Claudio Cavicchi had been a farmer near Bologna for most of his life, where he now lives with his wife, Daniela, in the town of Baricella.
Rewinding time for thirty years…
Claudio was a pipe smoker who attended several slow-smoking competitions. As he continued to work on his skill in slow smoking, Claudio became increasingly dissatisfied with the pipes he had as well as with those that were offered on the market, as he was unable to find a pipe that fit his needs and specifications. Frustrated, he decided to carve the “perfect pipe” for himself; one that would meet his needs and exact specifications. He set out to do this with only the most basic of tools, and without any experience in pipe-making. This was the genesis of Cavicchi pipes. Claudio had since, as he puts it himself, “taken inspiration from pipe shapes created by great firms of long tradition such as Castello and Charatan” and continued to craft pipes that expresses his personality, and have done so with the exacting execution aimed to produce the “perfect pipe” for every pipe smoker.
Claudio is a prolific pipemaker who enjoys working during the night. From his workshop Claudio crafts over a thousand pipes every year, making him one of the most popular and celebrated pipemaker among pipe enthusiasts.
Cavicchi pipes had been mainly distributed in the United States, which was very common for many of the popular Italian firms/makers. The popularity of Claudio’s work found him more than a few shops in the US that were willing to carry and promote the majority of his creations.
Claudio retired from farming in 2005; he sold his land, on which he had labored his whole life up to that point, as he decided to devote the rest of his life to pipe making. Though logic would dictate that as Claudio becomes a full-time pipe maker, the annual output of his workshop should increase; that is, however, not the case. As Claudio devotes more time and attention to each piece he makes, the quality of his work went up and the quantity went the opposite direction. Nowadays the annual production of the Cavicchi workshop is between 600-700 pipes.
Claudio’s wife, Daniela, has been a steadfast source of encouragement and motivation for him at the Cavicchi workshop. She takes part in the pipe making process as well, such as rustication, staining, and applying the final polish.
The shapes and design of Cavicchi pipes are very recognizably “Italian Classic”, which stays within the conservative English classic shapes while stylized with unmistakable Italian flair. Claudio’s work displays great attention paid to each piece of briar. The shaping and design of his pipes always conform and aim to maximize the character of each block of briar. Claudio personally inspects and selects every piece of briar that he uses for his pipes as he frequents the workshops of Italian briar cutters. Though it is almost impossible to identify the origin of each piece of briar, Claudio mostly uses Tuscany, Ligurian, and Calabrian briar.
While employing an army of tools, the Cavicchi workshop is impressively well-organized! The center table that is used mainly to complete small finishing steps is covered with small pieces of paper, which outlines and helps in reproducing all the different pipe shapes/designs that Claudio has made during the year. Although made from the same/similar template, each Cavicchi pipe is unique from another; as the result of Claudio’s personal artistic touch, each pipe will embody a unique character and will be visibly identifiable as “Cavicchi”!
As one beholds a Cavicchi pipe, two characteristics are evident: The first being that the grain pattern of each piece is always perfectly centered, which is the result of the pipemaker’s careful study of the formation of the briar block; the second being that the grading of Cavicchi pipes is scrupulous. Claudio always says that the grading step is the most difficult step for him in making a pipe. When in doubt about how many © to stamp on a pipe, he would always stamp the pipe with the lower of the two grades he was considering.
Among the smooth finish pipes, ones stamped five “C” ©©©©© are very rare! Only a very few pieces are good enough to be awarded the five “C” stamping. In order for a pipe to receive such grading, the grain pattern must be very tight and be uniform all around the bowl. A Cavicchi ©©©©© pipe always features perfect, top quality straight grain!
The “Diamante” grade is the highest grade Claudio awards to a pipe. This stamp is used only 3-4 times a year. Claudio has said that for the last 30 years of his pipemaking career, the Diamante stamp had been used no more than 70 times! To be a Cavicchi Diamante, a pipe simple must be PERFECT! The shape must be perfectly balanced and the grain must be perfectly even and straight on all sides of the pipe; birdseye grain must be very tight and defined; and the pipe must be absolutely without any sandpit.
Can you imagine how difficult it is for a “Diamante” to come around? Take my word for it, if you happen to find one, here or elsewhere, don’t let it get away!
In 2009 Claudio introduced a new grade called "Perla" which is finished in two different colors: reddish/brown smooth and amber/clear smooth. The Perla grade has a superior grain compared to the ©©©©© but not great enough to be stamped "Diamante".