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 Courtesy of – 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 – 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.


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