Blog by Steve Laug
I picked this pipe up from Pocatello, Idaho when my brother and I visited an older pipeman there who was selling some of his collection. It was a beautiful freehand pipe cut to maximize the amazing grain. The flame grain flows up the sides of the bowl and shank with great birdseye on the top and the bottom of the bowl and shank. It has a Cumberland stem with a briar insert centered in the saddle portion of the stem. There is also what appears to be an ivory or faux ivory ring that is integrated at the end of the saddle that sits against the shank when the pipe is inserted. The Cumberland tenon is part of the pipe and is funneled to direct the airflow from the shank to the stem.
The pipe is stamped on the underside of the shank Bjarne Nielsen over Handmade over In Denmark. There is a grade stamp B under the other stamping. The bowl was in very good shape though there was dust and grime over the surface of the bowl that was mixed in with the wax and gave the bowl a waxy almost sticky feel in the hand. The birdseye on the rim was hidden in the grime. There was a light cake in the bowl that I reamed out when I was visiting my brother so when I started working on it today there was nothing in the bowl. The stem was oxidized and also covered with the same waxy stickiness as the bowl. The briar insert was faded and light under the grime. The stem was obviously handmade and very well cut with a thin button. The pipe is amazingly light weight for a pipe this size. I have had many Bjarne pipes cross my work table over the years but all had been stamped only Bjarne or Bjarne Handmade. None of them had his full name stamped on it and none had a letter stamp which I assumed indicated the grade of the pipe. I did some research on Pipedia.com and found some helpful information on both the stamping of my pipe and the history of Bjarne Nielsen himself. I am including the link to the full article on Pipedia and also some pertinent sections of the article that I have edited for quick reference. https://pipedia.org/wiki/Bjarne
From the early 1990s Bjarne had seven pipemakers employed and the pipes were sold in no fewer than 32 countries. For more than six months each year, Bjarne traveled around the world to promote his pipes by meeting with dealers and customers. But sadly, it all ended in February 2008 when Bjarne, then 66 years old suffered a fatal heart attack. An unexpected blow fist of all to his family, but also to the pipemakers who had been working for him, and to all lovers of his pipes from around the world. And as no one was willing to take over, the Bjarne pipe died together with its creator.
Among the pipemakers that worked for Bjarne were Johs (for the lower priced high volume pieces), and makers like Ph. Vigen, Ole Bandholm and Tonni Nielsen for high grade pieces. The cheaper line was stamped “Bjarne” while the highest grades were stamped “Bjarne Nielsen” (never with the pipemakers’ name) and graded, from highest to lowest, by the letters: AX, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, and J.
Now I knew that the pipe I had was made before 2008 and could well have been made by Tonni Nielsen. The B stamping told me it was a fairly high grade pipe – third grade from the top AX grade. That makes sense when I look at the grain and also the way the pipe maker cut the pipe to maximize the lay of the grain on the bowl. I took a few photos of the pipe taken apart to show how the stem was made and to give a good look at the Cumberland under the oxidation. There were no tooth marks or chatter on the stem top or bottom.I scrubbed the sticky wax and grime off the bowl surface with Murphy’s Oil Soap on a cotton pad. I was surprised how much grit and grime came off the bowl. Some of what appeared to be nicks or scratches were in the thick wax coat on the bowl and once it was removed so were the marks in the surface. The grain really showed clearly once I rinsed off the soap on the bowl. I cleaned out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and alcohol. The stem was in such good shape under the wax, grime and oxidation that I wiped it down lightly with alcohol on a cotton pad and then went directly to the micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit 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 finished by sanding it with 6000-12000 grit pads and gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil. I set the stem aside to dry. I buffed the pipe and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel being careful to not buff the stamping on the underside of the shank. I gave the bowl and stem several coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It too will be available soon on the rebornpipes store. Send me a message or a response if you are interested. Thanks for looking.