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The H5D30 stand: the last pipe show before the pandemic

15 Ottobre 2021 | in: events, pipemakers

logo H5D30

The 2020 and 2021 editions of Dortmund’s international fair “Intertabac” had to be cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Even if the 2022 edition has been announced, nobody knows for sure if it will really be possible.

During the years, around the figure of Antoine Grenard, head of Chacom, a “cooperative” stand model had formed, of which I have already described the rise in my article Inter-tabac: the capitalism of tabac and “Hallway 7.06.”

In the last 2019 edition I offered to write and get printed a promoting brochure about the stand of which I was also part. We named the group and the initiative, a true rarity in the pipe world, H5D30. The group, which had started some years before from Mimmo Romeo and Gabriele Dal Fiume’s adventurous spirit, became an amazing mixture of pipemakers of different origins, trying to build a shared identity around the high grade and top-quality craft pipe, enhanced during time with the presence of good tobacco and top-class liquors.

Seven nations joined to the stand: Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, France. Denmark and Italy,

Today, a bit for nostalgia, a bit for pride, I want to show you the brochure we printed.

Mr Maigret’s secret dream

13 Ottobre 2021 | in: events


Kristina Borinskaya is a young and beautiful woman that a benevolent wind brought from Moldova to Sicily a few years ago. She is now the wife of my friend Alessandro, the commercial artist who takes care of any promotional initiative my mind produces, ranging over Sauro pipes to the Rhyncophorous ferrugineus on the palm trees in Palermo.

Although passionate, Kristina doesn’t like speaking. She prefers to express herself through the artistic gesture, currently photography, and who knows what the future holds for her. That’s because Kristina looks like a volcano ready to blow at any moment, without notice. You can see her sitting in silence, shifty but sharp eyes, listening to others as if she wasn’t interested in the subject. Actually, she absorbs everything, she is definitely present, but she doesn’t want to say anything. What she has been thinking while listening to the others will likely be put into a snapshot.

I asked her once if she wanted to take pictures of my pipes. I wanted her to highlight the lines of my pipes in relation with other lines, with a different material. She took her time to think about it and then she came to my home and showed me the first results.

Needless to say, I was enthusiast. So, she took other shots, which I am posting in this article. There you have it “Mr Maigret’s secret dream”, pictures by Kristina Borinskaya, my friend.

Of Earth, Fire and Air

13 Ottobre 2021 | in: events


The idea of putting these three elements together to make a pipe with a strong Sicilian identity, came up in front of glass of wine. For some time, Carlo Riggio, a famous tobacconist in Palermo. Had been thinking about a pipe that could become the one hundred years’ symbol of his tobacco shop and, at the same time, express his feelings towards the pipe and the island where he was born.

Between one sip of Nero d’Avola and the other, he asked me if I felt like transforming the idea into a project.It will be my pleasure – answered I, and so the adventure started.

For months, to each project followed a prototype I realised in my workshop, Carlo’s testing, tips on new changes to be made, a new prototype and a new testing.

The first series productions showed other difficulties: a series production pipe must be easily reproduced, and my sketch was quite complex. The problem was simplifying the construction without debasing the original sketch. 

Those were months of labour, but we never stopped putting first the pleasure of making.

Now, after a long time, we can eventually say we made it.

In the pipe there’s the EARTH, the heather briar, the ultimate material in the creation of pipes since ever; there’s the FIRE of pottery and ceramic, one of the oldest ways to smoke pipes; but there’s also the AIR, through a modern drilling system, the double calabash, which makes the smoke fresh and dry every time you smoke the pipe.

But it’s not enough, there’s the COLOUR of the Sicilian ceramic coming from the labs of Maestro De Simone’s handicraft company that proposes the oldest traditional drawings and colours, to which a limited edition of pipe bowls in the inimitable company style will soon be added. 

Today, The Siciliana is available in assorted colours and finishes and with bowls of briar, pottery and ceramic. The possible combinations are therefore uncountable. Each pipe is sold with a set of bowls of the three materials and it’s possible to buy it at Riggio tobacco store, also online. 

My adorable Polish friend

11 Ottobre 2021 | in: pipemakers


I am sure that to most of you, unless you are Polish, the name Zbigniew Bednarczyk is not ringing any bells. But if I say Mr Brog or Zibi, for friends, you will be immediately reminded of a handsome man with handlebar moustache, bowler hat on his head and a kilt instead of trousers.

Mr Brog’s “Pracownia Fajek is, maybe, the most important pipe factory throughout Eastern Europe.

As you can read on his website, the company was born in 1947 when master Wiktor Winiarski and Zbigniew Winiarski came up with the idea of starting a pipe factory called “BESKID wooden accessories and plastic products”. Between 1992 and 1995 the factory becomes Mr Brog, with over 2 million pipes sold all over the world so far.

Besides the classic heather briar pipes, Mr Brog also produces acacia-wood, cherry-wood, pear-wood, oak-wood, morta and rosewood pipes, something both rare and unique.

Zibi is also known for the pipe fest he organises every year in his town, Przemysl, a marvellous small city a few kilometres from the Ukraine border, and for the other thousand activities no one else would be able to manage having only 24 hours a day.

I met Zibi many years ago at Dortmund’s Fair. Since then, we met there every year until Zibi, in February 2020, made me an amazing present: he came to Palermo with his wonderful wife Anna to celebrate his birthday.

Here are some pictures of our fantastic reunion.

Gabriele Dal Fiume: he makes miracles holding a screwdriver

9 Ottobre 2021 | in: pipemakers


Gabriele is what you call an all-around craftsman. If you need technical advice, no other could give you better information, going from electro engineering to carpentry, from mechanics to laser engraving, always mastering the subject and with abundance of details.

That’s because nature gave him in profusion one of the characteristics of a good craftsman: do things for the pleasure of doing them well.

Gabriele had already invited me to learn the pipe drilling several years ago, and I had always declined the invitation.

I must admit it was because of my laziness. Why learn a new technique, with all the paraphernalia of new tools it carries with it, when you are already in control of a technique that works?

Then, one day I made up my mind, pushed by Manù who, on the contrary, was eager to learn the hand drilling. Can you think about the freedom of action this technique might give? – he used to tell me on the phone – Nothing can limit your imagination because the drilling is the final stage.

He was right and I knew it.

So, one winter day in 2019 I found myself knocking at the door of my friend Gabriele in Monteveglio, a place in Valsamoggia a few kilometres from Bologna.

We will have been together for a few days, Manù, Massimo Damini, the Dal Fiume family – Petra, Sofia and Gabriele – and I. In the lab during the day, first following Gabriele’s skilled hands drilling a pipe by hand, then trying by ourselves the just learned technique. Wandering around local trattorias in the evening to enjoy the local culinary wonders. Because, if you didn’t’ know, Gabriele is also an amazing cook and refined palate.

After this experience I suggest everyone not to stop at drilling on lathe or with drill press. The hand-made drilling is an extra gun, and you need to know how to use it.

But be careful and don’t become a diehard fan of one or the other technique, just be aware that knowing both is fundamental to be a complete craftsman.

The Italian Pipe Academy

7 Ottobre 2021 | in: events


On 24thNovember 2020, a year that will remain in history for the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic all over the world, the Pipe Academy was born on Zoom.

Don’t be deceived by the high-sounding name: it isn’t about a committee of smug tobacco connoisseurs, of Dunhill and Peterson pipe smokers, chatting online about how good they are, far from this, they are craftsmen, the kind of people who make pipes with their own hands and bring them around the world.

The idea came from the volcanic Mimmo Romeo, but it had already been in embryo in Gabriele Dal Fiume’s head for many years: creating a space where senior craftsmen with experience in high grade building technique and several international fairs behind them, could attend the up-and-coming young before these got lost into the illusory maze of social networks. To make this, it was necessary to build a structure with the “school” canons but not constrained between the boundaries of the bureaucratised organizations. But above all, it was necessary to put the craftsman’s ethic first, doing things for the pleasure of doing them well and passing on knowledge for free to those who would prove to deserve it.

We started with those who were already our pupils but, in a brief time, a good number of new faces joined.

To date (October 2021), the Academy includes 4 founder masters, 15 founder pupils and an added master, the great Eder Mathias.

Between 20thJanuary and 23rdJune 2021, 12 technical meetings were held via Zoom and over 30 technical documents have been produced and published on our private Facebook page. The Academy has signed a partnership relation with Pipa Club Italiato promote the up-and-coming young.

Before giving space to our Chart of Values, I would like to say some things that are particularly important to us:

The Academy welcomes only those apprentices that already have a minimum of tooling and have tried to build some pipes.

The Academy does not offer paid courses for newbies without the before described characteristics.

It is always a masters’ task to evaluate if an apprentice has in embryo the characteristics to attend the Academy.

The Academy does not have utopic goals: we neither wish to change the Italian pipe world, nor introduce a new manifesto for the commercial promotion of our masters and pupils.

Believe it or not, the Academy just wants to express a free act of love towards the object of our work: the pipe.


17 Febbraio 2020 | in: pipe's stories


Last year (2019), on a mild June afternoon, I got a weird phone call from a woman with a strong Neapolitan accent. The lady was hosting in her B&B two people from Argentina, who wished to visit my craft workshop. These two were unable to contact me via WhatsApp and had asked her if I could. She gave me their number and I contacted them. They were Hector and Mariano Monsalve, father and son, on their holiday in Sicily from the far Ushuaia, in the extreme south of Patagonia. I had been in Ushuaia several years before and the idea that someone living there would want to talk about pipes right with me, living halfway around the world, seemed so unreal to me that it looked even funny.

Some days after, Hector and Mariano arrived in Palermo on a terribly hot afternoon for them (27°C). It was midwinter in their homeland and no more than 5°C. Hector had a nice moustache and athletic build, although he was long over 60, his son Mariano was a very friendly big guy and ready to joke. Hector is fond of pipes and, since there’s no briar in Patagonia and delivery is quite expensive, he makes his pipes with the wood of a Chilean shrub we weren’t able to give a botanical name. As I always do, when someone wants to learn the basics of making a pipe, I begin to work at one, starting from the briar up to the stem. Of course, I don’t finish it, because I like to leave this task to the one who has, so far, just watched.

Hector and me in my workshop

Until now, about where they came from, nothing strange. It was when we started talking about our lives, that the treasure they were carrying with them came up. During dinner, in front of some fried squids, Hector told me about his life and I got charmed. Hector has been a professional diver, photographer, fisherman and …Jacques Cousteau’s guide. Today he’s running a family business in Ushuaia dealing with marine adventure tourism. All at once, his hieratic, good-natured figure acquired meaning. This is what intrigued me about him, I had grasped that he wasn’t an ordinary person but a man from another era. Now I was eager to know as much as possible about his life and he didn’t refuse. But I prefer to let him tell you about himself, translating some parts of an interview.

(…) I must stress that I didn’t become a diver because of Cousteau; my enthusiasm started with a TV show which, in 1958/59, Channel 7 broadcasted in Buenos Aires: “ Caza submarina” (Underwater Home), also called “ El investigador submarino”(The Underwater Detective), with the American actor Lloyd Bridges performing. On some afternoon, at milk time after school, we would watch that program on the old TV my grandma Casilda had handed over to us. Our house was one at the corner of Calle Aslina Catamarca, in the very centre of Once district. There wasn’t actually just Lloyd Bridge: we used to gather with some friends of the neighbourhood to follow the adventures of Mike Nelson, a definitely heroic diver who let our imagination run wild. Furthermore, the bookshelves of my old man enhanced my imagination. “Tesoro de la juventud” (Tresure of the Young) and its teachings, and above all one of the fantastic illustrations, something like: “Mamiferos de Sudamerica” (South American Mammals), and that particular book with paintings of whales and dolphins swimming in the cold water of the south. During weekends I would go to “Zio Paco’s” (Uncle Paco) swimming pool, a great uncle, a world of fins, snorkels and “Plaf” masks, trying to emulate our heroes’ lungs and submarine movements…imagining to be under the sea. The scars of the sores that blessed fins left on my feet !!!!! Saying I almost slept with them is no exaggeration. Years went by, I was growing and I can say that at that point I was quite good, thanks to my hours at “Zio Paco’s” pool, at using the equipment, also because it wasn’t of “Plaf” brand anymore nor that simple. I had now a “Mares” mask with snorkel and fins, coming from Europe, a real luxury to us.

Several years later, it was 1965 and I was at my second year in Schule Cangallo High School, during geography class Mrs Conte, our teacher, gave us the weekend homework: Reading some pages from the book”El mar viviente” (The Living Sea), the second one written by Jacques Cousteau. If it was a difficult task for my classmates, it was a more than obvious result to me: I didn’t just read the book but I went on with the first one Cousteau had published: “El mundo del silenzio” (The World of Silence). That same year my dear friend and classmate Horatio Berisso had already started to teach me some basics about photo shoots and techniques in the darkroom. His father, doctor Horatio Berisso, a bio-chemist, was an eminent photographer and researcher, who had been, since 1910, a photography  pioneer in Argentina. It was him who passed on to me the passion for this activity. Even now, every time I dive to take pictures, Horatio, gone too soon, and his father are always with me, wherever they may be. In my memories of that time I see myself as a cute teenager, walking along Viamonte street, going to Enrique Alvarez’s “Subacuo”, an old shop which used to sell diving equipment, some old regulators, oxygen tanks made from adapted fire-extinguishers, harpoons… But there was something there that captured my attention: a waterproof camera case. It had a gross, square shape, obviously homemade with plexiglass, and contained a 6 X 6 camera and two lenses like a Rolleiflex. I think it was a Zenit.

In those years immersions in Argentina were practiced by very few amateurs or Navy divers. For this reason it wasn’t easy to find an instructor. During one of my recurrent visit at “Subacuo”, while trying to sneak into the diving world, I found out about the CUBA (University Club Buenos Aires), which was giving immersion classes. It was one of the pioneer diving clubs in the country that was a member of ASES (Agrupación Subatlántica de Expediciones Submarinas/ Subatlantic Group for Submarine Expeditions). I remember having taken a registration request at the ASES headquarters, I believe it was in Via Lavalle. I discovered ,to my utmost horror, I was too young and would have needed my father’s approval. Scared as I was, I talked to him about it, but no luck. His laconic answer still stings my mind: “That’s a job for lunatics and drunkards!”… Over time I learned he wasn’t completely wrong, after all, my father was a visionary! I didn’t actually want to make a job of it at the time, but I can grant you my father was relentless in his decisions. Anyway, in the meantime my equipment had evolved with a “Pinocchio” mask and Rondine by Cressi fins from Italy and I trained with immersions in the pool and in apnea. Then, in February 1970, my father suggested me to go and visit my uncles in Valencia, Venezuela, where they had settled for some years. I accepted immediately! I knew that my dear uncle Leo had a boat and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to know the Caribbean!!! I went there with fins, mask and snorkel. I couldn’t imagine that travel would have changed my life… We spent a few days of the holiday at Alfredo Domingo and his family’s, my uncles’ friends, on the island of Cayo Sal, near Morrocoy, in the State of Falco. I remember my happiness while I spent entire days snorkelling in the Cayo surroundings, the transparency of the water was incredible and lifestyles so peculiar and varying. On one of those lazy afternoons, after dinner, while walking around the place, I discovered in a small boathouse two regulators hanging on a wall, some diving tanks with strap harnesses and a little air compressor. The son of the owner saw me poking around and came closer. I asked him if those “things” worked. He answered they were his father’s, from the days of his diving. I asked if his father would let me dive with him: “Sure, he will love it!” he replied. That same afternoon we filled with air a pair of tanks. I was excited and impatient, during my pool days I had tried to breathe underwater using long pipes, forge bellows, inflators an even air bags. 

After that unforgettable baptism, I joined the CASBA (Centro de Actividades SubacuáticasBuenos Aires /Submarine Activities Centre Buenos Aires) and continued my training in Patagonia with courses and travels. (…) In October 1974, with some friends from CASBA and people from ASES, I went to Puero Madryn  to face the theoretical-practical exam. The great “Pino” Nicoletti was at the head of the examining Committee and he signed, to my great pride, my brand new qualification as National Diving Instructor. Some years later I got married and became a professional diver. 

Mussels fishing in Ushuaia

I lived in Venezuela for a while but, in 1976 I moved to Ushuaia. I have made of this my way of living and of underwater photography my passion. Leon Gieco wrote: “Life is made of open circles that, at a point, close and turn full”. One of my circle opened when the geography teacher made us read “The Living Sea” of Cousteau and it closed almost completely when in December 1985 I was Jacques Cousteau’s  diving guide on his then-new boat “Alcyone” in the Beagle Channel. It’s been twenty years since that reading which had “enlightened” me. And when I met “old” Cousteau, I should have reproached him, because he didn’t want to have a picture taken with me. I didn’t know it was what he hated most… I would have liked to show it to my grandchildren, that’s why that circle hasn’t closed completely. But others will open and many other are still to be closed, if the “bearded guy” upon us wants to.

Hector on J. Cousteau’s Alcyone – 1985

Since 1976 Hector worked 15 years as mussels and shrimps fisher in Canal Beagle, discovering thus a huge variety of seabed that has pushed him to collect information and study the local fauna. His innate curiosity, together with the acquaintance of some biologists and naturalists have led him to become a successful professional diving photographer. He has cooperated as a diving guide with several international TV channels (NDR, ZDF, Von Reisen, TV Tokyo, TVF and M6, Natural History Museum, National Geographic and Discovery Channel). In 1995 he was awarded by INCAA (Argentina Visual Arts and Cinema National Institute) for the production of the documentary “Nuestra Argentina Submarina” ( Our Underwater Argentina), which was broadcasted by the educational Iberian-American TV.

In 2008, with biologist Pablo Enrique Penchaszadeh, he published the first book of scientific underwater photography in Argentina: “Patagonia Submarina”. Hector has discovered the remains of the Monte Cervantes, a 160 meters vessel that made the route Buenos Aires – Puerto Madryn (Chubut) – Punta Arenas (Chile) –  Ushuaia – Buenos Aires, flying the German flag, that had disappeared in 1930 with 1200 passengers on board. In the same way he found at a depth of 30 meters what was left of the “pájaro naranja”, a plane of the Fuegian Government that had an accident in 1984, while flying governor Ramón Albero, his wife and ten of his staff people. His productions are used by educators all over the country and as scientific divulgation material. 

You can currently find Hector and Mariano in Ushuaia, where he owns a micro family-run business dealing with “adventure tourism”, whose name, “Tres Marìas”, comes from a 9 meters boat that pioneered in Ushuaia 21 years ago. The Tres Marìas is still sailing but others have joined it: the sailing boat “If”, an amazing French-built 14 meters boat and the 13,8 meters luxury yacht “Sea Gold”. (

I can’t conclude this tribute to an extraordinary man without showing the reason of his visit in my lab. Hector has finished our pipe in Ushuaia and, objectively, I have to say the result isn’t actually so brilliant. But this is one of those cases where you don’t mind the result but the road you have walked to reach it.

the Hector – Sauro pipe

Thanks Hector, thanks Mariano. See you in Ushuaia.


8 Febbraio 2020 | in: Books


Some time ago, I happened to read an article about the results of an international research titled Somatosensory cortex efficiently processes touch located beyond the body. Published on a prestigious magazine of the sector, Current Biology, the research combined studies on behaviour, electrophysiology and neuronal patterns to understand how the brain is able to handle a tool as if it were an “expanded sensory organ”.

In the research, some blindfolded volunteers were holding a stick that was submitted to external impacts, and all the participants were able to localise the impact with an almost perfect accuracy, as if the touch took place directly on their arm. This behaviour is due to the somatosensory system ability to use rapidly and efficiently the tool as a tactile extension of the body. In addition, using electroencephalography (EEG), the researchers discovered that the position of the impact on the tool is decoded through the neural dynamic of the primary somatosensory cortex end the hind parietal regions: the same ones that activate when the contact is directly on the body. The research demonstrates that tools, thanks to the somatosensory system, expand the boundaries of our body at the neuronal level. Rather than limited to the skin, the somatosensory processing stretches the contact to the tool we are using. This enables us to use a tool like a non-neural extended sense organ, which can efficiently scan the surroundings as if it were a limb.

The peculiarity to use tools as instruments to extend the body abilities has represented an important step in human evolution. Even if nowadays we know about several animals that can use utensils, none of them has reached the human perfection level when performing this ability. But now we have scientific proof of what we had already known empirically: the tools we use become a particularly precise extension of our hands. Those of us who make pipes, as well as all artisans and artists dealing with small-sized objects, know very well what this means. The file, the knife, the sanding band running on our finger, the intensity and direction of the contact between briar and sanding pad, even the tool on the lathe we use to drill, are not felt like barriers between our hands and the object we are shaping, on the contrary, they give our fingers exceptional function without losing sensibility.

However, a specification is needed; also this one is every good craftsman’s empiric asset: tools with same functions have remarkably different performances. Every Sicilian knows the popular saying “tools make the master”. So, if we can, we try to snap up an old Swiss lathe rather than a shining new one, 90% made in China for sure despite its European name. And this principle is valid for any other tool. You don’t economise on tools. They represent an essential investment to grant our production final quality. 

Tokyo 2018: pipes show and incredible dreams

30 Novembre 2018 | in: events


When you eventually land at Narita airport, you realise that, despite all the information you collected before your departure, nothing could prepare you to what you are going to find yourself facing:

…read more →

BRIAR LOG: unusual in depth-analysis

6 Ottobre 2018 | in: pipe making

fiori di erica

At least once in their lives, pipemakers and pipe smokers have been looking up information in the net about Erica arborea (tree heath).

…read more →


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The Italian Pipe Academy

On 24thNovember 2020, a year that will remain in history for the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic all over the world, the Pipe Academy was born on Zoom. Don’t be... read more→

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