Daily Archives: June 26, 2019

What Is It About A Preben?

Blog by Norman Skiba

For 50 years now I have been enjoying and observing that there is something special and magical about Preben Holm pipes. I have always loved his pipes.  Looking back, I can say that I have owned more Preben Holm pipes than any other pipe maker – period.  Overall, they are unique; some wild and some are quite tame and reserved, by his standards.

To me – there is something that I have struggled, and still fail, to describe regarding the overall smoking experience of a Preben Holm pipe.  I have mostly had fine to superb smoking Preben’s, and I have had a few that were ok, and also a few rare ones that just had issues: predominantly a bad gurgling.  Yet even the few bad or not-so-good ones all had this Quality and taste and smoking experience across the board with the best of them.  There is a consistency there that I struggle to explain.  This character/taste/sensory experience that makes it a Preben.  After a week of straight meerschaum smoking I had a bowl this morning in a Preben and it was marvelous.  I look forward to another bowl out of the Preben tomorrow before I head out to the top vineyard to get my nets on.  (I did the side vineyard after the bowl this morning.)  So, again, these experiences make me wonder and question just what it is that makes the Preben’s so unique?  What is it about the nature of the briar he uses that are so different and special unlike any other pipe maker.   And no, I am not just talking about Danish pipe makers.  I mean all others that I have ever smoked or owned.  There is something about his pipes that make me still love the pipe and pipe smoking (with my favorite tobacco as a partner in all of this), and briar.  After all of these years I still cannot put my finger on that special dynamic.  Yet I am in awe when I light up one of his pipes.  They are not only beautiful in so many ways; but they smoke so sweetly and with a subtlety to them.  So, what is it about a Preben?

Restoring a Beautiful Bertram Long Shank Bulldog 20

Blog by Steve Laug

It you have not read the previous blogs I have posted on this brand give them a read to get some background on the pipes in this lot. If you have not been hit with a box I am sure you have a hard time understanding how overwhelming it feels to look at the 200+ pipes that need to be restored. It is mind boggling for sure – but there is only one way to move ahead – 1 pipe at a time. I could not do it without Jeff’s help doing the clean up on the lot. If I had to do it all by myself it would be more than I handle moving through this many pipes. From his cleaned pipes I get to choose what I want to work on. Doing the work this way we have already cleaned about 70 pipes and I have restored around 38 of them. We are getting there slowly but surely.

This time I chose a Bertram Bulldog to work on. It has a long, diamond shank and a diamond saddle vulcanite stem. It has grade 20 number stamped on the left underside of the shank. The briar has a mix of grains – straight, flame and birdseye. The exterior of the bowl looked really good. There was on large fill on the left underside of the shank near the bowl/shank junction that was chipped and rough. The bowl had cake in the chamber and the rim top had some darkening and lava overflow. It was hard to know what the inner edge of the bowl edge of the bowl looked like until the cake and lava were gone. The stem had some oxidation and tooth marks and chatter near the button on both sides. Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he began his cleanup Jeff took close-up photos of the bowl and rim to capture the condition of the pipe when it arrived. The rim top had a thick coat of lava and the bowl had a thick cake. You can see from the photos why it was hard to tell the condition of the inner edge of the rim.The pictures of the bowl sides and the heel give a clear picture of the grain around the heel and the sides of the bowl. Other than the one obvious large fill the bowl looks very good. I am looking forward to seeing what is under all of the grime. The large fill /flaw is visible in the second photo below. I have circled it in red so it easy to identify. The next photos capture the stamping on the left side of the shank. You can see the Bertram Washington, D.C. stamp on the upper left side of the diamond shank and the grade 20 stamp on the left underside of the shank. The photo below captures the nature of the flaw and damaged fill that I had noted above with the red circle. It is on the left underside of the diamond shank.The next two photos show the stem surface. They show the calcification, oxidation and the chatter on both sides near the button. There are light tooth marks on the stem near the button. There is some wear on the button edge.

With each of the blogs that I have written on the Bertrams that I have worked on I have included the following information. If you have read it in past blogs, you can skip over it. If you have not, I have included the link to Bertram history and information. I would recommend that if you don’t know much about them take some time to read the background. I include a link to the write up on Pipedia (http://pipedia.org/wiki/Bertram). Bertram pipes were based out of Washington DC. They were popular among famous politicians and celebrities of the time. They made many products for them from FDR’s cigarette holders to Joseph Stalin’s favorite pipe. They were considered some of the best America had to offer till they finally closed their doors in the 70s. Bertram graded their pipes by 10s and sometimes with a 5 added (15, 25, 55 etc.), the higher the grade the better. Above 60s are uncommon and 80-90s are quite rare. I have worked on one 120 Grade billiard. I have several blogs that I have written on rebornpipes that give some history and background to Bertram pipes. (https://rebornpipes.com/2015/06/16/an-easy-restoration-of-a-bertram-grade-60-217-poker/).

I have included the following link to give a bit of historical information on the pipe company. It is a well written article that gives a glimpse of the heart of the company. http://www.streetsofwashington.com/2012/01/bertrams-pipe-shop-on-14th-street.html#

From this information I learned that all of these Bertrams were made before the closure of the shop in the 1970s. This Bertram Bulldog with a long shank is the first of this style that I have worked on. This pipe has a grade 20 which I am sure takes into account the large fill that is present on the shank.

Jeff is methodical in his cleaning regimen and rarely varies the process. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the cake. 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, shank and stem with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the oils and tars on the rim and the grime on the finish of the bowl. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. He was able to remove lava build up on the rim top and you could see the great condition of the beveled rim top and edges of the bowl. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation. I took photos of the pipe before I started my work on it. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the condition of the bowl and rim after Jeff had cleaned up the grime and lava. Without the lava the inward bevel on the rim looked very good with slight darkening at the rear. The inner edge was in great condition. The stem photos show that the light oxidation is gone. The stem is in excellent condition with some light tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button.I took photos of the stamping to show how it looked after the cleanup. The Bertram Washington, DC is clear and readable as is the Grade stamp 20.The damaged fill/flaw on the underside of the diamond shank was the only significant issue with the pipe. I wiped it down with alcohol on a cotton swab then filled it in with clear super glue. Once the repair had cured I sanded it smooth with 220 grit sandpaper and with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. It is fascinating to see that the fill or flaw follows the pattern of the grain perfectly and once it was sanded it blended in well with the grain on that portion of the bowl. I cleaned up the darkening on the rim and smoothed out the damage on the back inner edge with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I cleaned up the sanding marks with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.I polished the bowl and rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wetsanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each pad to remove the sanding debris. The grain began to stand out. After the final sanding pad I hand buffed it with a cotton cloth to raise a shine. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the finish of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The Restoration Balm really makes the grain stands out beautifully. If you have not tried some why not give it a try. I sanded out the small tooth marks and chatter next to the button on both sides of the stem with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I sanded the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to remove the scratches. I polished it with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish to scrub out the scratches. I wiped it down with some Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I polished out the sanding scratches with micromesh sanding pads – wetsanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and gave it a final coat and set it aside to dry. Jeff and I are gradually working through this 200+ lot dealing with each of the challenges they present one at a time. This one is Bertram’s take on a classic long shank straight Bulldog shape. I put the stem and bowl back together and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I polished the briar and the minute scratches still in the vulcanite of the stem until there was a rich shine. For a Bertram Grade 20 this pipe is quite stunning. I cannot find any sign of visible fills. The grain is sporadic but pretty. It has a saddle stem on a diamond shank. The finish really has some interesting grain on a proportionally well carved pipe. Once I buffed the pipe the briar came alive and the mixture of grain popped with polishing. The black vulcanite stem had a rich glow. The finished pipe is well shaped long shank Bulldog. This Bertram feels great in the hand sits right in the mouth. Have a look at the finished pipe in the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/2 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. Maybe this shape speaks to you and you want to add it to your collection. If you are interested let me know as I will be adding it to the store soon. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as it was a pleasure to work on.