My Preben Holm Story

Blog by Joe Gibson

August has been a good month for rescuing pipes from various antique shops in Mississippi. Earlier this month, I bought a Peterson Kapp-Royal and a Søren Refburg Rasmussen freehand from an antique mall in Picayune, Mississippi.

This past weekend, we visited the antique shops/flea markets in the Meridian, Mississippi area and after not seeing any pipe or tobacco related items (except for 4 brass spittoons), we walked into the last shop on our list. To be honest, we almost didn’t go into Penny’s Little Flea Market. None of the previous shops had air conditioning and were hot. What convinced us to go into Penny’s was the big sign, “Air Conditioned.”

Talk about a lucky sign! The first thing my wife saw was a display case on the counter containing pipes. I could tell before the case was open that these were not the usual suspects – Kaywoodie, Dr. Grabow, Medico pipes. The first three I picked up were a Preben Holm and two Ben Wade freehands. The case also held three pre-1965 Charatan’s Make and four Savinelli’s.

The Preben Holm caught my heart though.

Preben Holm carved and sold his first pipe before he turned 16. By the time he was 22 years old, he had his own shop and employed 45 employees. He is widely considered one of the godfathers of the Danish freehand design. For those wanting more information check out the about Holm on,_Preben.

Interestingly, Holm also produced the Danish Era Ben Wade pipes. Holm signed on with Herman Lane of Lane, Ltd. in 1971 after his previous distributor could not pay him. That dates the Preben Holm Delight as either pre-1971 or after 1980 according to my research. Since his prior distributor still had a stock of “Preben Holm” pipes, Lane decided to market the pipes under the Ben Wade name. My understanding is that once the old distributor depleted his stock, Holm and Lane reinstated the Preben Holm name on the pipes.

Despite the outside of the bowl being dark and grimy, there was relatively little cake in the pipe when I bought it. The stem was moderately oxidized but hadn’t turned dark orange yet. When I sniffed the bowl, it smelled like old tobacco but didn’t have that funky smell I normally find in pipes at flea markets.

The Cleaning Process

My first cleaning step on this pipe was to scrub it down with a Magic Eraser and undiluted Murphy’s Oil to remove as much of the dirt and grim as I could. I followed that with scrubbing the bowl with isopropyl alcohol and a Scotch Brite pad. It was then packed with cotton balls and saturated with isopropyl alcohol for an overnight soak.

The next morning, I put the stem to soak in an Oxyclean solution to soften the oxidation. After dumping the cotton ball and alcohol, I went to work on the outside of the pipe again. I really wanted to lighten up the smooth portions of the bowl to increase the contrast between smooth and rustication. I started wet sanding with 320 or 400 grit sand paper dipped in the alcohol. After rinsing, I wet sanded with 600 grit until I was happy with the results.

After cleaning the outside of the pipe with isopropyl alcohol and Murphy’s Oil, I sanded the smooth portions with 400 and 600 grit sandpaper.Following the 400 & 600 grit sandings, I used alcohol wipes to remove the dust residue.Next, I move to finishing sandpaper starting with 1000 grit. It removes any residue the alcohol wipe left and starts polishing the pipe. I use 2K, 4K, 8K grits next.I finish this process with 12K grit sandpaper. It requires time and patience, but the result is a nice, glossy shine before applying wax.The same technique is used on the rim. The top of the bowl looks out of round but it was apparently carved like that.I’m a big fan of using finishing sand paper and micro-mesh sanding pads to bring out the grain and shine on pipes. I have been told that I overdo it, but I like my results. I start with 1,000 grit sand paper and move up the scale – 2,000 grit, 4,000 grit, 8,000 grit and finally 12,000. Between each step, I use an alcohol wipe to remove and residue. The end result is always a very smooth feel to the pipe and a glossy shine.  The pipe gets a second overnight alcohol soak after that.

For some reason, the stem was almost more challenging to clean than the pipe. Using micro-mesh pads and a lot of elbow grease usually give me a nice black, semi-glossy stem. This stem didn’t want to cooperate. The micro-mesh removed all of the surface oxidation and looking at it under room lighting, it looked good. When I looked at the stem under sunlight though I could still see discoloration, especially around the curved parts of the stem.

Red Tripoli applied with my buffer reduced the discoloration, but it took over an hour of buffing to remove the last vestiges of the oxidation. A light application of carnauba to the stem and bowl had both gleaming and ready to smoke. 


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