|(Brebbia Article CONTINUED)
Although the aluminum pipe project lasted only seven years, it opened a whole new industry for the family, one greatly aided by a cheap, continuing source of electricity. Today, in the newer wing, 74-year-old Enea is involved full-time in casting 60,000 aluminum parts a day, primarily for motors and pumps to be used in appliances like dishwashers and refrigerators. "Instead of slowing down with age, if anything he works harder than ever," says Luciano of his father, shaking his head in mock disbelief.
In their large 6,000-pipe museum, Luciano shows how earlier Brebbia pipes leaned heavily toward caricatures, meeting the demands of the day, and gradually evolved into the more classical and freehand shapes preferred today.
Pipe Brebbia sells most of its pipes in Italy, followed by Germany specifically and Europe in general. Brebbia pipes were distributed in the United States through a variety of distributors from the mid-1970s until 1993, with the death of Barry Levin. Since then Luciano has been without a U.S. distributor and shipments to the U.S. have basically ceased. The good news is that negotiations are currently underway that may bring Brebbia pipes back to U.S. pipe smokers, perhaps by 1998.
Mario, pictured above, fits mouthpieces to shanks. Both Constantino and Mario are veteran pipemakers who also specialize in freehand pipes.
"I buy about 25,000 pieces of briar a year," says Luciano. "Briar is like our bank. If things go better one year, I buy more briar; if they are worse, I buy less. In any case, I have enough briar stocked for five years...perhaps not for all dimensions, but for most. Briar must dry for at least a year before use. Longer is better.
"The first period of drying is especially important. We keep the briar in both high temperature and high humidity. This is to allow the briar to dry very slowly, from the inside outward. For this reason, old workshops with a good inventory of briar have the advantage in making quality briar pipes that smoke sweetly from the beginning. The only problem with this is the big investment necessary to carry briar for four or five years.
"When the head is turned, the briar is dried even longer. In addition, after we shape a pipe, we like to leave it for six months before finishing it. It colors better and is easier to handle and finish. In addition, the smoking pleasure is much better due to a sweeter taste right from the first bowl of tobacco.
"While I was reorganizing the workshop, people had to learn more than one skill. Now,
most of our workers can do everything necessary. The average worker here today is around
40 years old. Two individuals do most of our freehand work and follow those pipes from
beginning to end. They are Constantino, who has been with us for 15 years, and Mario, who
has been here 10 years."
This outstanding Brebbia Collection pipe ranks four stars on a scale of one to four. The Collection line is freehand and only loosely based on classical shapes.
Pipes are made in one of two methods. For the lower class ebauchon briar from the center of the root, machines are used to form the basic shape of the pipe, using models created for the purpose. With this approach, little attention is paid to grain, but straight-grain pipes are identified and upgraded before sanding and finishing.
All pipes made from plateaux briar-from the outside of the root-are approached in an entirely different way, to take full advantage of their superior grain. These much more expensive blocks are all worked individually, with great attention to detail. Usually the whole pipe, from beginning to end, is made by the same person.
"We have to make the pipe following the grain," says Luciano. "This means the bowl on the pipe will change continuously until the surface is clean of flaws. This approach doubles the number of straight grain pipes produced.
"With this approach, finishing-sandpapering, coloring, polishing, etc.-takes about 90 percent of the total labor. This is extremely important because it gives the final look of the pipe. Especially the sandpapering because, as a pipe is worked this way, the form can be modified to eliminate flaws."
Of the 14,000 pipes produced each year, only about 1,000 are straight grains. But, Luciano explains, the grain has little to do with the smoking capacity of the pipe.
grain is something that has to do more with aesthetic pleasure-having something
unique-than it does with the pleasure of smoking the pipe. The only physical advantage of
a straight grain pipe is that the grains running from the bottom of the pipe to the top
conduct heat up and out of the pipe, making the pipe feel cooler to your hand."
Four thousand of the 14,000 pipes produced are in the line called Linea A. Designed by Luciano, the line is inspired by classical shapes, but may vary from those shapes because of the process of making them by hand. Each mouthpiece is made from acrylic slab and has a briar insert. About 400 of these are straight grain.
The Collection line is more freehand than Linea A and, therefore, less classical. About 500 Collection pipes are made each year, depending on demand. Of these, only 30 to 40 AAA straight-grain pipes (Brebbia's highest rating) are produced each year.
Finishes are made with natural products and are traditional in nature "because we don't like to cover the quality of the wood. For a light finish, we use extra polish."
"A pipe in my opinion is a particular way of smoking," says Luciano. "It is both the pleasure of holding smoke in your mouth and the pleasure of holding a caressable object in your hands. There was a time when a pipe was primarily for viewing and another time when it was mainly for smoking. Today is a time when a pipe should not only be smokable and pleasant to the touch, but also an object to be displayed with pride. For this reason, I foresee an increase in the future in the quality of both pipes and pipe tobaccos.
"I think it will be hard for people who smoke cigarettes to go directly to pipe smoking. However, the move from cigars to pipes will be much easier."
With the change of each generation, new ideas are created to meet changing markets and more technical problems are overcome. And water continues to flow through the turbines in the electrical generating plant on the first floor. Sometime it seems the more things change, the more they are the same.
See the table below describing the pipe
Pipes are stamped with: Brebbia; Pura when appropriate, shape(three or four digit number), model, finish or color, fiammata A/AA/AAA (when appropriate) and Italy.
SABBIATA-Sandblast; also semi-sabbiata for partially sandblasted.