Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe on the table came to us in a group of pipes that we picked up from a fellow in Los Angeles, California, USA. Even though the mixed sandblast and smooth finish was a bit dull and lifeless it showed promise under the grit and grime of the years. On the underside of the shank it was clearly stamped Ben Wade in script [over] Amber [over] Hand Made [over] In [over] Denmark. The finish is filthy with grime, dust and oil ground into both the sandblast finish and the smooth briar of the bowl and shank sides. The bowl had a thick cake that overflowed in lava on the plateau rim top filling in some of the grooves and valleys of the finish. The same was true of the plateau on the shank end. It had a lot of dust and debris in the grooves. The acrylic stem was dirty but the Ben Wade Crown logo was in good condition. The pipe had some tooth marks and chatter on both sides ahead of the button. Jeff took some photos of the pipe to show its overall condition before he started his cleanup work. He 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. He also took photos of the top and underside of the stem to show the chatter and tooth marks. Otherwise the stem is quite clean. Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to give a picture of what the briar around the pipe looked like. There are a lot of angles on this pipe and there is some stunning grain under the grime. He took photos of the stamping on the shank. It reads as noted above and is clear and readable. The stem also is stamped with a gold Ben Wade Crown Logo.I remembered 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.
Jeff had cleaned up the pipe with his usual penchant for thoroughness. He reamed the pipe with a PipNet Pipe Reamer and cleaned up the remnants with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a tooth brush. He worked over the debris in the plateau on the rim top and shank end and was able to remove it. He rinsed it under running warm water to remove the soap and grime. He cleaned out the inside of the shank and the airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. When I took it out of the box it had the following black stem in the shank. I had not seen the photos above so I did not have a clue it was the wrong stem. Jeff had soaked this stem in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation. He scrubbed the stem with Soft Scrub and cotton pads to remove the debris and oils on the stem. He rinsed it with warm water and dried it off. I took photos of the pipe with the stem it had in the box. It really looked good. I set the stem aside and turned my attention to the bowl. 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 15 minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. While the Balm did its work I went to look for the stem that is showing the photos above that Jeff sent to me. I found the stem on another pipe in the bottom of the box. It was exactly the stem that Jeff had shown in the photos above of the pipe when he received it. I put it in the shank and took photos of the amber coloured tortoise shell stem in the Ben Wade Amber bowl. It looked really good. The rim top had some darkening on the back of the bowl. The inner edge of the rim looked very good with slight darkening. I took photos of it after I had worked the Balm into the finish. The stem surface looked very good with a few small tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. Unfortunately I forgot to take photos of the stem before I filled in the marks on both sides with clear super glue. I removed the stem and took a photo of the pipe to give a sense of the whole. The stem is turned fancy acrylic. I set the bowl aside and turned to work on the stem. I filled in the tooth marks with clear super glue. Once they cured and hardened I smoothed out the repairs on the surface of the acrylic with 220 grit sandpaper and started the polishing of the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. 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 beautiful Ben Wade Amber Freehand Sitter with a fancy, turned acrylic 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 Amber 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 ½ inches, Height: 2 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 inches, Chamber diameter: 1 inch. The weight of the pipe is 62grams/2.19oz.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!