Daily Archives: December 6, 2017

Breathing new life into a SON Freehand – an early pipe by Eric Nording

Blog by Steve Laug

When my brother Jeff saw this pipe he went for it. I am not sure if he bought it on one of his travels or on EBay but it is the kind of pipe that catches his attention. The grain on the bowl is a mix of flame, straight and swirled patterns. The stain on the bowl is dark from the top of the bowl down about ½ inch all around the bowl. It similar to other pipes from the 60s that had a bit of a flume finish on the top edges of the bowl. The plateau on the top of the rim and the end of the shank are blackened and the dark rough plateau in those spots works well with the reddish brown stain on the bowl. The pipe was dirty with a thick cake in the bowl and an overflow of lava on the rim top filling in much of the plateau top. The stem was dirty with some built up calcification on the tenon and around the rings on part way up the stem. This is visible in the photo below. The stem was heavily oxidized and was a brownish green colour. There was tooth chatter and tooth marks on both sides of the stem near the button. Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he did his cleanup. The next photo shows the rim top. You can see the cake in the bowl and the overflow of lava and grime that filled in some of the ridges and grooves in the plateau.The grain on the bowl though dirty, showed promising patterns – straight grains and flame. There were also some swirls in the grain. The photos below show what the finish looked like and under the grime it looked good. There was a flaw in the grain on the right side of the bowl (shown in the second photo below). I have circled it in red. The stamping on the underside of the shank is very readable. It reads SON over DANMARK over the number 5. At this point I had no idea who the maker of the SON brand was. I would need to do a bit of research to figure out who the maker was. The style though was very 1960s era but I had no proof of that at the moment.Jeff took some photos of the insert stem showing the calcification on the tenon and in some of the rings on the vulcanite stem. The oxidation is also very visible in the vulcanite. You can also see the grime in the grooves of the plateau on the end of the shank.The photos of the stem show a lot of tooth chatter on both sides of the stems. There are also some tooth marks on the button top and bottom.I decided to do a bit of research on the brand to see who made the SON brand. I looked first on Pipephil’s site http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-s10.html. I quote from a note on the site next to photos of the stamping on the pipes of that brand.

“The brand’s name stems from a partnership between Soren Skovbo and Erik Nording. It lasted for two years in the mid-1960s before the partnership ended and the brand ceased. That dates this pipe to the 1960s.”

I looked on Pipedia for further information: https://pipedia.org/wiki/N%C3%B8rding. In the listing of pipemakers by country the entry for SON linked back to Nording pipes. I went to that page and read the following information. I have included a portion of that article below that gives the pertinent connections.

Long before he graduated from engineering school at age 25 he was a more experienced pipe smoker than most men his age. He frequented a pipe shop in Copenhagen and often had his pipes repaired there. “The guy who did the repairs in that shop” says Nording. “could see that it was a good business, and he wanted to start his own pipe making shop.” That repairman’s name was Skovbo. One day he approached the young Erik Nording with a proposition. “You are a blacksmith and an engineer,” Skovbo said to Nording. “You must know a lot about machinery. Can you make me some pipe making machinery?”

“I told him I could make anything he wanted,” says Nording. “But I didn’t have any money. So I borrowed S200 to buy some bearings, and I scoured junkyards for old broken machinery. I bought inexpensive housings and put in new bearings and new shafts.” It was Nording’s first contract and he wanted to get a good start, so he took great care in making the best possible tools for the pipe maker. “I made him a little polishing machine, and a lathe, and a sander for shaping pipes.” When he had everything put together and running perfectly, he called Skovbo and told him his machinery was finished.

“He came out and looked it over,” says Nording. “He turned on the electricity and watched everything run. He had some blocks of wood with him, and he tried everything out. Finally he looked at me and said, ‘It’s exactly as I wanted. Perfect. How much do I owe you?’ I told him the price—I don’t remember how much it was, but it was very inexpensive.”

Skovbo thought the price was very good. “That’s fantastic,” he said. “The price is right. Now I’ll start out for myself, make some pipes and when I earn some money I’ll pay you.”

It must have been a terrifically discouraging moment for a young man who had just completed what he thought was his first paying job in a new career. As Erik Nording now remembers that moment, sitting in a beautiful home that contains a pipe making shop large enough for 20 workers making tens of thousands of world-famous pipes, his face exhibits amusement at that memory. But back then, as a youngster trying to get a foothold in the world, his expression must have been more akin to horror.

“I told him that was not good enough,” says Nording. “I told him I was a poor man, I didn’t have any money, I needed to be paid for my work.” But Skovbo told Nording that he couldn’t pay him.

“Then I will keep the machinery,” said Nording. “I’ll make pipes myself.”

“You don’t know how to use this machinery,” said Skovbo. “You know nothing of pipe making.”

“Well, you’re not getting it. You should have told me before I did all this work that you didn’t have the money to pay for it.”

Skovbo thought it over. “Why don’t we start together?” he said.

That’s how Erik Nording became a pipe maker.

There are still a few of those early pipes around. “I saw some at a shop I visited a while back,” says Nording. “The shop owner offered to give them to me as mementos but I refused. They may be worth quite a bit of money to collectors. You never know”…

Those first pipes carried the name SON”, which was an acronym for the combination of the names Skovbo and Nording. Each of the partners borrowed $5,500 to get the business going, to rent a space and get the electricity turned on and to buy two bags of briar. Skovbo taught Nording how to make pipes, “but I didn’t have much time because I was still studying,” says Nording. “And I never got the chance to learn much from him, because shortly after we started he said that I would never be a pipe maker, he said that my hands had no skill for the craft, that I could never learn. I never understood how he could make such a judgment, but he did.”

To his credit, Nording shows no sign of triumph in the fact that he has proved Skovbo wrong by becoming one of the best-known pipe makers in the world. “He said that he would continue with SON pipes alone, that he no longer needed me,” says Nording. However, the partners had a legal agreement that whoever wished to dissolve the partnership first would leave the company to the remaining partner and be paid off without interest over five years. So Nording became the one to keep the company…

…Nording continued with SON pipes for only a year or two before changing the company name to Nording in the mid-’60s. “I figured nobody could ever take that name away from me,” he says. Nording’s were exclusively freehand shapes, graded from A, B, C, D, up to its highest grade, extra. Later an “F” grade was added—less expensive than the “A.”

Jeff worked his magic in cleaning up this pipe. He reamed it with a PipNet reamer and smoothed the walls of the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim and shank with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to the oils and tars on the bowl, rim and shank. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. The cleaning of the stem raised more oxidation in the vulcanite. The tooth marks and chatter was clean but visible. I took the stem off and put it in a bath of Before & After Stem Deoxidizer and totally forgot to take pictures of the pipe before I started.I did however; remember to take photos of the bowl to show its condition before I started my work on it. While the stem sat in the deoxidizer bath I worked on the bowl. I decided to start by addressing the flaw and the nick in the briar on the right side of the bowl. I wiped down the area around the damaged and flawed spot with cotton pad and alcohol. I filled in the flaw with clear super glue. Once it had cured I sanded the filled in area with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the repair and blend it into the rest of the briar. I decided to scrub the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I rubbed it into the briar with my finger working it into the plateau on the rim top and shank end. The product worked to lift the grime and debris out of the grooves of the briar. I rubbed it down and scrubbed it deeper into the grooves of the briar with a shoe brush. I polished the briar with a soft cloth to remove the balm from the briar. The photos below show what the pipe looked like after scrubbing the briar with the product. The balm helped to blend in the repaired area with the surrounding briar. The briar had a new life and the plateau on the rim top and shank end also looked alive. I set the bowl aside and turned back to the stem. I removed it from the soak in the Before & After Deoxidizer and wiped it down. I cleaned out the inside of the airway with alcohol to remove the product from the stem. I polished the stem with a soft cloth to remove all of the deoxidizer and give it a bit of a shine. It had removed much of the light oxidation though there were remnants in the rings and grooves above the tenon. There were still some spots of oxidation that needed to be addressed and the button needed to be reshaped on both sides to remove the tooth marks and chatter. The photos below show what it looked like at this point.I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to work on the tooth chatter and to reshape the edges and surface of the button.  I worked over the spots of oxidation on the flat portions and on the rings and grooves in the turned stem with the sandpaper at the same time to remove it from the surface of the hard rubber stem.I polished out the sanding scratches and marks in the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-4000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I brought it back to the table and sanded it with the final three 6000-12000 grit pads. After the final pad I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I put the stem back on the bowl and worked the pipe over on the buffing wheel using Blue Diamond to polish the bowl and shank. I used a gentle touch on the briar when I was buffing it so that the grooves of the rustication would not be filled in and make more work for me. I buffed the stem with a harder touch to raise the gloss on the rubber. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It looks better than it did in the beginning. It is a beautiful pipe. The dimensions of the pipe are: Length: 7 inches, Height: 3 1/4 inches, Diameter of the bowl: 2 inches, Diameter of the tapered chamber at the top of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches. I will be adding this one to the rebornpipes store shortly if you are interested in adding it to your collection. It will make a fine addition to the rack. If you are interested email me at slaug@uniserve.com or send me a message on Facebook. Thanks for looking.