Daily Archives: June 18, 2016

Restoring a W.O. Larsen 11 Handmade Bent Brandy


Blog by Steve Laug

Charles Lemon of Dadspipes blog picked up a batch of pipes that included a lot of Danish made ones from an estate not long ago. He has been writing about their restoration on his blog. He sent me some photos of the pipes and offered to sell some to me. I chose two of them. The first one was the Larsen that is pictured below. The description of the pipe said that it was stamped on the underside of the shank 11 over W.O. LARSEN over Handmade over Made in Denmark. On the topside of the shank next to the stem/shank junction it was stamped SUPER. The stem had a broken tenon and it was stuck in the shank. Charles had mentioned that he thought it looked like it had been glued in so it would take a bit of work. When I saw the grain on it I decided that it would be a fun piece to work on for my own rack. It has some stunning flame grain on all around the bowl sides and birdseye grain on the rim and the bottom of the bowl and shank.Larsen1I looked up some background on W.O. Larsen and found a great summary on this site. It was helpful and brief so I quote it in full below: https://www.finepipes.com/pipes/danish/w-o-larsen?sort=20a&page=1&zenid=debcdee8f415c1977fb5c359652d6aeb W.O. Larsen was one of the most famous tobacco shops in Copenhagen, with a beautiful store located on Copenhagen’s famous “Walking Street.” During the flowering of the Danish pipe in the ’60’s, they first began retailing pipes by such carvers as Sixten Ivarsson, Sven Knudsen, Poul Rasmussen, and Brakner. Urged on by his store manager Sven Bang, the owner, Ole Larsen, decided to begin making pipes in the basement of the shop. He first hired Sven Knudsen as the pipe maker, who soon passed the job to his protégé Hans “Former” Nielsen. Larsen’s fortunes rose along with the rest of the Danish pipe business and Former was soon managing a group of carvers in the old Larsen cigar factory. Among these were Teddy Knudsen, Tonni Nielsen, Jess Chonowitch, Peter Hedegaard and others, who were responsible for the Select and Straight Grain series before they branched out on their own. After Former left to start Bentley pipes in Switzerland, his duties were taken over by Soren Refbjerg Rasmussen, while the straight grains were made by Teddy’s student Benni Jorgenson. As Ole’s health began to fail, the reins were taken over by his son Nils. Nils became convinced that the way for Larsen to prosper was by entering the low-end market, and acquired the Georg Jensen pipe factory to make an array of less expensive pipes. This turned out to be a fatal error, and Larsen was recently sold to Stanwell, who continue to produce so-called “Larsen” pipes in their huge factory. Thus ended an important part of Danish pipe history.

I was looking forward to seeing it firsthand so I paid Charles and he shipped it on Friday. Wonder of wonders, Canada Post delivered it on Monday. I came home from work to find the awaited box on the table. I opened it and found the Larsen in a bag with the label printed on the outside enumerating it’s stamping. I took it out of the bag and immediately took it to the work table. The photos below show the pipe as it looked when it arrived. It was much lighter in colour than the photo had led me to believe.Larsen2The bowl was dirty and there were some dents and marks in the briar. The rim had a thick coating of tars and the back edge of the rim was worn down from knocking the pipe out to empty it. There was an uneven cake in the bowl. The tenon was stuck in the shank and there were dried bits of glue on the end of the shank and around the end of the stem where someone had glued the stem onto the end of the shank. Fortunately the stem did not stick to the briar but the tenon certainly did. The stem was clean of bite or tooth marks and was lightly oxidized.Larsen3 Larsen4 Larsen5I took a photo of the end of the shank to show the glue spots on the briar and around the broken tenon.Larsen6When I had looked at the initial photo I was uncertain that the stem was original as it looked to be bigger in diameter than the shank. I lined up the broken tenon in the shank with the rough end on the stem and took some photos to see if it actually fit the pipe.Larsen7I decided to try pulling the tenon with my normal screw and it did not budge. It began to shatter and break apart.Larsen8Thus I knew that I would have to resort to drilling out the broken tenon. I set up my cordless drill and put a drill bit slightly larger than the airway in the chuck. I slowly drilled out the tenon, increasing the size of the drill bit until it was the just slightly smaller than the mortise. The last bit I used broke the tenon piece free from the shank and the mortise was clear.Larsen9While I had the drill out I also drilled out the broken tenon in the stem in preparation for the replacement tenon I would use.Larsen10Once the airway was drilled out on the stem I used a tap to thread the newly drilled airway to accommodate the threaded replacement Delrin tenon.Larsen11I used the topping board and 220 grit sandpaper to clean off the glue residue on the end of the stem before I put the new tenon in place. I want a clean, flat surface to work with against the shank when I was finished.Larsen12I used some clear super glue on the new tenon and twisted it into the stem. I put it in the shank to check the alignment several times before putting a few more drops of super glue around the tenon stem union.Larsen13Once the glue dried I put the stem in place in the pipe and took some photos to evaluate the fit.Larsen14 Larsen15With the tenon repair completed it was time to address the bowl. I took some close up photos of the bowl/rim and the stamping on the shank.Larsen16I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer using the third cutting head and took the cake back to bare briar. I cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Pipe Knife.Larsen17 Larsen18I sanded the inside of the bowl with a tube of sandpaper. This smoothed out the walls of the bowl and began to clean up the damage on the inner edge of the rim.Larsen19The rim damage on the back side needed to be dealt with so I topped the bowl to remove the damaged area.Larsen20I scrubbed the briar with acetone on cotton pads to remove the wax, grime and oils in the wood. The grain is really beautiful in the photos below.Larsen21 Larsen22I scrubbed out the mortise and airway in the shank and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners until they came out clean.Larsen23I mixed three of the stain pens together to get the correct brown on the rim. Once it was blended and sanded I stained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain and flamed it. I repeated the process until the coverage was even on the bowl.Larsen24 Larsen25 Larsen26I wiped down the bowl with alcohol on cotton pads to make it more transparent and make the grain show through. It still needed more work but it was definitely getting there.Larsen27 Larsen28The inner edge of the rim needed more work to remove the damage but the colour was correct.Larsen29I used a folded piece of 180 grit sandpaper to bevel the inner rim of the bowl to remove the damaged areas. I followed up by sanding it with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper and continued to sand the inner edge. I sanded the inner edge and rim with 1800-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads.  I restained the inner bevel with a dark brown stain pen to match the finish on the bowl.Larsen30With the bowl finished I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil and dry sanded it with 3200-4000 grit pads. I gave it another coat of oil and sanded it with 6000-12000 grit pads. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and let it dry.Larsen31 Larsen32 Larsen33I buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and then gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. By now you are all probably very familiar with my process. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine and then hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to add depth. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is one I plan on hanging onto for my own rack and I am happy with how it turned out. Thanks for looking.Larsen34 Larsen35 Larsen36 Larsen37 Larsen38 Larsen39 Larsen40 Larsen41

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Sofia ‘Hole in the Wall’ find – Savinelli Tortuga


Blog by Dal Stanton

Emboldened by the responses and expressions of welcome from my first submission of the restoration of the Dr. Plumbs, Oom-Paul (named, Chicho Pavel for Bulgarian residence), I wanted to tackle a beautiful Savinelli Tortuga 628 that Steve and I met at what I affectionately call the ‘Hole in the Wall’ antique store (first door pictured below – getting a paint job that day – thanks to Google Maps) in an ethnically diverse area of Sofia near Zhenski Pazar (Women’s Market) on Brother Miladinovi Street. After finding a few pipes at the Antique Market near Nevski Cathedral we made the trek to the Hole in the Wall. I remembered on other occasions the shop owner producing (from a safe place behind his desk) a beautiful leather 4-pipe pouch and I asked about it. I was glad that he still had it so that Steve could take a look – 4 pipes still intact.  Steve’s eyebrows raised a bit as he looked over the contents – the leather bag itself was a find.  The 4 revealed after unzipping the bag were a Savinelli Tortuga 628, Danske Club Vario 85, Capitol (I discovered later to be a Savinelli second) and to complete the find, a Butz-Choquin Rocamar. At 150 Leva (86$) asking price for the lot, I had always passed on it – more in tuned to search for the 5-10 Leva orphans that needed a new home. But I have to be honest – the Tortuga was pulling at my heart-strings! The Danske Club Vario was a close second – feeling like the 16-year-old kid with braces and acne and looking at the prom queen – ‘out of your league, son!’

Neither Steve nor I left any of our money at the Hole in the Wall that day, but it didn’t take long heading home on the metro before Steve and I were weighing the pros and cons of me heading back and laying claim to the Bag of 4 – I could sell two of the pipes to bankroll the purchase…. Suddenly, with Steve’s encouragement, the prom queen became a possibility! I could imagine the Tortuga planted in my palm. I returned to the HitW the next morning to lay claim to the Bag of 4 only to discover the shop was closed for the weekend. I returned Monday and was able to strike a deal at 130 Leva – roughly 74$ US – not really bad when you include the leather bag as well. When I arrived home, I promptly took pictures and sent them off to Steve, who had moved on to Athens that morning for his work. He posted the pictures I sent at https://rebornpipes.com/2016/06/10/ for “Some Good Pipe Finds on a Recent Trip to Europe”. I’ve included a picture of the Bag of 4 below. I also found two pipe tools as I explored the pockets – one looks to have some age – a Duncan Made in England with what appears to be the original leather holder. Another was marked ‘Queen’. I looked a bit on the internet and the Duncan might have some collector value. I’ve grown to love the hunt!Hole1 Hole2 Hole3 Hole4As a newbie to the hobby, several months ago Steve directed me to eBay’s Estate Pipe listings where my Tobacciana education began in earnest. It was by trolling through the plethora of pipes on the block, reading descriptions, that I began to distinguish shapes, markings and names. Savinelli pipes caught my attention early on because the briar always seemed to be on fire and the Lucite stems were rolling matrices of color smartly complimenting the wood grains. I also noticed that the name Savinelli consistently created more bidding wars and happier results for the sellers! I was fortunate enough to place the winning bid to add my first Savinelli marked ‘Goliath’ 619EX which I brought back to Bulgaria from my recent trip to the US – in queue along with several others I brought back. I looked on the internet to see if I could find any specific information about the Savinelli Tortuga 628 and I discovered that for at least the Tortuga series, Savinelli sells them with bowl toppers which appear to match the Lucite stems – a very nice touch which I’ll keep in mind for later. There’s much information about the Savinelli name in Pipedia.com and I enjoyed reading of the beginnings in 1876 when Achille Savinelli Sr. opened the first shop in Milan. On this trip to Pipedia I also discovered that the ‘Capitol’, appearing to be a petite bent apple, also acquired in the Bag of 4 was a Savinelli second – the only non-filtered pipe in the lot. Following are the pictures taken after acquiring the Tortuga from the Hole in the Wall:Hole5 Hole6 Hole7 Hole8 Hole9 Hole10 Hole11 Hole12 Hole13 Hole14 Hole15With the prom queen in my gaze, I was not disappointed. The stummel was in need of basic cleaning but needed no fills. She would shine up nicely with the briar ablaze. There was moderate cake in the chamber that would need to be reamed to bring it down to the wood – a fresh start. The rim revealed the most abuse – there was normal lava buildup but a significant burn at seven o’clock which revealed the Tortuga’s former steward’s right-handed lighting practices – drawing the flame over the rim – ugh. I detected a nice, crisp bevel on the inside ring of the rim – that would be nice to restore. I like ‘accent’ bevels – a classier detailed look. Other than this, the stummel appeared to be in good condition. The stem had minor tooth chatter on the top and bottom and I detected oxidation on the band that I would need to address. The Lucite stem – my first to work on – looks to shine up well. I’ll work on the stem internals to remove the dark build-up evident in the airway through the translucent Lucite – at this point I’m not sure what will actually clean-up in the airway. Yes, and I’ll need to toss the used filter left behind which would reveal the former owner’s DNA code. Thankful to Steve for his coaching and with a prayer, I decided to tackle the bowl first with my PipNet kit to restore the bowl to the wood. Since my workstation is in our bedroom, I first spread out the paper towel to collect the released cake and minimize clean-up. Starting with the smallest blade I rotated the blade while applying gentle, consistent vertical pressure. I could tell when the blade was finished when the cake resistance stopped as I turned the tool.  As the charcoal fell out of the bowl, I realized that the overhead fan that was keeping me cool was also scattering the soot into the atmosphere – my wife won’t be happy about that! Fan off – I continued with the next larger blade and that was sufficient. In order to get a better look at the rim, and survey the extent of the scorched area, I cleaned the rim with a brass brush and isopropyl 95%. The pictures show the progress.Hole16 Hole17 Hole18With the rim fully exposed I can now see more of the inner bevel that I want to restore and I can see the depth of the burn.  I would need to top the bowl taking off only enough to remove the burn damage. With my last (maiden!) full restore of the Dr. Plumbs Oom Paul (https://rebornpipes.com/2016/06/10/a-newbie-restore-of-a-dr-plumb-9456-oom-paul/) I made the mistake of topping the bowl at a slight (unfortunate!) angle so that it was not perpendicular to the shank/stem. Steve said that this can happen when a part of the rim is softer and that can pull the angle off. OK, burn spot – maybe a soft spot on the Tortuga’s rim. I don’t want to  ‘re-top’ the bowl like last time! I decide to remove the stem from the stummel so that while topping, I can allow it to ‘free-stand’ periodically and eyeball things – to make sure the angle is true! I spread out 240 grit paper on a chopping board and offer another prayer. For this procedure, I move out onto my 10th floor balcony ‘Man Cave’ so as to minimize sawdust in the bedroom atmosphere. I decide to turn on Eric Clapton’s ’24 Nights’ live concert album (on my iPhone) and I go to work. After a bit, I decided to put the stem back on the stummel because it helped me line things up. It seems I did a better job topping this time around so I began work on the inner rim to restore a nice bevel before I micromesh the bare rim. I used needle files and sandpaper to do this. I think the bevel is looking pretty even around the inner circumference of the bowl. Working by hand, I was a bit disappointed that I was not able to restore the sharp, crisp bevel as I had hoped. I was reluctant to use the Dremel, as it has a tendency (in my hands) to chew out more than expected. The finished bevel is rounded out more than I wanted but still attractive. I will leave it as is – put beveling techniques on the learning list! I move to micromesh the rim with 1500-2400 to remove all the scratches from the topping and bevel work. I completed the rim by applying a mahogany stain stick. Using isopropyl and cotton pad I lightly wiped the rim to lighten the application. I found that I could either lean toward the lighter or darker tones of the Tortuga briar. I chose the darker – from my vantage point, a pretty good match!  She’s looking great!  I’m pleased with the progress!Hole19 Hole20 Hole21 Hole22 Hole23With the rim repaired and bowl reamed, I moved to the internals of the stummel – cleaning with pipe cleaners and Q-tips dipping in isopropyl 95%. Well, about 4 minutes into the process with Q-tips blasting away at the muck while I listened to the track of Westside Story, a thought sprang to life in my right lobe – ‘Why not break out the new retort you just brought back from the States?’ My first reflex was – ‘Oh no – boil alcohol?’ That thought has bothered me since I ordered it and read about retorts and watched YouTube demonstrations. It took me a minute to remember where I had stowed the box it came in – eBay of course, from Mark Johnston (www.pipeandwine.com). I remember appreciating that he was selling to promote the “Wounded Warrior Project” – very cool. I paid his asking price and sent a note thanking him for his service in the Navy and proud to say that my son too, was a naval veteran having served on an LA class attack sub as a reactor technician – the USS Boise. After finding the box and unpacking the contents, I thought it might be wise to read the directions included. The first paragraph didn’t ease my concerns as it recommended having safety glasses and fire extinguisher nearby, “just in case.” Fears aside, I start putting things together. The directions were very much ‘spoken English’ and I could almost hear Mark explain the debate about what kind of alcohol to use – potable or isopropyl? I’ve used a strong Bulgarian drink called, Rakia (brandy) but I’ll give vodka a try for the retort.  Settled. The retort worked as advertised with only one exciting moment when the cotton ball shot out of the bowl. I wasn’t fast enough to catch a picture of that. The stem before and after pictured below.Hole24 Hole25 Hole26 Hole27

With the internal cleaning complete for both bowl and stem, I move to the externals. I decide to work on the stummel first – starting with a light cleaning with Murphy’s Soap, which weighed quite a bit in my suitcase flying from Atlanta to Sofia. With Steve’s counsel, I used cotton pads and made a light application, undiluted, and quickly wiped it off with a cotton pad with tap water so as to not take off stain and dampen the color already in the briar. As expected, Murphy’s dulled the finish as it took off the superficial wax layer. Now, what I’ve been waiting for – since the stummel is already in stellar condition – no significant scratches or blemishes, I move directly to the polishing regimen with carnauba wax using my Dremel (truth be known, I actually do not have a Dremel brand tool – but a Skil (It does the job and was a bit cheaper here in Bulgaria) and Chinese-purchased cotton wheels off eBay. Since about 50 came in the bag, I decided to use a new one for the Tortuga but I know that means I’ll be covered with cotton fiber as the new wheel settles down from being new! I put the stem back on the stummel so that I would have a good hold for the Dremel work – launching the cotton ball with the retort was enough excitement. I don’t want to launch the pipe too, especially as I work around the rim.  I use the slowest RPM setting and am careful to keep the wheel moving over the briar surface to not overheat the wood. I took a couple close-ups of the stummel before I started for a comparison later. I applied several coats of carnauba wax and finished with a clean wheel buff and a vigorous rub with a micro-fiber cloth to give the grain depth. Pictures show great progress and a look at my chop-block lap work with the Dremel – it’s easier to stay on top of things. Now to the stem – the home-stretch.Hole28 Hole29 Hole30 Hole31I’ve not worked on a Lucite stem before but Steve assured me it’s the same basics as a vulcanite stem.  I took another close up of the button area to determine if 240 grit sandpaper will be sufficient to deal with the moderate teeth chatter or if I need to build the divots up with super glue first.  I decided simply to strategically sand the teeth chatter and gave the button a bit more definition with the needle file. To remove the scratches from working with the file and paper I used the full regimen of micromesh 1500-2400, 3200-4000, and 6000-12000. During the first cycle I also used a bit of 240 grit sandpaper on the band focusing on some pitting from oxidation that I detected. It worked the problems out of the band and I continued with the micromesh regimen.  The pictures tell the story!Hole32 Hole33 Hole34 Hole35 Hole36 Hole37Well, I’m not disappointed with the prom queen! She’s beautiful. The briar is on fire as I hoped and the Lucite ‘turtle’ stem compliment the wood perfectly. I was disappointed with the bevel initially, but I like how the rounded bevel flows with the rest of the grain movement. I will be cannibalizing a stem and fabricating a filter adapter – I don’t like filtered systems. So, before I try this Savinelli out, I’ll be working on that. As with my other pipes – a name is appropriate when it stays in my meager but growing collection. I think Savinelli already did a good job. Tortuga is a cool name! Thanks!Hole38 Hole39 Hole40 Hole41 Hole42 Hole43 Hole44

A Surprise While Cleaning up a Primus 2 Bent Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

When I decided to clean up the third of the four pipes I picked up on a recent trip to Sofia, Bulgaria I was surprised by what I ended up finding. From the moment I saw it on the marker seller’s table it was a bit of a mystery to me. I picked it up and checked it out quickly under the scrutiny of the seller who did not know what to do with this English speaking Canadian. I paid him for it thinking that it was an alternative wood. But even then I was not certain about it. I was drawn to the colour of the bowl and the simple elegance of the pipe. When I examined it in the market I opened the lid of wind cap and saw appeared to be white spots on the bottom third of the bowl. I was not sure what it was. I was almost convinced it was mold or something like that which I would need to remove. The silver wind cap was in great shape with a little wear but still aligned to the silver rim cap. It was probably nickel though I am not certain. The stem was bent correctly but it just did not look right. When I removed the stem from the shank the inside of the shank was also lighter in colour.

When I got home from Sofia and brought the pipe to the work table I examined it much more closely. I looked at it with a lens to see if the white was mold or something like that but it did not appear to be that. I rubbed the bowl with my finger to try to remove it and nothing happened. It did not come off on my finger. The upper portion of the bowl was darkened and had a light cake. The bottom of the bowl itself was white. There was no mold or powder on the surface. The more I looked at it the more I am convinced that what I had found was a meerschaum pipe rather than a wooden one. That was a surprise because when I picked it up I was pretty certain on cursory examination that it was a hard wood bowl. It was very lightweight and it did not seem to have any grain. The golden colour of the material also made me think of other older meerschaum pipes that I have restored. At this point I was pretty convinced that I was dealing with an older meerschaum pipe. What a surprise for a pipe I purchased for about $5 CNDN.

I continued to examine the pipe once I had decided it was meerschaum. The metal wind cap was tarnished and undamaged on the outside but the inside of the cap was oxidized and rough. The cap on the rim was also tarnished and rough with tars. There were two nail heads that held the cap on the rim. The meerschaum itself was in excellent shape. There were no dents or gouges in the bowl or shank. There was a slight indentation or ring around the end of the shank that told me that a metal band that had originally been present. The left side of the shank was stamped PRIMUS over 2. The stem was obviously one that seller had taken out of his bag of bowls and stems and put together. It fit in terms of tenon diameter which was good because most of the pipes on his table had cracked shanks from his matching game. The stem diameter was close but I noticed that the mortise was not centered in the shank. Due to that the bottom of the stem sat below the bottom of the shank while the top of the stem was slightly lower than the shank. The stem was lightly oxidized and had some tooth chatter.

The next four photos show the pipe as it was when I brought it to the table.primus1 Primus2I reamed the bowl with a Savinelli Pipe Knife so that I could carefully cut back the cake to check on the material the bowl was made of. I did not want to damage it so I went slowly and carefully.Primus3I wiped down the exterior of the bowl with a damp cloth and removed the stickiness and dirt on the surface. I also pressed a WDC band on the shank. It had a small split that I repaired with super glue but it was the only one I had that fit the shank and did not cover up the stamping. It will have to do. I used some silver polish to scrub the rim and the windcap.Primus4 Primus5I cleaned out the mortise and airway on the shank and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until they were clean.Primus6 Primus7To adjust the diameter of the stem to match the rolled over end cap I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper. I wanted the diameter of the stem to show equally from the end view so that the same amount of silver showed on each side.Primus8I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh pads and gave the stem a coat of Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded it with 3200-4000 grit pads and gave it another coat of oil. I sanded it with the final three grits of micromesh pads – 6000-12000 and gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil. I set it aside to dry.Primus9 Primus10 Primus11I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond and gave them both several coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to give it a shine and then hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. If I come across another band someday I will swap them out but this works for now. Thanks for looking.Primus12 Primus13 Primus14 Primus15 Primus16 Primus17 Primus18