Daily Archives: July 28, 2018


Blog by Robert M. Boughton

Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the Author except as cited


You’ve got to sing like you don’t need the money
Love like you’ll never get hurt
You’ve got to dance like nobody’s watchin’
It’s gotta come from the heart if you want it to work.

— In “Come from the Heart” (1987), a country music song by Susanna Clark and Richard Leigh

The free-spirited quote I chose for today’s blog is a chorus of sorts to the darker, harder to control song of myself I change a little at a time, but concerning Danish freehands, at least, it shouts out.  In regular prose as opposed to verse, the words have been attributed to many folks, the most famous of whom are Leroy “Satchel” Paige and Mark Twain.

Really?  Satchel Paige and Mark Twain?  Can anyone even summon to the mind an image of Satchel, showman though he was, hurling three evanescent fast balls for a strikeout and then sauntering off the mound, doffing his cap as for the National Anthem, to spout what would have been considered insane gibbering in his day and gotten him run out of town on a rail or worse?  Or the wry and often hilarious Great American Writer – who can still leave readers today ROFL from his literary accounts of the myriad outrageous frays he entered with zeal and turn wickedly acerbic in his social commentary – wearing his famous white Southern suit and taking the cigar out of his mouth as he steps onto a gazebo to pronounce such life-affirming, feel good modern sentiments?  I think not.

But I like the way Kathy Mattea sings those four lines, although I can’t recall any of the others, and the lively, high-strung electric fiddle plucking of an unsung but talented musician.

To the point, the pictures of a nine-pipe lot I bought at the beginning of the month, before the package arrived, had a magnetic pull on me.  The main attraction was a pair of Danish freehands, and the other was the presence of at least two and maybe three other nice finds, about which the seller might have been oblivious.  With no order whatsoever to the description and only three brands identifiable (Kaywoodie, Falcon and Missouri Meerschaum), the seller did reveal that one of the freehands was a Knute of Denmark and the other a Karl Erik.  I had heard of Knute and was unfamiliar with the brand, but I’ve owned several Karl Eriks and was pretty sure the behemoth in the lower right side of the following photo was it.  I was correct.

9-pipe eBay lot courtesy stwok74075

I restored the freehands from the lot first.  Of those, I decided to start with the Knute for two reasons, the lesser being my inexperience with the brand and the more significant that, although both were large pipes, the Karl Erik was enormous and therefore had much more area to repair.  Had I any idea there was something greater about the KE than its massive potential for beautiful geometric symmetry and fine example of chasing the grain, I might have chosen the opposite order.  KE, by the way, is my abbreviation for convenience, not to be confused with the maker’s earliest pipe mark)

The pipe’s bleak façade of thick gunk at first hid the small block of nomenclature on the stem end of the shank.  Before I would have taken photos of the pipe as it arrived, I used a thick cotton rag and more than a little force to wipe away the muck that at one point I thought might require alcohol.  I stopped breathing a moment when I saw the mark.  Instead of the regular two lines of imprint, there were three: KARL ERIK/HANDMADE IN DENMARK/O.

The grade mark, of course, was the part that surprised me.  I’ve owned four KE pipes not counting my latest addition, two of which were far more striking at a glance than this one even after I finished its restoration, but none of them was graded.

As fast as I could, I browsed to Pipephil and found a mention of “previous grading” from 4-1 ascending, meaning1 would be the highest, not counting the Ekstravagant releases that were entirely handmade.  Well, that was no help, and so I searched further, finding multiple sites that gave both the previous grades and the newer ones from D-A, again ascending.  Some of the latter sources, including Pipedia, expanded on the Ekstravagant grade, noting that it in fact was divided into degrees, C, B, A, AA and AAA.  I found no official mention of letter grading beyond D, but I did track down a Worthpoint auction that describes O as “[t]he highest grade in the old Karl Erik grading system.”  Needless to say, my breath was taken away again.  I’m calling on any readers with information on the maker’s early grading system to fill me in on it!

Speaking of the maker, his name was Karl Erik Ottendahl (1942-2004), and he was a lithographer struggling to make ends meet from his apprenticeship starting when he was 16 into his mid-20s when he took up carving pipes as a day job.  Young Ottendahl had made pipes as a hobby since he was 16 and gave most of them to friends and senior co-workers.  Never forgetting his “roots,” Ottendahl remained perhaps the most generous pipe maker in the history of the craft and trade.  He was devoted to the proposition that fine pipes should be affordable to the average smoker, and to that end he priced his works of art far below the going rate.  Likely for that reason, his brilliant work was underestimated and likewise valued during and after his lifetime, and it is only in recent years that the market has begun to appreciate their worth more.  I’m sure that fact makes Karl Erik roll over in his grave.

The poor, big lunk of fine Danish stock in this blog had fallen on hard times and was in a sorry state.  The following triple stem swap gets a little crazy, so try to follow this.  The KE came with a nice dark brown swirled acrylic fancy stem that was just way too short to support its gigantic stummel but was perfect for a Knute of Denmark from the same lot that I already restored, blogged and sold – with the KE stem.  The Knute, by the way, had a Vulcanite stem that was chomped, with a hole in the bottom below the button I fixed well but the absence of a full lip I knew I could mend enough for my own use but would never pass off to a customer.  So that was a no-brainer.  I decided on a temporary substitution of a bright orange Lucite stem from a Ben Wade by Preben Holm freehand I have.  For now, the half-eaten but semi-repaired Vulcanite stem from the Knute is on the BW.  I’ll just add that I’m anxiously awaiting replacements for both of them.

Here are photos of the KE as I received it minus the stem, and the Knute Vulcanite bollix I mended as far as I’m going to do for now, with no signs of the hole that was on the underside but a bit of a double lip there now and the pre-existing half lip topside. RESTORATION
Part of me knew, from the rich, dark briar grain that glowed through the long bottom of the shank after I vanquished the grime that had overcast its natural, smooth brilliance, that the rest of the wood could only be better.  But the Devil’s Advocate in me gave rise to the tomfool but nevertheless undeniable apprehension that nothing good could come from stripping away the sedimentary layers of anomalous substances.  I decided to be done with the majority of the business using an Everclear soak.

To keep my mind from its pointless and counterproductive negative preoccupation with the state of the stummel, I turned my attention to the Lucite stem that was taken off the BW to use in place of the lovely and too petite stem with which the pipe came.  Note the dark stains inside the stem’s airhole and the bore and tenon opening. Most of the inner stain came out with alcohol soaked bristly cleaners, and the rest of that later with the retort.  The bore and shank end, on the other hand, needed more wheedling.  At first when I tried the small end of a bristly cleaner dipped in alcohol, I had minimal results.  Switching to something more pointed, sharp and focused – an unwound paper clip – I scraped away the accreted blackness on both ends and used a 180 grit sanding pad on the tip of the shank end.  Either I forgot to snap shots of the results or misplaced them, i.e., tapped Save As on the computer and didn’t look where I did it, but I don’t have the proof of cleaning to display.  Later pictures will show all but the shank opening of the stem.

But there’s good news!  The Everclear soak was finished!  The color and grain I wanted to see were there.To remove the remaining odd caliginosity obscuring the fine wood, I gave the bowl and shank a quick rub with 600-grit paper and the rim with super fine “0000” steel wool.  The difference was marked. The plateaux rim and shank opening needed a little more Everclear soaking.  That done, I grabbed my handy sanding pad again and spot-scrubbed those places. I reamed and sanded the chamber with 150, 220-, 320- and 600-grit paper that took the char far enough down to the wood for the retort to handle what remained. For me, the most gratifying part of a pipe restore, if the wood has been prepped properly beforehand, is micro meshing from 1500-12000, for this is where the mettle of the pipe is revealed.  The deep, shiny, shimmer that should result is something to behold with wonder.  And the grain on the block of wood chosen for this pipe is spectacular.  I also ran four Pyrex tubes of Everclear through the pipe afterward for the retort. Staining the rough rim and shank opening with Lincoln Medium Brown boot stain before flaming them, I took off the char with 8000 and 12000 micro mesh.  The second of the next two pics shows before I finished it with a light touch of steel wool.With that, the pipe was finished except for buffing the stummel and stem with red rouge and carnauba wax.  I’m out of Halcyon II and therefore could not use it on the plateau areas. CONCLUSION
One look at this pipe out of the box the lot came in and I fully intended to offer it for sale.  The gentleman from one of my pipe smokers’ forums who bought the Knute was also more than eager, to put it lightly, to get his hands on the Karl Erik I told him I had.  But all that was before I started unearthing – in a sense that may be literal given the fact that the pipe looked to have been buried for some time – the way Ottendahl chased the grain on this splendid example of one of his earlier works, when he graded them on an as yet undocumented scale.  For all I know, O being the fifteenth letter of the English alphabet, my newest freehand may not be near the top end, but it’s still graded.  That means it meant something to its maker, and I’m certain he would remember it if he could be reached where he is now.  Besides, as his newer scales are ascending, meaning from “best” to “worst,” and I being more of a glass half-full kind of guy, I like to think it’s two grades closer to the sidewalk than the middle if the road.


Restoring & Restemming a Zettervig Handmade 351 Freehand

Blog by Steve Laug

This is another pipe from the fellow here in Vancouver that he dropped off for me to work on. There were 8 pipes in the lot – I have finished five and this is the sixth. It is a Brandy shaped freehand bowl stamped on the underside of the shank and reads Zettervig over Copenhagen over Handmade over the shape number 351 over Denmark. The pipe came with a stem that was obviously not the original. It was another one of his pipe finds on a recent pipe hunt in Vancouver. The smooth finish had a burnt orange colour over a black undercoat. The plateau on the rim top and shank end were also black. The briar had been covered with a lacquer that had gone cloudy. The finish was very dirty and there was a thick cake in the bowl. The pipe needed to be cleaned thoroughly and a new stem fit to the shank that was more of a freehand style stem. I took close up photos of the rim top and the shank end. I believe that the plateau “style” top of the rim was carved rather than natural. The shank end has a combination of carved finish and genuine plateau. The inside of the bowl has a thick cake around the bowl and some tar and oil on the top of the rim filling in the finish. Some of the original black finish was also worn off.I took photos of the pipe with the stem it had on the bowl when it had been found. It is a saddle stem made to fit flush against a rounded shank. It was not made for plateau style freehand shank ends. I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It is very clear and readable. The stamping is clearer than the photo shows.I decided that I would look up some information on the Zettervig brand before I started the clean up on the pipe. I looked up information on two of my favourite sites. The first was Pipedia. Here is the link: https://pipedia.org/wiki/Zettervig. I quote in full:

In the 1960’s and into the early 1970’s Ole Zettervig had a shop in Copenhagen, Denmark where he was carving high quality pipes equal to Stanwell, Larsen, Anne Julie, Thurmann, Bang and others. These early pipes were marked “Copenhagen” and are very collectible. He sold his shop at some point in the 70’s and moved to Kolding and continued to produce pipes as a hobby, but the quality of briar and workmanship is said to not equal the early production. The later pipes he now marked as Kobenhaven rather than Copenhagen, and these were sold by Ole at flea markets throughout Europe.


I started my clean up on the bowl with reaming and then cleaning out the airway to the bowl and the inside of the mortise. I reamed the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to remove the cake on the walls. I used a dowel wrapped with sandpaper to sand down the walls on the bowl. I cleaned out the airway with alcohol (99% isopropyl), pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until they were clean on the inside. I tried to wipe down the bowl with acetone to remove the shiny coat. It did not even begin to permeate the surface. I scrubbed the surface hard to try to break through the finish. It did not work. I sanded the finish with micromesh sanding pads to break the topcoat on the finish down. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit micromesh pads. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down after each pad with a cotton pad and acetone. That combination of sanding pads and acetone worked to break down the finish. I used a black Sharpie Pen to restain the rim top and the shank end. It was originally black and I have found over the years that the black pen matches the colour of the original stain.I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the finish and the plateau style rim and shank end with my fingertips and finished working it in with a shoe brush. The balm worked to clean, preserve and enliven the surface of the finish on the small bowl. The briar was coming alive so I took some photos of the pipe at this point. I buffed the plateau style rim top and shank end with a horsehair shoe brush to give it a shine. I went through my can of stems and found one that would work well on the freehand style Zettervig bowl. I had one was from a freehand pipe. I turned the end of the tenon down with the PIMO tenon turning tool. I did not need to remove too much material from the tenon so it did not take too long. Once I had turned it I sanded it smooth with a piece of sandpaper then tried it in the pipe for the fit and the look. It looked good but needed to be bent a little to follow the low of the bowl. I heated it with a Bic lighter until the vulcanite softened then bent it slightly to match the flow of the bowl.The stem had two dents in the top surface. There was also some heavy oxidation in the vulcanite. I cleaned the areas around the button and filled in the dents with clear super glue. When the repair cured I sanded the repairs and the oxidation with 220 grit sandpaper. I folded the paper and worked in the grooves turned areas of the stem.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil between each sanding pad. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I lightly buffed the bowl so as not to fill in the sandblast finish. I also carefully avoided the stamping on the underside of the shank. I gave both the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and 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. I have two more pipes to finish for him – both of them that are finds he made while pipe hunting. This is a fun bunch of pipes to work on. I look forward to moving through the rest of them. Thanks for looking.