More than forty years ago, Tommaso Spanu left his home in Sardinia, and travelled to Gavirate in northern Italy to learn the secrets of pipe design and making from no less than the master himself, Alberto Paronelli. Tommaso quickly became the top carver for Paronelli and did most of the high grade Clairmont briar pipes for him, occassionally adding his own name.
Over the years, Tommaso has also worked closely with many other influential pipe makers, such as Peppino Ascorti and Luige Radice.
In 1997, Tommasu struck out on his own, producing his own line of high grade, entirely handmade pipes, with the help of his brother and two sons. Just as when he started carving pipes, only hand tools are used. Not a lathe or drill is to be found in his workshop.
Soon after beginning production on his own pipes, Spanu was approached by Mercedes and asked to design a briar-burl dashboard for one of their luxury sedans. "Maybe tomorrow" he replied, explaining that while the project would be fun, his first love was pipes, and only once he was not making as many pipes would he consider it. Mercedes is said to have taken the rebuff in good nature, and even this manufacturing giant is waiting on Mr. Spanu to finish some pipes.
Spanu produces a wide variety of handmade pipes, ranging from traditional, all-briar pipes, to olivewood and briar hybrids, olivewood, juniper, and his trademark, the cork-covered briar. The cork pipe is somewhat of a Spanu signature, and is in a small way, a tribute to the local craftpeople of Sardinia, who work extensively with cork.