Freshening a Lovely Castello Natural Virgin G Bent Billiard

This is the third of five Castello pipes sent to me for cleanup and sale. I posted the refurbishments of the first two some time ago but have been distracted by the Brigham book for a bit. Now that I’ve got a bit of breathing room in the schedule it’s time to finish off this series!

As a reminder, Castello pipes are all hand made in Italy by the pipemaking firm established in the late 1940s by Carlo Scotti and now run by his son-in-law, Franco “Kino” Coppo and daughter Savina Scotti. Pipes are sized by letter grades (K, KK, KKK, KKKK, G & GG, in ascending order) and are available in several lines of rusticated, sandblasted and smooth finishes. At the top of the rusticated pipe grades is the “Natural Vergin” line, an example of which is on the worktable today.

As this series of pictures illustrates, the pipe, like the rest of the lot, was in excellent estate condition, with only a smear of lava residue across the rim and some fine marks on the acrylic stem near the button. Clearly these pipes were well taken care of by their previous owner, but like all estate pipes, this one needed a bit of attention before finding its next steward.

The smooth panel on the underside of the shank is stamped “Castello” over “Natural Vergin” followed by the size, G”, then “65” and “US” (the original Castello shop location for this pipe) followed by “Made in Cantu” over “Italy”. Lastly, the pipe is marked with “Carlo Scotti” in an oval. The underside of the acrylic stem is marked “Hand Made” over “Castello”, while the top of the stem carries the Castello White Bar logo.

I decided to start the cleanup with the stem as I had it in hand. A small stack of pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol cleared out the accumulated tar and oils from the airway. When I was happy with the state of the internals, I took some 1000 and 2000-grit wet sandpaper to the bite area, smoothing out the tooth scratches and other handling marks.

With nothing but final buffing to do on the stem, I set the acrylic aside and moved to the stummel, first reaming the old cake from the chamber before cleaning the shank and airway using more pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol.

Now it was time to tackle that rim buildup. Sometimes the carbon in the smoke residue can become extremely hard as it dries on the rim of a pipe. This can make it difficult to remove, but in this case I got lucky. The tarry crust came away easily on some wet 2000-grit sandpaper. I followed up by polishing the rim with micromesh pads to 12000-grit to remove any stray scratches and bring up the shine.

I scrubbed the exterior of the briar with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a toothbrush to lift away the dirt and oils from the surface, then packed the bowl and shank with cotton balls. After filling the bowl with alcohol, I set the stummel aside carefully for the night. While it sat, the alcohol would dissolve any remaining tars and oils, which would then be caught in the cotton wool.

When I came back to the worktable the next morning, I could see that the alcohol treatment had done its job. Though not terribly discoloured, the cotton wool in the shank was certainly a few shades darker, and after removing the spent cotton, the pipe smelled a lot fresher.

The only thing left to do with this Castello Natural Vergin G was to reassemble the pipe and take it to the buffer. Focusing on the flat rim and the stem, I polished the pipe with both Red Tripoli and White Diamond compounds before applying a light coat of Carnauba wax to the stem only. In keeping with the Virgin finish, the rusticated briar was left as nature made it.

The finished pipe is a real fistful of briar. This G-sized Bent Billiard tips the scales at 2.8 ounces and measures 6 inches from the bottom of the bowl to the end of the stem. The bowl itself stands 2-1/4 inches tall and 1-1/2 inches wide. The chamber bore is 7/8 inches in diameter and just shy of 2 inches deep. The chamber walls are a solid 3/8 inch wide, and the smooth rim displays some very nice cross-grain.

If you are on the hunt for a large, high-grade handmade pipe, this Castello Natural Vergin G may just be what you’re after. It is available on the Pipe Inventory page now.

Thanks for joining me for this quick refresh of a beautiful handmade pipe. As a pipe restorer and repairman, it is a real treat for me to work on these Castellos. The fine quality of workmanship is evident in every detail. This pipe and the other four briars from this lot are sure to provide decades of excellence to its next steward.

Until next time, Happy Piping! Here’s the finished pipe.