Blog by Steve Laug
This little Ben Wade Lovat is the fourth pipe of the lot from Eastern Canada that I am restoring for a pipe man from there who sent it to me. It is stamped on the left side of the shank BEN WADE over Natural Grain and on the right side of the shank it reads Made in Leeds over England and a shape number 20 V near the bowl shank junction. The finish was natural and either unstained or stained with a light tan stain. The grain is quite good on the pipe. The rim is in rough shape from having been knocked on hard surfaces to remove the dottle. There were dents, dings and roughening. The bowl was slightly out of round. The stem was good quality vulcanite and has light oxidation at the joint of the stem and shank. There was tooth chatter and tooth marks on the top and bottom side near the button. I took some close up photos of the rim and the stem. You can see the damage to the outer and inner edges of the rim as well as dents in the rim top. The cake has been poorly reamed from the bowl and there were some gouges in the briar walls that will need to be sanded out. The stem photos show the tooth chatter and marks as well as the small band of oxidation next to the shank. I have always heard that the Ben Wade Company made quality English made pipes prior to its purchase by Herman Lane but I did not have any idea of the history of the brand. I did a bit of research on it and found the following helpful information on Pipedia. The link follows the quoted portion.
The company was founded by Benjamin Wade in 1860 in Leeds, Yorkshire, where it was located for over a century. Ben Wade started as a pipe trader, but yet in the 1860’s he established a workshop to produce briar pipes. The pipes were made in very many standard shapes – always extensively classic and “very British”. Many models tended to be of smaller dimensions. Ben Wade offered a very high standard of craftsmanship and quality without any fills. Thus the pipes were considered to be high grade and a major competitor to other famous English brands. The often heard comparison to Charatan seems to be a little bit inadequate because those days’ Charatans were entirely handmade.
In the II World War the factory was destroyed by German air raids on Leeds. But the Ben Wade family decided to re-build it immediately after the war and pipe production was re-started soon and successfully linked to the fame from the pre-war years. Even though the owner family decided to leave pipe business and sell off the firm. The family went into negotiations with Herman G. Lane, president of Lane Ltd. in New York at about the same time as the Charatan family. Lane Ltd. bought both firms in 1962.
Herman G. Lane had been Charatan’s US sole distributor since 1955 and Charatan always remained his pet child. But Ben Wade was treated in another way by its new owner. The fabrication of pipes was reduced and the factory in Leeds was closed in 1965 finally.
So this was the end of Ben Wade pipes stamped “Made in Leeds, England”. https://pipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Wade
The pipe I was working on was stamped “Made in Leeds, England” thus effectively dating it to the period the company was owned by the family. I know that it was made before the closing of the factory in 1965. So I had the last date it could have been made. Judging from the age of the rest of the auction lot my guess would be that this pipe also came from the 1930s. The style and cut of the stem leads me to place it in that period.
I cleaned up the reaming in the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and took the cake back to bare wood. It took some work to smooth out the gouges in the bowl walls. I was able to remove many of them leaving only a remnant behind. I wrapped a dowel with sandpaper and sanded the bowl walls after I had reamed it. To remove the damage to the rim edges and the top I topped the bowl on the topping board. I did a minimal topping to just even things out and clean up the surface.I scrubbed the bowl surface with acetone on cotton pads to remove the grime and oils that were embedded in the bowl sides. I wanted to get the briar clean so I could retain the natural finish. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to give the inside rim a light bevel to bring the bowl back into round. I also used in on the outside edge to soften it.With the bowl clean I lightly sanded it with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to take out the scratches and smooth out the finish. I sanded it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads as well. When I had finished sanding it I wiped it down with a last wipe of alcohol on a cotton pad in preparation for giving it a light coat of oil. I rubbed the bowl down with olive oil and polished it by hand. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded the entire stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation and the tooth chatter. I “painted” the tooth marks in the stem with a lighter flame until they lifted. I sanded the damaged areas with the sandpaper until the surfaces were smooth and showed no more sign of tooth damage.I wet sanded the saddle portion of the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh pads and then used Rub ‘n Buff European Gold to fill in the portions of the BW stamp that still showed on the stem surface.I cleaned out the interior of the mortise and the airways in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners until they were no longer dirty and oily. As you can see from the photos below it took a few swabs and cleaners to get to that point.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads. After the final rubdown with oil I set the stem aside to dry. Once the oil had dried I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and then gave them both multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine and hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos that follow. It came out quite nice with the grain popping through over the bowl and shank. The pipe will soon join the others in the lot on the return trip to Eastern Canada. Thanks for looking.