Restoring a Karl Erik Mixed Finish Freehand with a Plateau Rim

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 ( 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, the third was the Karl Erik Ekstravagant Tulip and now this Karl Erik Freehand. It is a beautiful pipe that has stunning grain, interesting rustication and a plateau rim. The stamping on the shank reads Karl Erik in a circle. The pipe is in excellent condition. The plateau rim looks very good. There is raw briar in the bottom quarter of the bowl which leads me think that it was never really broken in. The bowl and shank were dusty from sitting around and dirty from light use but there was no cake in the bowl. The stem is acrylic with a gold fancy KE on the top. It has some light tooth chatter and marks near the button. I took some photos of the pipe before I started working on it. It is a beautiful, well laid out pipe and feels great in the hand. I took photos of the rim top to show the plateau finish. There was a little grime and dust stuck in the valleys but otherwise it was very clean. The inner and outer rim edges were flawless. I took photos of the stem as well to try to capture the condition of the stem. Both the top and underside of the stem were dirty and dull and had light tooth marks and chatter. The button edge also has chatter. The stylized KE is faint so I will need to have a look at redoing that.I took a photo of the COM stamp on the left side of the shank and it reads as noted above. It is clear and readable with the stamp in an oval shape as shown below.I decided to clean up the bowl first. I cleaned the plateau top with a brass bristle wire brush to remove the dust and debris.I cleaned out the mortise and the airway in the shank and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipes cleaners. The mortise and the airway in the shank was more dusty than dirty and the airway in the stem was pretty clean.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to get it into the rustication and the plateau top. I 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. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to address the stem. The stem had some scratches and marks on the surface. The top was worse than the underside but both had them. It was hard to capture the issues with the camera. There were also some light tooth marks on the button surface that needed to be addressed. I sanded out the marks with a folded, worn piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I wanted to remove the marks but not make more scratches. I started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.I used some Rub’n Buff Antique Gold to touch up the KE stamp on the stem top. I apply the product with a tooth pick making sure to work it into the grooves of the stamped letters. I let it short time and wipe it off and polish with a 3200 micromesh pad.Denicare Mouthpiece Polish is a gritty red 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 was careful around 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 is looking better! 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 gave the plateau top and rusticated portions of the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax. 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 Freehand shaped pipe with a mixed finish. The money from the sale of this pipe is going for a great cause. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ 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.

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