Breathing Life into a Knute of Denmark Freehand

Blog by Steve Laug

I chose the next pipe to work on from some that Jeff and I recently purchased from a guy in Illinois. There were some nice pipes in the assortment from a variety of ranges. The pipe on my worktable comes from that collection. This one is a beautifully grained Knute Freehand with a turned vulcanite stem. The rim top and shank end are plateau and have been selectively darkened in the grooves and valleys. The shape follows the grain of the block of briar very well. It is stamped on the underside of the shank Knute of Denmark. There is no other stamping on the pipe. The pipe is shaped to sit nicely on a desk or table top. The stem is stamped with a Crown over the letter K on the top. The pipe was very dirty with a thick cake in the bowl and some lava overflowing on to the plateau rim top. It was hard to know what the inner edge of the rim looked like because of the lava and cake. Other than being dirty the finish appeared to be in good condition. The stem was oxidized and had come calcification where a pipe Softee bit had been. There was some tooth chatter and marks on both sides of the stem at the button. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started working on it so I could see what he was dealing with. He took photos of the rim top to show the thick cake in the bowl and the overflow of lava. The cake is thick and hard and the lava overflows into the plateau. The bowl is a real mess but it must have been a great smoking pipe. He also took a photo of the dusty plateau at the shank end. The next photos show the sides and heel of the bowl to give a clear picture of the beauty of the grain around the bowl of the pipe. Under the grime there is some great grain peeking through. Jeff took a photo of the stamping to capture the clarity of it even under the grime. The stamping reads Knute in script over of Denmark running horizontally along the underside of the shank.The stem looked dirty and oxidized with the calcification left behind by a pipe Softee bit. The bite marks and tooth chatter on the stem was light and should not take too much work to remedy. The Crown over K logo looked good at this point. Hopefully the cleanup will preserve it well. Before I started my work on the pipe I wanted to remind myself of the provenance of the pipe. I remembered that it was linked to Karl Erik as the earlier pipe I worked on was. I wanted to know where this pipe fit into the Karl Erik lines so I turned to the first of two sites that I always check to gather information on a brand. I turned first to Pipedia ( There it is clearly identified and linked to Karl Erik Ottendahl. It is designated as a second and frequently having rustication. For some reason this beauty does not have any rustication and it is a great piece of briar.

I turned to the second information site – Pipephil’s ( got a quick overview on the brand once again connecting it to Karl Erik.Pipedia also had this great picture of Karl Erik Ottendahl and I decided to include it here as a reminder of the artisan who first carved and released this pipe. Reminded of the tie to Karl Erik I knew a bit about the pipe at hand. I turned to address the pipe itself. Jeff cleaned up the pipe for me. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned it up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the exterior with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to clean off the grime off the finish and the heavy overflow of lava on the rim top. The cleaning had removed some of the black stain on the rim top. He cleaned up the internals of the shank, mortise and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove all of the oils and tars in the pipe. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer and was able to remove much of the oxidation. When it arrived here in Vancouver it was a clean pipe and I knew what I had to work with. I took photos of it before I started my part of the restoration. I took photos of the rim top and the stem to show their condition once it arrived in Canada. Jeff was able to clean up the incredibly thick cake and lava overflow that was shown in the rim and bowl photos above. The plateau and the inner bevel to the rim look really amazing. He was also able to get rid of the grime and grit in the surface of the briar. The rim top and edges looked very good. The stem looked very good and was much cleaner. There was light tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. The white paint in the stamping had been removed by the soak and cleaning but the stamp was still good so I could repaint it.I have noticed on some repairs that folks don’t pay much attention to the stamping when they are restoring a pipe. To me this is a critical part of the restoration to leave undamaged as it is the only link we have to who made the pipe. I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank to show that it was very readable and undamaged by the cleanup work.There was a small cut in the briar on the right side of the bowl mid bowl that I would take care of first. I filled in the cut with a small drop of super glue. Once it cured I sanded it out with a worn piece of 220 grit sandpaper and polished the scratches left behind with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.I started polishing the briar with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth. The bowl began to take on a rich shine and grain was beginning to stand out. I wet sanded with all of the pads and wiped the bowl down after each pad with a soft cloth. I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the finish on the bowl and shank. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I worked it in with my fingers to get it into the briar. I used a horsehair shoe brush to work it into the plateau top and shank end.  After it sat for a little while I wiped it off and buffed it with a soft cloth. The briar really began to have a rich shine. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. It is a beautiful bowl. I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem at this point in the process. I sanded tooth chatter and the remaining oxidation on the stem with folded pieces of 220 to remove the marks and the light brown colouration on the stem surface. I sanded them with 400 grit sandpaper until the marks were gone and the oxidation was gone. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil. I rubbed the stem down with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish and a cotton pad to remove remnants of oxidation and to further blend in the sanding. The stem was showing some promise at this point in the process. I used a liquid paper to touch up the stamping on the top side of the fancy saddle stem. I rubbed it into the stamp and set it aside to dry. I polished off the excess white product and left the remainder in the stamp itself.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 after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. I used the Before & After Pipe Polish to remove the small minute scratches left in the vulcanite even after the micromesh regimen. I finished by wiping the stem down with a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I put the stem back on the pipe and took the pipe to the buffer. I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish the briar and the vulcanite. Blue Diamond does a great job on the smaller scratches that remain in both. I gave the bowl and the stem several 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 pipe polished up really nicely with a great contrasting stain look to the briar. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. This is a beautiful Karl Eric Freehand – the fancy turned stem and plateau shank end give the pipe a great look. The polished black vulcanite stem looks really good with the rich browns standing out in the grain. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 1/2 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. This is another pipe that I will be putting it on the rebornpipes online store shortly, if you are interested in adding it to your collection. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me on this beauty!

3 thoughts on “Breathing Life into a Knute of Denmark Freehand

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