Tag Archives: Castello pipes

A simple restoration of a “Castello, Sea Rock Briar” 56 F pipe with Steve and Jeff Laug


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

Followers of rebornpipes by now are well aware that Steve, Jeff and Dal Stanton had been on a week long visit here to meet me and my family. Amidst all the program of sightseeing and pipe smoking and getting to know each other, it was but natural that restoration of pipes from my grandfather’s collection was one of the “Bill of Intent” on the agenda. Of all things planned, this agenda was fulfilled to the hilt!!

While I was working on the stem of the Brakner Antique #108, which was posted earlier, Steve rummaged through the pile and immediately came up with what maybe the only Italian (as far as I can recollect) pipe from my grandfather’s collection. It is a deeply rusticated pipe with a diamond shank and a slight flair around the middle of the stummel similar to ring cap in a classic Bulldog shape, towards the rusticated rim top. The shank end is adorned with a diamond shaped vulcanite shank extension that tapers at the end to seat an army mount style vulcanite stem. This beautiful pipe is stamped on the lower left smooth shank surface in a parallelogram as “CASTELLO” over “SEA ROCK BRIAR” over “MADE IN CANTU” over “ITALY”, all in capital. Towards the left side of the stampings, in the same space, is the size code “SC” over an unconfirmed code “56 F”.I referred to pipedia.org for a better and detailed understanding of this brand since I have not worked on very many Italian pipes and never on any CASTELLO!! The read was very interesting and I reproduce excerpts from pipedia.org source. The opening paragraphs itself speaks volumes about the quality and craftsmanship of the pipe that we now are working on!!

Pipa Castello was born in 1947 in the artisan workshop of Carlo Scotti in Via Fossano, in Cantù, with the target to produce pipes which could be placed at the very top of quality and perfection from both the technical and aesthetical side.

“I run a craftsman’s shop, not a factory, my pipes are works of art, fruit of expert hands, heart and fantasy” – Carlo Scotti.

So, the Castello Philosophy was born. It prefers to be, not to appear, always looking for a perfection that, in the human limits, Castello tries to reach. Carlo’s work-passion continues unaltered under the faithful guidance of his daughter Savina and Franco Coppo.

If a pipe man wanted to pull out a pipe that conveyed a sense of status, a brand with undeniable cache, he had to go to a pedigreed English pipe, such as Dunhill and Sasieni; a pipe from Italy simply wouldn’t have come to mind. Then, in 1946, a man from Cantu, Italy began carving a pipe that would change all of that. That man’s name is Carlo Scotti, and his pipe brand is called “Castello”.

Carlo’s choice for his company’s name was an inspired one. He needed a name that had a cognate in many of the European languages (Castle, Castillo, Castelo (Portuguese)), and wanted that name to be evocative of pleasant fantasy. While the name did have a dream like quality, the startup of Castello, and the early years of the company were more akin to a nightmare. Early Castello pipes emulated the English classic shapes, if a man leaned toward that aesthetic; he already had plenty of established brand names to turn to. Carlo outfitted his pipes with Plexiglas, something unfamiliar to men who were quite comfortable with vulcanite. Compounding woes, early Castello pipes were quite small in size, usually carved or sandblasted, and were stamped in a bewildering, rapidly changing manner. Some growth did occur via word of mouth. But that growth was too slow, too little, and by 1953, Castello was close to closing the doors.

Most fairy tales introduce a character or an element that allows the protagonist to overcome peril. For Carlo, this character was Wally Frank, who accidentally bumped into Carlo on a pipe buying trip to Italy. Mr. Frank was smitten by the product and agreed immediately to start importation into the US. Upon hitting New York, Mr. Frank replaced the Castello white bar with a superb counter-point to the Dunhill “White Spot”, a “diamond” inlaid in the bit (actually crimped aluminum), and began to market the pipe to highly skeptical Americans with a wholly new angle. The pipe that the prospective buyer held was not churned out in a factory, but crafted start to finish by one man. The shapes were not created by a machine, but by the hands of a master. This was a very different, very special pipe. In short, Mr. Frank redefined in the minds of many an American what it took to give a pipe a pedigree. Combined with the sudden rise in awareness of chic, upper echelon Italian products (Gucci had just opened their first US boutique in NYC), this approach was a success. Castello took off and never looked back.

Small conflicts do not stop great partnerships, Scotti and Frank worked out the product issue and, by the 1960’s, production had moved into high gear. Carlo hired the likes of Luigi “Gigi” Radice and Pepino Ascorti, who carved at full speed to meet demand. Within the synergy of the three legends, a new shaping aesthetic emerged. Emulations of the English standards were replaced by bold shapes with Italian inspiration. This, in turn, fueled American appetites for the pipes to the point that it was not uncommon for a Castello collector to be placed in a position of having to call tobacconists around the country to try to locate a pipe. Often a premium was negotiated for the product.

With this fair bit of background information on this brand, I move towards the prospect of dating this pipe and again an external link on pipedia.org proved to be useful. Here is the link to dating of Castello pipes on Briar Blues – www.briarblues.com/castello.htm

Even though this article makes for an interesting read and is worth reproducing here, for the sake of brevity, I have reproduced only the relevant information which helps to approximate the date of this particular pipe. However, I implore readers to read the complete well researched article.

  1. 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.
  2. The Old Sea Rock and the Sea Rock co-existed. As far as I know, the OSR was US only, imported by Hollco Rohr, and sported the rhinestone. The Sea Rock goes back to the early days.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Ever wonder where your pipe came from?  Which shop had it first?  If so, read below;

 N1 = Novelli ( Italy )

 N = Noli ( Italy )

 F = Fincato ( Italy )

From the above, it is clear that the stampings on the pipe which is being restored, indicates that this pipe most likely is from 1950’s to mid 1960’s with third largest size in the lineup and came from a shop in Fincato, Italy. However, this information also introduces some ambiguities like the shape # 56 and the diamond inlay which points to US market whereas the lack of Old Sea Rock Briar stamp and the letter F after the shape code points to Italian market. It would be nice if these mysteries could be unraveled by the readers of this blog.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
There is a thick layer of cake in the chamber which has been evenly reamed, and this, for me was a big surprise as most of my inherited pipes have not seen the face of a reamer!!!! The Castello, may well be only the second or third pipe from the collection that appears to have been cared for and could be because of the price that he had to pay! Well, nevertheless, there is a thick layer of cake in the chamber and the rusticated rim top surface shows overflow of lava and accumulation of dust, dirt and grime of all these years of storage. There appears to be no damage to the inner and outer rim edges and the same will be confirmed only after the rim top has been thoroughly cleaned. From the thickness of the cake in the chamber, we feel that the chamber walls have been well protected and do not foresee any heat fissures or cracks. However, the same will be ascertained only after the cake has been completely reamed down to the bare briar. The draught hole is perfectly drilled in the center and opens into the chamber at its base. This should be a great smoker, I say. The beautifully rusticated stummel surface is covered in dust and grime. This grime and dirt can be seen in the deep rustications and lends a dull and lifeless appearance to the pipe. The smooth parallelogram surface bearing the stampings on the shank has darkened as a result of this accumulation. The browns of the raised rustications should contrast beautifully with the rest of the dark stummel surface once it has been cleaned up. The saving grace is that there is no damage to the rustications on the stummel. The vulcanite shank end extension is undamaged but is severely oxidized. The shank end extension will lend a sophisticated and classy touch to the appearance of the pipe once this oxidation is rid off the vulcanite and is nicely polished. The mortise is clogged with heavy accumulations of oils, tars and gunk. This will require some heavy cleaning and scraping. However, though laborious, there is airflow through the shank airway. The stem, surprisingly, is nice and shining with very minor traces of oxidation. The upper and lower stem surface shows minor tooth chatter towards the bite area and upper button edge damage. This, we expect, should be easily addressed just by sanding the bite zone. The airflow through the stem airway is full and easy. The diamond inlay on the stem is undamaged. THE PROCESS
As decided, Abha, my wife, and Jeff worked on the stem first. They ran a couple of pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol, through the stem air way. Once satisfied with the internal cleaning, the stem was immersed in “Before and After Deoxidizer” solution to rid the stem of the minor stem oxidation. The discerning reader must have noted the mention of this step for the first time and it’s true. This magic potion/ liquid gold, as Jeff likes to call it, finally reached me, thanks to Jeff who had acted as a courier. The cost of shipping from US is exorbitant and then custom clearance is also a hassle. So when Jeff’s plan to travel here were finalized, I requested him if he could carry it for me and he readily agreed. Thus, I had Mark Hoover send this solution and other products from his store to Jeff and from Idaho, it reached me. By the way, this product works like magic and has reduced my (and now Abha’s…LOL) work by half. After a soak of about 4 hours, Jeff took the stem out, cleaned it under running tap water, wiped it with microfiber cloth and ran a couple of pipe cleaners through the airway to remove the liquid from the internals of the stem. It was amazing to see the transformation in the stem.While the stem was soaking in the “liquid gold”, Abha and Jeff reamed out the cake from the chamber using the first three heads of the Castleford reamer. The amount of carbon that was reamed out belied our initial expectations. This was followed by sanding the walls of the chamber with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper by our little expert on this step, Pavni, my youngest daughter. She just loves doing this task and takes immense pride in making the walls smooth. Dear readers don’t even think for a moment that we were sitting idle while all this work was in progress! All this while, Steve and I were deeply engrossed in admiring the pipes from my collection and sipping on our cold, chilled and frosted Beer…LOL!! Once the chamber was cleaned and spruced up, the duo launched an irrepressible and determined assault on the clogged mortise. The battle was so severe that at one point we thought that Jeff and Abha would throw in the towel, but they persisted and a pile of pipe cleaners, q tips and gallons of isopropyl alcohol later, the mortise was declared clean. When Jeff admitted this to be one of the filthiest cleanings he had undertaken, I smiled inwardly as all of my grand old man’s pipes were in such a state!!When Abha and Jeff declared that they were through with their cleaning, Steve just glanced at their expressions and the pile of pipe cleaners and q tips in front and immediately started to work further on the stummel (he is indeed a very wise man, I say!!) and seeing him and them, I too left the comfort of my perch to lend him a helping hand.

We cleaned the surface of the stummel with cotton pads and Murphy’s oil soap. The deep rustications were thoroughly scrubbed to remove the grime and dirt lodged between them. This was followed by a wash and a scrub under running tap water using a hard bristled tooth brush. The stummel looks clean and vibrant at this stage with the brown tips of the rustications contrasting majestically against the dark of the rest of the stummel surface. Next we addressed the heavy oxidation on the vulcanite shank extension. I was mentally prepared for lot of elbow greasing using sandpapers, when Steve just dabbed the shank extension with alcohol, flamed it with a Bic lighter flame and rigorously scrubbed it with the microfiber cloth. A couple of repetitions and the shank extension is clean and oxidized surface is history. This was an interesting learning for me. I followed it up with micromesh cycle of wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 grit pads. I rubbed a small quantity of Extra Virgin Olive oil in to the shank extension and set it aside. The contrast of the shiny black shank extension with the rustications looks amazing and adds additional bling to an already beautiful pipe.We further revitalized the briar by rubbing “Before and After Restoration” balm deep in to the briar. Care was taken to ensure that the balm is applied within the surfaces of the rustications by rubbing the balm with our fingers. The stummel was set aside for 20 minutes for letting the balm be absorbed by the briar. With the stummel resting, we turned our attention to the stem repairs. As appreciated earlier, it was decided to address the minor tooth chatter by sanding the bite zone with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper and if this fails, progress to the next process. Steve did the honors and sanded the tooth chatter with the sandpaper as decided. He also worked the button to crisp edges. Fortunately, the issue of tooth chatter was completely addressed.The task of polishing fell on me. Under the watchful eye of my mentor, Steve, I went through the complete cycle of micromesh pads, wet sanding through 1500 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem clean with a moist cloth to observe the progress. Once I was through with the micromesh polish cycle, I rubbed a small quantity of Extra Virgin Olive oil in to the stem and set it aside. The stem looks amazing and the, now clean, diamond inlay adds additional bling to an already beautiful pipe. We finished this project with a vigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth and worked it to a nice, rich and deep shine. It was a wonderful experience to work with these gurus of pipe restoration. Their knowledge about all things pipes and tobacco is just amazing. Their precise, measured movements and speed while working on a pipe, is a treat to watch and emulate. Here are pictures of the finished pipe…cheers.

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Breathing Life into a Carlo Scotti Castello Sea Rock Briar SC31 ¼ Bent Canadian


Blog by Steve Laug

It is the second day of the New Year 2019 and I am continuing to work on pipes. My wife and kids are convinced it is an illness but at least it keeps me out of their way! I am continuing my break from the Bob Kerr estates that I have piled in boxes around my basement shop to work on another different pipe. I am still working under the watchful eye of my buddy and Shop Foreman, Spencer. His life is pretty much laying on a blanket by my feet while I am fiddling with pipes. At 14+ years old my fiddling does not faze him much him, he just wants to make sure I stay put with him in the basement. He snoozes, comes over to me now and then to smack my leg and beg for a treat and then retreats to nap again. He really is company in the shop and keeps me mindful to get up and move around now and then.As you might have figured out from the title I am continuing to work on Italian pipes. This is another one that I may have a hard time letting go of when I am finished. It is a Castello Sea Rock Briar. It is stamped on the smooth heel of the bowl and the shank bottom and reads Castello Sea Rock Briar. Next to that is stamped SC31 which I assume is the shape number. It is followed by Reg. No. 66171 No. That is followed by Made in Cantu over Italy with 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. My brother Jeff picked this pipe up at an auction in Nampa, Idaho. It was in pretty filthy looking condition when he 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 another terrific smoker because the bowl was pretty clogged up with cake and lava flowing over the rim top. It really was a mess and the cake was hard from sitting. It was from an estate that was liquidating the belonging of a fellow in the area. 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 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 show the side and bottom of the bowl to give a good idea of what it looked like.The next photos try to capture the stamping around the sides of the shank. They read as I have noted above. The acrylic/Lucite stem was in excellent condition. It was dirty and had light tooth chatter but no deep tooth marks in the stem surface. The Castello “Diamond” on the left side of the shank is quite nice and undamaged. The button also looks pretty good but I would know more once it arrived in Vancouver.Jeff cleaned the pipe with his usual 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. It was a bit dull and some lava still in the deep crevices that I would need to deal with but nothing in comparison to what it looked like when Jeff got it. The inside of the bowl itself looked great. The stem was in great shape other than a bit of tooth chatter. 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 will take some work to take care of the damage. The stem will take very little to polish out the tooth chatter on both sides and give it a deep shine.It has been awhile since I had cleaned up a 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)

Rusticated grading: SEA ROCK, OLD SEA ROCK, NATURAL VIRGIN,

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 black 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 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 31 makes it a Canadian with an oval shank and a ¼ bent stem.

Armed with that information and renewing my knowledge of the brand it was time to work on the pipe. I decided to begin by addressing the deep lava and grime that made the rim top dull looking. I used a brass bristle wire brush to work over the nooks and crannies of the finish and a lot of dust and debris came out of the grooves. I used a tooth brush and some Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean up the remaining dust and rinsed of the rim with some tap water. I dried it off and gave it a light polish with the cloth. It did not take too long for the rim to look clean and debris free.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 to clean, enliven and protect the wood. I used a horse hair shoe brush to work it into the crevices and keep from building up in the valleys and crevices of the finish. 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 gave the bowl and shank multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed it with a shoe brush to raise the shine. The wax is great protection and I love using it on rusticated and sandblast finishes because it does not build up in the grooves and valleys like carnauba wax does. I buffed it by hand with a microfiber cloth to finish the shine. I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I wet sanded the tooth chatter on both sides of the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I was able to remove it. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads to polish it further. I 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. 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. This is truly a beautiful pipe that is for sure and one that I think I will keep around for a while. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/8 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. I have a few Castellos in the collection that have come to me in a variety of ways. They have all been beautiful pipes and the look of this Canadian Sea Rock in the hand makes me pause. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me. It was a great break away from the estates that await me. Cheers.  

An Estate Sale Find – A Castello Sea Rock SC 54P Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

My brother Jeff is truly the king of estate sale, junque store and antique store pipe finds. He seems to have not only developed an eye for a good pipe but seems to have an uncanny ability to find them. A few months back now he messaged me from an estate sale he had gone to near Boise, Idaho. He had driven to the town the evening before so he was first in line for the sale. He found some great pipes in that sale and on that trip. I wrote about the finds he came home with on that trip in a previous blog (https://rebornpipes.com/2016/10/31/sometimes-you-just-get-lucky-an-amazing-pipe-hunt/). This little Castello Sea Rock 54P Bulldog came home with him on that trip. From his description and the photos that he sent along the pipe showed lots of promise. The Sea Rock Finish was dirty and the crevices had dust in them. The rim was tarred with overflow of cake from the heavily smoked bowl. The pipe seemed to sport an after factory band as there were no Castello marks on the silver. The stem was in good shape though it had tooth marks on the top and bottom sides next to the button. It had the diamond logo on the side of the saddle stem which I knew meant it was made for the United States market.castello1My brother took some close up photos of the rim top and the cake in the bowl to show what it looked like when he found it. You can see how thick the cake is and how much of the rim rustication has filled in with the overflow.castello2Other than being dirty, the finish was in very good shape. There were no chips of dings in the surface of the rim or on the bowl or the shank.castello3The silver band was tarnished and seemed to have some flaking on the surface. I am not sure if the silver plate is peeling or if it is just left over remnants of the sticky tag that had been there with the price. The stamping was very clear on a smooth patch on the left underside of the diamond shank and read Castello over SC Sea Rock Briar. Underneath that and to the left it read 54P (which is the shape number) and Made in Cantu over Italy. The underside of the left side of the Lucite stem also had stamping that read Hand Made over Castello and the number 5. The stamping of Hand is faint though it can be seen with a magnifying glass.castello4The fit of the stem against the shank was off – it looked as if the mortise was filled with oils and had pushed the stem out. It did not fit snugly against the shank. The faux diamond circle on the saddle portion of the stem is also visible in the photo below. The second photo below shows the debris on the silver band and the grime in the rustication of the shank.castello5The last two photos that my brother sent show the condition of the stem. It is hard to see the tooth marks near the button on both sides of the stem but you can see the chatter on the underside and the “gunk” (technical term) that had built up in the corners of the slot in the button.castello6Before 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).”

When the pipe arrived in Vancouver it was inside of a Castello suede bag missing only the drawstrings at the top. It bore the classic Castello Castle logo and reading Pipa Castello di Carl Scotti Cantu (Italy) stamped on the front in brown paint/ink. castello7I tipped the pipe out of the bag to see what my brother had done with it. He had written and warned me that he had done a minimal clean up on the pipe as he did not want to damage it. I was not sure what I would see when I removed it from the bag. The four photos below show the state of the pipe when it arrived.castello8 castello9Examining the pipe closely I could see that he had reamed the bowl and cleaned up the rim to remove the tars and oils that had overflowed onto the top of the rim. He had also cleaned the finish on the pipe quite nicely. The internals were cleaner but would need some more work but the pipe looked pretty good.castello10I took some photos of the stem to show the tooth marks on the top and underside near the button. In the first photo of the top, you can see the tooth mark neat the button and the one on the top edge of the button. In the second photo you can see the damage to the underside of the stem near the button and on the top of the button there as well.castello11I used a brass bristle tire brush to clean up the small particles that still remained in the grooves on the rim of the bowl. It did not take too much to remove what was left and leave the rim clean.castello12I wiped off the sticky spots on the silver band with a little alcohol on a cotton pad. I could see that the band had been stamping diagonally in several places with letters from the word silver but that none of them spelled it out completely. I was pretty certain from Robert’s article above that the silver band was after market and may be part of a repair to a cracked shank. Cleaning the pipe further would either confirm or deny that assumption on my part. I polished the band with micromesh sanding pads from 1500-12000 grit pads. The polished band is shown in the photo below.castello13I 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. There was also slight damage to the slot itself on the end of the button. I sanded the slot and cleaned up the damaged areas there. castello14I used micromesh sanding pads to polish the newly sanded areas on the Lucite stem surface. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and wiped the stem down with a damp cotton pad. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads and wiped it down with the damp pad several times throughout the process. 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.castello15 castello16 castello17With stem exterior finished other than buffing I ran a pipe cleaner with alcohol through to remove any sanding debris from my clean up and sanding of the surface and the slot. It was remarkably clean.castello18I cleaned out the shank with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs to remove the tars and oils that kept the stem from properly seating against the end of the tenon. It was pretty thickly tarred and took some scrubbing to remove the grime. While I was cleaning the interior of the grime I found what I had surmised was under the band. The end and inside of the mortise revealed a small crack underneath the grime. It looked like it had been repaired somewhere along its life. The end of the crack on the shank end was the worst part of the damage. The hairline crack on the exterior of the shank – almost an underline of the word Cantu showed signs of having been glued and clamped until it sealed. That settled my question regarding the purpose of the aftermarket silver band on the shank.castello19 castello20With the internals cleaned and the crack examined with a lens and deemed solid I polished the silver band with a jeweler’s cloth to further remove any remnants of tarnish and give it a deeper shine and protection. I hand waxed the bowl with some Conservator’s Wax and buffed it with a shoe brush to raise the initial shine on the briar. The photos below show the bowl after the waxing and polishing.castello21 castello22I put the stem in place in the shank. The fit was perfect and it sat snuggly against the end of the mortise as it did when it left Cantu. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel avoiding the silver band and the briar. I waxed the stem with carnauba wax on the wheel 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 pipe is shown in the photos below. It is truly a beautiful little bulldog. The shape and the rustication make it a pleasure to hold in the hand. It fits snuggly 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. For me there is absolutely nothing lacking in the design and form of this old Sea Rock Briar and I think it will be one I hang onto. Thanks for walking with me through the restoration process.castello23 castello24 castello25 castello26 castello27 castello28 castello29 castello30 castello31

One of the surprises found in the craigslist lot – A Castello Sea Rock 15AF


Blog by Steve Laug

One of the surprises in the craigslist lot I purchased was a Castello Sea Rock 15FA military mount billiard. When I saw the photos in the seller’s advertisement I only saw a rusticated billiard and in the way it laid in the pipe rack it was unclear it was a military mount or a Castello. When I got it home and looked at the assortment I was surprised to see that it was indeed a Castello Sea Rock. It is shown in the photo below – the third pipe down on the right side.craig5 I think this must have been a pipe the seller loved as it was well smoked. There was still a bowl of tobacco unlit in the depths of the bowl. The cake was quite uneven but was thick around the top of the bowl. The rim was overflowing with tars and oils to the point that it had clogged the rustication on the top. It was higher in some places than others from the buildup. The outer edges of the rim were knocked about to the degree that it was work and there were scratches and stain missing from the edges. The stem was dirty on the end like it had sported a softie bit and had some calcification on it. There were also tooth marks on the topside and underside of the stem near the button. The button itself had some damage and scratches. The tenon end was also covered with a buildup of calcium on the end around the insert in the end cap.Cas1 The stem had the “diamond” inset on the side that showed that it was originally made for the North American Market. I did a bit of research and found some information on the stem logo. I quote: “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).” I also found that “The SEA ROCK [Carved Black or dark brown] 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.” This information was found and condensed from the PCCA Castello Grade & Style Guide – by Robert C. Hamlin (c) 1988, 1992, 1994.Cas2

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Cas4 The two photos below show the buildup on the rim more closely. The thick tars and oils over flowed on the top of the rim. You can see that the rustication is buried under the lava.Cas5

Cas6 The next two close up photos show the stem with the bite marks on the top and the bottom side and the calcification on the surface of the stem. In the second photo there is also buildup around the insert end of the stem.Cas7

Cas8 I reamed back the cake to bare wood to remove the uneven surface with a PipNet reamer. I started with the second cutting head and finished with the third cutting head.Cas9

Cas10 I used a brass wire brush and a dental pick to work on the tars on the rim. I scrubbed it and then used a tooth brush to put Murphy’s Oil Soap on the rim. It softened the tars enough that I scrubbed it again with the wire brush and picked at it with the dental pick. I rinsed off the soap with running water and then dried the bowl.Cas11

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Cas14 I restained the worn areas on the top of the rim and the outer edges with a Guardsman Stain pen. I used the dark stain pen as it matched the rest of the bowl. Once I had touched up the stain I rubbed the top of the rim with a cotton cloth to blend the stain into the rest of the rim colour.Cas15

Cas16 I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth chatter and the tooth marks. I also sanded the stem to remove the calcification. I then sanded it with a medium and fine grit sanding sponge to reduce the scratching.Cas17

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Cas19 I sanded the stem with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil between each set of three pads.Cas20

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Cas22 I also polished the edges of the end cap to remove the worn areas on the surface. I fit the stem back into the shank and hand polished the stem with a cotton polishing cloth. I gave the bowl a coat of Halcyon II wax and buffed it with a shoe brush. The photos below show the pipe after the buff with the brush.Cas23

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Cas26 The next close up photo shows the stamping on the pipe. It is stamped CASTELLO over SEA ROCK BRIAR on the flat portion of the shank bottom. To the left of that stamping it reads MADE IN CANTU over ITALY and to the left of it is the number 15 over AF. The end cap is also stamped HAND MADE over CASTELLO over 5.Cas27 The next series of photos shows the finished pipe. I lightly buffed it with a soft flannel buffing pad. It raised the shine on the briar. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond and then gave the stem several coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the entire pipe lightly with the clean soft buff.Cas28

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Cas32 After looking at the finished photos I decided to give it a light rubdown with olive oil. I wanted to enliven the finish and what better way than to add some Italian Olive Oil to and Italian briar.Castello1

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ADDENDUM: I wrote this while wondering about the 15 AF stamping. I knew that the 15 was the shape stamp but the AF threw me for a loop. I posted on both Smokers Forums and Pipe Smokers Unlimited Forum and asked for help. Many offered suggestions. Several said to write Mike Glukler of Briarblues so I did that. Mike replied fairly quickly that he had no idea about the mystery stamp but sent it on to Marco at Novelli, and Castello collector Dave Peterson. Dave replied that he believes that it stands for Army Fitment. He went on to say that the newer army fit pipes that he has have the letter (SC) size designation and have no AF suffix so he assumes the AF stamp was discontinued in the early 60’s. He also said he would check with some others. So it seems I have a tentative answer regarding the stamping.

ADDENDUM 2: Bill on Pipe Smokers Unlimited wrote to Castello and asked them what the stamping meant. He posted their response this morning:

“Steve here is the Castello response and I think you will be quite pleased and surprised.

Dear Customer,
thank you for your inquiry,
the number stands for the shape 15, the billiard. Then “A” stands for
“amici” = friends, “F” stands for flock.
That is a pipe given to friends (read “not for sale”) with a flock. I
hope it helps.”

You got to love the pipesmoking community and the wealth of information available to us if we ask.