Becker had a personal history at least as interesting as that of the pipes he
hand-crafted. An Austrian Jew, Becker escaped from Vienna in the late 1930's-
just before he was to be arrested. He made his way to Great Britain and there
joined the British army. As an accomplished linguist (he spoke five languages
fluently) Becker worked as an interpreter and translator for British
Intelligence throughout World War II, helping to uncover German troop movements
on the continent. At the war's conclusion Becker settled in Rome where he
attained the esteemed position of Representative to the Vatican
for the World Jewish Congress (equivalent to an Ambassadorship).
Besides being a designer, painter, and sculptor (a true Renaissance man) he along with his son
produced a limited number of smoking pipes in a small workshop near the Trevi
Fountain. Since Fritz's passing Paolo has both carried on and expanded on the tradition and designs
begun by his father.
Fritz Becker in his workshop
Paolo Becker today is considered to be one of the finest pipe makers in
the world. After a sojourn of some years as one of the proprietors of the famous
Becker & Musico shop in Rome (when he had not much time to make
pipes) Paolo returned to his passion some ten years ago, spending more time
crafting and less in the store. Finding the dual role too much in terms of
creative time lost he gradually grew away completely from the shop to devote all
his energies to crafting his matchless designs in briar.
Paolo is unique in that, as a pipe maker, he was influenced by no one but his
father. And, since Fritz's death he has moved beyond those borders to where he
now crafts pipes of his own exclusive designs- some times inspired by
traditional English models, some times by neo classical Italian motif, and at
others by Danish and German free hand shapes.
A third generation-
Paolo's son Federico has now joined his father in crafting Becker smoking pipes.
Although very easy-going, and very happy that his son wants to follow in his and
his father's footsteps, Paolo would not have encouraged his son if Federico did
not show the talent needed to uphold the reputation that Becker smoking pipes
At present Federico is serving his apprenticeship under Paolo's watchful eye,
slowly learning the techniques needed to become a master. One such area where
young Federico has already excelled is that of crafting the pencil shank.
Becker pipes are known for their fine proportions and thin pencil shanks, and
Federico has already mastered the ability to craft a pencil shank to such
an extent that his are more delicate than those of Paolo.
Obviously this does not mean that young Federico is a complete pipe maker- for
he is not yet that. But, given time and hard work, he will take his place
alongside his father and grandfather.
The pipe- The
origin of the Becker pipe begins with the finest briar available- Extra-Extra
quality plateau from the province of Calabria in southern Italy (reputed to be
home to the hardest briar in the world). This briar is dug from a light, sandy
soil and after preliminary seasoning and cutting Becker lets the wood air-dry
for from three to five years depending on size.
If life was as it should be every Becker pipe would be either a perfect straight
grain or a flawless cross grain-
for Paolo Becker has a penchant for perfection. All his smooth pipes are
designed so that the shape flows to the grain, thus creating the unique and
neo-classic models for which Becker is known. Becker's carved and
sandblasted pipes are deeply
etched and follow both classic and neo-classic
form. The amount of hand work each pipe receives has been described as
"...little short of amazing" by an English master pipe maker who
visited Becker at his workshop. It is little wonder then that one year's
production numbers only 250 pipes.
Each hand-turned Becker bowl is complemented with a hand-cut mouthpiece made of
either black Plexiglas or brindle vulcanite, and most Becker pipes possess the
registered Becker "briar ring" trademark.
PLEASE NOTE: There has been much confusion
among Becker pipe enthusiasts over whether Fritz or Paolo made a particular
pipe. In order to have the record set straight I offer the following
information: The Becker brand was started in 1970's in the attic of Fritz'
apartment close to the Presidential Palace in central Rome (the Becker briar
ring logo was trademarked in Italy in 1979 and in the U.S. in 1981). From day one Fritz
and Paolo designed the pipes together, although one or the other would do the
major portion of the work on a particular pipe. I
began to import the brand in 1981, and by 1983 I cajoled the pair to make some
of their pipes in a more classic style. It was from this period that folks
assumed the classic pipes to be those of Paolo while the original style was made
by Fritz. Not so! Every Becker pipe, until Fritz died, was worked by four hands-
Note: Because the
production of Becker pipes is so limited the number of dealers selected to carry
this brand are few. Please go to the DEALER
DIRECTORY to find a Becker dealer.
Becker's workshop where you may purchase pipes directly and/or have your
"own design" made into a pipe by Paolo
Price List and Gallery