Below is information concerning a few of the more popular pipe manufacturers of both past and present. These manufacturers produce or have produced some of the most collectable pipes today.
Ardor: The Ardor Pipe was first carved in 1911 when the four Rovera brothers (Frederico, Carlo, Cornello, and Franscesco) of Varese, Italy began the manufacture of briar pipes. Numerous styles of pipes were produced under the Roera name and were sold primarily in Europe. Today this family carves over 3000 pipes each year to be shipped worldwide.
Armellini: Mauro Armellini operates a very small factory in the Cucciago area of Italy, which has become the pipe making center of that country and home for other Italian pipe making firms such as Savinelli and Ascorti. Armellini started working for Nino Rossi, who at one time ran the largest briar pipe factory in the world. Armellini's forte has always been creating machinery for pipe making. In America he got his start by creating a popular line of "private label" pipes, which immediately became good traditional sellers in the low-to-medium price ranges. In an effort to upgrade his pipes, Armellini began making high grades handmades, such as the Direttore and various "controlled shape" freehands. He has since developed a unique knack for creating both machine-made and handmade pipes of special designs.
Ashton: Bill Taylor is one of the best known pipemakers in the world. He started his career as an apprentice with Dunhill as a teenager and rose to the position of Quality Control Manager before leaving to start his own pipemaking business in 1984, which was an instant success. Ashton pipes are oil-cured. This process - which Bill has patented - involves repeatedly heating each individual bowl to open the grain, then soaking it in a secret mixture of precious oils, which replace the sour-tasting moisture which is naturally present in briar. Most of Bill's pipes now have a mouthpiece made from "Ashtonite", a specially developed material which combines many of the advantages of both acrylic and vulcanite.
Bjarne: Known far and wide as Denmark's "Ambassador of Pipes", the title is more than honorary since Bjarne once served as a Danish ambassador to the U.S. A pipe smoker himself since the age of 16, Nielsen left Denmark's foreign service to turn his attention to producing high quality Danish pipes at a more than reasonable price. Every Bjarne pipe is hand made of the highest quality Grecian and Calabrian plateau briar, expertly worked and crafted by some of Denmark's best known and most talented pipe carvers.
Butz-Choquin: Butz-Choquin is one of the world's most respected pipemaking companies. Located today in St. Claude, France, Butz-Choquin's history stretches back to 1857 when Gustave Butz and Jean-Baptiste Choquin joined together to manufacture the "Choquin" pipe. The company continues the tradition of that first pipe (a curved pipe with an albatross bone extension) with unusual, well made pipes that represent a great value to the smoker.
Caminetto: In the late 1960's two Italian pipe carvers, Peppino Ascorti and Luigi Radice, joined forces to begin making the now legendary Caminetto pipe. One of the first pipes of the "new" Italian renaissance to be brought into the U.S. in any appreciable numbers, the Caminetto soon gained a great reputation and loyal following due to its fantastic smoking qualities. From 1968 until 1980, when the team of Ascorti/Radice split to go their own ways, the Caminetto pipe disappeared from tobacconists' shelves almost as fast as they could be made. During this 12-year reign, it was one of the finest smoking Italian briars available, thanks to a unique finish and curing process that made for an unbelievably dry smoke.
Castello: Carlo Scotti created the Castello pipe in 1947, in a little artisan workshop in the village of Cantu, Italy. The name, which means "castle", comes from the old castle that Scotti could see looming over his shop when he looked out his window. His aim was to produce a pipe which was technically and aesthetically perfect, a goal which many feel he achieved. Castello pipe soon became the most sought after Italian pipe in America in the years following WWII. Noted for its soft and smooth smoking characteristics, traits inherent in the top quality briar Scotti insisted on and the unique curing process every Castello pipe goes through, Castello lovers swear there is no other pipe in the world that can compare.
Charatan: Since 1863 when Russian immigrant Frederick Charatan first opened his pipe making shop in the shadows of the fabled Tower of London, the House of Charatan has been one of the most respected names in the world of pipes. Known for their unique shapes and phenomenal smoking quality, Charatan pipes have been a favorite of British royalty and common folk the world over for nearly 150 years. The company remained in family hands until 1982 when it was sold to another firm that knew a thing or two about pipe making, Alfred Dunhill Ltd. While many of the old familiar shapes and names from the mid 20th century have been relegated to collectors' tables at pipe shows, today's Charatan pipe carries on the proud tradition of Frederick Charatan's trademark phrase: "Perfection in Pipes."
Don Carlos: Bruto Sordini's beautiful pipes have a huge following in the USA, Germany and of course, in his native Italy. Bruto seasons his own briar in the grounds of his home and carves every pipe himself. His original workshop was "broken in two" by the earthquake of 1997 which forced him to build a new one that was hit by another earthquake the week it opened. Passionate about opera, Bruto grades his pipes within the "Polished" and "Fiammata" groups by a system of musical notes. A one-note pipe is grade entry level, a three-note is the best.
Dunhill: Alfred Dunhill started his company in 1893 & his first pipe shop opened in 1907 in London. Dunhill uses the finest quality briar in all their pipes which go through over 100 different steps from start to finish. The famous trademark "white dot" on every Dunhill pipe was designed by necessity enabling workers to tell which end of the stem was up. Needless to say, the quality of craftsmanship has come a long way since those days. By the end of the Great War, Dunhill was established as THE smoking pipe of choice, an opinion that thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of pipe smokers adhere to today.
GBD: The company was founded in Paris France in the 19th century by Ganeval, Boundier and Donninger who were no longer associated with the company by the turn of the century. By the time they left the GBD name was well established and thus retained. In 1903 an additional factory was built in England and ran by Oppenheimer. The Paris factory moved to Saint-Claude in 1952. Since 1981 the majority of GBD pipes come from the English factory. At about that same time GBD merged with Comoys, since then all production for both GBD and Comoy comes from a single factory.
Preben Holm: Preben Holm first worked in the Copenhagen tobacco shop of his father, during which time he learned to repair pipes. Eventually, he acquired a lathe, and in 1964 began making pipes as a hobby. He sold his first pipe on June 5, 1964. The Preben Holm brand was among the first of the Danish free-hands to be established in the United States. Most of the annual production of 500 pipes was exported to the U.S., with Preben personally inspecting each piece. During his lifetime, Preben Holm pipes achieved cult status, being avidly sought out by collectors. He died on June 28, 1989.
Il Ceppo: The IL CEPPO brand has been in production since the late 1970's but, in spite of its overall good value, is not well known in all parts of the United States. Partly this is because of a limited supply of pipes and partly because the brand has not been put in front of the pipe smoking public through a national venue. The Il Ceppo brand is made in Pesaro, Italy and is part of the famous Pesaro school of design that has also produced Mastro de Paja and Ser Jacopo. Giorgio Imperatori, an architect, had a passion for pipes and in 1978 begun to design and make IL CEPPO. Always considered a good value and very good for smoking the brand did not make folks stop and take notice until 1995 when Franco Rossi joined the firm. He brought with him a true elegance of design and a unique flair that now helps IL CEPPO stand apart. Giorgio has retired to his farmhouse and the pipes are now all made by Franco and his sister Nadia.
Mastro de Paja: The history of Mastro de Paja really begins in 1985 with the arrival of Alberto Montini as the factory manager. Mastro de Paja had been created by Terenzio Cecchini and friends of his, all of whom were successful businessmen. Being pipe smokers, they wanted to build a new brand of high-quality pipes. The famed Giancarlo Guidi, now maker of Ser Jacopo pipes, was involved in the company from 1970 to 1982 also.
Nording: When he was born and growing up in Copenhagen, few would have expected Erik Nording to become one of the most prolific and best known pipe makers in the world. He studied engineering and seemed destined to take over his father's shop, specializing in custom made knives. Before long though, Erik discovered that his true passion lay in working with briar rather than steel and metals. It wasn't long before he was making pipes as his profession, and he's never looked back. During the last 40 years Erik Nĝrding has built up his business, which today produces approximately 50.000 pipes a year, 90% of which are for the export market. Always a bit of a non-comformist, Erik specializes in freehands, preferring to let the wood decide for itself what shape it should take rather than forcing it to the classical shapes.
Peterson: The Nurnberg brothers Friedrich and Heinrich Kapp opened their tobacco shop for business in 1865 at Grafton Street, Dublin. Friedrich & Heinrich, who christened their shop simply 'Kapp Brothers', soon made a name for themselves making and selling quality Meerschaum and Briar Root pipes. Charles Peterson walked into Kapp Brothers Grafton Street premises armed with a revolutionary pipe and suggested that the brothers go into partnership with him to turn his 'pipe dream' into the 'world's dream pipe.' They agreed and the company was renamed Kapp & Peterson. Kapp and Peterson went on to become Dublin's most fashionable and respected manufacturer and purveyor of fine smoking products.
Radice: Luigi Radice has had a long and varied history in the world of pipe making - so long and varied that he now holds the honorary title of Oldest Italian Artisan Pipe Maker Still Actively Involved In His Craft. Gigi, as he is known to his friends, actually started off in the jewelry trade as an engraver. He carried this skill over when he began in the pipe trade with the great firm Castello, situated in a village not far from his own. In 1970 or so he and another talented pipe maker, Pepino Ascorti, founded the Caminetto brand which was sold ten years before internal difficulties forced its dissolution. In 1980 Gigi made, for the first time, a brand under his own name and with his own individual style. Known throughout the pipe making world for his skill, inventiveness, and panache his work is always recognizable as Radice.
Sasieni: There is a great deal of mystery surrounding the Sasieni pipe, owing largely to the fact there is such a paucity of written information about them, as is the case with many collectible pipes. Even the name of the founder is subject to debate. One respected source says the founder was named "Joel" Sasieni. Another equally respected source says with equal certainty the name was "Joseph" Sasieni. Whatever his first name was, Mr. Sasieni apprenticed at Charatan, and moved on to Dunhill, where he eventually rose the position of factory manager. He opened up his own factory in 1919, believing he could improve on some of Dunhill's methods. [More]
Savinelli: The Savinelli story started in 1876 when Achille Savinelli Sr. opened one of the first stores in the world exclusively selling smoking articles, in the very centre of Milan at #2 via Orefici, near the famous Piazza Duomo. The small shop, which is still at its original location, soon became a meeting place where passionate smokers could exchange opinions and discuss experiences. It was there that Achille Sr. began designing pipes, which he would then have made by artisans in the Varese district, just north of Milan. 1948 saw the opening of the Savinelli factory/workshop, and the pipes produced there rapidly began gaining prestige in markets all over the world. The great-grandchild of the original founder, Giancarlo, is managing the delicate task of modernizing the company while keeping its traditions intact.
Ser Jacopo: Ser Jacopo Pipes from Italy have been produced since 1982 and are aimed at the collector of fine pipes. Ser Jacopo pipes are each a work of art in the finest of Italian traditions. The Picta 1 through 16 series are a tribute to Vincent Van Gogh's art. These beautiful pipes are each inspired by one of Van Gogh's paintings.
Stanwell: Stanwell Pipes, first started by Poul Stanwell in 1942, have become one of the world's leading manufacturers of fine quality briars today. They are known for their unique design and superior smoking qualities. Stanwell pipes are made from the finest Corsican and Grecian briar and designed by well-known Danish pipe makers such as Sixten Ivarsson, Jess Chonowitsch, and Tom Eltang. Shapes range from classic traditional shapes to more unique and original designs. Each piece has its own character resulting from the combination of beautiful grain, balanced shape, and finish.
Tsuge: Mr. Fukuda of the Tsuge Pipe Company was 15 years old when he started to make pipes at the Tsuge pipe factory. His father was also a pipe maker in the 30's. Beginning in the 70's he lived in Copenhagen to learn how to make Danish freehand pipes with Sixten Iverson.
Paol Winslow: Winslow began carving pipes under the guidance of Preben Holm and eventually was in charge of the production of his pipes. After Preben died, Winslow began his own company and today makes pipes that certainly remind one of Preban's work.