Tag Archives: Don Carlos pipes

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.

NEPAL PROJECT PIPE SALE 1 – A Quick and Easy Clean up on a Don Carlos Three Note Dublin

Blog by Steve Laug

I was gifted a box of pipes from a good friend of mine for the distinct purpose of cleaning them up and selling them with all of the proceeds going to the aid of earthquake victims in Nepal. The funds raised will all go to the SA Foundation, and organization that has worked in Nepal for over 15 years helping provide recovery, housing and job training for women who are victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking. The ongoing earthquakes (over 300) that continue to shake Nepal have left much in ruins. The SA Foundation Project there was able to find new housing for the women and help with staff as well. Every dollar raised from the sale of these pipes will go to the work in Nepal.

The first pipe on the work table is a beautiful Don Carlos Three Note Dublin made by Bruto Sordini in 1977. It is a large straight grained pipe. The dimensions are as follows: length 7 inches, height 2 1/2 inches, external diameter at the rim 2 3/8 inches and the diameter of the chamber is almost 1 inch.Carlos1 I knew next to nothing about Don Carlos pipes. This one was stamped on the left side of the shank Don Carlos in script over Fatta a Mano over In Italia.Carlos2 On the right side it is stamped with three music notes and 50/2. The stampings would certainly tell others who know the brand a lot about the pipe but I had no idea what I was dealing with. So I did a little digging on the web to see what I could find out.
I found a website that had lots of info on the stamping and grades that Bruto used on his pipes. http://www.theitalianpipe.com/infowell/guides/doncarlos.htm It also gave the following information on him.Carlos3

“Bruto was born in the small village of Cagli, where his world-famous Don Carlos pipes are currently being made. He’s in his mid-forties, married with three children. He first got into pipe making about 37 years ago. At that time, he was studying law, but slowly and surely he developed a passion for the artistry of making a work of art out of a piece of wood. After having worked for years and years for major pipe making establishments in the area of Pesaro, Bruto decided to get more independent; that was when he started a partnership with two other pipe makers and founded the Ser Jacopo. After a few years, Bruto took off and started the Don Carlos.”

On the PipePhil site I found this information: http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-d7.htmlDon2 Using the formula for dating found on the photo above I was able to date the pipe. The 50/2 stamping is identical to the information above. It states that in 2002 the pipes started to be stamped with this date reference. The explanation of the stamp is that 50/2 = 25 which was the number of years that Bruto had spent in making pipes in 2002 having started in 1977. So this pipe was made in 2002.

Don Carlos pipes are the products of the creative mind of Bruto Sordini. His unique, and often whimsical shapes are a refreshing departure from the ordinary, and his craftsmanship is readily apparent in each pipe. He grades his pipes using musical notes, and they all feature gleaming Lucite stems.
Looking on the Don Carlos website I found this quick summary of the ranges and grading of his pipes. http://www.doncarlospipes.com/eng/doncarlospipes.html

“Our range includes Rusticated, Sandblasted (under Rusticated), Smooth, Smooth Straight-Grain, and Specialty pipes. Also, as many loyal supporters of Don Carlos pipes know, within each finish the pipes are graded according to its grain and are graded with musical notes: starting from 1 note up to 3 notes, with a 3-notes grade as the highest representing the finest pipe.”

I also found the photo below that showed the stamping that was on the left side of the shank of the pipe I was working on.Don1 The pipe was in fairly decent shape when I received it. The finish on the bowl and shank were in excellent shape other than surface dirt. The natural colour of the briar was still in great shape and not darkened with use or age. The rim was the worst part of the exterior of the pipe. The back of the inner beveled rim had some tar build up and I was sure that once I removed it there would be some slight darkening there as well. The bowl also had developed a cake that came up over that beveled edge and would need to be removed. The next two photos show the rim condition and the state of the bowl.Carlos4

Carlos5 I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer using the largest cutting head to cut the cake back to bare wood. You will notice from the angle of the reamer that the bowl follows the angle of the front of the pipe.Carlos6

Carlos7 Once I had reamed the bowl I was ready to work on the inner edge of the rim. I scrubbed the rim with cotton pads and saliva. I put a lot of elbow grease into removing the buildup of tars and oils. I was able to remove the crust on the rim. There was indeed a little rim darkening in that spot but not nearly what I expected to find.Carlos8 I wiped down the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the grime on the surface of the bowl. With the exterior cleaned it was time to address the inside of the pipe. The shank and airway was dirty and darkened. I cleaned it with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners until I was able to get clean pipe cleaners and swabs back after scrubbing. I also scrubbed the stem with the same and was able to remove all of the buildup from the tenon end and inside the airway.Carlos9 I wiped down the outside of the Lucite stem with alcohol on a cotton pad and used micromesh sanding pads to remove the light tooth chatter near the button on the top and bottom sides. I took the pipe to the buffer and buffed it with Blue Diamond Plastic Polish on the wheel and then gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I finished by buffing it with a clean, flannel buff to raise the shine. The finished pipe is shown below.Carlos10






Carlos16 I am still researching the value on this pipe, but on EBay they sell for between $400-$500 each for the smooth 3 note pipes. This beauty is certainly worth that. If you are interested in this pipe email me at slaug@uniserve.com and we can discuss it. The entirety of the sale price will go to the Nepal project. I will pay the postage so that does not get taken off the proceeds. If you are interested in reading about the SA Foundation you can look at their website at http://www.safoundation.com.

Thanks for looking.