Daily Archives: November 12, 2020

Breathing Life into a Carlo Scotti Castello Sea Rock Briar SC16 Billiard

Blog by Steve Laug

It is a rainy fall day in Vancouver and one that just invites me to stay home and cozy. It is a great day to work on pipes. This next pipe on the table came to us in a group of pipes that we purchased at the end of 2019 from a fellow in Los Angeles, California, USA.  It is a Castello Sea Rock Briar and it is a Billiard shape to – both pluses in my book. It is stamped on the smooth heel of the bowl and the shank bottom and reads Castello [over] Sea Rock Briar followed by SC 16. That is followed by Reg. No. 66171 No. Next to that is stamped Made in Cantu [over] Italy followed by an oval containing the name Carlo Scotti next to the stem shank union. The Castello “diamond” inset is on the left side of the tapered stem letting me know this was a pipe made for US import. On the underside of the stem it is stamped Hand Made [over] Castello [over] 3. It was pretty dirty with dust and grime when we got it but still showed promise. He took the following photos of the pipe before he worked his magic on them. The pipe must have been a terrific smoker because the bowl was heavily caked with lava flowing over the rim top. In its condition it was going to take some work to clean out that bowl and be able to see what the rim looked like underneath the layer of lava. The acrylic/Lucite stem was in good condition. It was dirty and had light tooth chatter and marks in the top and underside of the stem just ahead of the button. The rest of the bowl looked dirty but the photos give an idea of what Jeff saw before his cleanup revealed the condition of the pipe. The next photos try to capture the stamping on the flat panel on the underside of the shank. It read as I have noted above. The stem also bears a Hand Made Castello 3 stamp on the underside.    Jeff cleaned the pipe with his usual penchant for thoroughness – reaming the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaning up the remnants with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the internals of the bowl, shank and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior with Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean off the dust and grime on the rusticated Sea Rock finish. The rusticated rim top looked very good under the thick lava coat. The inside of the bowl itself looked great. The stem was in great shape other than the tooth marks on both sides. I took photos of the pipe when it arrived here.   I took some close up photos of the rim top, bowl and stem to show what they looked like after Jeff’s cleanup. It is a startling difference. The rim top looks very good. The stem also looks very good.     I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank and the stem. It is clear and readable as noted above. I also have included a photo of the “diamond” inset on the left side of the saddle stem.  I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the pipe to show the proportions of the bowl/shank and the stem length.I cannot seem to retain the details on Castello pipes in my head for long for some reason. The stamping on them – Castello and the Reg. No. and the Carlo Scotti stamp left me with some questions that I need to answer before I began to work on the pipe. I turned first to the Pipephil site (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-castello.html) because of the general quick summary of information I get there. I quote:

Castello PIPA CASTELLO di Carlo Scotti & C. was founded in 1947 by Carlo Scotti († 1988). Franco Coppo (AKA “Kino”) who married Carlo Scotti’s daughter Savina, manages (2012) the corporate since 1985.

The site also gave a good summary of the grading and sizes of the pipes. I quote that in full.

Sizes (ascending):

1K to 4K, G (Giant) and GG (Extra large)


Sandblasted grading: ANTIQUARI, OLD ANTIQUARI

Smooth grading (ascending): TRADEMARK, CASTELLO, COLLECTION

Other stampings: Great Line (Non-standard or freestyle) Fiammata (Straight grain)

Production (2012): ~4000 pipes / year

I also found a note on the page that the Rhinestone logo was originally on pipes for the US market. It is occasionally used now.

I turned then to Pipedia for more information on the brand (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Castello). The majority of the information was what was already quoted above in abbreviated form. However there was a link to an article by Bob Hamlin that gave some interesting bits of information that I found helpful (http://www.pipes.org/BURST/FORMATTED/196.016.html). I quote in part from that article.

SEA ROCK [Carved Black or dark brown]:  This is the lowest grade of the Castello line and is the most common in the USA.  Sea Rocks are produced by taking a smooth bowl that has not been “final finished” and surface carving the finish with tools. This “carved” finish is then evened out using a steel wire brush, stained and then waxed. The Natural Vergin carved finish is left unstained and unwaxed as a rule, although we have seen waxed and partially waxed “Vergins”.

All carved Castello pipes are graded by the number of K’s that are stamped on each piece and are K-graded by SIZE.  1K is the smallest and fairly rare, 2K is small to medium, with 3K or 4K being the most common and ranges from medium to medium large. Large pieces are stamped “G” for giant and extra large pieces are stamped “GG” for double giant.  In addition to the number of K’s on a carved Sea Rock piece the shape number is almost always added.  As a rule a Sea Rock Castello is stained Black, although recently there have been quite a few coming in stained deep brown and still stamped “Sea Rock”.  American Logo’d Sea Rocks are all priced the same to the consumer, although most are 2 or 3 K’ed models.  G/GG models are charged at a higher price on American pieces and are basically the same as their European counterparts.

The Castello Sea Rock briar I was working on did not have the K stamping. It definitely was made for the American Market with the Rhinestone in the stem. It had the dark brown finish. The shape number still needed to be determined.

Pipedia also gave a link to Mike’s Briar Blues site for help in dating and determining shapes (http://www.briarblues.com/castello.htm). I quote a piece on the Reg. No. that I found helpful.

1947 – Carlo Scotti begins the company.  In the beginning (1947 – 1949, maybe 1950) the pipes were stamped Mi Reserva (my reserve ).  Later the Reg No was added.  This Reg No has nothing to do with shape numbers, but is merely the Castello company trademark

Shape numbers. Shape numbers are all 2 digits. A 2 in front indicates a “fancy” interpretation, a 3 in front means that the carving is somehow unique. I don’t know when the change was made, but currently, a π symbol is used instead of the 3xx. I’ve only seen this on Sea Rocks, but that doesn’t mean anything…

Pre K grading.  Late 1950’s to mid-1960’s the pipe carried stamps which indicated sizes. These were as follows; SA, SB, SC, and SS.  SA being the smallest and SS the largest.

Now I had more information to work with. The Castello Sea Rock in my hands was pre K graded. That told me that it came out in the late 1950s to mid-1960s. The SC stamp makes it a mid-sized pipe from that time period. The number 16 makes it a straight shank billiard.

I started the minimal work I had on the bowl by using a black Sharpie Pen to darken the light spots on the rim top. My purpose was to blend the rim top into the rest of the stain on the bowl and shank. It worked very well.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the rusticated Sea Rock finish on the bowl and the rim top. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect the wood. Once the bowl was covered with the balm I let it sit for about 20 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth and the shoe brush. I polished it with a microfiber cloth. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process to show what the bowl looked like at this point. I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. It was in great shape so I polished the stem with 1500-12000 grit pads. I dry sanded it with the pads and wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I finished polishing the stem with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine polishes. I wiped the stem down with a damp cotton pad afterwards and buffed it with a soft microfiber cloth.   I put the bowl and stem back together on this beautiful Castello Sea Rock Briar 16SC Billiard. I polished the stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the Lucite. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The contrast of the blacks and dark browns of the briar with the polished black acrylic/Lucite is quite stunning. The dark and coral like rustication around the bowl and shank is quite remarkable and gives the pipe an incredible tactile presence that only improve as it heated from a smoke. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The pipe weighs 39grams/1.38oz.Thanks for walking through the restoration with me. I always enjoy working on Castello pipes. Cheers. 

New Life for a 1999 Dunhill Chestnut 5134 Group 5 Brandy

Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the table came to us in a group of pipes that we purchased from a fellow in Los Angeles, California, USA. It is a Dunhill Chestnut Straight Brandy that was very dirty. It is stamped both sides of the shank. On the left side it is stamped with the shape number 5134 followed by Dunhill in an oval. On the right side it is stamped Chestnut [over] Made in England followed by the number 39. Interpreting that stamp it is as follows: The 5134 is the shape for a straight Brandy with a triangular shaped shank. The Dunhill Chestnut is the finish noted on the shank. The 39 following the D of England gives the date the pipe was made and identifies it as 1999. The stamping is clear and readable. The age of the pipe and the oils in the finish has given the pipe a rich reddish brown finish. There is also some amazing grain that the shape follows well. The finish was dirty with dust ground into the surface of the bowl and shank. There also appeared to a repair on top outer edge at the back of the bowl. There was a thick cake in the bowl and tobacco debris stuck to the walls of the bowl. The rim top showed darkening and some lava in on the surface and inner edge of the bowl. The Cumberland taper stem was oxidized and calcified. It had damage to the button surface on the top side where it was missing a chunk. There were also some repair marks ahead of the button on both sides where the repair person had used black CA to patch the tooth marks.  Jeff took photos of the pipe to show what it looked like before he started working on it.He took photos of the bowl and rim top to show the thickness of the cake and the darkening and lava overflow on the rim top. The photos of the stem show the oxidation, calcification and the repairs to both sides of the stem. You can also see the large chunk missing from the topside of the button edge. The stem had been previously repaired rather poorly using large rough black super glue patches.  The photos of the sides and heel of the bowl show the great grain on the pipe. It is a beauty under the grime and dust.   The stamping on the sides of the shank is shown in the photos below. It looks very good and readable. It reads as noted and explained above. The third photo shows the white spot on the stem.     I turned to Pipedia’s section on Dunhill Root Briar Pipes to get a bit of background on the Dunhill finishes (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Dunhill#Root_Briar). I quote:

Chestnut – A rich, deep walnut colour complemented by the Cumberland mouthpiece – it was introduced in 1983 to commemorate the closing of the Cumberland Road warehouse. The same stain and stem material as used on the Cumberland, but on a smooth bowl. Like the Bruyere, the finish is smooth to the feel and will lighten in time to show off the grain, which is usually cross-grain top and bottom with birds-eye on the sides of the bowl. Irrespective of shape, size or finish, all Dunhill pipes are of one quality only – the finest.

Note: Always had the Cumberland mouthpieces fitted. Sometimes, a black mouthpiece it is possible, however, that this was a special request or that it was a replacement mouthpiece…

The shape chart below delineates the finish and the date that it was introduced on the market and how long it was made. The Chestnut came out in 1982 and continues to be made until the present.I turned to Pipephil’s dating guide to show how I arrived at the date of manufacture for this pipe (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/cledat-en1a.html). I am including the chart that is provided there for the dating a pipe. I have drawn a red box around the section. Since the pipe I am working on has a 2 it points to the 1960+ suffix line on the chart below.I turned to Pipedia where there was a shape chart that could be used to interpret the 4 digit shape numbers like the one on this particular pipe. https://pipedia.org/wiki/Dunhill_Shape_Chart#:~:text=The%20White%20Spot%20Chart%20%20%20Digit%201%3A,%2012%3A%20Chimney%20%208%20more%20rows%20). I have included the chart below.I now knew that I was working on a Chestnut that came out in 1999. The shape number is 5134. The first number (5) was the size of the pipe which in this case is a Group 5. The second digit (1) is the mouthpiece shape which in this case was a Standard or taper shaped stem. The third (3) and fourth (4) number identify the shape of the pipe. This is 34 which is the number for a Brandy shaped pipe.

I turned to work on the pipe itself. Jeff had carried out his usual thorough cleanup of the pipe. He had reamed it with a PipNet reamer to remove the cake and cleaned the reaming up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the internals of the bowl and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the externals with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and rinsed the bowl off with running water. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer and once it had soaked rinsed it off with warm water to remove the residual solution. He dried it off and rubbed it down to remove any oxidation that was still on the stem. The pipe looked very clean when I received it. I took a photo of the rim top to show the condition. You can see the darkening on the rim top on the back of the bowl. It is roughened and chipped on the front and back side of the rim. The taper stem came out looking quite good other than the damage on the button and the black CA repairs on the top and underside of the stem.   I took photos of the sides of the shank to show the stamping. It is clear and readable as noted above.    I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the pipe parts to show what I was working with. It is a nice looking pipe.I decided to start the restoration on this one by working on the damage on the inner edge of the bowl. It had darkening and some damage to the edge. There were burn and knife marks on the edge from a previous pipeman. I worked it over with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to give the edge a light bevel and remove and minimize the damage on the edge. When I finished with it, the bowl and the rim top looked much better.   I polished the rim top and bowl with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I sanded and smoothed out the repair that had been done to the top outer edge of the rim on the back of the bowl at the same time. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. The briar began to take on a shine.  I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips. The product works to clean, enliven and preserve the briar. I let it sit for 15 minutes while I worked on the stem. After the time passed I buffed it with a cotton cloth to deepen the shine. The briar really comes alive with the balm.   With the bowl finished and cleaned up it was time to tackle the stem mess. I want to see if I could minimize the repair marks from the previous repair and also rebuild the button. Since it was Cumberland this was going to be a bit tricky.  I took photos of the stem before I started and marked the issues on it with blue arrows. The #1 is the chip out of the top edge of the button. The #2 and #3 are the tooth marks fills that were done with a large amount of black super glue. I would have used a clear CA glue to repair these and let the underlying Cumberland colours show through. However now I had to figure out a way to minimize them.  I greased a pipe cleaner with Vaseline and inserted it in the airway. I rebuilt the button area with black Loctite 380. It is black but it is a small spot so I am hoping to be able to blend it in well with the rest of the Cumberland.  I removed the pipe cleaner once the repair had set and took a photo of the stem at this point. I used a rasp and small file to shape the button and cut the inner edge. I also flattened out the area of the previous repair to reduce it. There was also a dip in the mouthpiece on that side near that button that was a shallow trough so I cleaned up the taper to smooth out the transition with the files. I smoothed out the file marks and repairs and reshaped the button edge with 220 grit sandpaper. I started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. Still lots of work to do but the shape is correct and the repair is not too bad. I still need to rework the tooth mark repairs on the top and underside some more.   I cleaned up the repair areas and used a black and a red Sharpie Pen to match the striations of the Cumberland. I let that cure and then put a light coat of clean CA glue on top of the areas to keep the blend in place. Once that cured I lightly sanded it with a 1500 grit micromesh pad. The result can be seen in the photos below.   Now it was time to polish the repairs. I polished the Cumberland with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem.     This Dunhill Chestnut 5134 Brandy from 1999 is a beautiful looking piece of briar that has a shape that follows grain. It is a great looking pipe that came out looking even better after the cleanup. The Chestnut is a Dunhill that utilized a Walnut stain and a Cumberland taper stem. The finish on the pipe is in excellent condition following the restoration. The brown stain on the bowl works well to highlight the grain. The polished Cumberland taper stem adds to the mix. With the dust gone from the finish and the bowl it was a beauty and is eye-catching. I put the repaired stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel being careful to not buff the stamping. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Chestnut 5134 Brandy is quite nice and feels great in the hand. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. I can only tell you that like the other pipes I am working that it is much prettier in person than the photos capture. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 47grams/1.66oz. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. Remember we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next generation.