Apparently, this is how the great Brazilian drummer, Toninho Pinheiro, liked his sticks....
Now, I didn't want to destroy a perfectly good pair of sticks, so I figured I'd try it on an old pair first. These were chewed up from many a rim click, and the tips were chipped. So I sanded the shaft smooth, sanded the tip all the way off, and then applied a couple coats of finishing oil, and I have to say, they're actually pretty cool. Not sure I'll be doing it all the time, but it was a worthy experiment.
Toninho first started doing this because he was playing background music in restaurants and wanted a more delicate sound without having to mute his heavy Zildjian Avedis cymbals. It ended up becoming part of his sound as he found the modified sticks to be perfect for the delicate cymbal sound needed to play Bossa Nova.
I didn't do the final step, which was, after removing the tip with sandpaper, dipping the new tip in a mixture on paint thinner so as to draw out any moisture, which further helped to create a light attack. He used to heat his sticks for the same reasons.
I've read that other Brazilian drummers of the time did this as well so as to be able to play faster tempos at lighter dynamics, but I can't seem to find reference to any names other than Toninho.
Tonhino's name doesn't seem to get mentioned as much as Edison Machado, Milton Banana, and Dom um Romão, but you should definitely check him out if you're at all interested in Brazilian jazz. He did long stints in Jongo Trio who supported Elis Regina, Som Três, a trio with Cesar Camargo Mariano that backed Wilson Simonal, and with Dick Farney's trio. And he worked as a sideman with many of the biggest names in Brazil, like Alaíde Costa and Beth Carvalho.