Restoring a Castello Sea Rock Briar SC 54P Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the table is a beautiful Castello Sea Rock Briar Bulldog. I love the Sea Rock Briar finish and this was one that is quite exemplary of the finish. It has a rugged and deep rustication that is very tactile and I think will be a great smoker. It is another pipe from the group of pipes which Jeff and I purchased on 04/26/2022 from a woman who contacted us from Cleveland, Ohio, USA. They had belonged to her husband’s father. We spent time chatting with her and arrived at a price and she sent the pipes to Jeff. It included 28+ pipes along with this one.

This Castello Sea Rock Bulldog is stamped on the left underside of the shank and reads SC [over] 54P. That is Castello [over] Sea Rock Briar [over] Made in Cantu [over] Italy. The numbers and stamping tell me that the pipe is a Sea Rock rusticated finish and it is a bent Bulldog. The underside of the left side of the Lucite stem also had stamping that read Hand Made over Castello [over] the number 5. The finish was very dirty with spots of grime and debris ground into the crevices and valleys of the rustication. The bowl had a thick cake in the and a heavy lava overflowing onto the rim top into the grooves. The rim top appeared to be in very good condition with no damage to the inner edge. The acrylic stem had tooth marks and chatter on both sides ahead of the button. The button itself appeared to be in good condition. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his clean up work on it. My brother took some close up photos of the rim top and the cake in the bowl to show what it looked like when we received it. You can see how thick the cake is and how much of the rim rustication has filled in with the overflow. The photos of the stem show the faux diamond logo on the top left side of the saddle. You can see the tooth marks and chatter near the button on both sides of the stem. Jeff took photos of the rusticated finish around the bowl sides and heel. It is nice looking if you can see through the grime and dust ground into the rugged, deep rustication. He took a photo of the stamping on the left underside of the diamond shank. The stamping is readable but filthy. It reads as noted above.I remembered that I had written a blog on the same shaped Castello that now was in my rotation and did a quick search on rebornpipes for the link to see if I could remind myself of the information that I had collected there. I found the link, reread the information and quote from it below (https://rebornpipes.com/2016/12/18/an-estate-sale-find-a-castello-sea-rock-sc-54p-bulldog/).

Before I worked on the pipe I wanted to do a bit of research to see if I could shed some more light on the pipe I had in hand. I learned from the pipephil website that the rhinestone logo was originally on pipes for the US market. There was no hint as to why that was done only that it was and that it is occasionally still used http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-castello.html

I have an older article called PCCA’s Castello Grade & Style Guide. It was written by Robert C. Hamlin (c) 1988, 1992, 1994. Robert gathered some remarkable information on the Castello lines and I have often used his guide in the past to give me pertinent data. There I found more information regarding the shiny logo on the side of the stem.

“American logo’d Castello pipes use a small round “Diamond” (referred to and looking like, but it is NOT actually a diamond) inlaid into the mouthpiece. This was originally done so that the standard Castello white bar logo did not conflict with another brand and logo that was sold by Wally Frank called the “White Bar Pipe” (in the 1950’s).”

The above quote and the remainder of those following come from the same article by Robert Hamlin. You can read the full article at the following link: http://www.pipes.org/BURST/FORMATTED/196.016.html

I read further in the article to help me understand the stamping on the underside of the shank. My knowledge of Castello pipes is pretty limited so when I get one to restore I resort to this article and others to try to make heads or tails of the stamping. First of all I had no idea what the SC stamped ahead of the Sea Rock Briar stamping meant. I had seen Castello’s with the signature of Carlo Scotti on them but not this stamping. Robert gave me the information I needed.

“Older Castello pipes will usually include the “REG No.” and have the letters “SC” stamped as a part of the nomenclature. The SC stamp was for Scotti, Carlo (in Italy all names are listed last, first). Today the full name of Carlo Scotti, contained in a small oval, has replaced the SC stamp.”

I learned that the Sea Rock Briar stamp also signified something and told me more about the pipe. Robert pointed out:

“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”.” 

The remaining mystery for me was the meaning of the stamping on the stem. I of course understood the Hand Made and the Castello stamping but the number 5 was a mystery to me. I was not sure what it referred to. So once again Robert’s article gave me the information I needed to understand that last piece of the mystery.

“#2: All Castello standard shaped pipes have a number (3, 4, 5 or 6) stamped on the mouthpiece or sometimes on the lucite ferrule. What does this number mean? Not much really, it is the number of the size for the proper straw tube or reed that fits the shank and stem of the pipe. These straw tubes are rarely used in the United States. The Castello reed is considered superfluous and useless to most, but with this number you will always know which one fits (the different numbers have to do with length, not diameter).”

Armed with that information I turned to work on the pipe itself. Before he sent it to me, Jeff had done an amazing job cleaning the pipe. It almost looked like a different pipe after his work. He reamed the pipe with a PipNet pipe reamer and removed the rest of it with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife.  He scrubbed the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a tooth brush. He rinsed it under running warm water to remove the soap and grime. He cleaned out the inside of the shank and the airway in the stem with isopropyl alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. Even though the stem was acrylic he soaked the stem in Briarville’s Pipe Stem Deoxidizer and then rinsed it off with warm water. It really works well to remove internal and external grime and tars. He scrubbed the stem with Soft Scrub and a tooth brush and rinsed it off with warm water. It looked amazing when I took it out of the package of pipes he shipped me. I took photos of the pipe before I started my part of the restoration work.  The rim top was much cleaner and the rustication was in good condition. The inner and outer edges of the bowl looked very good. The stem surface looked good but visible tooth marks and chatter showed clearly on either side of the stem. I took a photo of the stamping on the left underside of the shank and stem. It is clear and readable as noted above. I also took a photo of the faux diamond in the top left of the saddle stem. It is also in good condition.I took the stem off the shank and took photos of the parts of the pipe. It is another great looking Rusticated Bulldog with twin rings around the cap of the bowl.I did a quick work over of the rim top grooves with a brass bristle brush to clean up the small particles that still remained in the grooves of the rustication. It did not take too much to remove what was left and leave the rim clean. It really is a pretty looking pipe.The bowl looked good at this point so I rubbed it down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl and shank with my fingertips and a horse hair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for about 10-15 minutes and buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded the tooth marks out on both sides of the stem at the button using 220 grit sandpaper and also sanded the damage to the button surface itself. I started polishing the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I used micromesh sanding pads to polish the newly sanded areas on the Lucite stem surface. I dry sanded it with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiped it down with the damp pad after each sanding pad. In doing so I was able to remove all signs of the damage to stem in those spots along the edge and top of the button. I put the stem in place in the shank and  looked this beautiful Castello Sea Rock Briar 54P Bent Bulldog. I lightly buffed the bowl on the buffing wheel. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel I waxed the stem with carnauba wax on the wheel. I waxed the bowl with Conservator’s Wax and buffed the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Castello Sea Rock Briar Bulldog is shown in the photos below. It is truly a beautiful little bulldog. The finished Castello Sea Rock Briar Bulldog is shown in the photos below. It is truly a beautiful little bulldog. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ¼ inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¾ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 41 grams/1.45 ounces. The shape and the rustication make it a pleasure to hold in the hand. It fits snug with my thumb curled around the back of the bowl and the rest of the fingers holding the bowl. The finish is extremely tactile and should be interesting in hand as the bowl heats up during smoking. I can testify to how well both Castellos and this shape smoke. I will be adding it to the Italian Pipe Makers Section on the rebornpipes store soon. Thanks for walking with me through the restoration process.

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