I missed last Friday’s post so I thought I’d push this one out a bit early. Posts will be spread out a bit over the next month or so to give me time to work on the Brigham book. I hope their quality makes up for the lack of quantity! – Charles
Not long ago, I was contacted by a fellow looking to have some pipes restored before putting them up for sale. We chatted a bit over email before he sent me a total of five lovely Castello pipes, all on the larger side at KKKK and G sizes. in this post, we’ll be looking at the first of the five – a striking Castello Old Antiquari KKKK Oom Paul.
This series of pics shows the pipe as it looked when I first brought it to the worktable. It showed signs of use – a rime of smoke residue on the rim, a few small marks on the stem near the button, and a slightly tired finish – but the pipe also showed signs that it had been well cared for, including a well-trimmed cake in the chamber. Small specks of wax caught in the ring-grained sandblasted finish told me that the pipe had been buffed and polished at least once since it had been purchased.
The smooth patch of briar under the shank was stamped with a star/asterisk then “Castello” over “Old Antiquari” then “KKKK” over “97” followed by “Made in Cantu” over “Italy”. Right next to the stem/shank junction was another stamp that reads “Carlo” over “Scotti” in an oval. The stem is also marked with “Hand Made” over “Castello”.
I was rather pleased to find that the stem was made of black acrylic rather than Vulcanite. This meant that there was no oxidation to remove and the small handling marks could be buffed out easily. The stem’s airway, however, still needed some old fashioned elbow grease to clean out the old tars and oils. Pipe cleaners dipped in 99% isopropyl alcohol did the trick nicely.
I used more pipe cleaners and alcohol along with a few cotton swabs on the stummel’s shank and airway. As is usual for Oom Paul and other pipe shapes with a significant bend, there was a fair bit of muck built up in there. I used the 5/32″ drill bit you can see in the pic to clear out the worst of the tars from the airway and let pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol do the rest.
Cleaning the thin film of lava from the sandblasted rim took a bit more work. Here, instead of alcohol that might have removed some of the stain, I used cotton swabs wetted with good old saliva which contains enzymes that dissolve the tars but leave the finish underneath unharmed. Getting thr rim clean took a bit of time, but the results were worth the effort.
I finished up the cleaning by reaming the chamber back to briar. While some restorers like to leave a thin layer of cake intact, I prefer to remove it completely to make sure there is no damage hiding underneath. I also like to show potential buyers exactly what they’re getting to provide a bit of reassurance often missing from online purchases.
Just before closing things down for the night, I set the stummel up with an alcohol treatment to dissolve and remove any tars that the pipe cleaners had missed. For this I packed the pipe’s chamber with cotton balls, slipped a pipe cleaner down the airway and twisted another cotton ball into the mortise before filling the chamber with isopropyl alcohol. I have found that adding the pipe cleaner in the shank helps quite a bit with deeply bent pipes. I kept adding alcohol until the protruding end of the pipe cleaner in the shank showed wet, then set the pipe aside for the night.
When I came back to the shop the next day, the alcohol had done its work. The dissolved tars had been soaked up and trapped by the pipe cleaner and cotton wool.
I removed the soiled cotton and pipe cleaner and used a fresh pipe cleaner to remove any last remnants of tar lurking in the shank and airway. I let the stummel rest for a bit to give the alcohol a chance to evaporate out of the airway. While I waited, I tidied up the small tooth marks on the stem using 600, 1000 and 2000-grit wet sandpapers. This job took so little time that I forgot to take a photo!
Then it was time to reassemble the pipe and take it to the buffer for final polishing. A quick run of Red Tripoli on the stem removed the last sanding scratches and brought up the shine. Both stem and stummel then received a light buffing with White Diamond and a few light coats of Carnauba wax to shine and protect the revitalized pipe.
The finished pipe is looking every inch the high-end, hand-made pipe for which Castello is famous. The deep black shine of the stem is only overshadowed by the stunning 360-degree ring grain! This Castello Old Antiquari KKKK 97 Oom Paul is now available for purchase on the Pipe Inventory page. It would make a perfect statement piece for the discerning pipe smoker or a superb gift for someone special.
Thanks for joining me for this estate refurbishment. I hope you enjoyed the journey. Until next time, Happy Piping!
Here’s the finished pipe.