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Bruto Sordini and his Don Carlos Pipes ©

Bruto at Work

Bruto Sordini and his Don Carlos Pipes


It is often the case that a pipe smoker is quite aware of the history of his/her favorite pipe(s) and can go on talking about it endlessly with amazing confidence and accuracy.However, it is regrettably common to find that knowledge of the maker who made that favorite pipe is often hazy, if available at all; sometimes, even the name of that pipe maker is not known, unless one is talking about one of the big names in the pipe making world, or one is simply a dedicated pipe collector.

This article is intended not only to provide information about the Don Carlos pipes, but also to pay tribute to their talented maker, Bruto Sordini.  Don Carlos is a relatively new name that is receiving more and more international recognition and appreciation and the Don Carlos pipes are increasingly sought after in several European countries as well as in the USA.

Bruto Sordini

Bruto Sordini is in his mid-forties, married and has three sons. His interest in making art objects out of wood led him to abandon the study of law and eventually discover the gratification and self-fulfillment that the art of pipe making can bring.

Bruto started making pipes when he was twenty years of age.He started as an apprentice to an old village pipe maker who taught him the secrets of a good hand made pipe.After the old man died (at the age of 96, having made his last pipe only two years earlier), Bruto started working with other pipe makers, one after the other.Before he started making pipes on his own, he had already worked for years with some of the most famous and prestigious pipe establishments in the Pesaro region, well known for its pipe making tradition.Prior to the founding of the Don Carlos company, Bruto had joined in a pipe making partnership with a friend, but later set out on his own.This friend of Bruto's is now one of the most famous and respected Italian pipe makers in the world (Bruto prefers not to mention names; he wants his pipes, and not his acquaintance with others, to speak for him).Seven years ago, Don Carlos was founded. Bruto is a great lover of classical music, especially operas, and which is why he chose the name of a famous opera character for his company.

DC Making

Bruto creates his pipes alone.Nobody is allowed to touch a Don Carlos pipe except his wife, Rosaria,who occasionally helps with the finishing touches and always packs the pipes for shipment; also, there is a "rusticatore", who only rusticates pipes that Bruto has already shaped.In addition, the true inspiration for Bruto while working remains classical music; his workshop is equipped with a CD and a cassette player striving to keep up with Bruto's prodigious musical appetite.

A Don Carlos Pipe

A Don Carlos Pipe

It takes Bruto an average of two hours to make a pipe from beginning to end, provided that everything goes well and that the ebouchon does not present any unpleasant surprises, otherwise the pipe is altogether discarded. Consequently, Bruto makes about an average of 5-6 pipes a day.Although he sometimes gets overwhelmed by huge orders, he refuses to hire anyone to make pipes with or for him.He prefers to sell fewer pipes that exhibit better quality and workmanship than to sacrifice quality for quantity.

Bruto uses Calabrian briar.He carefully, and patiently, seasons the ebouchons in the open air for approximately three years. The true proof of Bruto's thorough treatment of the briar is the smoking quality and the light weight of the finished pipe.

Shapes & Grades

Bruto produces a wide range of shapes and sizes, from classic shapes to elegant freehands, from miniature pipes to giant bowls that hold up to ten grams of tobacco.His pipes come in three finishes: smooth natural, rusticated (including semi-rusticated), and straight grain ("Fiammata".Smooth pipes are of either light natural or mid-brown/red color.The rusticated ones are either natural or stained reddish black.Rustication can be either fine or coarse.

Bruto uses musical notes to grade his pipes; that is, he stamps one, two or three musical notes on his pipes to denote the finish and/or the grain, with a three-note pipe being the highest within each group. Pipes are given notes as follows: dark rusticated (1 note), natural light rusticated (2 notes), semi-rusticated (3 notes), smooth (1, 2, or 3 notes, depending on the grain), and straight grain (1, 2, or 3 notes, depending on how straight the grain is and the presence/absence of sandpits). Three-note straight grains are quite rare, with only a few being made each year; besides demonstrating aperfect straight grain, these pipes should have absolutely no flaws, fissures, or only almost invisible little sandpits that you should not exceed a certain number.

The above means that Don Carlos pipes are graded into NINE different categories.It's not enough, therefore, to say: "I've bought a one-note Don Carlos.", as is often said.One should always specify the class whether this particular one-note pipe is rusticated, smooth, or straight grain.

DC Today

All in all, it is quite reassuring for today's pipe smoker to know that there are still individual pipe makers who know what a high quality hand made pipe is all about, who have the knowledge and the skill to produce such a pipe, who would endeavor to accommodate pipe making tradition and innovation with constant awareness of the pipe smoker's needs and preferences, and finally, would rather not produce a pipe at all than produce one of poor quality.

In short, Bruto Sordini, the maker of the Don Carlos pipes, is a living example of such admirable pipe makers.The reputation of Don Carlos in the entire world, and particularly in the USA market, is the tangible proof of their quality.

Written by Tarek Manadily in 1998; updated October 1999