Chasing the Grain – a Beautiful Ben Wade Martinique Freehand by Preben Holm

Blog by Steve Laug

This particular smooth finished Freehand pipe was purchased from an auction in 2020 in Cedar Springs, Michigan, USA. It really is a nice looking pipe that is shaped chasing the grain around the bowl and shank. It is stamped on the underside of the shank and reads Ben Wade [over] Martinique [over] Hand Made [over] Denmark. It is a smooth finished pipe with a plateau finish on the shank end. The pipe had a moderate cake in the bowl and there was a lava overflow on the rim top and inner edge of the bowl. There was grime ground into the finish and dust and debris in the plateau valleys on the shank end. The original stem had the original Ben Wade Crown logo faintly stamped on the top of the blade of the fancy turned acrylic fancy saddle. It had tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. The pipe was dirty but still a beauty. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his work on it. Jeff took photos of the rim top and the stem to show the condition of the pipe when we received it. You can see the cake in the bowl and the lava on the rim top and inner edge of the bowl. It is hard to know what it looks like underneath the build up of lava but there may be a bit of rim damage. We will know after cleaning. The turned acrylic stem and has chatter and a few deep tooth marks on both sides near the button. The airway in the stem is stained with tobacco stains and there is a build up of debris there as well. He took photos of the sides of the bowl and the heel to give an idea of the shape and the condition of the briar around the bowl. It really is a nicely shaped pipe that has the classic look of a Freehand carved by Preben Holm. The next photos Jeff took show the stamping on the underside of the  shank. It is clear and readable as noted above.In a previous blog I had researched the brand quite a bit. I have included it below for information on this pipe ( I quote:

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 ( 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 following his normal cleaning process. In short form 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 lava on the rim top and the debris in the plateau 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. 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 once I received it.  It really looked good. I took close up photos of the stem and the rim top to show both how clean they were and what needed to be addresses with both. The rim top and bowl look good. There was some darkening and damage on the back and right inner edge of the rim that would need attention. The stem looked better and the faint Ben Wade Crown logo was visible on the topside. The tooth marks and chatter were still present. I would need to remove those to bring the stem back.I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. You can see from the photo that it is readable. It is clearer on the top half of the stamp than the lower but it is still readable. I removed the stem from the bowl and took a photo of the parts to give a sense of the beauty of the pipe.I began my work on the damage on the inner edge of the bowl at the back. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to shape and bevel the damaged area to match the rest of the bevel around the inner edge. I used a Maple Stain Pen to touch up the inner edge and blend it to the rim top.I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads -1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each sanding pad to remove the dust. The briar began to take on a deep shine. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my finger tips and a horse hair shoe brush to get into the crevices of the plateau. The product is incredible and the way it brings the grain to the fore is unique. It works to clean, protect and invigorate the wood. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded the tooth marks and chatter smooth with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the briar. I started the polishing of the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it 1500-12000 pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each pad to remove the dust and polishing debris. I polished it with Before After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I touched up the stamp on the top of the stem with Rub’n Buff Antique Gold. I rubbed it into the stamp with a tooth pick and buffed it off with a cloth. It looked much better.I am really happy with the way that this Preben Holm made Ben Wade Martinique Danish Made Freehand turned out. It really is a beautiful looking pipe with a great shape and smooth finished bowl and rim and the remnant of plateau on the shank end. The fancy original acrylic saddle stem is really nice. The smokey Topaz colour of the stem works well with the briar. The briar really came alive with the buffing. The rich brown stains of the finish gave the pipe a sense of depth with the polishing and waxing. 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. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Ben Wade Martinique really is a beauty and feels great in the hand and looks very good. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 ¼ inches, Height: 2 ¼ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 inches long x 2 ¼ inches wide, Chamber diameter: 1 inch. The weight of the pipe is 52 grams/1.83 oz. The pipe will be going on the rebornpipes store soon. It will be in the section on Danish Pipe Makers if you would like to add it to your collection. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. It was a fun one to work on!

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