The Italian Swan

Blog by Kenneth Lieblich

I have seen a great many pipes now, but this Brebbia is among the most filthy that I have ever worked on. This pipe came from Sudbury, Ontario – in the same lot of dirty pipes as the one that Steve and I dubbed ‘The Sudbury’. You may recall that I wrote about that pipe last time and you can read about it here. It was obvious from the start that this was a great pipe that just needed some attention and TLC – an ugly duckling, if you will. And just like the Hans Christian Andersen story, this pipe clearly spent a long time in misery and disdain before its true beauty was revealed. This pipe is a Golden Brebbia Natural 8006. It is a slightly bent billiard with an oval shank and stem. The Brebbia pipe company is named after the locality of Bosco Grosso di Brebbia in Lombardy, Italy. The company was founded by Enea Buzzi and Achille Savinelli in 1947, but they parted ways in 1953. Mr Savinelli went on to form his eponymous company, while Mr Buzzi kept the factory and created Maniffatura Pipe Brebbia. His family still run it today.

The stem of this pipe was badly oxidized and thoroughly chewed. In fact, the button had been chewed to the point that there was hardly any left – it would have to be rebuilt. The stummel was covered in grime. Perhaps hand oils or other stuff mixed with dirt over the years to leave the muck you can see in the photos. Furthermore, there were scratches in the wood, gouges in the rim, and an ugly putty fill that needed to be addressed. Well, the usual cleaning procedures were in order for this pipe. I used both the PipNet Reamer and the KleenReem to take it down to bare briar, as I wanted to ensure there were no hidden flaws in the walls of the bowl. Fortunately, there were none. I then proceeded to clean out the insides of the shank with Q-tips, pipe cleaners, and isopropyl alcohol. There was a lot of nastiness inside this stummel and – boy-oh-boy – it took a lot of cotton to get this thing clean! I then moved on to cleaning the outside of the stummel with Murphy’s Oil Soap and some cotton pads. What a difference that made! A light application of Before & After Restoration Balm brought out the best in the stummel’s grain. There is some beautiful wood under the grime! A de-ghosting session seemed in order to rid this pipe of the foul smells of the past. This de-ghosting consisted of thrusting cotton balls in the bowl and the shank, and saturating them with 99% isopropyl alcohol. I let the stummel sit for 24 hours. This caused the oils, tars and smells to leech out into the cotton. Finally, a relatively clean and fresh-smelling bowl emerged.

While the de-ghosting was going on, I moved on to the stem. I took a BIC lighter and ‘painted’ the stem with its flame in order to remove the tooth marks. This was moderately successful in raising the dents. Then, I cleaned out the insides of the stem with pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol. Once this process was done, the stem went for an overnight soak in the Before & After Hard Rubber Deoxidizer. The following day, I cleaned all of the de-oxidizing sludge off with alcohol, pipe cleaners, et cetera. The oxidation had migrated to the surface and would be fairly straightforward to remove. Before I moved on to the Micromesh pads, I built up the squashed button on the stem with cyanoacrylate adhesive and let it fully cure. I used my miniature files to do a proper cutting of the new button –this ensures that it keeps its shape and looks like it should. I then sanded it down with 220-, 400-, and 600-grit sandpapers to meld seamlessly into the stem. I did the same to the remaining tooth marks. I then used all nine Micromesh pads (1,500 through 12,000 grit) to bring out the lovely black lustre on the stem. I also used Obsidian Pipe Stem Oil in between each pad scrubbing. Back to the stummel – the banged up rim needed some serious attention. In order to minimize the impact of the damaged, I “topped” the pipe – that is to say, I gently and evenly sanded down the rim on a piece of 220-grit sandpaper. This successfully eliminated the damage, without altering the look of the pipe. Then I took a solid wooden sphere, wrapped sandpaper around it, and sanded thoroughly. This was to achieve on the inner part of the rim the same thing that I achieved by “topping” on sandpaper. Furthermore, there was an ugly blotch of pink putty in a fill on the shank. What made this more complicated was that part of the fill went into the markings. Naturally, I intended to remove the pink putty, but if I removed it all, I would also remove part of the word “natural” on the shank. I had to decide which was worse (or better): a bit of putty with the marking intact or no putty with a wrecked marking. I opted for the former. I left a bit of putty, added some colour from my furniture markers, and filled in the remaining hole with cyanoacrylate adhesive. Neither option was perfect, but I think I made the right choice. After this, I used all nine Micromesh pads (1,500 through 12,000 grit) to remove the frustrating scratches in the wood and make everything smooth. All of the work I had done to this point had taken its toll on the colour of the wood. In order to bring back some life to this pipe, I opted for aniline dye. I applied some of Fiebing’s Medium Brown Leather Dye and then applied flame in order to set the colour. Worked like a charm! Since it is an alcohol-based dye, I was able to adjust the colour to my liking by applying my own isopropyl alcohol to the colour. I applied more Before & After Restoration Balm, then took it to the buffer. A dose of White Diamond and a few coats of carnauba wax were just what this pipe needed. This Brebbia was in need of a reminder of its Italian beauty. The pipe began its journey looking though it had been dropped down the mines. Now, it can show its true self – a real beauty from Italy. Not an Ugly Duckling, but an Italian Swan. In fact, it turned out so well that this pipe has already sold! I know that the new owner will enjoy smoking it for many years to come. Thank you very much for reading and, as always, I welcome and encourage your comments.

2 thoughts on “The Italian Swan

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