Tag Archives: repairing an acrylic stem

I really love these Castello Sea Rock Briar pipes – a Sea Rock Briar KKK16


Blog by Steve Laug

It has been a long hot day in Vancouver with lots of meetings and work all day. It is hot enough that once I quit for the day I decided to go to the cool of the basement and work on pipes. The next pipe on the table came to us from an auction in Gonzales, Louisiana, 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 KKK16. That is followed by 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] 5. The bowl had a moderated cake in it and there was lava overflow back top side and inner edge. It was hard to know if there was burn damage on the smooth rim top because of the lava but after cleaning it we would know for sure. The rusticated finish was pretty dirty with dust and grime when we got it but still showed promise. The acrylic stem had deep tooth marks, scratching and chatter on both sides near the button. The edges of the button were also marked. Jeff 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 moderately 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 other than the 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 5 stamp on the underside.   Jeff cleaned the pipe with his usual regime that many who read this probably have memorized. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned 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 smooth 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. It really is a beautiful looking rusticated pipe. 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 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 Carlo Scotti stamp were things that I wanted to makes sure I understand before I began to work on the pipe. I turned to Pipephil’s site to get a quick summary (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-castello.html). 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 had the 3K’s of a Medium sized pipe. 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 section on the shape numbers.

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…

Now I had more information to work with. The Castello Sea Rock in my hands 3K graded. That told me that it came out in the late 1960s onward. The 3K stamp makes it a mid-sized pipe from that time period. The number 16 makes it a straight shank billiard.

I decided to work on the stem first and try to remove and repair the tooth marks on both sides of the acrylic stem. Since acrylic does not have “memory” like vulcanite I did not try painting the stem surface. I sanded down the chatter in preparation for repairing the tooth marks. I filled in the tooth marks with clear CA glue. Once the repairs cured I used a small file to flatten them out and recut the sharp edge of the button. To blend in the repairs I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.   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 set the stem aside and turned my attention to the bowl. I polished the smooth rim top with micromesh sanding pads -1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the rim top down with a damp cloth between each sanding pad. The rim top began to really shine. 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 put the bowl and stem back together on this beautiful Castello Sea Rock Briar KKK16 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 ¾ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The pipe weighs 53grams/1.87oz. This is a beauty that will be going on the Italian Pipe Makers section of the rebornpipes online store. Let me know if you want it. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me. I always enjoy working on Castello pipes. Cheers.

Breathing Life into a Carlo Scotti Castello Sea Rock Briar SC23 Straight Apple


Blog by Steve Laug

Summer is pretty much over in Vancouver and today was like a rainy, cold fall day. Between appointments and calls I continue to work on pipes. My wife and kids are convinced it is an illness but at least it keeps me out of their way! This next pipe on the table is one that I may have a hard time letting go of when I am finished. It is a Castello Sea Rock Briar and it is an Apple shape to pluses in my book. My brother Jeff picked this pipe up from an antique mall in Utah, USA. It is stamped on the smooth heel of the bowl and the shank bottom and reads Castello [over] Sea Rock Briar 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. On the underside of the stem it is stamped Hand Made [over] Castello [over] 5 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 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 a deep tooth 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 5 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 will take a bit of work to remove the deep tooth marks on both sides and give it a deep shine.     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)

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 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 23 makes it a straight shank apple.

The bowl was in such good condition that 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 set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I filled in the tooth marks with black super glue and set it aside to cure. Once it cured I flattened the repairs with a file and sanded them with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface. I started polishing the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.   I continued to polish 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 23SC Apple. 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 smok. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. This Sea Rock Briar Apple will soon be on the rebornpipes store if you are interested in adding it to your collection. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me. I always enjoy working on Castello pipes. Cheers. 

Restoring a Worn and Tired Cesare Suprema 2 Brandy 111


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table came to us from an antique store in Houston, Texas in Nov. 2019 when Jeff was there for his eldest son’s wedding. It has been around waiting to be worked on. Jeff did the original photographs of the pipe in December 2019. It is a straight Brandy with an acrylic stem and some nice grain around the bowl. The stamping is the clear and readable. It is stamped on the left side of the shank and reads the Cesare [over] Suprema 2. On the underside of the shank it is stamped with the shape number 111. The finish was rough with a lot scratches and nicks in the briar. There was a small burn mark on the lower right side of the bowl toward the front where the pipe obviously had been laid against a hot ash in an ashtray. There was a lot of grime ground into the bowl and some darkening around the sides of the bowl. There was some damage on the crowned rim top where the finish was worn off and scratched. The bowl was heavily caked and there was a light lava coat on the scratched top of the rim. Surprisingly the inner edge of the bowl looked quite good under the grime. The black, taper acrylic stem was a mess. There were tooth marks and chatter on both sides and damage on the button surface. The stem had grey acrylic insert on the top side of the taper. The pipe had promise but it was very dirty. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. He took photos of the rim top and bowl to give a clear picture of the thickness of the cake and the condition of the rim top and edges. You can see the damage on the crowned top and edges of the bowl. He also took photos of the top and underside of the stem to show the horrible condition of the chatter and tooth marks. Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to give a picture of what the briar around the pipe looked like. There is some interesting grain under the grime and heavy scratching of the bowl sides. There are a few small fills that also evident. The third photo shows the burn mark toward the front bottom of the bowl.     Jeff took photos of the stamping on the left and underside of the shank. It read as noted above. I searched on Pipephil for the brand and found the stamping and logo on a similar looking pipe. There is a listing at the bottom of the screen capture of a Suprema 4 with the same Cesare signature on the shank side (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-c3.html). It also confirmed a faint memory that I had about a connection to Barontini.I turned to Pipedia for information on the brand (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Barontini,_Cesare). I had seen the connection on Pipephil with Barontini so it was not surprising to see that the maker was Cesare Barontini. I quote from the site:

In 1890 Turildo Barontini opened a factory for the production of briar. In 1925 his son Bruno began to produce the first pipes. Cesare Barontini, son of Bruno, started direction of the factory in 1955, and still runs it together with his daughters Barbara and Silvia.

There was also a list of the Barontini sub-brands and seconds. I am including them below because of the many recognizable brands listed.

Aldo Velani, Cesare, L’artigiana, Stuart, Cortina. See also Barontini, Ilio, Cesare’s cousin.

I knew that the pipe I was working came from Cesare Barontini and the Barontini Factory in Italy. Now it was time to work on the pipe itself.

Since Jeff follows the same pattern of work in his cleanup we do not include photos but rather just a simple summary. Jeff reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the cake. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim, shank and stem with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the oils and tars on the rim and the grime on the finish of the bowl. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. He was able to remove much of the varnish coat from the rim top and you could see the damages to the front edge of the rim. He cleaned the internals and externals of the stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs. The stem was clean and you could clearly see the damage on the top and underside. I took photos of what the pipe looked like when I brought to my worktable. The bowl and rim top cleaned up really well leaving the nicks and scratches on the crown visible. The finish was worn off the rim top so it was rough to touch. The inner and outer edges of the bowl were surprisingly smooth. The stem surface looked very good the tooth chatter and marks on both sides ahead of the button very visible.       I took a photo of the stamping on the left and underside of the shank. It read as noted above.  I removed the stem and took a photo of the pipe to give a sense of the whole. It is a well shaped tall Brandy shape that looks elegant.Now it was time to do my work on the pipe. To minimize many of the nicks and scratches on the sides, bottom and top of the bowl I steamed them out. I heat a butter knife on our gas range and use a damp cloth to cover the nicks around the bowl. I heat the knife until it hot and then place it over the cloth. I creates steam which lifts many of the scratches in the briar. I was able to remove many of them. The few that remain are a part of this pipe’s journey. I polished the bowl and the rim top, sides and shank with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping it down after each pad with a damp cloth. I carefully avoided the stamping on the top and underside of the shank so as not to damage the stamping. I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine.  It helped to blend the stain into the rest of the bowl.  The final buffing would bring the pipe alive.  I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I filled in the tooth marks on the topside and the underside of the stem with black super glue. I also rebuilt the button surface on both sides.Once the repairs cured I used a needle file to flatten the repairs and recut the button. I used 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the repairs further and blend them into the stem surface. I started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.   I polished the acrylic stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem.        This well made, classic Cesare Suprema 2 Tall Brandy with a black acrylic stem is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored. I was able to remove and minimize the scratches around the bowl and rim. The rich brown finish came alive with the polishing and waxing. The grain really popped. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Cesare Brandy is a beauty and fits nicely in the hand and looks very good. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 ¼ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. If you are interested in adding this pipe to your collection send me a message or an email. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!