Working on a Lone Pipe of a Pair of Cased Ben Wade De Luxe

Blog by Steve Laug

It seems like just a few weeks ago I was contacted by an older gentleman about purchasing his pipe collection. He sent me the photos and I was amazed at what I saw. He had Dunhill pipes, BBB pipes, a Barling’s Make “Ye Olde Wood” Fossil, Orlik pipes, Barclay Rex Pipes, a couple of Meerschaums and a whole lot of other pipes. All I could say as I looked at the pipes was what a collection it was. We negotiated a deal and I think we both walked away quite happy with the exchange.

You have seen the work we have done on the Dunhills, Hardcastles, H. Simmons all briar billiard and BBB pipes from the lot but there are still more. The above photo shows a Ben Wade’s Special British Make Pipe Case with a single pipe in it. The single pipe is a Ben Wade De Luxe Apple with a Gold Band on the shank. It is a perfect fit for the cut out in the case.

Jeff took photos of the case and the label in it when it arrived in Idaho Falls. The case is in excellent condition  for its age. It is royal blue in colour and has a gold rectangle around the top lid. The inside of the lid bears a label as noted above. I have worked on a few Ben Wade English pipes in the past but this one was unique in many ways that will become evident in the photos below. I knew it was an old one but I had no idea how old until I worked through the mystery of the hallmarks on the shank. I have to say the age of the pipe was a surprise. Read on to find out how I determined the age.

This gold banded Ben Wade is stamped on the left side of the shank and reads Ben Wade in script over De Luxe. The stamping is clear and readable and there is no shape number evident. The gold band is also stamped and reads BW in an oval which is the sponsor’s mark (Ben Wade) followed by a series of hallmarks as noted. The first is a thistle in a shield like the gold mark in the chart below denoting Chester. The mark was used from 1904-1962 (I have drawn a red box around it in the chart below).I followed the thistle hallmark for Chester to a website that identified date letters and followed the link to the site. The Thistle stamp in the photo below is identical to the one on the pipe. I have drawn a red box around the mark of interest.The second hallmark is 9 in a circle followed by the third which is 375 which together identifies the mark as gold which 9 carat and is 375 percentage.

The link took me to the date chart ( I have included it below. Note that it says Silver at the top but according to the site it is used on both gold and silver. The cartouche with a upper case V with a flourish identifies the pipe being made in 1921. I have drawn a box around the letter in the chart below.Now that we know what we have to work on Jeff took some photos of the 1921 Ben Wade De Luxe Apple before he worked his magic in cleaning up the pipe. It is a an amazing looking pipe for its age. It has a lot of potential and what appears to be some great grain under the grime and debris of the years.Jeff took photos of the bowl, rim top to show the thin cake in the bowl and the thick lava on the inner edge. This is the cleanest pipe that we picked up from this collection of pipes. It was in great shape in terms of the bowl and shank. He took photos of the top and underside of the vulcanite stem showing the light oxidation and the tooth marks and chatter on the stem and button surface. Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the condition of the briar. You can see the beautiful shape and the grain on the bowl even through the dirt and debris of many years. Jeff took a photo of the stamping on the left side of the shank and on the band. You can see that the stamping  on the shank and stem is clear and readable as noted above.

I turned to Pipephil’s site to see what I could learn about the Ben Wade brand apart from the when Preben Holm carved under that name ( I quote from the introduction on the site below as it gives a good summary of information.

Brand founded in the 1860’s at Leeds (GB). Lane Ltd. (NYC) bought the brand in 1962 and closed the factory in Leeds in 1965. The pipes were then manufactured in London at Charatan’s . During the period 1972 (about) – 1989 Ben Wade pipes were mass produced for Lane Ltd. by Preben Holm’s workshop in his very personal style. Peter Wilson owner of Duncan Pipes bought the rights of the brand in 1998.

I turned to Pipedia to try and place this pipe in the timeline of the brand and was able find some helpful information which I have included below ( I quote the information below.

Ben Wade is one of the great names in English pipe making. As Richard Carleton Hacker noticed correctly Ben Wade, like many British pipe companies, has had a checkered history. Very checkered in this case.

The Family era – Family Era Nomenclature

The company was founded by Benjamin Wade in 1860 in Leeds, Yorkshire, where it was located for over a century. Ben Wade started as a pipe trader, but yet in the 1860’s he established a workshop to produce briar pipes. The pipes were made in very many standard shapes – always extensively classic and “very British”. Many models tended to be of smaller dimensions. Ben Wade offered a very high standard of craftsmanship and quality without any fills. Thus the pipes were considered to be high grade and a major competitor to other famous English brands. The often heard comparison to Charatan seems to be a little bit inadequate because those days’ Charatans were entirely handmade.

In the second World War the factory was destroyed by German air raids on Leeds. But the Ben Wade family decided to re-build it immediately after the war and pipe production was re-started soon and successfully linked to the fame from the pre-war years.

Before the second war Ben Wade clustered their offerings into three price points: “Ben Wade” included the higher end pipes (eg the Larnix, Super Grain, Selected Grain, etc), “BW” included the mid-level pipes (eg Statesman, Natural Grain, County, etc), and “BWL” were the least expensive (eg Hurlingham, Adelphi, Tense Grain). Champion was in the last group, and in the 1930s at least retailed for 2/6.

The Champion disappeared during the War when the Ben Wade line was materially slimmed down, presumably to reflect difficulties of supply. The name continued to appear in brand directories st least through the early sixties, however it’s unclear whether production was actually resumed.Courtesy

Even though the owner family decided to leave pipe business and sell off the firm. The family went into negotiations with Herman G. Lane, president of Lane Ltd. in New York at about the same time as the Charatan family. Lane Ltd. bought both firms in 1962.

Herman G. Lane had been Charatan’s US sole distributor since 1955 and Charatan always remained his pet child. But Ben Wade was treated in another way by it’s new owner. The fabrication of pipes was reduced and the factory in Leeds was closed in 1965 finally.

So this was the end of Ben Wade pipes stamped “Made in Leeds, England”.

I have also include an advertising page on the brand. The way the signature was in the logo on the advertisement was the same as the one on this pipe.With the information from Pipedia I knew that I was dealing with a Family Era Ben Wade. It is a great piece of briar with chunky nicely made shape. The fellow we bought them from said that he had had this pipe for a very long time. I had dated the pipe to 1921 by the hallmarks on the gold band. Now it was time to work on the pipe.

Jeff carefully cleaned the pipe. He reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and then cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals of the shank, stem and shank extension with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit on the briar and lava on the rim top. The finish looks much better and has a deep richness in the colour that highlights grain of the briar. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver I was amazed it looked so good. Here are some photos of what I saw.   I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem surface. The crowned rim top and edges looked very good. I took close up photos of the stem to show the condition of the surface and button. I took a picture of the stamping on the left side of the shank and it was clear and readable as noted above.The pipe was in such good condition that I started with polishing the briar with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each pad. It really began to take on a shine. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the bowl and shank with my fingertips 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. The photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil. With the bowl and the stem finished I put the beautiful 1921 Ben Wade De Luxe Apple back together and buffed it on the wheel using Blue Diamond to give it a shine. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the wheel. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. It really is a great looking pipe that feels amazing in the hand. The dimensions of the pipe are – Length: 4 ½ inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/8 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of this large pipe is 1.09 ounces /30 grams. This older Ben Wade De Luxe is another great find in this collection. I will be adding this 1921 pipe to my own rotation of older pipes as it is too good to pass on. It is another pipe that has the possibility of transporting the pipe man or woman back to a slower paced time in history where you can enjoy a respite. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me.

2 thoughts on “Working on a Lone Pipe of a Pair of Cased Ben Wade De Luxe

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