Blog Steve Laug
A friend of mine sent me a link to this pipe on EBay US and thought I might be interested. He said he thought it was made by a fellow who carved for Castello but was not certain. The pipe was in decent condition and the seller said it had been thoroughly cleaned and restored. It had some amazing grain around the bowl and shank with some rugged plateau on the rim top. There were remnants of a black stain in the grooves around the plateau and some darkening and lava still in the grooves on the back side of the rim top. I sent the photos to Jeff and he put a bid on the pipe and we made the winning bid. The pipe was sent to Jeff who forwarded it to me. I am including the photos that were included by the Ebay seller below. I found a picture online of the stamping that is on the pipe I am working on. On the left it is stamped with Tower logo followed by La Torre [over] Personal (both in script). On the right side it is stamped with an N1.
That gave me what I needed to do some searching on the brand. But before I do that here are some more photos of the pipe from the seller. They really show its beauty and from them you can see why we were interested in this pipe. The next two photos show the front and the right and left sides of the pipe. The grain is quite stunning. He also included some close up photos of the bowl sides and rim top that really capture the condition of the pipe. The briar is very nice. The plateau on this one is beautiful but has some lava on the back edge and inner edge of the bowl. There is some remnants of black stain in some of the grooves around the bowl top that I can replicate in the cleanup. He also included a photo of the bowl with the stem removed that shows the well made and shaped tenon and stem. The fit on the shank is perfect.I wanted to verify my friend’s thoughts about the connectin to Castello so I did some searching online to see what I could find out about the brand. I turned first to Pipephil’s site as he generally has a good brief summary regarding most brands (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-l1.html). I found a short listing and did a screen capture of the section. I have included it below. In the side bar it included this information:
Artisan: Ernesto Ossola, pipemaker between 1970 and 1990
I also turned to Pipedia to see if there was more information. There was a bit more but still no link to Castello (https://pipedia.org/wiki/La_Torre). There was also a link to an article by an Italian Bloger Gusto Tobacco that was very helpful. I quote both below:
La Torre pipes were made by Ernesto Ossola, a pipemaker about the 1970’s.
Stamping: Tower logo + “La Torre” + “Personal” (both in script) + (usually) “N1”. Or “La Torre” + “DIAMANTE”
Mr. ERNESTO OSSOLA WAS A CRAFTSMAN THAT MADE PIPES WITH HIS “LA TORRE” LOGO UNTIL HIS DEATH IN 2010.
Italian pipe blogger, Gusto Tobacco, did some fairly detailed original research into Ernesto Ossola and La Torre pipes, which is available here: Ernesto Ossola’s tower: a story to remember. This is the Google translation, which leaves a bit to be desired, but it’s readable. Contributors, it would be great to expand our article here on Pipedia based on this research. Please feel free to dive in and do that if you are interested.
…On Pipedia, but also on the Fumare la Pipa forum, it is claimed that Ossola would have been a worker from Castello, set up on his own in 1978, but nothing else was reported, if not the year of his death, 2010: unfortunately, these data would soon prove completely wrong… (NOW I KNEW THE CASTELLO INFORMATION WAS INCORRECT)
The first step in my research was to consult the Castello di Cantù company: Franco Coppo has categorically denied having had a working relationship with Ossola. So I contacted the very kind Luigi Radice, who told me he had never heard of him: my little investigation was getting unexpectedly complex. So I started to annoy friends and acquaintances of the sector all over Italy: Damiano and Dorelio Rovera have no memory of it; Bollito, Fincato and Musicò, while remembering the brand, have no idea who the owner was; the very courteous Amorelli either, as well as Mauro Cosmo and Ascorti. Indeed, I have lost count of all the unfortunates I have bothered to find out something: I even wrote to the linguist Carlo Ossola who, with unusual kindness, told me that the name Ernesto is not part of his family branch. On the tower depicted in the trademark , assuming it is a realistic representation, to identify at least one geographical area on which to focus the investigations? Many hypotheses, but no certainty. In the end, it was my friend Gerti (former admin of Fumare la Pipa) who helped me: according to him, Ernesto Ossola was certainly Lombard, a conviction also supported by the map of the spread of the surname in Italy. At least I was able to narrow the field, but since Lombardy is big I had to get better…
So I thought of consulting the Paronellis, in the hope that they could be of help and, in fact, they put me on the right path: Ariberto explained to me that in Groppello di Gavirate he remembered someone, with the surname Ossola, who for a certain period of time had produced their own brand pipes. At his suggestion, therefore, I tried to write and call other historical artisans in the area: in the end, Stefano Santambrogio finally managed to tear the veil of oblivion that had fallen on the pipemaker career of the mysterious Ernesto Ossola .
I hope to contribute with this paper to finally shed light on the short history of this brand and to do justice to the work of a craftsman who, albeit for a short time, has contributed to enrich the world of the pipe that I love so much.
Santambrogio told me that he knew Ossola well, but he is absolutely certain that her first name was not Ernesto at all, but Oreste! This curious circumstance is confirmed by a notarial document in the possession of the Gavirate craftsman and dating back to 1995. Most likely, Ossola began to be called Ernesto later, perhaps by way of a nickname: the fact is that his adoptive parents lived right in front of Santambrogio’s workshop, who therefore knew them quite well. From the same document it is clear that Oreste was born on 5 February 1943 in Varese: grew up in the pipe district, like many of his peers he had begun to work the briar on behalf of third parties, in particular collaborating with Gardesana Pipe (a circumstance, this, confirmed by Fiorenzo Rovera). Oreste is described as a good person, but very original and of a very restless nature: precisely this restlessness of his drove him to frequent wanderings.
At the end of the 1960s, Ossola moved to Livorno with his French-born wife and two children, Pierrick and Letizia, and Santambrogio lost track of him: we know, however, that in the Tuscan city he first worked as a subcontractor (probably for Barontini) and then he set up on his own, creating the brand La Torre di Ernesto Ossola . Friends who tried to identify it together with me say that the tower reproduced in the logo, in all probability, is the 16th century Torre del Marzocco from Livorno. here, gradually, all the pieces of the puzzle were finding their right place. While attempting the way of the artisanal pipe, Oreste (now evidently known as Ernesto) presumably began to cultivate another passion, thanks to which he would have acquired greater notoriety among the professionals: the research and trade of minerals. In 1969, in Livorno, his third son, Gianclaudio, was born, destined to follow in his father’s footsteps in the world of mineralogy. After trying with little luck to make his way as a pipemaker, at the end of the seventies Ernesto decided to throw in the towel and devote himself only to minerals: he abandoned the briar and moved permanently to France, perhaps consenting to a wish of his wife. He returned for a short period to Gavirate only at the end of the nineties, when he put up for sale some properties of the adoptive parents, who had recently passed away. In love with North Africa, he went there quite often in search of minerals and, due to a mocking fate, precisely in Morocco, in 2007, he met his death in a completely accidental way.(appears to be due to fumes from a faulty heater). His legacy was collected by his son Gianclaudio, who unfortunately also tragically died last year, at the age of 45, due to an accident. Thus ends this story made of passions, travels and pipes.
I conclude my writing while I am about to re-light my La Torre , which died out of distraction, and I realize that the smoke has become strangely bittersweet: a taste that is certainly not due to tobacco, nor to the pipe.
Now I had the background I was lacking on the brand and a clear picture of the pipe maker Ernesto Ossola. Timing could not have been better as the pipe arrived in the mail that afternoon. It is a real beauty with some stunning grain. The internals and the stem are very clean but the rim top has some lava and darkening in the plateau and some of the black stain in the grooves has washed out. The bowl had been coated with a thin varnish coat that in my opinion needed to go so I could enjoy the briar itself. I took photos of the pipe to give a sense of the whole before I started my work on it. I took a photo of the rim top to show the lava on the plateau on the back side and the general darkening around the edges. This will take some work to remove the darkening and the lava. I took a photo of the stamping on both sides of the shank. It is clear and readable as noted above.I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of pipe to give a sense of the proportion of the pipe and its parts. It is a beauty. You can also see the heavy varnish coat on the briar.I worked over the plateau briar with a brass bristle wire brush to remove the lava in the grooves of the finish. I then washed down the rim top and the rest of the briar with acetone and cotton pads to further remove the grime in the plateau as well as remove the varnish on the bowl and shank. Once I had removed the varnish I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad to remove the grit. The bowl began to take on a rich shine. It is going to be a beauty. I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar with my finger tips and into the plateau rim top with a horse hair shoe brush. I let it sit for 10 minutes and the Balm did its magic. It enlivens, cleans and preserves the briar. It certainly brought this bowl back to life. I buffed it off with a clean cloth and took the following photos. I polished the 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 Italian Made La Torre Personal N-1 Freehand by Ernesto Ossola is a better looking pipe now that it has been restored. The beautiful grain that shines through the cleaned and polished finish is stunning. As the pipe is smoked the patina should develop and look even better. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl 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 Ossola Made La Torre Personal fits nicely in the hand and feels great. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 ¼ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 57 grams/ 2.01 ounces. It is a beauty and still one I am deciding on what to do with – keep it or sell it! Keep an eye on the store. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it.