, if guests are in my home, they find out about The Pipe Steward and receive a tour of the work room and the Man Cave on my 10th floor balcony! Jon brought along his daughter as well, but what was unique to me was that Jon is a farmer – of sorts. His farm is under water as he grows and commercially sells clams as well as other various sea foods which I absolutely love! His farm is called Southern Cross Sea Farms. Next time I’m in South Florida I hope to visit Jon, share a bowl with him and hopefully a few clams!
Not only did Jon commission the Savinelli Fiammata 2, but he also drooled over my collection of Churchwardens and when I would not relent in allowing mine to find a new home in South Florida’s clam country, he commissioned a Churchwarden project along with the Fiammata. To benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria, I also fashion CWs with re-purposed bowls that most likely, would have never again be put into service – castaways to be used a forgotten. Again, so many analogies to the work we do here with the Daughters! Here are pictures of the Briar Calabash that got Jon’s attention. The nomenclature that is stamped on the left flank of the shank is ‘FIAMMATA 2’. On the right flank is stamped 611KS – the Savinelli shape number [over] ITALY, the COM. There are no stampings on the stem that I can detect.I’m calling the Fiammata 2 a ‘Briar Calabash’. The 611KS is a Savinelli shape number and it is depicted in the familiar shapes chart provided on the PipePedia discussion of Savinelli. In the same article, Fiammata is listed as a second of the well-known Italian name, Savinelli. The interesting factoid related by Pipedia is that this second, ‘Fiammata’ was a special line of pipes that did not make the prized Savinelli line, “Giubileo D’Oro” (“Gold Jubilee”) – a Straight Grain line. What this means is that a Fiammata marked pipe was of an initial assessed quality that destined it as a ‘Top Shelf’ Savinelli pipe offering, but because it didn’t meet that standard along the way, it was put in the ‘first runner up’ Fiammata line. So, in no way would this line be considered a sub-quality line, but an upper shelf to be sure. Fiammata means ‘Flame’ in Italian. Pictures of the Gold Jubilee offerings in Pipedia’s Savinelli article bare this out. The Fiammata I’m looking at looks strikingly similar.
The Savinelli Pipedia article also included some catalog page examples (courtesy Doug Vliatchka) of this top shelf line, “Giubileo D’Oro” which describe the line of pipes that the Fiammata seems to have fallen short in achieving!. I find the page clipping below interesting because of the information it provides, but also the similarity of the grains depicted like the Fiammata on my worktable – long straight grain, fire grain.So, the Savinelli Fiammata 2 on my worktable started with great aspirations, and the grain it has is very appealing. The condition of the Briar Calabash is generally good, but with some issues. The chamber has a light cake on the walls. The rim has a dark ring around the inner rim edge which should clean up. It also has what appears to be a large fill on the rear, left hand side. The right side of the rim also has some dings. There is a major scratching event on the lower left heel – ugh! It appears that it was in a bucket of nails or something – the scratching is deep and will need to be sanded out. The stem has minor oxidation but there is tooth chatter on the upper and lower bit in need of sanding out.To begin the restoration of the Savinelli Fiammata 2 Briar Calabash, I first use only a pipe cleaner dipped in isopropyl 95% to clean the airway of the stem.With the airway clean, the Fiammata stem joins several other stems in a soak of Mark Hoover’s product (www.ibepen.com) Before & After Deoxidizer. This is the only part of the restoration process that I try to mass produce! The Fiammata is on the far left, next in the queue, and it joins several other pipes that are also in the queue along with their stems in the soak as well. The stems were just put in the Deoxidizer and are in the process of sinking into the interesting mixture. I leave the stems in the soak for a few hours.After a few hours, I fish out the Fiammata’s stem and after using my fingers to squeegee the Deoxidizer off, I run some pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95% through the airway to clear out the fluid. I then use a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to wipe down the stem to remove raised oxidation from the stem.To enhance the rejuvenation of the vulcanite, paraffin oil is applied with a cotton pad and the stem is set aside to soak in the oil.Turning now to the stummel cleanup, I begin by reaming the chamber with the Pipnet Reaming Kit. With the day a bit warmer during this time of self-quarantine because of the virus concerns, I’m trying to work out on the Man Cave as much as possible. My ‘Man Cave’, where I’m allowed to smoke my pipes is located on the 10th floor of our apartment blok built during the days when Communism was still up and functioning in Bulgaria. I take my tools to the Man Cave and go to work. I’m enjoying a bowl of Black Stoker in a Made in London England Canadian.The cake is not bad, but the long, conical chamber of the Savinelli Fiammata 2 is a challenge. The shape of the chamber tapers down so that is it narrower at the floor of the chamber. I use all 4 of the blade heads available to me in the Pipnet reaming kit, which speaks to the size of the chamber as it expands upwardly. I am careful not to bore ridges into the side of the chamber with the different blade heads starting at different points. I transition after the blades to the Savinelli Fitsall Tool to fine-tune the chamber wall scraping reaching down to the floor and to the more difficult areas of the conical chamber. To rid the final vestiges of carbon, I then wrap 240 grade paper around a Sharpie Pen and sand the chamber. After wiping the chamber with a wetted cotton pad to clear the carbon dust, I inspect the wall and find a healthy chamber. I move on! Transitioning to cleaning the external surface, I use cotton pads wetted with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap. I patiently focus on the blackened ring on the internal edge of the rim. My thumbnail proves to be helpful as well as a gentle scraping with my Buck pocketknife. A brass wired brush also helps. Transferring the pipe to the kitchen sink, I also employ shank brushes with anti-oil liquid dish soap to clean the internal mortise and airway. After a thorough rinsing, the stummel returns to the worktable. The cleaning did a fantastic job on the rim. What I thought to be fills on the rim, held very firmly and have all but disappeared. To make sure the internals are clean, a few pipe cleaners and cotton buds dipped in isopropyl 95% confirm this! I move on!The disaster area on the front left side of the heel of the Fiammata Calabash stummel is now my focus. The sharp cuts in the briar are most likely from metal. It’s sad…First using 240 grade sanding paper I sand the impacted area. I do not go beyond the damaged area because heavy sanding changes the composition of the surface drastically. It creates a lightened patch that needs again to be darkened in order to re-blend it with the surrounding briar complexion. While the 240 paper is in play, I also lightly sand the rim’s internal edge to remove fully the darkening that remains after the cleaning. There’s a lot of forgiveness in a rounded rim presentation!After the 240 grade paper, I sand with a dry 600 grade paper to the lightened area. You can see how the sanding process gradually coaxes the briar grain to darken moving toward blending the sanded area. Not pictured is that I do the same with the rim area that I had sanded with 240 paper.The blending continues by sanding the bowl with sanding sponges. Before doing this, I cover each of the stampings of the Savinelli nomenclature with masking tape on both sides of the shank. I try not to contribute to the demise of this pipe’s history and story!I start with a coarse sponge and follow with medium and light grade sponges. The sanding sponges, unlike the 240 grade paper, are a gentler form of sanding that is less invasive. Sanding sponges address the minor nicks and cuts that come through the normal life of a pipe in service. They also help with the darkening and re-blending of the damaged sanded area (second picture). I like the results and the fire grain of this Fiammata Briar Calabash is starting to get my attention – wow! This is a quality piece of briar block! Loving the briar grain that is emerging through the sanding processes, I transition next to applying the full regimen of 9 micromesh pads from grades 1500 to 12000. First, wet sanding is with pads 1500 to 2400 followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000. I’m loving the show of the grain on this stummel gradually emerging! The damaged area has been fully reintegrated into the briar environment. The next step is to apply Mark Hoover’s Restoration Balm (www.ibepen.com) which works well to bring out the rich deeper hues of the natural briar grains. After placing a small amount of the Balm on my finger, I work it into the briar surface. It begins with a cream-like consistency and then thickens to a waxiness that covers the entire surface. After a thorough application of the Balm, I set the stummel aside to absorb the Balm for about 20 minutes (pictured below). After the 20 minutes, I use a dedicated microfiber cloth to wipe the stummel removing the excess balm and to buff the stummel somewhat. I also use this ‘balm saturated’ cloth to wipe other pipes in my collection for regular Balm maintenance – they enjoy this very much! I follow with another microfiber cloth to buff further. My, oh my….The Calabash’s bent stem is waiting for my attention. It’s the next day and continuing to work on the Man Cave with another beautiful day, I take another close look at the stem. The Before & After Deoxidizer has done a good job dealing with the oxidation. The upper and lower bit has tooth chatter, but not severely. The button is in pretty good shape. To help to minimize the chatter and one evident scissor bite mark I see on the upper side, I first use the heating method. Using a Bic lighter, I ‘paint’ the chatter with the flame. The flame heats the vulcanite and it expands to reclaim its original disposition – or at least closer to it. This then allows sanding out the remaining marks easier. Before and after pictures comparing the effects of the heating approach are below – a definite improvement. First, the upper bit comparison – note the minimization of the vertical scissor bite compression:Next, the lower bit comparison – the chatter disappears:Next, I use the flat needle file to refresh the button and 240 sanding paper to erase what remains of the tooth chatter.Even though the stem showed no signs of oxidation after use of the deoxidizer soak, I expand the sanding to the entire stem with the 240 paper. I want to make sure no vestiges of oxidation show up in the latter stages of polishing which is when deeper oxidation usually shows up!Next, I wet sand using grade 600 paper and follow by applying 000 grade steel wool.The sanding preparatory work is completed and now the fine tune sanding with the full regimen of micromesh pads follows. First, I wet sand with pads 1500 to 2400 and follow by dry sanding with pads from 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000. Between each set of 3 pads, Obsidian Oil is applied to rejuvenate and to protect against future oxidation. I love the ‘pop’ of newly micromeshed stems! Now, the home stretch. After rejoining stem and stummel and after mounting a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel setting it at 40% of full power, the fine abrasive compound, Blue Diamond, is applied to the entire pipe. Following the compound, after wiping the pipe with a felt cloth to clear the compound dust, another cotton cloth buffing wheel is mounted and at the same speed carnauba wax is applied. The restoration is completed after giving the pipe a rigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine.
If this pipe is a normative example of the “Giubileo D’Oro” (“Gold Jubilee”) reject line, keep the rejects coming! What can I say? This is one of those restorations that discovered gold in hiding. The grain presentation on this ample Briar Calabash bowl is reminiscent to me of Preben Holm’s moniker, ‘Follow the grain.’ The straight, fire grain reaches toward the rim and the rim’s rounded shape provides a view of delicate bird’s eye, a 3-D perspective of the tips of the fire grain’s release into the air. The heel presentation is equally expressive of larger, more chaotic patterns – for me, characteristic of the origins of the fire. The Briar Calabash shape also contributes to the ensemble with its sweeping curves and lines moving toward the gently bending stem. Is it obvious that I’m impressed with this line of Savinelli, Fiammata? Clam man Jon commissioned this pipe and has the first opportunity to adopt him from The Pipe Steward Store benefitting the Daughters of Bulgaria. Thanks for joining me!