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.