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A Guide to the Don Carlos Grading System ©


Don Carlos Logo   Click to enlarge

All the Don Carlos pipes are stamped:
"Don Carlos" - "FATTA A MANO" [Made by Hand] - "IN ITALIA".


Added on July 6, 2005: The Corniola, the DC latest Special Model.

On the page: Grading System Special Models
Special Finishes Art et Labor Symphony '02 Mega

 

The Don Carlos Grades

The photos on this page show only examples of pipes that were given the grade that is being illustrated.
The DC grading is applied regardless of the shape of the pipe.

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First Grade:
Rusticated, black stain, stamped with 1 musical Note.
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Second Grade:
Rusticated, tan color, stamped with 2 musical Notes.
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Third Grade:
Known as "semi-rusticated", though in most cases, it only partially rusticated. The color is natural or a slightly natural orange-brown, stamped with 3 musical Notes.
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Fourth Grade:
This is the entry grade in the smooth (natural) finish: Smooth, natural color, stamped with 1 musical Note.
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Fifth Grade:
Smooth, natural color, stamped with 2 musical Notes.
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Sixth Grade:
Smooth, natural color, stamped with 3 musical Notes.
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Seventh Grade:
This is the entry grade in the "Fiammata" (Straight Grain) finish: Smooth, natural color, stamped "Fiammata", with 1 musical Note.
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Eighth Grade:
This is the second grade in the "Fiammata" (Straight Grain) finish: Smooth, natural color, stamped "Fiammata", stamped with 2 musical Notes.
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Ninth (and highest) Grade:
This is the highest grade in the "Fiammata" (Straight Grain) finish: Smooth, natural color, stamped "Fiammata", "Corale", 3 musical Notes.

This is the only Don Carlos grade that has a name "Corale". ("Grade" should not be confused with "Model" or "Shape".)

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Special Models

These are models that are regularly produced, and are stamped with their respective names, regardless of the grade.
They follow the same grading system you see above.

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Bolero:
The original idea behind this model belongs to one of Bruto's friends and devoted customers; it was the very first time Bruto listens to someone! BUT! As always, Bruto used his imagination and at the end, the final shape proved fascinating even to the person who originally had the idea! What makes a Bolero is not only the shape itself, but also the narrow silver band and the elaborate briar insert in the shank.
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Canone: (pronounced: /cano'neh/)
The word "Canone" in Italian means "Canon", which is a musical term that means according to Webster's NewWorld Dictionary: "a polyphonic composition in which there are exact repetitions of a preceding part in the same or related keys". Bruto selected this very elegant Horn that is of medium size and decided to created a mouthpiece for it that can be turned 180 degrees, maintaining a perfect fit and at the same time offering an alternative look and feel. In this case, he place the DC silver cleft logo on both side of the mouthpiece. Another added touch is the plain silver band, which does indeed complement the design and the two clefts. You can see more clearly this idea when you examine the two pairs of pictures on the right and left of the table.
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Corniola: (pronounced: /korn'yola/)
One day during the spring of 2005, Bruto was hiking up one of the mountains in his area. That particular area had suffered some serious damage because of an avalanche. Being the wood freak he is, Bruto spotted a weird-looking tree, all destroyed and uprooted. He examined the wood, and he fell in love with, at first sight. He went back to his workshop right away, and a few hours later, he back to the trea; with his chain saw, he salvaged as much of the tree as possible, and he brought it all back. After a little research, he recognized the type of wood as "Corniola". Later on, a friend of Bruto's asked him to make him a Sisma, with a rounded, Apple-type bowl. He took the idea and instead of using an oak insert (as is the case with the Sisma), he used the "Corniola". This is how the Don Carlos "Corniola" shape was born.
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Follia:
This is Bruto's latest innovation, and the Follia is the newest member of the DC Special Model family.
The bowl is that of a Volcano, and somehow reminds of me of the DC Sisma shape. The pipe's main feature is the massive and very labor-intensive oak insert. Also, the saddle mouthpiece is one that is shaped in order to complement the shape.
By the way, the word "follia" in Italian means "folly", and Bruto took the name from one of his favorite operas!
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Hydra:
This is a patented Don Carlos System that Bruto developed years ago, after a long time of experimentation. I was his chief guinea pig in the process, but I now pride myself over the fact that I have in my private collection some of the prototypes of the Hydra. The system is obviously designed to eliminate excess condensation. The middle compartment of the shank is where the moisture is trapped and it is where it stays. The mouthpiece can be safely removed any time during the smoke, since it is always cool. When you feel that some moisture has accumulated in that moisture trap, you can simply remove the mouthpiece, and literally, pour out the excess moisture. You're back in business, as if you just lit the pipe for the first time. The result is very dry and cool smoke, and everyone I know who has smoked the Hydra swears by it. If you wish, you can always remove the metal tube and insert a 9mm filter.
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Kales: (pronounced: /ka'les/)
This is the FIRST pipe, in this shape, with this name: "Kales". Five years ago Bruto decided to make a special series of pipe to commemorate his home town, Cagli. Beginning of this year, 2000, he made this elaborately inscribed silver band that shows the initials "DC", with a symbol Bruto based on the logo of his town, but flipped. Bruto also sees this symbol as a symbol of his family: Three dots standing for the three children he has, and the two arms as him and his wife, Rosaria. So, there are two shapes with the name Kales, one with the DC US importer and it is a Calabash, one with Bruto and it is a bent Apple, and this one here. According to Bruto, the name "Kales" is the old name for Cagli, and it means "Street" or "Way", while the word "Kale" in old Greek means "Beautiful"
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Kronos:
As you may note, this shape has a lot in common with the Bolero, particularly the thin silver band, the shank insert (though this one is made of boxwood, not briar), and above all, the bowl shape. Apparently, Bruto was in a very unusual mood one day, and so he wanted to produce something, well... unusual! As he's always been in love with the elegance of the Bolero, with its magical combination of tradition and innovation, he decided to try and maintain the classic touch of the shape, while adding a new dimension of "craziness", which is the crooked mouthpiece and shank. He decided to name the shape after a New York quartet which is famous for playing classic pieces, combined with modern and folkloric music. An important feature of the Kronos is the upward-pointing mouthpiece, which is believed to give a tired tongue a break by directing the smoke to the palate and away from the tongue.
The Kronos, I believe, would make an absolutely great pipe if you smoke pressed tobaccos, due to the relatively small chamber size, which is usually about a Dunhill Group 2-3.
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Melos:
It's regularly made in this shape, but the distinctive characteristics of the model are the elaborate DC sliver band, the round gold-like band, and the Army Mount.
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Montana:
The Montana was created in this shape, with the Army Mount, silver band, and the round briar insert. Occasionally, Bruto would make a Montana of another shape, such as a Freeform Apple, Tomato, or Dublin. You can see some of these shape in the extra photos on the left.
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Sisma: (pronounced: /siz'ma/)
Again this is a model that has a lot of sentimental value to Bruto. The word "Sisma" in Italian means "earthquake". When the area where Bruto lives was hit by a strong earthquake and many old buildings and houses were destroyed, Bruto, walking in the streets of his beloved town, stumbled upon a piece of oak that is estimated to be hundreds of years old. In order to commemorate this sad event, and put this piece of oak to good use, Bruto made a pipe with a mouthpiece insert, made of this oak! The very first model is in my private collection. Later he modified the shape and it became what you see in the photo here.

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Special Finishes

These are some special finishes that are not part of the mainstream Don Carlos grading system.

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Naked:
This is a rusticated finish, without absolutely no stain or color applied at all.
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Sandblasted:
  • As you may know, Don Carlos does not have a sandblasted line. The pipes you see here as an exception. It took me almost two years to get Bruto to make me these few pipes, as a special favor. Every time he would come across a pipe with exceptional grain but with a flaw or two to be smooth, natrual, he would put it aside. Finally, he got to having them sandblasted. (Good he didn't report my threats on his life to the police!)
  • No particular stamp is used on these pipes, just the usual "Don Carlos" - "Fatta a Mano" - "In Italia". No notes.

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The Rare "Ars et Labor"

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These are, by all means, extremely rare pipes that are based on an innovative design, an exceptional way of utilizing the natural grain of the briar, or a combination of both. "Ars et Labor" are pipes that Bruto spends at least double the amount of time to design and make them. (He is also very attached to each and every one of them).

How come you've never seen or heard of them?
Simple: Only the prototype of a particular shape and/or grain (the very first one to be made) carries this exclusive name "Ars et Labor". Later, when Bruto has the time and energy (and is in the right frame of mind), he could duplicate them (never to down to every detail, naturally). The two pipes presented here are more than RARE. They are both true prototypes, carrying the name "Ars et Labor". We are able to offer them here, thanks to Bruto's generosity and friendship. We are proud to be the only site on-line that reveals this unique series, let alone offer TWO of them for sale. The prices, as we hope you will understand, are only symbolic. Remember, only ONE pipe of a unique grain and/or design can carry the name "Ars et Labor".


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Symphony 2002

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What's the story behind the Symphony Series?
Two years ago, 2000, Bruto introduced a "year" pipe and decided to give it this special name. The first one was a Calabash, the second was an Apple, and this is the third. Bruto intends to eventually offer at least 9 of them.
A Symphony pipe is set apart from any other DC pipe by the very elaborate GOLD band, designed especially for this series as well as the DC logo (and of course, the stamp "Symphony" and the year on the pipe). The objective is to present a pipe that is classic at heart and yet shows a unique artistic touch. As you may know, this year pipe is very close to Bruto's heart, and I personally believe that one of the most beautiful Billiard ever made is that made by Bruto. Finally, it is this year (2002) that Bruto turned 50 years of age and his company 25, and for this reason, Bruto does not intend to make more than 25 "Symphony 2002" pipes, as opposed to 50 the past two years. (He says it's hard to find the right briar and to make a pipe worthy of the name, without discarding piles and piles of good briar.)

The pipe featured here was the first to be offered in the entire cyber world. It is stamped "Symphony 2002" and "9/25" (yes, it is number 9). It comes in a special black leather sleeve, stamped "Symphony by Don Carlos", and a gorgeous presentation case.

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Mega (Magnum)

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What's the MEGA?
The MEGA is the name Bruto gives to his MAGNUM pipes. As the Don Carlos mainstream pipes are already quite large in size, these Mega pipes have to be really reallyHUGE. The pipe could be of any finish and grain quality. They are already simply stamped Mega, without no grade. Needless to say, these pipes are among the rarest that come out of the Don Carlos workshop. Over the years, I have seen giant pieces of briar in Bruto's workshop, being attended to and checked regularly till they're ready to be turned into pipes. The sad thing is most of those end up in the garbage, which is always heart-breaking and frustrating. The next most difficult thing is to make a MEGA that is smooth or semi-rusticated, and so the percentage of success here is even slimmer. That tells you why these pipes are mainly dreamed and spoken of but almost non-existent. There's so much patience, perseverance and hard work, and believe me, Bruto's work can never, ever receive fair financial compensation. I believe he keeps trying to produce these Magnum pipes, not for the money, but for his own personal satisfaction, the gratification of challenging a piece of briar and winning the challenge!

The one you see here was posted in December 2003. It weighs 142g (5oz); the tobacco chamber depth is 56mm; the wall thickness is up to 16mm.

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