Tag Archives: Savinelli Autograph Pipes

Restoring a Second Savinelli Autograph 3 Bent Billiard

Blog by Steve Laug

It is the last day of my Christmas/New Year holidays. Tomorrow I go back to work so I am taking some time today to work on more pipes. My wife and kids are convinced it is an illness but at least it keeps me out of their way! I am taking another break from the Bob Kerr estates since I have already finished 14 of them. They are piled in boxes around my basement shop and need to look at something different from the Dunhills of his estate. Though this picture is not from today the posture today remains the same, I am still working under the watchful eye of my buddy and Shop Foreman, Spencer. He has seriously enjoyed having me at home with him the past two weeks. His life is pretty much laying on a blanket by my feet while I am fiddling with pipes. At 14+ years old my fiddling does not faze him much him, he just wants to make sure I stay put with him in the basement. He snoozes, comes over to me now and then to smack my leg and beg for a treat and then retreats to nap again. He really is company in the shop and keeps me mindful to get up and move around now and then.As you might have figured out from the title I am working on another pipe from Italy. This is the second Savinelli Autograph 3 (the second pipe down in the photo below). It reads Savinelli over Autograph on the left side of the shank. On the right side of the shank it is stamped Italy. The underside shank is sandblasted while the rest of the pipe is smooth. The vulcante stem is stamped with the autograph. The pipe came to me in a lot of five pipes that I bought from a pipeman in Florida. The other pipes in the lot were the two Mastro de Paja that I have worked on already, these two Savinelli Autographs and a Bacchus Carved and Cased Meerschaum. I decided to work on the second Autograph next as it was different from the last run of straight billiards that I have been working on these past weeks. I had the fellow in Florida send the pipes to my brother Jeff in Idaho for the cleanup work. He does a great job and expedites my restoration process a lot. He took the following photos of the pipe before he worked his magic on them. Like his other pipes this second Savinelli Autograph 3 pipe must also have been a terrific smoker because the bowl was pretty clogged up with cake and lava flowing over the rim top. It really was a mess and the cake was hard from sitting. The Florida pipeman had laid aside his pipe some 15-20 years earlier and it had been in storage. It was going to take some work to clean out that bowl and be able to see what the rim looked like underneath the layer of lava. The rest of the bowl looked dirty but the amazing grain shone through. Jeff included photos of the side and bottom of the bowl to give a good idea of what it looked like. The last photo shows the sandblast finish on the bottom of the bowl and shank. Jeff also included some photos of the stamping on the shank sides. The stamping on the left side of the shank was quite clear though the 3 stamp was fainter. The stamping on the right side – Italy was readable but quite faint.The vulcanite stem was in excellent condition. It was made for the Savinelli Balsa filter system or for their 9mm filter. It was dirty and had light tooth chatter but no deep tooth marks in the stem surface. The button also looks pretty good but I would know more once it arrived in Vancouver.The Autograph stamp on the left side of the taper stem was in pretty decent condition.Jeff cleaned the pipe with his usual thoroughness – reaming the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaning up the remnants with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the internals of the bowl, shank and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior with Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean off the dust and grime on the finish. The rim top looked very good under the thick lava coat. There were just a few nicks and scratches to deal with. The inside of the bowl itself looked great. The stem was in great shape other than a bit of tooth chatter. I took photos of the pipe when it arrived here. I was a bit surprised when I took of the stem and had a closer look at it. Turns out that this stem is also a filter stem and made for a 9mm filter or for a Savinelli Balsa Filter system. I found photos of the system online and have included them here. If you choose not to use a filter there is an adapter that can be purchased to fill in the tenon in place of the filter. I took some close up photos of the rim top, bowl and stem to show what they looked like after Jeff’s cleanup. It is a startling difference. The rim top will take some work to take care of the damage. There is some rim darkening along the beveled inner edge and on the top of the bowl. There were also nicks and scratches on the smooth surface of the rim top. The stem was oxidized and there were tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button.I have included the information I included on the previous Autograph blog so that you can do a quick review on this line of Savinelli pipes.

I turned first to the Pipephil website (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-savinelli1.html) to get a brief overview of the Autograph line. There I found out that the Autographs were hand made and unique. The Autograph Grading system is ascending: 3, 4, … 8, 0, 00, 000.

I turned then to Pipedia to get a more background on the Autograph line. I had the outline I needed from pipephil for the pipe but wanted more (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Savinelli). I quote in part from the article on that site.

While Savinelli’s serially produced pipes account for around 98% of annual production, the marque also creates a number of artisanal, handmade pieces as well. The Autographs, the Creativity line, and the Mr. A. line are all the result of Savinelli’s unique handmade process, with the Autographs reflecting the larger Freehand aesthetic, the Creativity line delving into more complex hand carving, and the Mr. A. line sidestepping the standard shape chart for remarkable and unusual pipes.

All of the briar for Savinelli’s Autographs and other freehand pipes is sourced specifically for those pieces. While the majority of the marque’s serial production is made from extra grade ebauchon blocks, Savinelli keeps a separate supply of Extra Extra plateau blocks for Freehands. This variety of briar is much larger, and of a higher quality, which explains why so many Autographs and Savinelli handmades are naturally larger designs.

These handmade pieces are shaped much like traditional Danish Freehands: they are shaped first and drilled second. Using this method, Savinelli’s team of artisans is able to showcase their own creativity, as it maximizes flexibility and facilitates a more grain-centric approach to shaping. The resulting Freehand designs are at once both a departure from the marque’s classical standard shapes, yet very much still “Savinelli” in their nature—i.e. proportioned so that the bowl is the visual focus when viewed from the profile, juxtaposed by the comparatively trim lines of the shank and stem. To provide a little more insight into the differences between Savinelli’s standard production and freehand lines, Luisa Bozzetti comments:

“When we choose to make Freehand pipes we must stop production on the standard shapes. The process for Freehands is much more involved and takes much more time. Finding the best people from the production line and pulling them to make Freehands is challenging since it’s not an assembly line, but rather a one or two man operation.

 After the rough shaping of the stummel, we must get together and brainstorm which style of stem will be paired before the pipe can be finished since we do not use pre-shaped stems. All accents and stems for the Freehands are cut from rod here in the factory. A lot of care goes into the few pieces lucky enough to make the cut; to end up with a certain number of Autographs, for instance, means that many, many more will be made, and only the few will be selected.”

The quality control process for Savinelli handmades is even more rigorous than that employed in the standard lineup. Many blocks are started and later discarded because of pits or defects. While Savinelli’s briar sourcing is a constant process, working with some of Italy’s top cutters to ensure only the finest and most suitable blocks make their way to the factory, it’s impossible to source plateau briar that’s completely free from flaws. That’s just nature. Savinelli creates the standard for quality by working through the rough (a very high-quality rough, mind you) to find that shining diamond with the potential to become a Savinelli handmade.

It looks like the Autograph 3 I am working is pretty high in the hierarchy of the line. This Autograph is more typical of the ones that I have worked on in the past though it does not have the unique twist to the vulcanite stem. The pipe is a nice straight grain all around the bowl sides with birdseye on the top of the rim. The bottom of the shank is sandblasted and looks very good in that location.

Armed with that information on the brand it was time to work on the pipe. I decided to begin by addressing the damage to the rim top and inner edge. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the darkening and the damage to the rim surface. The rim really needed to have the damaged areas smoothed out and blended into the rest of the briar. I polished the freshly sanded rim top and the rest of the briar with micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratches and to try to lighten the finish a bit – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the briar down after each pad to remove the sanding dust and get a sense of the how the finish was developing. The photos show the progress. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the briar on the bowl and the rim top. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the wood. I kept it clear of building up in the twin groove around the bowl below the bowl cap. Once the bowl was covered with the balm I let it sit for about 20 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth and then polished it with a microfiber cloth. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process to show what the bowl looked like at this point. I used an Oak stain pen to blend the colour of the rim top to match the rest of the bowl. I rubbed it down with some of the Restoration Balm to even out the finish.I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I sanded out the tooth marks and worked on removing the oxidation on the stem with 220 grit sandpaper. I carefully avoided sanding the autograph stamp on the left side of the stem.I polished the stem with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish to take out the oxidation at the button edge and on the end of the mouthpiece. I also worked hard to scrub it from the surface of the stem at the tenon end and around the stamping on the left side of the shank.I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I was able to remove it. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads to polish it further. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I finished polishing the stem with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine polishes. I wiped the stem down with a damp cotton pad afterwards and buffed it with a soft microfiber cloth. I touched up the stamping on the stem side using a white out pen. I let it dry and buffed it off with a micromesh sanding pad. The photos tell the story. The stamping is still visible with some places that are quite weak. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and the Lucite. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The contrast of the beautiful dark and medium browns of the briar with the polished black vulcanite Savinelli Balsa Filter system stem is quite stunning. The mix of straight grain and flame grain around the bowl and shank combined with the birdseye on the rim is quite remarkable. This is another beautiful pipe that is for sure. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 2 1/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. I have restored quite a few Autographs over the years and this estate is another rare beauty. I will be putting it on the rebornpipes store shortly. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me. It was a great break away from the estates that await me. Cheers.  


Farida’s Dad’s Pipes #3 – Restoring a Savinelli Autograph 4

Blog by Steve Laug

The next collection of pipes that I am working on comes from the estate of an elderly gentleman here in Vancouver. I met with his daughter Farida last summer and we looked at his pipes and talked about them then. Over the Christmas holiday she brought them by for me to work on, restore and then sell for her. There are 10 pipes in all – 7 Dunhills (one of them, a Shell Bulldog, has a burned out bowl), 2 Charatans, and a Savinelli Autograph. His pipes are worn and dirty and for some folks they have a lot of damage and wear that reduce their value. To me each one tells a story. I only wish they could speak and talk about the travels they have had with Farida’s Dad.

When I wrote the blog on the Classic Series Dunhill and thinking about its travels, Farida sent me an email with a short write up on her Dad. She remembered that I had asked her for it so that I could have a sense of the stories of her Dad’s pipes. Here is what she wrote: My dad, John Barber, loved his pipes. He was a huge fan of Dunhill and his favourite smoke was St. Bruno. No one ever complained of the smell of St. Bruno, we all loved it. I see the bowls and they’re large because he had big hands. When he was finished with his couple of puffs, he would grasp the bowl in the palm of his hand, holding the warmth as the embers faded. The rough bowled pipes were for daytime and especially if he was fixing something. The smooth bowled pipes were for an evening with a glass of brandy and a good movie. In his 20s, he was an adventurer travelling the world on ships as their radio operator. He spent a year in the Antarctic, a year in the Arctic and stopped in most ports in all the other continents. He immigrated to Canada in the mid-fifties, working on the BC Ferries earning money to pay for his education. He graduated from UBC as an engineer and spent the rest of his working life as a consultant, mostly to the mining companies. Whatever he was doing though, his pipe was always close by. 

She sent along this photo of him with his sled dogs in the Antarctic sometime in 1953-1954. It is a fascinating photo showing him with a pipe in his mouth. He is happily rough housing with his dogs. As a true pipeman the cold does not seem to bother him at all.Thank you Farida for sending the photo and the background story on your Dad for me to use on the blog. I find that it really explains a lot about their condition and gives me a sense of who Dad was. If your Dad was rarely without a pipe I can certainly tell which pipes were his favourites. As I looked over the pipes I noted that each of them had extensive rim damage and some had deeply burned gouges in the rim tops. The bowls seemed to have been reamed not too long ago because they did not show the amount of cake I would have expected. The stems were all covered with deep tooth marks and chatter and were oxidized and dirty. The internals of the mortise, the airway in the shank and stem were filled with tars and oils. These were nice looking pipes when her Dad bought them and they would be nice looking one more when I finished.

I finished two of the pipes and have written a blog on each of them. The first one was the Dunhill Shell with the oval shank pot (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/02/04/restoring-a-1983-dunhill-shell-41009-oval-shank-pot/) and the second was the Dunhill Classic Series Shell Billiard (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/02/08/faridas-dads-pipes-2-restoring-a-1990-lbs-classic-series-dunhill-shell-billiard/).

I wanted a break from the Dunhills for a bit today so I chose to work on the Savinelli Autograph as the third pipe in the estate. It is a beautiful pipe with interesting grain shows through the sandblast. The blast itself is very nice but underneath the grime you can see the next layer of grain showing through. It is a large pipe and stamped Savinelli Autograph on a smooth band on the underside. Next to that it reads Italy and a number 4. The grooves and valleys in the sandblast were filled in with grime and debris and even flecks of white paint. The bowl was thickly caked and the cake had flowed over onto the right and backside of the rim top forming a hard lava in the grooves on the rim. The inner and outer edges of the rim look to be undamaged. I am so happy that there was no heavy burning or charring on the rim top from repeated lighting. I am thinking that this was one of his newer pipes. I think also that the weight of the pipe kept him from clenching it and damaging both the stem and the rim. The stem had the characteristic twists and grooves in the vulcanite that is on the original Autograph. It has the squiggle signature or autograph of Achille Savinelli Senior on the top of the stem. It is quite heavily oxidized and has some calcification at the end. There is tooth chatter and marks on both sides of the stem near the button and on the top and underside of the button. I took photos of the pipe to show what it looked like before I started the cleanup work. I took close up photos of the rim top and the stem. You can see from the photo the thick cake in the bowl overflowing lava onto the rim top. It is hard to know what lies underneath both the lava and the cake until it is removed. The stem has tooth chatter and some deep bite marks on the top edge of the button and a deep tooth mark on the underside of the stem just ahead of the button. There is a lot of calcification and wear on the rest of the stem as well. The Autograph logo is faint and worn but it is present.I reread the blog I did on a previous Savinelli Autograph 4 to refresh my memory about the line and the stamping on the pipe. Here is the link to that blog: https://rebornpipes.com/tag/savinelli-autograph-4-pipes/. I have included some of the pertinent information on the brand to this blog for ease of reference.

The Pipes and Cigars website http://www.pipesandcigars.com/pipes/73592/savinelli-autograph-pipes/ says that: “Savinelli Autographs are as individual as your fingerprints. Each is the dream of an expert pipe maker realized in briar and personally selected by Giancarlo Savinelli. Every Autograph is 100% ‘Hand made’ using only the highest grade of Sardinian and Corsican Briar Plateau blocks. Well grained briar, worthy of becoming an Autograph is rare and therefore, these beautiful masterpieces are very limited and coveted by pipe smokers worldwide. Truly an achievement to be treasured, Autographs are available in smooth, paneled, sandblasted brown or black.”

On the Savinelli website it says that Autographs are (http://www.savinelli.it/en/autograph-lisciaAuto1)“This rare, unique and irreplaceable pipe is shaped from the raw material following the grain and the “fiammatura” (“flame”), which Mother Nature has put at our disposal, according to the artistic mood of our master craftsmen. The wood is natural and the shape is unique for each piece. The name “Autograph” was created from the handwritten signature of Achille Savinelli Senior printed on the mouthpiece. These pipes are graded according to very strict parameters: the 0 (zero) category goes from 000, an outstanding masterpiece, to 00 and then 0. The grading then goes down to 8, 6, 5, 4 and 3.”

Like the previous Autograph I restored this one is also stamped with a 4 making it a 4 Grade pipe. It has a sandblasted brown finish with no smooth panels. The grain is pretty stunning and the blast is nicely done. I took the stem off the pipe and put it in a bath of Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer to soak while I worked on the bowl. I generally let them soak in the bath overnight as I tend to work on the pipes in the evening after work.I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and I had to use three of the four cutting heads to clean out the cake. The bowl is somewhat conical in shape so I started with the largest of the three and worked my way down to the base of the bowl with the smallest. I took back the cake to bare briar. I cleaned it up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife (seems fitting to use this on the pipe). I took a photo of the cleaned bowl. I scrubbed the surface of the sandblast with a tooth brush to clean out all of the dust. I worked on the top of the rim with a brass bristle wire brush and a brass bristle polishing brush to remove the lava on the rim. I used the brass bristle brush to remove the flecks of white paint on the surface of the bowl as well. I rinsed it under warm running water to remove the dirt, grime and soap. I dried off the bowl with a soft rag. Once the Murphy’s Oil Soap has done its thing and the briar has dried it is dull and lifeless looking. It is clean but it is not attractive. Some folks stain the briar at this point to bring life back and add some colour. I have been using Before & After Restoration Balm to do that work and I like the end result. I rub the balm into the briar with the tips of my fingers making sure that I work it into all of the valleys and crevices. I use a horsehair shoe brush to work over the surface once I have it covered by hand. The bristles of the brush go deep into the grooves where even the finger tips cannot reach. When it has dried for a little while, I polish it with the shoe brush and then with a coarse towel. I took photos of the bowl after this work. I am so used to Jeff cleaning the pipe that I realized at this point that I had not worked on the internals of the pipe. I looked down the shank and it was filthy as was to be expected. Arghhh. Got to get back in the habit/routine if I am going to clean and restore them. I scraped the hardened tars on the walls of the mortise with a pen knife. I cleaned the mortise and the airway in the shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until it was clean. I let the stem soak in the Before & After Stem Deoxidizer over night and in the morning took it out and wiped it down. It looked like the photos below so I put it in for 4 more hours and it still came out looking like the photos below. This one will be a bit of work to clean up.I wiped the stem down with some of the pipe polish and it was better but still quite oxidized in the grooves. The underside looked quite good. I cleaned out the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol and it eventually came out clean.I painted the surface of the stem with the flame of a Bic lighter to lift the tooth dents in the underside of the stem. It took a few swaths of the lighter and the dents lifted. There was only one small pin prick left next to the button that would need to be repaired.I sanded the surface of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation, carefully avoiding the signature mark on the top of the stem. I rolled a piece of sandpaper and worked the grooves in the stem until the oxidation was removed.I polished the stem, carefully protecting the Autograph on the topside from further damage. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Polish, using both the Fine and Extra Fine polishes to further protect and polish out the scratches. When I finished with those I gave it a final rub down with the oil and set it aside to dry. With the stem polished I put it back on the pipe and lightly buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond. I buffed the stem with a more aggressive buff of Blue Diamond. I gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem several coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. This is the third of Farida’s Dad’s pipes that I am restoring from his collection. I am looking forward to hearing what Farida thinks once she sees the finished pipe on the blog. I will be posting it on the rebornpipes store very soon. It should make a nice addition to your pipe rack if you love the large signature Savinelli Autograph line. When you add it to your collection you carry on the trust from her father. The dimensions are Length: 6 ½ inches, Height: 2 1/2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 inches. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this estate Autograph. More of his pipes will follow including some Charatans and more Dunhills.