Daily Archives: October 13, 2021

A Simple Refurbishing Of A Boxed “Brakner # 129”

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

This is the third and the last Brakner pipe in my inherited collection that came in original Brakner box duly tagged, but I don’t think the box is original as the shape code on the pipe and the box do not match. I had been delaying restoring this pipe as I had my hands full with pipes that I had received for repairs and ones that were selected by brother pipers to be restored/ refurbished by me. In between these commitments, I took the time out to refurbish pipes for my personal collection and this is one such pipe. This uniquely rusticated stacked billiard shaped pipe is stamped on the smooth surface on the left side of the shank as “BRAKNER ANTIQUE” over “DENMARK”. The smooth surface on the right side of the shank is stamped as “HAND-CUT” followed by # 129, the shape number. The vulcanite stem is adorned with a green dot (larger than a Dunhill stem logo), I think made of Jade stone, not sure though. There is a smooth band around the end of the shank.  I have worked on Brakner pipes before and had read about Peter Brakner and his unique “micro-rustication” technique, which has been lost to the pipe community with his demise as he never did share this technique that he had developed. To refresh my memory, I revisited pipedia.org and read the article published therein. One can refer to the article at this link Brakner – Pipedia.

Peter Micklson (†) started his career at the Teofil Suhr workshop, Suhr’s Pibemageri, in Copenhagen, where Sixten Ivarsson was the foreman. He brought in Poul Rasmussen and taught him the two or three important things about pipemaking in a six weeks crash course, before he went off to join Poul Nielsen, the later Mr. Stanwell.

Micklson, who later changed his last name to Brakner,cannot have worked under Rasmussen too long before he felt to be good enough to go off on his own. Indeed he carved himself quite a good name as it was proudly announced 1955’s World Championship of Pipe Smoking was won by a smoker who employed a Peter Brakner pipe.

His fame based fairly on developing an unique and very special “micro-rustication” he called Antique. According to Kai Nielsen, Brakner kept this technique as a secret and only once he showed it to one person – Kai’s mother. Both have passed away, so this secret technique is lost. Kent Rasmussen was recently inspired by Brakner’s Antique finish when he created his new technique of rustication.

Brakner was a close friend of Ole Larsen, the proprietor of the famous W.Ø. Larsen tobacco shop and sold a lot of his pipes there, before Larsen hired his own indoor carvers. From the Larsen Export Catalog 1960/61 we learn a bit about Brakner pipes:

  • Antique Antique finish in tan or black. Smooth pipes also. Each pipe 7.50 $.
  • Bella Danica Antique finish in tan or black. Each pipe 10.00 $.
  • Royal Danois Antique finish in tan or black. Each pipe 12.50 $.

The latter were named after the Royal Danish Guard Regiment, founded in 1689.

Brakner was one of the first high-end carvers from Denmark to enter the US market and was considerably successful there in the early 1970’s. After his sudden death Peter Brakner’s name faded back from the forefront, but his pipes speak to the injustice of that. His body of work has earned him a place in the important history of Danish pipemaking.

Further down the article, there were a few pictures of Brakner Pipes from the 1961-62 catalogs that I have reproduced below which has the shape code of the pipe currently on my work table, albeit in a smooth finish and indicated with a red arrow.Having read the detailed account, I feel blessed to be holding a piece of Danish pipe history.

Initial Visual Inspection
As is generally observed with most of my grandfather’s pipe, the chamber of this pipe too is filled with a thick cake with overflowing lava covering the rim top surface. The thick cake hides the condition of the inner walls of the chamber and will be ascertained only after the cake has been taken down to bare briar. Similarly, the condition of the rim top surface will be commented once the overflowing lava has been scraped off. However, the inner rim and outer rim edge appears to be in good condition with no tell tale signs of damage. There are strong smells emanating from the entire pipe and would need to be addressed. Unlike the other two Brakners in my collection, this one does not have a smooth band below the outer edge of the rim, but has one at the shank end. It has smooth surfaces on either side of the shank which bears the stampings seen on this pipe. The unique rustications on the stummel surface are covered in oils, tars, grime and dust of all these years of use and storage. However, once cleaned up, the dark of the stummel should contrast beautifully with the smooth brown shank end band. The mortise and the shank air way are clogged as expected making the air flow anything but laborious. However, with the draught hole being right at the bottom of the chamber and the perfect alignment of the stem airway, tenon and the shank airway should make this one a fantastic smoker. The vulcanite stem is heavily oxidized with deep tooth marks on both the upper and lower stem surfaces. The buttons on the either surfaces are deformed due to tooth indentation and would have to be rebuilt and reshaped. The trademark green dot on Brakner pipe stem has dulled a bit and would benefit from a nice polish. The tenon end and the slot end showed heavy accumulation of dried oils and gunk.The cardboard box that housed the pipe for these many years does show its age. The edges have separated at the seams at a couple of places and the whites of the insides have yellowed. However, the posters and external surface are bright and in good condition. All in all, judging from the initial examination, I do not envisage any major/ serious issues to present themselves in the course of restoring this beauty and should be an easy project.

The Process
I began the restoration process by first cleaning the stem internals. I cleaned the internals of the stem using hard bristled pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol and followed it by cleaning the air way using a small shank brush with anti oil dish cleaning soap. This helps in reducing the number of pipe cleaners required while ensuring a spotless and a very clean stem air way. Once the stem internals were clean, I sand the entire stem surface with a piece of 220 grit sand paper and cleaned the stem surface with Murphy’s Oil soap on a cotton pad. This step helps to remove surface oxidation to some extent while preparing the stem for a dunk in deoxidizer solution for better results. To address the issue of bite marks and tooth chatter on the stem surfaces, I flamed the surface with a lighter. Vulcanite has the property to attain its original shape when heated and this is exactly what was being done. The tooth chatter and deeper bite marks were raised to the surface to a great extent. The remaining minor tooth indentations would be subsequently filled with a mix of clear super glue and activated charcoal. At this stage, I immersed the stem in to the De-oxidizer Solution developed by Mark Hoover. I generally allow the stem soak in the solution overnight.While the stem was soaking in the De-oxidizer solution, I reamed the chamber with size 1 head of the PipNet pipe reamer. I removed the carbon from the areas where the reamer head could not reach with my fabricated knife. To completely remove the residual carbon from the walls of the chamber and smooth out the walls, I sand the chamber walls with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper followed by cleaning the chamber with a cotton swab wetted with isopropyl alcohol. The chamber walls are in pristine condition. I deliberately avoided scraping off the lava build up over the rim top to avoid damage to the micro-rustications over the surface. I cleaned the mortise and shank airway using dental pick and hard/ soft bristled pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I shall continue with further cleaning of the shank internals once I clean the external stummel surface.Once the internals of the chamber and shank were cleaned, I cleaned the external surface of the stummel with Murphy’s Oil soap and cotton swabs followed by scrubbing the rusticated surface with a toothbrush and dish washing soap. This rid the stummel rustications of all the accumulated dust, dirt and grime and the smooth brown band around the shank now contrasts beautifully with the dark stummel surface. Using a soft brass brush, I deliberately cleaned the rim top micro-rustications till clean. I also cleaned the shank internals with dish washing soap and shank brush.I had expected that after such a thorough cleaning of the chamber and shank internals, the ghost smells would have been greatly reduced or eliminated completely, but that was not so. I decided to subject the chamber and mortise to cotton and alcohol bath. I packed the chamber with cotton and drew out a wick from the cotton and along with a folded regular pipe cleaner, inserted it into the mortise and through the draught hole into the chamber. I tightly packed cotton balls in to the remaining portion of the mortise. Thereafter, I soaked the cotton balls with isopropyl alcohol up to the brim. About half an hour later, the level of alcohol had gone down, having being absorbed by the cotton. I topped it up once again and set it aside overnight. By next afternoon, the cotton and alcohol had drawn out all the remaining oils and tars from the chamber and mortise. I removed the cotton balls and the dirt can be gauged by the appearance and coloration of the cotton balls and the pipe cleaner. With my fabricated knife and dental tools, I spent the next hour scrapping out the entire loosened gunk from the mortise. I ran pipe cleaners through the mortise and draught hole to clean out all the loosened tars and gunk that was lodged in the draught hole and mortise. The chamber and mortise now smelled clean, fresh and looked it too. I set the stummel to dry out naturally. To enhance the contrast and break the monotony of the black stained stummel and the soon-to-be shining black stem, I polished the smooth briar band at the shank end, dry sanding with 1500 to 12000 grit micromesh pads.To enliven the briar wood and further enhance the contrast of the band with the rest of the dark stummel surface, I rubbed a little quantity of “Before and After” balm in to stummel surface and set it aside for 20 minutes for the balm to be absorbed in to the briar. Thereafter I hand buffed it with a microfiber to deepen the shine. The stummel looks nice and vibrant.With the stummel refurbishment almost complete, I turned my attention to the stem which had been soaking in the solution now for nearly 24 hours. I cleaned the stem and the stem airway under running warm water and scrubbed the raised oxidation from the surface using a Scotch Brite pad and the airway with thin shank brush. I further removed the oxidation by scrubbing the stem with 0000 grade steel wool. Once the stem was dried with paper towels, I sand the bite zone to completely eliminate the raised oxidation in preparation for filling the tooth indentations and applied a little olive oil to rehydrate the stem.I prepared a mix of CA superglue and activated charcoal and spot filled the tooth indentations and set it aside to cure overnight.Once the fills had cured completely, I sand the fill with a flat head needle file till I had achieved a rough match of the fill with the rest of stem surface. I continued the sanding cycle by dry sanding with 320, 400, 600 and 800 grit sand papers. I wet sand the entire stem with 1000, 1500 and 2000 grit sand papers. This not only ensured a nice blend of the filled areas with the rest of the stem surface, but also removed the oxidation from the surface. I rubbed the stem surface with some EVO and set it aside to be absorbed in to stem surface. Thereafter, I launched a second determined assault on the stem, subjecting it to the complete cycle of micromesh polish. The end result is a gorgeous, smooth and shiny looking black of the vulcanite stem.When the stem and the stummel were united for a polish using carnauba wax, I saw a mysterious gap appear between the stem and shank face. This gap was definitely not noticed during my initial inspection and neither the stem face was shouldered during the polishing process. I really am not aware about the reasons for this happenstance, but now that it has been noticed, it needs to be addressed. I attach the stem to the shank and insert a piece of 320 grit sand paper between the two and sand the shank face opposite to the gap. I also gave a few turns to the tenon end over the same sand paper. I continued the micro adjustments till I had achieved a perfect seating of the stem in to the shank end. Just a word of caution here; please be extremely diligent and careful during this step as it has the potential to ruin the pipe completely due to over sanding. Remember “LESS IS MORE” and “SAND ONCE AND CHECK TWICE/ THRICE”.  This was followed by the routine regime of polish with carnauba wax using my hand held rotary tool. The Brakner looks unique and oozes quality.To deepen the shine, I gave a vigorous rub to the entire pipe with a microfiber cloth. This is truly a beautiful pipe and will be joining my now increasing personal collection. Here are a few pictures that should give you a fair idea about the end results…. Thank you all for being a part of this journey and support extended.P.S.- I had requested my youngest daughter, Pavni, to help me repair the box which housed the pipe. This kind of work is right up there in her alley and she did oblige me. The box has been repaired solid and cleaned. Here are a few pictures of the box with the pipe.Praying for the health and safety of you and your loved ones…

So long until the next project.

Refurbishing A Very Special For Me Karl Erik # 4 Freehand Pipe

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

Abha, my wife, has been working with me on pipes for the last three years and never has she voluntarily suggested/recommended any pipe for purchase. One day while surfing eBay for some good pipes, Abha chanced upon this pipe and she liked it. Well, the fact that this is the first pipe that called out to her (she is a non smoker!!), makes it very special and soon the pipe made its way to Pune where Abha was indeed surprised to receive this pipe.

This special pipe that I selected to work on is a beautiful freehand appears like a tulip with some great flame grains all around the stummel and shank. The shank end has a nice outward flare with a flattened lower edge and the rim top is a nice plateau. The pipe is stamped on the bottom of the flared shank end as “KARL ERIK” in cursive hand over “HAND CUT IN” over “DENMARK”, all in block capitals. The shank towards the bowl end bears the numeral “4”, in all probability the grading of this pipe (?). All the stampings are crisp and easily readable. The fancy vulcanite stem is devoid of any stampings.There is a lot of interesting information on the carver, Karl EriK Ottendhal, on pipedia.org (Karl Erik – Pipedia) which makes for an interesting read and provides a great insight in to the life struggles, successes and pipe making philosophies of Karl Erik. I have reproduced a few interesting general snippets of information while focusing on the aspect of determining the vintage of the pipe.

Karl Erik Ottendahl (1942 – 2004) was born in Aalborg (Jutland), just a few miles from the very northernmost tip of Denmark. He began smoking a pipe when he was 14 and upon leaving school he started an apprenticeship in the craft as a lithographer at the age of 16.

While working as an apprentice he began hand carving pipes as a hobby. Many were given as gifts to his more senior colleagues. Upon completion of his apprenticeship he moved to Nairobi, Kenya to work as a lithographer during the 1962 war. While in that war torn country, he was unable to procure pipes for himself. In the face of such a predicament, he chose to continue to make pipes for his own use rather than go without.

Returning to Denmark after three years he couldn’t find a well paid occupation in his job, and so he began making a few pipes on the side to boost his income choosing his prenames “Karl Erik” – logo “KE” – for his label. When he managed to find some major Copenhagen pipe stores willing to sell his pieces his reputation grew little by little and he was finally able to purchase more and better machinery and began working full time as a pipe maker.

The Manufacture Era

Growing demand for his pipes made it necessary to look for a larger workshop and hiring first co-workers around 1967/68. A most important step ahead in his career was the contract with Wally Frank, Ltd. of NYC who was in search of attractive, well made but affordable Danish freehands and fancy pipes fitting to their vast offer of low end or midrange pieces but with a stress on quality.

“Attractive, well made but affordable Danish freehands and fancy pipes” – this was exactly what Karl Erik offered! So to say that’s the kernel of his lifelong philosophy as a pipemaker! And indeed, Karl Erik always did it his way and always somewhat differently as others.

Grading and the II S Problem

KE’s old grading used numbers ascending from 4 to 1. The entirely hand made one of a kind pieces were stamped “Ekstravagant”. Quite simple. But then there are the II S stamped pipes! (And furthermore seen so far II SM, I S, I M and I B.) Three fairy tales, often told:

  1. II S stands for the initials of a pipemaker who worked for Preben Holm before he changed to KE.
  2. II S pipes are a second brand of KE. Nonsense comparing the quality of II S and normal KE pipes!
  3. II S was used when there was no space for stampings otherwise.

But it is almost certain, that II S pipes were exclusively sold in the United States only.

KE discontinued all exports to the United States in 1987 due to waning sales and attempts of his business partners to screw down prices. Now, freehand sales were downward bound worldwide in those years and KE gradually grew tired running a pipe manufacture.

Though Karl Erik’s favorite briar mostly came from Morocco or Greece, but he frequently purchased elsewhere, too. He didn’t consider the briar origin to be particularly important provided the briar was well cured. Therefore, he simply purchased the best briar he could find, rather than purchasing from only one or two regions.

Concentrating on more classical influenced shapes Karl Erik’s style emphasized the wood over all other contributing factors by allowing the grain to determine the ultimate shape of the piece. He further emphasized the natural, organic, flowing shape of his bowls with hand cut stems and a broad variety of decorating materials.

KE’s new grading used numbers ascending from D to A. The unique “Ekstravagant” pipes C, B, A, AA to AAA. These superb pieces of remarkable quality were, almost certainly, the least expensive high- quality hand made pipes coming from Denmark today!

In the 90’s he was honored by Stanwell to design some models for the very popular H.C. Anderson line which is named for the great Danish poet.

Around 1998/99 he traded the German rights to his brand name “Karl Erik” to Planta, better known as the proprietor of Design Berlin (db). Thus – though db copied the style of the old Karl Eriks pretty closely – a recent KE offered for sale in Germany is unfortunately about as Danish as Eisbein mit Sauerkraut. But even though Planta did one thing of merit: a series of pipe tobaccos was named for Karl Erik!

While everywhere else a Karl Erik pipe remained a Karl Erik pipe made by Karl Erik himself, he began signing some of his pipes with his family name Ottendahl. The new label was strictly used to continue distributing his own pipes in Germany only! But as his Viking ancestors some Ottendahl pipes discovered a way to cross the pond and turned up in the United States. KE officially resumed sales to the USA after 13 years in 2000! This caused a certain confusion among US pipesmokers and some clever US pipetraders imputed the Ottendahls with a better quality than the usual Karl Erik pipes to take advantage of the favorable situation asking considerably higher prices for Ottendahl pipes.

During the following years KE produced a little more than 2000 pipes per year, selling the bulk of them in Germany and the US. That is surely a respectable output, considering the largely hand-made character of these pipes. Karl Erik Ottendahl was planning to make 2500 pipes in 2004 but he died surprisingly suffering a stroke in his home in Korsør on Zealand on the 12th of September 2004.

It sad that the community lost a talented artisan but his pipes will continue to be repaired/ restored, like the one currently on my work table, and be remembered for generations to come.

From the above, it is evident that this pipe is from the early manufacturing era of Karl Erik and is the lowest grade of pipe leaving his table.

Initial Visual Inspection
The chamber has a decent layer of cake that is thin at the rim and thick towards the bottom half of the chamber. The plateau rim top and the flared shank end is stained black. The stummel surface is covered in dust and grime that gives it a lifeless appearance. However, through this dirt and grime, beautiful flame grains can be seen all over the stummel surface without a single fill. The mortise has small traces of dried oils/ tars accumulation and yet, should be an easy clean. The high quality vulcanite stem is in excellent condition without a single bite mark. Overall, this old pipe has been well cared for and should finish up really beautiful. Detailed Inspection
The chamber has a thick layer of dry and hard cake at the bottom half towards the heel and progressively reduces towards the rim top. The plateau rim top surface is very clean with no lava overflow or issues of charring to the inner rim edge. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber can be checked and ascertained only after the cake has been taken down to the bare briar. The rim top and the flared shank end are stained black and provide a nice contrast to the natural virgin hues of the rest of the stummel. However, this was a contentious issue as Abha was of the opinion that black stained rim top gives an unclean appearance whereas I was looking at the contrast.The stummel boasts of beautiful flame grains all around and extends over the shank surface too!! The surface is lightly covered in grime and dust. However, the stummel surface is without any fills save for a few scratches/minor dings (indicated by yellow arrows/ encircled in same color) that could have been caused during routine use. The flared plateau of the shank end shows traces of accumulated dust and dirt which should be a breeze to clean. The foot of the stummel shows beautiful bird’s eye grains and is sans any damage. The mortise is clean with minor traces of old oils and gunk. Overall, the stummel presents a well cared for pipe. A closer look at the stummel surface shows beautiful and distinct flame grains all around, including the stummel, less the right side of the bowl where the grains are not prominent and this could only be the reason for this piece being classified as Grade 4! The fancy slightly bent vulcanite stem is lightly oxidized and with no tooth chatter or bite marks or chewed off button edges. The tenon and slot end are both clean and this makes me believe that the stem airway would be clean too. The fancy stem, though looks beautiful when black and shiny, is a bear to clean with all the dips and narrow gaps between the beads and rings etc.The Process
I began the process of refurbishing this pipe with cleaning the internals of the stem using pipe cleaners with isopropyl alcohol (99.9% pure) followed by further cleaning using anti oil soap and shank brush. Next I sand the entire stem surface with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper to remove surface oxidation. It has been our experience that the solution works best when the surface is sanded. Thereafter I immersed the stem in “Before and After Deoxidizer” solution developed by my friend Mark Hoover. The solution helps to draw out oxidation to the surface making its further removal a breeze, while the minor oxidation is eliminated to a very great extent. I generally allow the stems to soak in this solution overnight for the solution to do its work. With the stem soaking in the deoxidizer solution, I worked the stummel, starting with reaming the chamber with a PipNet reamer tool and used the first, second and third head of the tool. With my fabricated knife; I further took the cake down to the bare briar. With a 150 grit sand paper, the walls of the chamber were rid of all the remnants of the cake, revealing smooth and solid chamber walls. I further wiped the chamber with a cotton swab wetted with isopropyl alcohol to completely remove the sanding dust.This was followed by cleaning the shank internals with pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol. I further scrapped out the entire moistened gunk with a dental tool. The shank internals cleaned up nicely with a smooth and full draw. The mortise will be cleaned further with anti oil soap and shank brush while cleaning the exterior of the stummel.I scrubbed the external surface of the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s oil soap and hard bristled tooth brush and dried it using paper towels and soft cotton cloth. I deliberately cleaned the plateau rim top surface. The entire stummel cleaned up nicely. I set the stummel aside to dry out naturally. The plateau rim top and flared shank end were rid of the black stain. This is how the rim top and the shank end appear sans the black stain. Further discussions with Abha only resulted in postponement of the decision to stain or otherwise till completion of the sanding cycle with sandpaper, micromesh polish cycle and application of the restoration balm. I simultaneously cleaned the mortise with anti oil soap and shank brush.While I was cleaning the stummel, Abha fished the stem out from the deoxidizer solution and scrubbed out the raised oxidation with a Scotch Brite pad followed by a scrub with 0000 grade steel wool to further remove the oxidation and smooth out the stem surface. She cleaned the stem under running warm water to remove the solution from the crevices and internals of the fancy stem. Next she went through the regime of sanding with sandpapers to completely eliminate (or that’s what the aim always is) the oxidation from the stem surface. She applied a little EVO at the end and set the stem aside for the oil to be absorbed. Simultaneously, I continued working with the stummel restoration. I polished the stummel with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 pads. I polished the raised surfaces on the plateau rim top and the shank end by dry sanding with 1500 to 12000 grit micromesh pads. This dry sanding of the plateau surface does not leave behind the moist sanding dust in the nooks and crannies of the surface, which is a bear to clean later. I wiped the surface with a soft cloth at the end of the micromesh cycle. The stummel looks amazing with a deep shine and beautiful grains popping over the stummel surface.I rubbed a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to briar. I rubbed this balm deep in to the nooks and crannies of the plateau rim top surface with my fingers and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance with the dark brown hues of the grain contrasting with the rest of the stummel surface. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. Once I was done polishing the stummel with micromesh pads, Abha polished the stem, wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 grit micromesh pads. She rubbed a little extra virgin olive oil in to the stem at the end of the micromesh pads polishing cycle. She completed the polishing regime of the stem by rubbing a small quantity of “Before & After Fine” stem polish and giving it a final polish with a soft cotton cloth. The stem is now nice, smooth and shiny.This is that part in pipe refurbishing that I love and enjoy the most. I began the final polishing cycle by mounting a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool and applying a coat of Blue Diamond to the entire pipe to polish out the minor scratches. With a cotton buffing wheel that I use for carnauba wax, I apply a coat of carnauba wax to the stummel and stem and continued to work on it till the complete coat of wax had been polished out. I mount a clean cotton cloth buffing wheel and gave the entire pipe a once over buff. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine further. The finished pipe is shown below and shall always remain with me…after all it’s a special pipe!! P.S. – This was an indeed an easy restoration. However, we couldn’t come to a conclusive decision and it has now been decided to seek the opinions of all those have read this write up and majority shall decide if the plateau rim top and the flared shank end should be stained black or leave it be. Please help me make this pipe more special by letting me know your opinions. Thanking you all in anticipation.

Praying for the health and safety of you and your loved ones.

Thanks for your patience and looking forward to inputs to help resolve our dilemma about staining. Cheers…



Giving New Life to an Alpha Sabre Fancy Pot

After traveling to Bulgaria and Ukraine over the past month and a half (See: A Memorable Pipe Picking Adventure from Colorado to Bulgaria and Ukraine…

Giving New Life to an Alpha Sabre Fancy Pot

This Alpha Sabra came out really well… does not even look like the same pipe. Nicely done Dal. Give the blog a read.