Blog by Steve Laug
I have worked on many Preben Holm pipes over the years in many of his lines – Danish Pride, Monte Verde, Ben Wade and even his Walnut line which was a bit more classic in shape. I have always enjoyed his take on the flow of the pipe and how well he follows the way the grain takes him shaping his work. I have never worked on one that bore the Preben Holm Crown stamp on the shank. This particular smooth finished Freehand pipe was purchased from an auction in 2020 in Salina, Kansas, USA. It really is a filthy pipe though underneath all the grime it is a beautiful looking Freehand pipe that stands. It combines a plateau rim top and shank end with a smooth finish on the bowl and shank. It is stamped on the underside of the shank and reads Preben Holm [over] Crown [over] Hand Made [over] In [over] Denmark. The classic walnut finish is incredibly dirty but I was excited about it being a Crown – until Jeff mentioned to me that there was a hairline crack on the heel of the bowl! The bowl had a thick cake lining the walls and overflowing onto the plateau rim top in thick lava. It filled in the inner edge of the bowl and the rim top. It was a mess! There was grime ground into the smooth, grooved finish and dust and debris in the plateau valleys on the shank end.The turned vulcanite saddle had a twist in the saddle and had a faint Crown stamp on the topside. It had deep tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. The pipe must have been a great smoker judging from the condition it came it. 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 thick coat I the bowl and the heavy lava on the plateau rim top and inner edge of the bowl. The plateau on the shank end is also filthy. The turned vulcanite stem and has chatter and a few deep tooth marks on both sides near the button. 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. The third photo below that shows the flat bottom of the heel shows a hairline crack from the back edge inward for about ½ inch and down into the groove about ¼ inch. I have circled it in red in the photo below. Certainly depressing but fixable! It has a shape that truly reflects the style and process of grain chasing that Preben Holm was famous for in his pipemaking. The next photo Jeff took shows the stamping on the underside of the shank. It is clear and readable as noted above.I turned first to Pipephil to see what I could find about the Crown line of pipes and get some background (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-p5.html). I have included the photo capture below as it shows the look of the stamping and logo on the pipe I am working on.I turned then 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/Holm,_Preben) and the article on Ben Wade (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Wade). I quote the portion of the Ben Wade 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 his own name. 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, he reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer to strip out the cake in the bowl and then cleaned up the reaming 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 and debris on the plateau 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. He scrubbed the stem with Soft Scrub and cotton pads to remove the debris and oils on the stem. He soaked it in Briarville’s Pipe Stem Deoxidizer and then 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. The stem looked better and 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 left side 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 decided to start my work on the pipe by addressing the hairline crack on the heel of the bowl. I examined the inside of the bowl with a light to see if the crack had come through. I had not gone through at all. I looked at the heel of the bowl and saw that it truly was a hairline surface crack probably made by dropping the pipe. I drilled small pilot holes on each end of the crack to stop it from spreading. I cleaned out the crack with alcohol to remove any dust. I filled in the holes and the crack with clear super glue and briar dust. When the repair cured I sanded it smooth with 220 grit sandpaper to blend it into the surrounding briar. I used a folded piece 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the inner bevel of the bowl and the grooves flowing out of the bowl toward the outer edges.I polished the smooth briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped down the briar after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the dust and debris from the surface. The briar began to take on a 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 rim top and shank end. 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 “painted” the surface of the stem with the flame of a Bic lighter to try and lift the tooth marks. I filled in the remaining marks with clear super glue. Once the repairs cured I sanded them 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 touched up the faint stamp on the top of the stem with Rub’n Buff Antique Gold. I rubbed the product into the faint stamping and buffed it off with a soft cloth. While not perfect it was very visible and distinguishable.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it 1500-12000 pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each pad to enliven and protect the vulcanite. I polished it with Before After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave the stem another rub down with Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I am really happy with the way that this Preben Holm Crown Hand Made Danish 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 hairline crack repair went very well and it is virtually invisible. The fancy original vulcanite saddle stem is really nice. The polished black 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 Preben Holm Crown Hand Made 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: 7 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 ½ inches long x 2 inches wide, Chamber diameter: 1 inch. The weight of the pipe is 86 grams/3.03 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!