Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe on the work table was purchased from an estate that we bought from the estate of a pipe man from Florida, USA. The pipe is rusticated with a tree bark like finish that is stained black and brown. It is a bent billiard shaped pipe with saddle stem. The stem has a faint GIGI stamp on the right side of the shank. The pipe is stamped on a smooth panel on the underside of the shank and reads GIGI [over] Collection [over] Italia. Toward the shank end it is stamped with the shape number 428 [over] Nature [over] Made in Italy. There was a lot of grime and dust ground into the deep rusticated finish. The bowl was heavily caked and there was a lava coat flowing onto the plateau rim top and the inner edge of the rim. The inside and outside edges looked to be in good condition but we would know more once Jeff had cleaned it. The stem was oxidized on the topside. It was lightly calcified and had tooth chatter and marks on the top and underside near the button. The button surface itself was also damaged with tooth marks. The stem was stamped GIGI in faint stamping. The pipe showed a lot of promise and had an interesting tree bark finish under the dirty grime. Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. He took photos of the rim top, bowl and stem to give a clear picture of the condition of the pipe. The thickness of the cake and tobacco debris as well as the lava on the plateau rim top and inner edge is visible. The photos of the stem show the oxidation, calcification and the chatter and tooth marks on the top and underside. Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to give a picture of the rustication patterns around the bowl. The stamping on the underside of the shank clear and readable and read as noted above. I turned to Pipephil’s site to see what I could learn about the GIGI brand and the carver who had made the pipe (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-g3.html). I have included a screen capture of the pertinent section from the site. The information I found was as follows:
Artisan: Luigi “Gigi” Crugnola made at Gigi Pipe Via Rovera, 40 21026 Gavirate Oltrona al Lago (VA).
Now I knew that the pipe was made by Luigi “GIGI” Crugnola. That was the extent of the information on that site.I turned to Pipedia to see if I could gain a bit more information on the brand as it generally has a great digest of the history of the brand and maker (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Gigi). I quote the article in full below:
Luigi “Gigi” Crugnola was born in 1934, the same year Giorgio Rovera founded a company in his own name in Varese, Italy along with partners Angelo and Adele Bianchi, who also happened to be Luigi Crugnola’s Uncle and Mother, respectively. The company produced pipes for 30 years, largely exported to America and elsewhere in the world. Crugnola took over the company in 1964 with the death of Angelo Bianchi, changing the name soon after to his own nickname Gigi, and continues to run the company today. The vast majority of Gigi pipes continue to be made for export.
What I learned is that the pipe was made post 1964 and was in all likelihood made for export. We purchased them from the US so indeed they were exported. Now it was time to work on the pipe.
Jeff had cleaned up the pipe with his usual penchant for thoroughness. He reamed the pipe with a PipNet pipe reamer and removed the rest of it with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a tooth brush. He rinsed it under running warm water to remove the soap and grime. He cleaned out the inside of the shank and the airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer and rinsed it off with warm water. I took photos of the pipe once I received it. The plateau rim top cleaned up really well. The rim top and outer edge of the bowl appear to be in good condition. The stem surface was clean and the tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button were very visible. The stamping on the smooth panel on the underside of the shank is clear and readable and reads as noted above. I removed the stem and took a photo of the pipe to give a sense of the whole. It would clean up and be a nice looking pipe.I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips and a horse hair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I “painted” the stem surface with the flame of a lighter to try to lift the dents. I worked fairly well with the lighter marks but left behind several on each stem surface. I filled them in with clear super glue and set it aside to cure. Once they cured I smoothed them out and recut the button edge with a needle file. I sanded out the tooth marks with 220 grit sandpaper on the stem top and underside near the button. I started polishing it with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I polished the vulcanite stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem. This GIGI Collection Italia Nature 428 Bent Billiard is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored. The rich, brown and black stained finish around the bowl and the plateau rim top is quite beautiful and works well with the polished vulcanite saddle stem. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished GIGI Nature Bent Billiard sits nicely in the hand and feels great. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 ¼ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. I will be putting it on the rebornpipes store shortly. If you are interested in adding this pipe to your collection send me a message or an email. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!