Blog by Troy Wilburn
A short time back I was doing one of my favorite past times and that’s scanning for pipes on eBay. I spotted this Charatan and was just infatuated with it. The shape, style and blast just really drew my attention but I knew that it was beyond my budget. So I got the idea to contact a friend of mine on the Dr. Grabow Collectors Forum, Gary Balestrieri Jr. Gary is a truck driver and a pipe carver who owns Marvic Pipes. I asked him if he could carve me a pipe based on that Charatan but unfinished. I suggested a narrow yellow acrylic band instead of a metal band as the only major change. To my happiness he agreed.
I then contacted another friend of mine from the forum, Carl Purdy, who does some fine sand blast work on pipes. I have posted some of his work before on here on the Jobey Lumberman I restored and he sandblasted.
With both on board to do the work for me, it was agreed that the pipe would be mailed to Carl after Gary carved it and then mailed to me and I would put the finish on it.
Well I got it in the mail last Saturday and I must say that I was giddy at such nice work they both did on this pipe for me. Gary nailed the shape and Carl did a masterful job on the blast. I’m very proud of both of them and honored to own this pipe now. I now have a pipe that to me is a 100 times better than that Charatan and it cost me half the price that pipe sold for. It was made with care by two friends and I consider that the most important aspect of his pipe.
I was just going to stain the pipe a plain jet black, but after seeing the blast I decided to see if I could do a kind of Dunhill Shell look to make it more interesting and high end looking. The first thing I did was carve a holder out of a corn dog stick – nothing but the best high end equipment on my kitchen table you know. Then I wiped it down with 91% alcohol to make sure that there were no contaminants on the briar. I also rubbed the bowl with a Scotch Brite pad to soften the sharp edges on the blast. I then did some contrast staining on the stamping using a black sharpie as I wanted the stampings to stand out. I was also glad to see both Gary and Carl’s name stamped on the pipe. That was another very nice touch. Then I wet sanded the smooth area with very lightly using 91% alcohol. Then to make sure that the dye would not penetrate too deeply and turn the whole smooth area black I took mineral oil and painted it on with a Q tip. I mixed up some black RIT dye and applied several coats to the bowl until it suited me. I set the pipe to dry in my high tech drying rack disguised as a cardboard box. I wiped down the bowl with mineral oil and checked over the colour. It looked good. Now it was ready for some wax. I buffed it kind of heavy on the first coat to take some color off and to get that shell look to the briar. On a sandblasted pipe after several initial coats of wax I heat it over my stove to melt the wax into all the crevices. Then I buff it with a few more coats and repeat the process until it builds up to my liking. Here is the pipe after a couple of hours of buffing and waxing.
The pipe is a fantastic smoker and already after only a couple of ounces or so of tobacco smoked through it is beginning to break in. The draw is very easy and butter smooth. The pipe almost seems to smoke itself. I can only imagine how it will smoke after several more ounces are smoked through it.
Gary did perfection on the mechanics of the pipe and Carl put a world class looking blast on it. I couldn’t have asked for a better pipe. It turned out beyond my expectations. This will always be a cherished pipe to me. I have to add that the pictures just do not do it justice.