Daily Archives: July 15, 2018

Refurbishing a Don Carlos Hand Made Ballerina

Blog by Steve Laug

In the past weeks I finished up some pipes for a guy here in Vancouver and when he came to pick them up he brought some more for me to work on for him. I finished up some of the ones on the worktable so I decided it was time to work on these. The second of them is a Don Carlos Ballerina. It is another really beautiful pipe. The shape, the natural finish – combining a smooth and rusticated finish, the black acrylic stem and the treble clef mark that is the symbol of Don Carlos pipes all combine to make this a uniquely beautiful pipe. I have not worked on a Don Carlos product before this one and it was a beautiful pipe. The bowl was clean with very little cake – not enough to ream or remove. There was some slight darkening on the rim top. The inside of the shank was dirty and needed to be cleaned. The black Lucite stem had tooth marks and chatter on the top and underside of the stem near the button. The square saddle stem looked good otherwise. I took photos of the bowl and stem to give a clear picture of the condition of the pipe before I started to work on it.I did a quick review of the history of the brand by turning to Pipedia. Here is the link https://pipedia.org/wiki/File:DonCarlos.jpg. Courtesy of italianpipemakers.com – Don Carlos pipes are born of thirty-year experience, inspired by local tradition, when at the beginning of 1900, Primo Soriani was a pipe maker near Cagli. The briar used in Bruto Sordini’s workshop has been seasoned in an open place for two years at least. Each pipe, completely made by hand, is the result of a tidy selection of the rough material and then of elaboration of the shape. The chamber is always left natural, without coating, to allow the smoker the discovery of the interesting taste of briar. That’s because a pipe must be beautiful, but overall it must smoke in the best way.

The photo below shows pictures of Bruto and Rosario Sordini. The photo is from the Pipedia article and come from Doug Valitchka as noted below the photo.I then turned to the Pipephil website – http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-d7.html and did a screen capture of the article there on Don Carlos pipes. The information on that site will help me date the pipe that I am working on. It is stamped on the left side of the shank with the script of Don Carlos. On the right side of the shank it is stamped Fatta A Mano – Hand Made. On the underside of the shank it is stamped with the number 29 on a smooth band of briar. That number 29 tells me that it was made in 2006 (25+4).I started my clean up on this pipe by rubbing down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the rusticated finish with my fingertips and finished working it in with a shoe brush. I worked over the rim top to remove some of the darkening there. I could not remove it all but I was able to get rid of some of it. The balm works to clean, preserve and enliven the briar. I really like the effect of the product on briar so I took some photos of the pipe at this point. I cleaned out the airway in the stem and shank, the mortise and shank interior with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. It did not take as much as I expected to remove all the tars and oils in the shank and mortise. The stem had some debris in the edges of the slot in the stem.I set the bowl aside and turned to address the stem. I sanded the tooth marks and chatter out of the stem surface with some folded 220 grit sandpaper. I forgot to take photos of that part of the process and went on to polish the stem with micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratches in the acrylic. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I carefully buffed the smooth portions of the bowl and lightly buffed the rusticated portions. I gave both the smooth parts of the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad. I gave the rusticated portions of the pipe multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I have six more pipes to finish for him – two come from his personal rotation while four of them are some finds he made while pipe hunting. This is going to be a fun bunch of pipes to work on. I look forward to moving through the rest of them. Thanks for looking.


Blog by Robert M. Boughton

Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the Author except as cited

6 And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made [it] to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief.  So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd  7 But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.  8 And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, [It is] better for me to die than to live.

The Holy Bible (KJV), 4:6-8

The unique and, one would not be out of line calling it, bizarre implement for enjoying pipe tobacco that is the subject of this post came to me in an estate lot of three “unbranded” examples.  That’s just a euphemistic way of saying no-names.  I never before bid on a lot with nothing but unknown pipes, much less heard of such a thing, but I wanted this lot so much I offered three times more than anyone in his right mind would even consider.  The tactic worked.  One other bidder offered 50 cents more than the price at the time and therefore drove the final cost up that much, but I would have loved to see the look on his face when the minimum bid popped up on his screen!  I’m a little evil that way, I know.

The price I paid for the three has already been compensated with the sale of the top pipe below, a frayed straight brandy I cleaned and dressed up in a shiny black finish and sold for more than the lot cost.  The African meerschaum in the middle that made me desire the lot at all is destined for my own collection.

Three no-name pipe lot courtesy adamcam1985_eBay









I have nothing against no-names.  In fact, some of them have been favorites of mine, one of which, below, I’m sure will shock some readers here.  Both of the no-names in the following photos came incidental to a couple of other lots filled with treasures the sellers could not have recognized, and they smoked as well as any pipe I’ve owned. And so, this is about the bottom pipe in the lot of no-names, a definite art deco wannabe that can only be described as a Rhodesian calabash, despite the lack of calabash gourd or anything like the traditional meerschaum bowl insert.  Instead, the “insert” is made of wood I believe to be Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF), similar to plywood only much denser and stronger, and something that looks and feels like some sort of metal and therefore probably is.  I’m sure it was made in China, if only because of the unmistakable color.

The refurbish was as easy as they come.

REFURBISH The newfangled calabash is comparable in size to other pipes in one way, having a length of 6”, but the chamber diameter is tiny at ⅝” x ⅝”.  When I first held the pipe and looked it over, I thought it was brand new (pun intended).  But closer examination showed carbon in the little insert bowl chamber and the larger enclosed bottom chamber, and the rim needed some work.  After more than a little consideration, I determined the insert is MDF coated almost all over with whatever maroon finish of which the Chinese are so fond.  It reminds me of a mushroom, truth be told. Unfortunately, after having no success removing the char from the bottom chamber with super fine “0000” steel wool, I escalated the process to 150-grit paper and took off enough of the Teflon-like red finish that there remained no reason not to finish the job.  The steel wool worked well on the rim, though.The plastic stem had been gnawed well below the lip until it was, well, gnarly.  I attacked it with a progression of 150-, 220-, 320- and 600-grit papers, followed by the full power of all nine micro mesh pads and, to finish it off, a buff on the wheel with red and white rouge.  I don’t really know if the last measure did any good.  You be the judge. And that, as they say, was that, except for a quick spin on the wheel to buff the rim.
All I want to know now is what’s up with the stinger?  And BTW, one reason I chose the Biblical quote at the beginning is that I suspect it might be the origin of the term “losing your gourd.”  I meant no blasphemy.

I do not believe there is a source for this perhaps – one at least would hope – unique pipe.  But everything deserves its day in the sun!