What Is So Great About Castellos

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georged

Preferred Member
Mar 7, 2013
2,713
684
Fascinating stuff, Bill. First you conclude a series of declarative statements with the one-word sentence "Period" to emphasize their clarity and lack of ambiguity; then, when called on it, try to dismiss the subject entirely since variations in perspective must be allowed for, yadda yadda.
You can't have it both ways, I'm afraid. :lol:

 

cachimbero

Member
Apr 9, 2019
162
27
I have 11 Castellos. They all rate from outstanding to above average in the performance section. Of course, as I chose them, they are all very beautiful to me. It is my favourite briar "factory" pipe, although I have more Dunhills than Castellos. If I began again I would go "all" for Castello in a serially produced quality pipe. Not a single one smokes worse than over average. Stems are acrylic, and you may like that or not, but, as acrylic goes, my experience is they are top notch. Recommended (from my experience).

 

captpat

Member
Dec 16, 2014
265
6
Northern Virginia
I can’t offer a “scientific” explanation however a Castello is what I most frequently reach for out of my collection that includes a variety of manufacturers and shapes. A combination of aesthetics and trouble free smoking I guess. YMMV

 

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workman

Preferred Member
Jan 5, 2018
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Lot of good info so far. I said in my OP that they don't look better. Well, I really don't find them prettier than many other brands, generally speaking, but they have some shapes that appeal to me. Several of their straight billiards and apples and also some of the bents.

I've seen some straight billiards weighing 23-24 grams, but with reasonable chambers nonetheless and then there are massive heavyweighters with huuuge chambers.

What do you guys prefer?

 

frozenchurchwarden

Preferred Member
Mar 1, 2014
2,165
390
A few years back there were a bunch of forum threads ranting about how great Castello is with their 5/32” (or larger) draft diameter. I’m sure they’re generally top quality pipes, but this should be the most significant functional difference over most factory brands. http://pipesmagazine.com/forums/topic/drills-sizes-request-tutorial

The only other pipe brand with a consistently open draft size that I know of is Missouri Meerschaum (specifically the plastic stems, from what I can tell the new vulcanite and acrylic stems are not drilled out beyond the default draft).
I like to drill out most of my pipes for a larger draft (usually just 1/8”, but even that is often an improvement over stock drilling).

 

georged

Preferred Member
Mar 7, 2013
2,713
684
A few years back there were a bunch of forum threads ranting about how great Castello is with their 5/32” (or larger) draft diameter.
Castello's airway size has varied over the years. There was a period where a fiber tube (wood?) came fitted from the factory, effectively identical to Dunhill's aluminum tube. In those pipes, there was an internal step-down in the airway to keep the tube in place, and the bore diameter through the stepped-down area was quite small --- 2.75mm / .109".
In general, people hated the new "feature" and it didn't last very long. (Some smokers prefer a "sip style" draw, but most don't and thought the pipes smoked badly.)
For a while, though, teeny-bore Castellos could be bought at a discount, since enlarging airways can be a tricky business.

 

sasquatch

Preferred Member
Jul 16, 2012
1,070
289
I just happened to buy one such "vintage" castello, a piece one of the Italian dealers picked up from their museum, so to speak. The draw is indeed a pinhole, a very very different critter than a modern Castello, and in no way better. I don't mind a tighter draw, and slightly restrict the draw on pipes I make, but this thing was pretty hard to smoke. I have opened it a bit and it's better.
Bought a modern Sea Rock 65 a week ago, it's excellent, and yeah, 5/32" or so, nice and smooth.
In terms of size, workman, I have everything from G to kk, which is huge to teeny. I like the teeny one a lot, but honestly, it's very very small, and the airways are also very very small.
I'd shoot for a medium sized pipe, 30 t 45 grams, anything else is unpleasantly heavy, and a kkkk size is good at everything.


a tiny kk billiard and a kkkk bent dublin

 

oldgeezersmoker

Preferred Member
Oct 7, 2016
1,665
1,488
I just happened to buy one such "vintage" castello, a piece one of the Italian dealers picked up from their museum, so to speak. The draw is indeed a pinhole, a very very different critter than a modern Castello, and in no way better. I don't mind a tighter draw, and slightly restrict the draw on pipes I make, but this thing was pretty hard to smoke. I have opened it a bit and it's better.
For decades, this was the way Castellos were made. The number, a 3 or a 5 on the stem, told you the size of the reed (inner tube) to use. Almost no one did. They were, to me, great smokers, but in the 1990’s a certain wealthy and prominent collector and one pipe “expert” repairman loudly proclaimed on every available print and digital platform that they needed to be “opened up.” Monkey see, monkey do. Barely competent people started drilling them out, and abortions are common. It is now somewhat difficult to find unaltered estate pieces from the era that interests me the most, the 1960’s and 1970’s, when Scotti ran the place. The factory has long since succumbed to the “market” preference for Holland Tunnel airways, leading to thicker and less comfortable lucite bits, IMO. But there are exceptions in the smaller sizes. I have a k petite billiard purchased from Bollito a few years back that seems to be drilled to the old dimensions and has a very thin, comfortable, lucite, mouthpiece. What is the practical difference? Well, a bowl lasts longer in it than a kkkk 54 purchased about the same time with the wide open airway and a larger chamber. I would measure the bowl capacities, but a friend expressed interest in the 54 and he now owns it. I do have a few new Castellos from the Kino era. One has passed into the keeper category and the jury is still out on the others.
Of course, when I started with Castellos, the old style was all that was available. Without thinking about it, I suppose it was me that adapted my packing, cadence etc., to the pipes. But the very idea that the newer ones are “better” in this regard is equivalent to saying Carlo Scotti didn’t know how to make a pipe. YMMV, IMO, of course, and I am resigned to the fact that this battle was fought and lost by the people who agreed with me decades ago.
 

sasquatch

Preferred Member
Jul 16, 2012
1,070
289
To me, the practical difference is that if the airway is a pinhole, ANY moisture at all will fully occlude it and the thing will gurgle and spit.
I bought the "vintage" pipe hoping for a non Holland-Tunnel airway, as you put it, and got just that, but it is, imho, too far the other way (I do have a current production billiard that is too open and does feature a fairly stout bit). There's a wide middle ground of "excellent", but I thought this old pipe was just so restricted it wouldn't smoke well, I tried a half dozen bowls of different cuts, moistures, etc, and after tweaking the pipe just a bit (put a bevel on the tenon end, which was pretty rough, and opened the slot just a bit) suddenly the thing is playing along.
But there's for sure no single right or wrong here, it's a sliding scale of preference - on one end, a pipe you can't get a pipe cleaner through is not going to be much fun, and on the other end, the milkshake straw airway is maybe easy to smoke but probably a hot burning flavorless mess for most users.

 

cigrmaster

Preferred Member
May 26, 2012
14,968
9,541
United States
I prefer an open draw as it allows me to pack the pipe more firmly which gives me a better smoke. My lone Castello has what I would guess to be around a 4.5 mm shank opening. I have quite a few artisan pipes that are similar. One of my best smokers is a Michael Butera Apple that is as wide if not a tiny bit wider than my Castello.

 

jfred

Member
Apr 30, 2018
118
2
What got me into Castellos in the first place, was the great reviews they mostly receive and a good availability in my local B&M. I had my first Castello early in my pipe smoking journey, so the open draw feels natural to me.

I also really like most of their shapes and finishes, and I just love the taste of a new Castello, so I'm in no hurry breaking them in :puffy:

 

georged

Preferred Member
Mar 7, 2013
2,713
684
...but in the 1990’s a certain wealthy and prominent collector and one pipe “expert” repairman loudly proclaimed on every available print and digital platform that they needed to be “opened up.”
That's a mischaracterization. Rick not only wasn't loud about it, he accompanied every instance of mentioning his airway diameter preference with a clear and separate "add on" disclaimer that there was no right or wrong in the matter, only personal preference in a "How strong do you like your coffee, or how spicy your hot sauce?" sort of way.
It's true that because his first book was a collection of essays written over a period of years---which were then printed intact as chapters---his mentioning of that airway size preference happened frequently within the book, but that's it.
All he is guilty of is underestimating the power of groupthink in the PipeWorld, combined with the inherent laziness of humans in general. Who doesn't want a better smoke? Once the "secret" got out (so to speak) everyone jumped on the bus whether they knew how to drive or not.
Since those days, Rick has expressed regret many times that his personal preference was interpreted AS such a "secret," and the frequent damage caused by kitchen table repairmen which resulted. That knowing what he knows now, he would never have mentioned it.
As for the "expert" repairman you refer to (I assume the quotes were sarcasm), I can only think of two who might qualify. Jim Benjamin, who never claimed to be one (he just did clean-ups); and Ronnie B. who definitely was legit. His airway smoothing/tuning procedure had nothing to do with enlargement for its own sake, though, but focused on a balance of proportions and minimizing turbulence. Neither of those men came remotely close to "loudly proclaiming on every available print and digital platform that [all] pipes needed to be opened up" though. Ronnie had a single page on his website which described his procedure and the physics/rationale behind it; and Jim rarely dealt with anyone except through the mail. He disliked non-personal interaction.

 

samuelgawith01

Preferred Member
Apr 2, 2018
925
2,725
If you believe in them,then buy them.I’ve had more than a few pass through my hands over the years,and still own four.

Their smoking characteristics vary,depending on the stem internals,but in general,they smoke well.I have a #55 where I wish that the opening in the final half of the stem was a bit larger,while the channel in the shank is open to my liking.I like a more open,and turbulence free smoke channel,and I have found this to make a noticeable difference in how the smoke tastes.

What’s great about them? In my opinion,nothing.Maybe the marketing.I like them in general,nothing more.Dunhill also markets a well made pipe,that from my experience smokes consistently well,with perhaps stems with a more open draw than the Castellos.I like them,nothing more.This not to say that you won’t have in your collection an individual Castello,or Dunhill that doesn’t smoke “great”.

Dunhill’s marketing was and is great.In comparison,I have an eighty dollar house made Canadian from Blue Room Briars that smokes every bit as well,if not better than any Castello I’ve ever

owned.Yes,this Canadian is a very good smoker.The tobacco is very well represented flavor wise in this pipe.And I’ve owned sixty dollar pipes with good shank drilling,but horrible stem work,so that it masked what good smoking qualities the pipes may have had.With a bit more effort on the stem,the sixty dollar pipe could have performed as well as a seven hundred dollar pipe.OK,enough from me.

 

sasquatch

Preferred Member
Jul 16, 2012
1,070
289
LOL George, when I have built pipes to as close to Rick's specs as I can (or as I understand them), the result is people say "Wow, I can't believe how good the pipe smokes." I think "open draw" is pretty relative (relative to size of bowl, length of shank all kinds of physical stuff). But if you do in fact build a pipe to the Newcombian spec, they are real decent smokers. I think Castellos are closer now to the American standard of constant-volume engineering, where Rick's, or my take on Rick's, is actually about building a venturi, and taking advantage of the pressure effects thereof. Both ideas work fine, again, this is science, but not rocket science maybe!
I don't remember anyone loudly proclaiming anything - what I've seen is a group of smokers become both more educated and more choosy about how their pipes are built. There is less mystery now, less "luck of the draw", and that's a damned good thing imho.

 

workman

Preferred Member
Jan 5, 2018
1,905
643
Sorry if I'm a little slow, Sasquatch, but can you elaborate on the "constan-volume engineering" vs your venturi effect? I'm not sure I understand this.

 

frozenchurchwarden

Preferred Member
Mar 1, 2014
2,165
390
“Constant Volume Engineering” means any given length of the air passage maintains the same volume. The real tricky part is the button, transforming a round passage into a slot that will contain exactly the same amount of air.
For a readily available example, Missouri Meerschaum did an amazing job with their plastic formed stems. I don’t know if it’s engineered to exactly maintain volume but you can see an almost perfect taper from round airway to the rectangular slot, the only place you’ll find that kind of geometry in Acrylic or Vulcanite would be on “the best of the best” high end pipes.

(I’m not saying Cobs have perfect stems but sometimes you have to admire what they did accomplish.)

 
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tobefrank

Preferred Member
Jun 22, 2015
500
1,024
“Constant Volume Engineering” means any given length of the air passage maintains the same volume. The real tricky part is the button, transforming a round passage into a slot that will contain exactly the same amount of air.
I’m assuming that you mean that the cross sectional area of the air passage is constant from bowl to button (in terms of size, not in terms of shape)?
I’m quite interested to learn more about the Venturi effect as well. Is this when the draft hole in the tenon is slightly smaller than the rest of the air passage such that the smoke accelerates (slightly) towards the button?

 

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