• Cucciago / Lombardia / Italia
  • Annual production: Since 1.500 pipes
  • Shape: classic and free
  • Wood origin: Italy, France and Greece
  • Mouthpiece material: Acrylic
  • Characteristics: Streak on mouthpiece; Caminetto - Handmade - Cucciago Italy - on the stem
  • Decoration: Silver, gold and different woods
  • Surface: Smooth, sanded, rustic; red, orange and natural colour
  • Sold in: USA, Austria, Switzerland Germany, Italy, Spain
  • Price: From € 100 to € 450

Every once in a while, events conspire to create something great. Such was the case with Caminetto pipes in 1969. Two accomplished pipe carvers, Peppino Ascorti and Luigi Radice, decided to leave Castello and strike out on their own. Castello had been at the forefront of the Italian pipe renaissance in the 1950s and 1960s. Indeed, Castello single-handedly brought Italian artisan pipe making to the world stage. With this heritage in mind, Ascorti and Radice set out together and founded Caminetto pipes in 1969.

Both Ascorti and Radice were from Cucciago, a small town near the Castello workshop. They were joined by Gianni Davoli who marketed Caminetto during the 1970s. Davoli, who is considerably less well known than Ascorti or Radice, actually developed many of the shapes for which Caminetto has become known. Il Pipa del Baffo, literally translated, means the Pipe of the Moustache. This became both the marketing line and the famous stem nomenclature of Caminetto pipes. The original gold leaf stem nomenclature was patterned after Davolis large and unusual moustache (the more recent white acrylic insert is very similar, but Davoli changed his moustache and the nomenclature had to change with it!).

Regardless of moustaches, Caminetto became incredibly popular both in Italy and in the United States during the 1970s for many of the same reasons that Castello had. The quality of the Caminetto pipe matched or, as some would argue, even exceeded that of Castello. Between the brilliant carving of Pepino Ascorti and Luigi Radice and the marketing genius of Gianni Davoli, it is not surprising that Caminetto was a huge success. Caminetto of the 1970s served to further the Italian Renaissance and was the first pipe brand other than Castello to adopt the approach of the small workshop.

Unfortunately, in 1980 Pepino Ascorti and Luigi Radice split over an irreconcilable argument over the nature of the Caminetto pipe. Demand for their pipes was far outstripping their ability to supply them on their own. The Caminetto pipe was considerably less expensive than its principle rival during the 1970s, Castello. Caminetto could not produce as many pipes as Castello, which had many very good carvers. The quality was comparable, but the quantity could never be as long as only Ascorti and Radice carved Caminetto pipes. Pepino Ascorti believed that they should grow to keep up with demand. He felt that the Castello model of having many highly skilled artisans was preferable to their situation as it was. He firmly believed that they could grow to include more carvers without suffering any quality loss. Radice felt differently. Luigi Radice believed that they should focus on improving quality and not adding any additional carvers. He understood that as demand outstripped supply, prices would increase, but he felt that producing more pipes would hurt the quality of the brand. Essentially, Radice believed that artistic integrity would be sacrificed if the firm grew. Of course, Ascorti did not disregard his sense of artistic integrity either. He simply felt that both increased production and artistic integrity could be mutually inclusive. Their differences were irreconcilable and they parted ways. Luigi Radice went on to found Radice pipes with his sons and continues to make a superb smoking instrument. The history of Caminetto and Ascorti are not nearly so clear since 1980.

As a side note, it seems the last twenty years of history has not offered us a victor in this argument. Many superb pipes are made by each approach. Indeed, some of the greatest pipes from Italy come from Savinelli and Castello. Both of these companies employ a number of artisans and produce truly remarkable pipes. On the other hand, small one or two man operations also flourish and produce superb pipesBecker, Radice and Ardor among many others provide superb examples. Clearly, there is a place in the high-grade, carefully crafted pipe market for both visions.

Though Ascorti retained the rights to the Caminetto name, few were made after Radices departure. The brand fell into disuse during the early 1980s. Pepino Ascorti made pipes for a few years under the Ascorti label. Though still of high quality, many argue that this less expensive brand is inferior to the work that Pepino did on his Caminetto line.

In 1986, Roberto Ascorti, Peppino son, began making pipes under the Caminetto label again. Though he continued to make the Ascorti pipes in his fathers tradition, Roberto revitalized Caminetto as a high-grade line where he could display his pipe making virtuosity. Though he retained the general styling of the older Caminettos, he did make some changes to suit his personal carving style. The rustication on the Business finish pipes changed, though the rustication on the New Dear pipes remained largely the same as the style used by his father and by Radice. Robertos goal was to return Caminetto to its previous glory as a truly great Italian brand.

Clearly, he has not only succeeded, but also proven himself as an artisan of remarkable skill. Caminetto continues to be one of the truly great names in Italian pipe making. It does so for exactly the same reasons that made Caminetto popular to begin withsuperb craftsmanship, superior smoking characteristics and stunning aesthetics.

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