Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe on the table came to us from a recent trade I did with Dan here in Vancouver. He was interested in one of the pipes that I had just restored and we made an arrangement that included the Ben Wade pipe. He sent me the photo to the left and the ones following for me to have a look before he brought it by for the trade. I was definitely interested and let him know that the deal was on.Dan and I met yesterday morning and did the trade. It really was a beauty. The finish was dusty and dirty but it showed promise underneath. On the underside of the shank it was clearly stamped Danish Pride [over] Martinique [over] by Ben Wade [over] Hand Made [over] Denmark. There dust in the sandblast finish around the bowl sides. The bowl had a thick cake that overflowed in lava on the plateau rim top filling in the grooves and valleys of the finish. The inner edge of the bowl was also caked with lava. The shank end also had a plateau finish that was actually quite clean. The fancy vulcanite stem was lightly oxidized and had some tooth marks and chatter on both sides ahead of the button. I took some photos of the pipe before I started working on it. I took photos of the rim top and bowl to give a clear picture of the thickness of the cake and the lava on the plateau finish of the rim top. There is dust and debris stuck to the walls of the bowl clearly visible in the photos. I also took photos of the stem to show the light oxidation on the surface and the chatter and tooth marks on the top and underside. I took a photo of the stamping on the shank. It reads as noted above and is clear and readable.I removed the stem and took a photo of the pipe to give a sense of the whole. The stem is turned fancy vulcanite saddle. I remembered a bit of history on the brand that thought that the Preben Holm pipes were marketed under the Ben Wade label in the US and imported through Lane Ltd. I turned to Pipedia and read the listing on the brand to refresh my memory and flesh out the knowledge of the brand (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Wade). I have included a photo from that site that was taken from a Tinderbox advertisement.I quote the portion of the article that summarizes the Danish period of the history of the brand:
Young Copenhagen master pipemaker Preben Holm had made a meteoric career heading a pipe manufacture employing 45 people at the age of 22! But around the turn of 1970/71 he was in major financial difficulties. His US distributor, Snug Harbour Ltd. in New York City, left him in the lurch. Holm had three unpaid invoices on his desk and another large shipment was ready for the USA, when Snug Harbour’s manager told him on the phone that there was no money at all on the account to pay him.
So the Dane went to New York for an almost desperate search for a new distribution partner. He made contacts with Lane Ltd. and met Herman G. Lane in February 1971. Lane Ltd. had no interest in Holm’s serial pipes produced at that time but so much the more in the hand-carved freehands because the hype for Danish freehands and fancies in the States was still on its way to the climax then. The meeting resulted in an agreement to start a cooperation. Lane insisted to improve the quality considerably and in return he assured to be able to sell essentially larger quantities.
Holm went back home to work on new samples with all-new designs and altered finishes for Lane. Both, Lane and Holm, agreed that it would be unwise to sell the pipes under Preben Holm’s name as long as Snug Harbour had a considerable stock of Preben Holm pipes and might sell them pipes at very low prices just to bring in some money.
So on Mr. Lane’s proposal it was determined to use the name Ben Wade belonging to Lane Ltd. Lane spent considerable amounts of money for advertising the new brand in the big magazines– the centerpiece being whole-page ads showing a very exclusive Seven Day’s Set.
The cooperation with Lane Ltd. proved to be an eminent business success for both partners. Within a very short time Ben Wade Handmade Denmark sold in much larger quantities and at higher prices than they had ever dreamed of. And the hype these freehands and fancy pipes caused went on unbroken long after Herman G. Lane deceased. Preben Holm – obviously much more brilliant in pipe making than in pipe business – was in major troubles again in 1986 and had to sack most of his staff. The Ben Wade production was significantly lowered but continued until his untimely death in June of 1989.
Up to now Preben Holm made Ben Wade pipes are cult and highly sought for on the estate markets.
With that information my initial thoughts were confirmed. This pipe was a Preben Holm made Freehand distributed in the US by Lane Ltd under the name Ben Wade. The freehand rage occurred in the late 70s and the pipes were made until Preben’s death in 1989. My guess would be that this pipe was made sometime during that time period and potentially in the late 70s.
I started my work on the pipe by reaming the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer. I used the first three cutting heads to take the cake back to bare briar. I followed that by scraping the bowl walls with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I sanded the bowl walls with a piece of dowel wrapped with 220 grit sandpaper. I scrubbed the exterior of the briar with a tooth brush and undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap. I scrubbed the nooks and crannies of the sandblast and the plateau rim top and shank end with the tooth brush and a wire brush to clean off the grime and the lava build up. I rinsed the bowl off with running water and dried off the bowl with a soft towel. I cleaned the shank and airway in the stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs to remove the grime and build up there. I polished the smooth portions of the bowl sides and shank with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping it down after each pad with a damp cloth. I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips and into the plateau rim top with a horsehair shoe brush. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for 10 minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. I set the bowl aside and turned to work on the stem. I “painted” the stem surface with the flame of a lighter to lift the marks in the surface. I filled in the deep tooth mark on the topside of the stem and the button surface. Once the repair cured I smoothed it out with a file. I reshaped the button and sanded out the tooth marks from the surface of the vulcanite with 220 grit sandpaper and started the polishing of the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I used some Rub’n Buff Antique Gold to touch up the crown stamp on the topside of the saddle stem. I applied it to the surface with a tooth pick and buffed it off with a soft cloth. While it is faint it looked identifiable. I polished the vulcanite stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem. This Danish Pride by Ben Wade Freehand Sitter with a fancy, turned vulcanite stem is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Danish Pride Freehand fits nicely in the hand and feels great. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 inches, Chamber diameter: 1 inch. If you are interested in adding this pipe to your collection send me a message or an email. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!