Blog by Steve Laug
Every so often I receive pipes from pipemen and women who want them to be sold and the proceeds go to the NGO I work for in my real job! It is an organization called the SA Foundation Canada (www.safoundation.com) and it provides long terms housing, recovery and skill development for women and their children escaping sexual exploitation and trafficking. The organization is based in Vancouver, Canada but has projects in 7 countries and 12 cities globally. It is an organization that is cutting edge in the recovery process for these women and their kids with a success rate of over 70% globally. That simply means that out of every 100 women who enter our program 70 do not go back to their previous lifestyle. It is an amazing organization to work for and it has big vision and a commitment to thinking globally and acting locally. The admin and fundraising costs are 10% meaning that of every dollar donated $.90 goes to the work of providing for the recovery, care and training of the women and their children.
I am posting four pipes that have been donated for this cause. I am donating the restoration work on them and the individuals are donating the income generated by the sale of the pipes. This is the third of those pipes – first was a Nording Brandy 13, second was a Chimera Churchwarden and now this Karl Erik Ekstravagant Tulip. It is a beautiful pipe that has stunning grain. The stamping on the shank reads Karl Erik in a circle over Handmade in Denmark with Ekstravagant underneath that. The pipe is in excellent condition. There was some damage and burn marks on the rim top and inner edge as well as some darkening on the rim edges. The stem is acrylic with a golden fancy KE on the top. It has some light tooth chatter and marks near the button. There was also a long scratch on the underside of the stem running mid stem toward the button. The bowl and shank were dirty from light use but there was no cake in the bowl. I took some photos of the pipe before I started working on it. It really is a stunning pipe and feels great in the hand. I took photos of the rim top to show the damage that is present on the top and on the inner edge of the bowl. It almost looked as if the bowl had been knocked out against concrete. I took photos of the stem as well to try to capture the condition of the stem. The top side was dirty and dull but there were no tooth marks or chatter. The underside looked good other than a deep scratch that ran from the button edge forward on the stem for about an inch. I took a photo of the COM stamp on the underside of the shank and it reads as noted above. It is clear and readable with the stamp running around the circle.I wanted to know a bit more about the Ekstravagant stamping on this pipe. I have worked on quite a few pipes from Karl Erik (Karl Erik Ottendahl) over the years but this was the first with the Ekstravagant stamping. I turned to the Pipedia article on KE pipes for help with this (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Erik). From there I learned that these pipes were large pipes entirely handmade by Karl Erik Ottendahl.
I quote in part from that article below.
During all periods he had made some of his own handmade pipes, but he felt that the responsibility of managing the factory did not give him the freedom he wished he had. Accordingly, in 1990, he went back to work on his own. He believed that he could produce better work if he worked alone, though his principle reason was simply that he missed the quiet, pleasant atmosphere that a one man shop afforded him. According to him, he has been much happier since he returned to make pipes all by himself. Certainly, the results reflect his rediscovered happiness with the pipe making craft.
Though Karl Erik’s favorite briar mostly came from Morocco or Greece, but he frequently purchased elsewhere, too. He didn’t consider the briar origin to be particularly important provided the briar was well cured. Therefore, he simply purchased the best briar he could find, rather than purchasing from only one or two regions.
Concentrating on more classical influenced shapes Karl Erik’s style emphasized the wood over all other contributing factors by allowing the grain to determine the ultimate shape of the piece. He further emphasized the natural, organic, flowing shape of his bowls with hand cut stems and a broad variety of decorating materials.
Now it was time to work on the pipe. I decided to address the issues with the rim top first. I chose to use the least intrusive method first. I steamed the nicks and dents to no effect. I sanded it with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to try to remove the damage. You can see the effectiveness of this in the first photo below. I carefully worked on the inner edge of the rim with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I worked slowly so as not to damage the rim top. It took a little work but I was able to remove some of the burn damage that marred the inner edge but there were some deep burns on the back edge of the bowl that would require stronger methods. I turned to stronger measures and carefully top the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper. I needed to address the deep nicks in the surface and the edges – both inner and outer and this was the means I chose. It took care of the majority of the issues and minimized the burn mark at the front and back of the bowl. It was not gone but it looked better. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to work on the inner edge. I wanted to give it a slight bevel to clean up the burn damage. While it was not perfect it was much better. I did not want to sacrifice the roundness of the bowl to do more work on it so I left it.I polished the rim top and edges of the bowl with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads and wiped it down with a damp cloth after each pad. The rim top came out looking very good. The darkening was lessened and the damage was smoothed out. The rim was looking very good at this point. I stained the top of the bowl with a blend of Oak and Cherry stain pens. This combination matched the stain on the rest of the bowl perfectly. I am pretty happy with the look of the rim top at this point in the process.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my fingertips and let it sit for about 10 minutes. I buffed it off with a soft cloth. It is a product that I have really come to appreciate. Mark Hoover crafted it to enliven, clean and protect briar. I use it on every pipe I work on and find that with a single application the briar comes alive with deep glow. Because the pipe looked so clean I forgot to clean out the internals. I went back and cleaned out the mortise and the airway in the shank and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipes cleaners. The shank was quite dirty but the airway in the stem was pretty clean. I repeated the scrubbing until the cleaners came out clean.I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to address the deep scratch in the stem. It was really a gouge that had carved a line from the button forward. It was not a crack lest you might think so. I examined it in detail with a lens and the stem was solid. I wiped down the area with a cotton swab and alcohol and then filled in the gouge with clear Krazy Glue. Once the repair cured I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to blend the repair into the stem surface. I polished the area I had sanded with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.Denicare Mouthpiece Polish is a gritty read paste that I have been using as a pre-polish for the mouthpieces. It removes a lot of very minor scratches and works well in removing the hard to get area in the crease of the button. I work it on with my fingers and then scrub the stem with a cotton pad and wipe it off when finished. I avoided the gold stamping on the topside to protect it from over buffing.I polished the acrylic stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping it down with a damp cloth between each set of pads. The stem began to take on a deep shine. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to finish the polishing. By this point the stem looks great and the gouge is gone! Once I finished I put the stem back on the shank and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond polish using a lightly loaded pad and a soft touch. I wanted to raise a shine and buff out some of the small scratches in the briar and the acrylic stem. I gave the stem a vigorous polish being careful around the stylized gold KE on the stem top. I gave the bowl and the stem several coats of carnauba. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad and hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is a great looking Karl Erik Ekstravagant Tulip shaped pipe whose sale price is going for a great cause. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 ½ inches, Outer Bowl Diameter: 1 ½ inches, Chamber Diameter: ¾ of an inch. The pipe will soon be on the rebornpipes store and you can purchase it and support a very worthy cause. Thanks for walking with me through the restoration.