Old Pipes, Like Old Soldiers, Carry Their Scars with Pride – Rehabilitating a Well-Used Savinelli Nonpareil 9107

As the saying goes, “Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.” I guess the same could be said for old pipes – they too are called to action, do their jobs uncomplainingly and are required to put up with a lot more BS than the average civilian. I suppose both also like to stand in orderly ranks for inspection between tours of duty!

This old warhorse of a pipe, a Savinelli Nonpareil, came from the five-pipe addition to the Danish Lot estate collection. I love the look and feel of the older Savinelli Nonpareil pipes – the warmly burnished briar, the smooth, glassy horn shank, and the fancy saddle bits all speak of a quality pipe crafted with care. I also like the little bit of extra bling provided by the pair of brass dots embedded in the sharp edge of the stem -what can I say. I like shiny things!

This Nonpareil, however, had none of the usual characteristics when it arrived on my worktable. Instead of looking sharp and crisp in dress uniform, this old pipe looked more like it had spent the last month digging latrines by hand. The briar was bashed up, the finish worn and the rim hidden under a scab of tarry residues. The inner rim was gouged from repeated scrapings with a knife, and the horn shank extension carried scars left from previous halfhearted attempts to seal and repair chips and fractures. The stem was a replacement (no brass dots), but a good one, properly fitted and free of tooth dents.

The stamps on the stummel are quite worn – partials really, but enough to go on for purposes of identification. The left shank shows the “S” from the word “Savinelli” over “Nonpareil” which is also truncated, disappearing after the “r”. The right shank shows “07”, the last two digits of a shape number, which a little research indicated originally read “9107”. The pipe would also have originally carried a stamp of the Savinelli Shield and the word “Italy”, but those are long gone, likely buffed away.

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I began this restoration by reaming the light cake from the tobacco chamber. Underneath, the chamber walls were in decent condition thought the rim needed some work to remove the knife gouges. I used a scrap of 220-grit sandpaper to smooth the inner rim and restore the round appearance.

The top of the bowl is slightly crowned, which precluded topping the bowl, so I used the same sandpaper to scour away the rim tars and erase the dents and scratches hiding underneath. I also smoothed the outer rim which had been knocked against a hard surface more than a few times.

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I used a fair number of pipe cleaners and cotton swabs dipped in alcohol to clean the stummel’s airway and shank. You can see in the picture below the pile of gunk I scraped out of the mortise.

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There were several damaged areas on the horn shank extension – one semicircular crack near the top edge of the horn, and a large, previously repaired, chip at the horn/briar junction. I picked the excess glue out of the old repairs and flowed clear CA glue into the damaged areas. When the glue had cured, I sanded everything smooth. The repairs are not invisible, but are solid and smooth to the touch.

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The replacement stem was a lot cleaner than the pipe shank. I only needed a few pipe cleaners to clear the old tars from the airway.

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I used Meguiar’s Scratch-X plastic polish to clean and shine the exterior of the stem. No tooth dents meant that was it for this stem – a nice change from the chewed up bits!

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A full course of MicroMesh sanding pads erased the smaller handling marks and gave the briar and horn a nice shine.

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To restore the deep red finish to the briar, I gave the stummel a coat of Fiebing’s Saddle Tan leather dye. I let the dye dry, then buffed the excess off by hand using an old towel. A wipe of mineral oil refreshed the briar and gave the finish depth.

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I set up the stummel with a salt and alcohol treatment and let it sit for 24 hours. This pulled the deep-seated tars and oils out of the briar and freshened the pipe. No one likes to taste the last guy’s tobacco.

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I dumped out the salt and ran an alcohol-dipped pipe cleaner through the shank and around the inside of the bowl to remove any stray bits of salt from the pipe. Then both stem and stummel received a light buffing with White Diamond compound on the wheel and several coats of Carnauba wax.

This old soldier is once again ready for active duty as part of a new piper’s platoon of seasoned briar companions. The old wounds are patched up, though a few scars remain, testament to this veteran’s record of devoted service. And like all old soldiers, this Savinelli Nonpareil continues to impress with its resiliency and fortitude. Stunningly good looking grain never hurts either!

If your own briar regiment is a little undermanned, you can recruit this Savinelli now through the DadsPipes Store.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to say hello and thank you to all present and former servicemen and women, especially my old comrades in arms of the Reserve Electronic Warfare Squadron, now part of 21 Electronic Warfare Regiment based at Canadian Forces Base Kingston. Semper Vigilans!

Thanks for looking. Here’s the finished pipe.

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5 comments

    • Thanks David. There is a long history of military service in my family, and a long-standing connection between soldiers,sailors & airmen and their pipes. I hope I’ve given each their proper due.

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  1. I thought I recognized the name but I wasn’t sure from where. I used to read your blog all the time and have found it to be a wealth of information in the past. I’m always looking for a good looking non par pariel on the bay and I happened to buy one. Fast forward to this moment and I’m lying in bed in a fit of insomnia and I thought I’d catch up on some blog reading and come across this article. Small world apparently, I’m looking forward to this pipes arrival! I guess it will arrive ready to smoke like you said in your message! A little added excitement for this one now!

    Liked by 1 person

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