Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe on the table is one that was sent to me for a restoration. I am not taking on too many more pipes from outside Canada but the shape and finish of this one caught my eye. It is a Savinelli Autograph 4 with an unusual shape and a great sandblast finish. It is dirty but still very eye catching. It is stamped on the underside of the shank and reads Savinelli [over] Autograph [over] 4. The shank is round but has a flat bottom that allows the pipe to be a sitter. The bowl had been partially reamed and the top half had scraped away some briar on the inner edge of the bowl. The bottom half was very full of a thick cake that had not been touched with the reamer. The pipe smelled of old tobacco but did not seem to be a heavy aromatic. The shank was dirty with oils and tars. The acrylic stem is almost certain a replacement. It does not have the characteristic autograph/signature on the side of the saddle though it is very well made and the fit to the shank is perfect. There were light tooth marks and chatter in the surface on both sides. The button surface was clean but the slot had been filled in with debris leaving a very small airway. I am including the photos of the pipe that were sent by the person who is the steward of the pipe below. I think that you can see what attracted me to this one. The email also included photos of the rim top to show its condition. There was some damage to the finish on the rim top and some damage to the inner edge of the rim. The acrylic stem photos show the scratches, chatter and tooth marks. Overall the pipe looked impressive even in its unrestored state. I wanted to remind myself a bit about the Autograph line from Savinelli so I reread a blog I had written on a previous Autograph restoration (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/01/05/restoring-a-savinelli-autograph-3-rhodesian-dublin-long-shank/). I quote that portion of the blog now:
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 4 I am working is pretty high in the hierarchy of the line. Like other autographs I have worked on in the past this one has a unique twist to the stem.
I started my work on the pipe by reaming it with a PipNet pipe reamer and got rid of the cake. I cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe knife. I then sanded the walls smooth and wiped it down with a cotton pad so that I could see the walls of the bowl and assess for damage. I scraped the mortise walls with a pen knife and was able to remove a lot of tarry/oily buildup. Once I had scraped it clean, I scrubbed the internals of the shank, mortise and the airway in the shank and stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners and alcohol. It smelled considerably cleaner at this point in the process. I scrubbed the exterior with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to get into the grooves and valleys of the sandblast. I worked on the rim top and edges of the bowl to remove some of the tars and darkening there. I rinsed the pipe under warm water. He dried it off with a cloth and then let it air dry. I decided to address the damage to the inner edge of the rim. I used a wooden ball and a piece of 220 grit sand paper to give the inner edge a slight bevel to take care of the damage and burn marks. I cleaned it up lightly with a folded piece of 220 grit to smooth out the notches from the reaming work done before it arrived here. I was able to minimize the damaged area. Before I called it a night I stuffed the bowl with some cotton bolls, plugged the shank end and filled it with 99% isopropyl alcohol to leach out the oils and tars in the bowl and shank that gave it a bit of a funky smell. I set it aside for the night to do its magic. When I came back to the work table in the morning the cotton had darkened all the way down the bowl and the plug. The pipe smelled considerably better.I ran some pipe cleaners through the shank and dried the bowl edges. I used a black stain pen to stain the inner edge of the bowl to blend it into the bowl and give definition to the rim top. I like the way this looks on a cleaned pipe.I polished the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth. The grain really began to pop and stand out on the polished briar. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the briar with my finger tips and a horsehair shoe brush. The product is a great addition to the restoration work. It enlivens, enriches and protects the briar while giving it a deep glow. It is a product I use on every pipe I work on. I set the bowl aside and turned to address the stem issues. I sanded out the tooth marks and chatter on the acrylic stem with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the stem. I polished out the scratching and marks left behind from the 220 grit sandpaper by wet sanding it with a 600 grit wet dry sandpaper.I polished the acrylic 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 Savinelli Autograph 4 Sitter with a Fancy Acrylic Stem has a beautiful sandblast finish around the bowl and shank and a smooth rim top that has some great grain. The polished light briar highlights some great grain around the pipe. The polished black acrylic fancy stem adds to the mix. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel being careful to not buff the stamping. 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 it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Savinelli Autograph 4 Sitter is quite nice and feels great in the hand. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 ½ inches, Height: 2 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches x 1 ¾ inches, Chamber diameter: 1 inch. The weight of the pipe is 2.43 ounces/70 grams. I will be boxing it up and shipping it to its current steward to enjoy and care for. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe.