All Pipes Considered: Claudio Cavicchi Bologna 2022
On this special episode of All Pipes Considered, I sit down with Sykes Wilford to discuss the latest entry in Claudio Cavicchi's celebrated Bologna line. This year's edition represents Claudio's unique interpretation of a lesser-known legacy shape that's quite important to the Italian lexicon: the Captain Warren Calabash. Tune in as Sykes and I discuss the Bologna series as a whole and dive deep into this year's exciting release.
Note: The following transcription has been edited for clarity and brevity.
[Andy Wike]: Welcome to the first All Pipes Considered video we've done in quite some time now. I've got Sykes here with me today, because we wanted to talk about something really special: Claudio Cavicchi's Bologna 2022 pipe. Sykes, will you give us an overview of the Bologna series in general to start?
[Sykes Wilford]: Sure. So Claudio has made these special-edition Bologna pipes on an annual basis for some years now. The production is quite limited, with only a handful each year — we're talking six, seven, eight, maybe nine pipes total. And for a number of years, they were specially packaged with Claudio Albieri boxes and other accoutrements. But this year is a bit of a departure.
[A.W.]: Yeah, looking at the shape, there's something kind of familiar about it, but it's also sort of odd and really neat: It's this sort of hybrid of a Ball or Apple with Calabash functionality. Can you tell us about this shape specifically, Sykes?
[S.W.]: So this shape is a Cavicchi interpretation of the old Captain Warren design. The Captain Warren was a design that Savinelli made — I don't know the actual dates, but — sometime in the '70s, I think. It's a Calabash, but a Calabash but in the framework of a more traditionally shaped pipe. Captain Warrens also tend to have much larger chambers than, say, Danish-style Calabashes. You have what is, really, a full-sized chamber inside a giant outside chamber. In order to accommodate that, you end up with a really, really big pipe.
So to execute this, Claudio picked a derivation of his signature Apple shape: It's an iconic, rotund, and very Cavicchi shape. The fundamental idea to do something like this was actually Shane Ireland's suggestion when we were there about a year ago. We were all discussing what Claudio could do for the Bologna series in 2022, and Shane — as Shane is wont to do — pulled something out of the mental archives he has of old pipes, and suggested that Cavicchi take a stab at the Captain Warren.
So, just to recap: The Captain Warren, I believe, was first done by Savinelli, at least in its most modern form, but it's also been done by a variety of different others — most notably, and most recently, by Ser Jacopo about 10-15 years ago. But I've seen it from a number of different Italian manufacturers over the years.
[A.W.]: Right, and I think that, even more recently, Ser Jacopo revived the shape as part of the Historica line, which I think goes to show you how much of a heritage shape and design type this is. So it's really interesting to see Claudio flexing his muscles around this very Italian design. So, if we could jump to the mechanics for a second, the joints of Cavicchi's Captain Warren Calabash are briar on briar; that has to be extremely challenging, right?
[S.W.]: Actually before we go there, I want to talk a bit more about Captain Warren as an idea, if I may. If you think of the Danish-style Calabash being basically a copy of the old gourd Calabash with a meerschaum top, and you're solving this two-chamber Calabash problem that way, there are really two main ways to approach that joint. You can put the two chambers together either using cork — which would be traditional with gourd — or you're using a rubber gasket, but it's a pressure fit. While some Captain Warrens have been handled similarly — with pressure-fitted joints — these are actually threaded, which to do in briar is an exercise in precision engineering that's pretty remarkable, but also sort of delicate. You certainly don't want to just yank the bowl out or slam it in.
[A.W.]: And Claudio's also given us some helpful hints there, right? There are some markers on the pipes themselves that help you thread and unthread these things.
[S.W.]: Yes, specifically to help illustrate how to put them together. You line up the dots in order to line up the threads to put it together. But the dots are not aligned once it's all assembled. Really, the dots are there as a guide to help you know where to begin the thread, but not where you need to end, if that makes sense.
[A.W.]: Wow, so interesting. So you actually spoke with Cavicchi the last time you were in Italy about these, right? You guys had some conversations about the pipes specifically. Was there anything that Cavicchi wanted us to know about these that we haven't already covered?
[S.W.]: He was very, very proud of the threading on the briar, because this is not a trivial thing to have accomplished. It's in wood, it's in a strange size, and the tooling necessary to execute this is very precise. Briar is a very hard, very dense wood, which means you can do things like threading, but it's still wood. These are not big, thick threads like you'd find on a large screw.
He also liked what he'd done on a number of these with mixing and matching colors between the cap and bowl. I'm particularly fond of the smooth top and sandblasted bowl, just because I like the mixed texture.
[A.W.]: Yeah, I think that's a favorite of mine as well. And speaking of which, all of Claudio's iconic finishes are here. We have his really detailed sandblast; we have the more medium-walnut stain, as well as the bright, blond C-grade stain that we're accustomed to. So you have all your favorite Cavicchi finishes in a variety of combinations here, which is really cool for collectibility as well as finding something that matches your own aesthetic. Is there anything else you'd like to add on these, Sykes?
[S.W.]: I don't think so, Andy. Just to reiterate, though: The Captain Warren shape, while it has been done by a number of Italians, it's not something that's been perpetually part of the larger shaping lexicon. It's not like there are 38 Captain Warrens on Smokingpipes from seven different manufacturers right now, right? That's because it's really hard. You need huge chunks of briar in order to accommodate really large cooling chambers and vast actual chambers, and it yields shaping and mechanical challenges that are particularly hard to overcome as a pipe maker. And Claudio has done so masterfully here.
[A.W.]: And I was going to say, even around those challenges, these are still Cavicchi pipes. So not only do these pipes require massive blocks of briar, but they're really well-grained blocks of briar, with fantastic orientation, because Claudio is Claudio. He's not going to just do this cool shape and have it be whatever it is. He knew these had to be Cavicchi pipes, and they very much are — beautifully grained, precise orientation, excellent shaping, lots of different finishes. They're just a great testament to his work.
Tagged in: all pipes considered Claudio Cavicchi
Purchased four Cavicchi pipes. Two are higher end(CCCC)brandy shapes, and two are modestly priced in dark stain rusticated. They do smoke great. Good discount price points. No complaints. These new shapes in the article don't pique my interest as much as the ones I have purchased, largely due to my beardo and shorty pipes predicament. The briar quality on the CCCC grade is one reason I like them, stems and button are very attractive as well as comfortable, and also the backstory on how Claudio got started. Enjoy yourselves.
Love the beauty of Cavicchi pipes, thank you for this wonderful article Andrew.