Blog by Steve Laug
My brother Jeff is developing quite an eye for beautiful pipes. He came across this freehand on eBay and sent me the photos. He bid on it and soon received it in the mail. It is a stunning piece that Viggo made in such a way that the shape absolutely maximizes the grain. It is stamped with Viggo’s normal stamp Viggo Nielsen in a circle over Handmade in Denmark on the left side of the shank.Its finish is a combination of smooth and what looks like sandblast but I am not sure it is not just a well done rustication made to look that way. The colours of the stains are a rich medium brown on the smooth portions that accentuate the grain. The colour on the rustication shows both a medium and dark brown stain that is repeated on the plateau on the rim of the pipe and small bit of plateau that peeks out on the top edge of the shank. The stem is a custom cut square piece of vulcanite that is carved with a square ring and a round one just before the tapered tenon. The finish was dirty with thick wax and grime from years of use. The bowl had a light cake. The rim edges were in perfect condition and the plateau top look new under the grime. The rustication/blast on the front of the bowl also looked to be in great shape. There were no dings or nicks in the finish. The stem was oxidized and had tooth marks on the top and bottom sides near the button.
I turned to Pipedia to learn about Viggo Nielsen. I had memory about him being somehow connected to Kai Nielsen but I was not sure of the relationship of the two. In Pipedia I learned that Viggo, now deceased, was born in 1927. I believe that during World War II he worked for Stanwell making pipes out of birch due to a shortage of briar. In 1948 he opened the Bari pipe factory and in 1951 began to make briar pipes. He carved both classic and freehand pipes.
In 1978 Bari was sold to a company in Germany and he and his two sons, Jorgen and Kai started making Faaborg pipes. Now I knew the connection between the two names that I remembered. https://pipedia.org/wiki/Nielsen,_Viggo
I scrubbed the surface of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap on cotton pads to remove the old wax and accumulated grime. Once the pipe was cleaned I rinsed it under running water and dried it off. The grain just stood out and showed how well Viggo laid out the shape to the grain. I cleaned out the internals of the mortise and airways in the shank and the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until the pipe was clean.I reamed the light cake back to bare briar with a Savinelli Pipe Knife – a tool that I am using more and more often since I purchased it. It works exceptionally well to pare back light cake and clean up remnants in a bowl after I have used my other reamers.The oxidation on the stem was stubborn so I soaked it in an Oxyclean solution for a day and a half to soften the oxidation. After I removed it from the solution I scrubbed it dry with a coarse towel to remove as much of the softened oxidation as possible. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth marks on both the top and bottom sides at the button. There were tooth deep tooth marks on the top edge of the button that needed attention. I cleaned off the stem surface and then used clear super glue to repair the two deep tooth marks. I sanded them back to the surface with 220 grit sandpaper and later with the micromesh sanding pads.I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil. In the photo below you can still see the battle I am having with the oxidation on the turned stem. It was a bear to get it off.I repeated sanding with 220 grit sandpaper and repeated the wet sanding with the 1500-2400 grit pads. I was beginning to conquer the issue. I dry sanded the stem with 3200-4000 grit pads and gave it another coat of oil. I finished sanding with 6000-12000 grit pads to bring out the shine and gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil. I set the stem aside to dry. I buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond and worked on the tight areas on the stem – the grooves in the stem. I buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond – lightly on the rusticated/blast and plateau portions and more heavily on the smooth portions. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to finish polishing the finish. I have found that this last step adds some depth to the shine. I am pleased with the finished look of the pipe. Thanks for looking.