Blog by Steve Laug
On a recent trip that Irene and I took with Jeff and his wife to the Oregon Coast we managed to do some pipe hunting. We found a few interesting pipes. I was in the mood today to work on a couple of them as a break from the restorations I am doing for others. The second of these is a pipe marked Soren over Hand Carved over Copenhagen over Denmark on the underside of the shank. It is a Freehand with a mix of sand blast and smooth finish on the bowl and shank. There is also plateau on the rim top and shank end. The pipe has a pair of fins on the underside of the bowl that allows the pipe to stand on its own. The bowl was a mess with a thick cake and tar overflow filling in the plateau rim top. There was a lot of dust and grim in the sandblast and buildup on the smooth portions. There were some chips missing on the ends of the fins but they did not detract from the unique beauty of the pipe. At first glance the stem was okay though it has some tooth marks and chatter near the button. There was some calcification and heavy oxidation in all of the turnings and smooth parts of the stem. When I removed the stem there was an issue – the tenon was ragged looking and probably half of it was missing. I took this one home as I decided I wanted to work on it. I took photos of the pipe before starting my cleanup work. I took close up photos of the rim top and bowl to show how clean it was. There is some nice cross grain on the rim top. I also took photos of the stem to show their condition. You can see the oxidation and tooth chatter on it but otherwise it is a pretty straight forward cleanup.I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. You can see it below and it read as noted above. I looked up the brand on Pipephil (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-s10.html) and found that the brand was carved by Søren Refbjerg Rasmussen. Pipes that he made for the European market were mostly stamped “Refbjerg” while those made for the US market were stamped “Soren”. Thus I knew that one I was working on was imported into the US market.
With that information I was clear on the maker of the pipe and I turned to work on the pipe itself. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamers using the first three cutting heads to take the cake back to bare briar. I like to have a clear idea of the condition of the inside walls of the bowl before I consider a pipe finished. This one looked very good. I cleaned up the remnants of cake with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and sanded the walls with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a dowel. I scrubbed the briar with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap, a tooth brush and a wire brush to clean out the grime and dust in the grain of the sand blast and in the plateau on the rim top and shank end. I rinsed soap off the bowl with warm running water and dried off the briar with a soft cloth. I cleaned the surface further with Mark Hoover’s Before & After Briar Cleaner – the Extra strength version. I rubbed it into the surface of the briar with a tooth brush and rinsed it off to remove the grime that it had trapped. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the damage on the fins. Both sides had small chips in the finish on the end of the fins.I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush. I let it sit for about 10 minutes. I buffed it off with a cotton cloth. You can see how well the product works to clean and enliven the briar and as a bonus it protects it as well. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. While I was with Jeff in Oregon I picked up some of the Soft Scrub that he has found very useful in removing oxidation and calcification. I rubbed down the stem with it on a cotton pad. You can see the results on the pads in the photo below.I cleaned out the airway in the shank and stem and the inside of the mortise with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. It was a dirty pipe. The photo of the bowl came out pretty good but the stem photo is out of focus. You get the idea though on how dirty both were.I cleaned off the surface of the stem, painted it with the flame of a lighter to lift the tooth marks and filled in the remaining tooth marks with black super glue. I set the stem aside to let the repair cure overnight. While it cured I mulled over what I was going to do about the short, broken tenon on the stem. I had two options – I could cut off the remaining tenon and replace it or I could replace the stem. I like the fancy stem that was on the pipe so I was more prone to replace the tenon… I would let it sit and make a decision in the morning.When the glue cured and the repair hardened I recut the edge of the button on both sides with a needle file. I gave it more definition and flattened out the repaired areas on the top and underside. I smoothed out top and underside with 180 grit sandpaper.I smoothed out the sanding marks and worked on the oxidation with 220 grit sandpaper. I wiped the stem down afterwards with a damp cloth. Finally I feel like I am making some progress with the stem.I cleaned the stem with cotton swabs, cotton pads and Soft Scrub to remove more of the oxidation on the surface of the rubber. At this point the stem was looking pretty good.I paused at this point and thought about a third option for the tenon – not a replacement and not a new stem. There was another way that I thought might work. I used a needle file to reshape the broken tenon and take away some of the first disk of the turned stem. The photos below show the stem after I had removed some of the material and bought some more length on the tenon. I still need to smooth out the tenon and flatten the end but the fit is much better in the shank and actually looks better. I cleaned up the tenon and the fit is very good now. All that remains is to polish it.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with a cotton pad to remove the sanding debris. I have to tell you I am not sorry to see this restoration come to an end. Generally it is fun to see the part all come together. This time I was glad that I could move on to work on another pipe! I had seen enough of the many issues that came with this pipe. I put the pipe back together and buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I hand buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. It was good to see what the polished bowl looked like with the smooth portions, sandblast portions and the plateau on the rim top and shank end. They contrasted well the polished black vulcanite stem. This Soren Hand Carved in Denmark Freehand is nice looking and feels great in my hand. The pipe has the advantage of being a sitter as well as a Freehand. The fins on the front of the bowl act like legs that hold it upright. It is a very light weight and well balanced pipe. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 3 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This is a well-traveled pipe – Made in Denmark for an American Market, somehow ending up in Astoria, Oregon in the stall of a seller who bought it at an estate sale and now up to Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada. While the pipe had a lot of challenges they were fun to work on for the most part! Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog. Remember we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next pipeman or woman.