Tag Archives: Ben Wade Golden Walnut Freehand

Next in line – A Ben Wade Golden Walnut Hand Made


Blog by Steve Laug

As I have mentioned in the last few blogs, Jeff picked up some amazing freehand pipes lately. When I was in Idaho for my mom’s funeral I packed them and brought them to Canada with me. There was a Soren Hand Carved, a Granhill Signature, a Ben Wade Golden Walnut, a Veeja 900 C6 and a Viggo Nielsen Hand Finished. All were hand crafted and had interesting shapes and finishes. Some had full plateau rim tops, some partial plateau rim. Tonight I started working on them. The next pipe I chose was a Ben Wade Golden Walnut Freehand. My brother had done the entire cleanup – reaming, scrubbing the exterior and cleaning the mortise and the airway in the shank and stem. That left me the finishing work on it. The bowl has a smooth finish with some plateau on the rim top and shank end. The pipe is a sitter. The shank flares toward the stem that is not the original but similar. The finish on the pipe was in excellent condition. The vulcanite stem had tooth chatter on the top and bottom at the button. Jeff had cleaned the rim top and removed the debris in the plateau. He had scrubbed the exterior with Murphy’s Oil soap and removed the dust and grime that had accumulated there. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and touched it up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He cleaned the interior of the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. It came to me clean and ready to touch up and polish. The stem was cleaned but had tooth chatter on the top and underside near the button and on the surface of the button. I took close up photos of the rim top and the shank end to show the condition of the plateau. I also took photos of the stem to give a clear picture of what I had when I started. I took a photo of the underside of the shank to show the stamping there. It read Ben Wade over Golden Walnut. Under that was stamped Hand Made in Denmark. I refreshed my memory of the history of Ben Wade pipes. I remembered some, but had forgotten much. I looked on Pipedia to refresh myself. Here is the link, https://pipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Wade. I summarize in part below.

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 it’s 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 spend 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.

From that I knew that the pipe in my hands came from the period between 1971 and Preben Holm’s death in 1989. It bears the Ben Wade stamp which also says that it was made for the American pipe market under the direction of Herman Lane of Lane Ltd. Armed with that information I turned my attention to restoring the pipe. I started with the clean bowl, I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the briar bowl and shank. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I hand rubbed it with my fingers, working it into the exterior of the pipe. I wiped it off and buffed it with a soft cloth to polish it. The pipe really began to have a rich shine. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded out the tooth chatter out of both sides of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper. I worked over the surface with sandpaper to remove the tooth chatter and the oxidation.I polished the vulcanite stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with Obsidian Oil to protect and polish the stem. When I finished with the last pad I gave it a final coat of oil and set aside to dry. I polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The plateau on the rim top and shank end and the smooth black and brown contrast finish work very well with the black vulcante stem. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I have worked on quite a few Ben Wade pipes over the years and several of them have been Golden Walnut pipes. Preben Holm was an amazing innovator in terms of shapes, flow and finishes on his pipes. The dimensions are Length: 6 1/2 inches, Height: 2 1/2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 inches wide and 2 1/4 inches long, Chamber diameter: 7/8 inches. This one is already sold to a fellow in Kentucky who collects Ben Wade pipes. I am looking forward to hearing from him once he receives it. It is a beauty! Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this Ben Wade Golden Danish Freehand. I have other Freehands that I will be working on in a variety of shapes and sizes in upcoming blogs.  

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Restemming, Repairing and Reconditioning a Ben Wade Golden Walnut Freehand


Blog by Steve Laug

When Mark sent me his uncle’s seven pipes to restore, he also sent several of his own pipes to be restored. The first pipe was the Italian made acorn with a sea rock style finish that I worked on earlier (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/01/20/breathing-new-life-into-an-italian-made-%c2%bc-bent-acorn/). The second pipe was a very nice looking Ben Wade Golden Walnut Freehand. It had some great grain on the sides, front and back. It had a flat area on the bottom of the bowl and could stand up without the stem. The shank end and the top of the rim had areas of plateau that were stained darker than the rest of the pipe. It is stamped on the underside of the shank Ben Wade over Golden Walnut. Underneath that it is stamped Hand Made in Denmark. The briar was dirty and there was grime into the grooves and crevices on the plateau top and end of the shank. There was grime and oils ground into the sides of the bowl and shank. The original stem with the broken tenon came in the bag that he sent the pipe in. It had snapped off cleanly at the flare in the stem. The stem itself was oxidized and had tooth chatter and marks on the top and underside near the button. There were scratches around the golden crown on the top of the stem. The crown was faded and worn. I decided I was going to try to put a new tenon on the original stem so I dropped it in the Before & After Deoxidizer bath to soak. I figured it would be easier to work on cleaned up. I added it to the photo after I took the photo below but it sat with the rest of the stems from the uncle’s pipes in the soak over night.While the original stem soaked I worked on an acrylic stem that Mark had chosen. I had sent him a photo of several options and he liked the brown and cream swirled acrylic. I used the PIMO tenon turner to reduce the diameter of the tenon to fit in the shank. It did not take too much to remove the excess material. The photos below show the stem on the tenon turner and the finished stem after turning.I took the stem out of the bath and rinsed it under warm water and rubbed it down with a coarse cloth to remove the oxidation. I took a photo of the two stems and the bowl to get a send of how the stem would look.I inserted a pipe cleaner in the airway and used a heat gun to soften the stem enough that I could bend it. I bent it at the same angle as the original stem. I cooled it with running water to set the bend in the stem. The photos below show the process and the final bent stem. I took some photos of the pipe with the new stem in place. The colour and the shape look good with Ben Wade. With the new stem fitted it was time to work on the cleanup of the briar. I worked on the insides of the bowl and shank to remove the tars and oils. I scraped out the inside of the mortise with a pen knife to remove the buildup in that area. I cleaned out the mortise and the airway in the shank with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs.I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl and rim with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the buildup of grime and oils in the briar and in the plateau areas of the shank and rim top. I rinsed it off the pipe under running water and scrubbed it under the water flow. I dried it off with a cotton cloth and buffed it lightly to raise a shine. I sanded the buildup on the inner edge of the rim on the back of the bowl with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads to remove the tars that remained in those areas. I polished the rim top with 3200-6000 grit pads.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my finger tips to deep clean the finish, enliven and protect the wood. I worked the balm into the plateau on the rim top and the end of the shank to polish the cleaned up area. I buffed the pipe with a horsehair shoe shine brush to get it into the grooves of the plateau. I let it sit for a few minutes and then buffed it with a cotton cloth. The grain in the wood came alive and there was a rich shine to the briar. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. Ah now I was making progress. I had finished the acrylic stem and the cleaning and polishing of the bowl. It was time to address the original stem and see if I could put a new tenon on the freehand stem. I used the topping board to flatten the broken end of the stem using 220 grit sandpaper. I set up my cordless drill, put in a bit that was slightly larger than the airway in the stem. I slowly drilled the airway larger. I slowly moved up to larger bits to make the opening the same size as the threaded end of the new Delrin tenon.I used a needle file to clean up the opening in the end of the stem and even out the sides so that when the new tenon was in place it would align all the way around. I used the Dremel and sanding drum to take down the threads on the end of the new tenon to fit right in the hole. I did not want to drill it further and affect the structure of the stem. Once the threads were smoothed out slightly, it fit in nicely. I had to be careful in drilling the stem to not go to deep and drill through the top or underside of the stem. I also reduced the diameter of the rest of the tenon with the Dremel and sanding drum to fit in the mortise of the pipe.I pushed the tenon into the shank and smoothed out the transition between it and the rest of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper. Once I had it smooth I glued the tenon in the stem with super glue.I inserted the tenon into the stem a little less than previously to match the length of the original tenon. I mixed a batch of charcoal powder and super glue to fill in the gap between the new tenon and the stem.When the repair had cured I used a rasp and file to smooth out the repair to the connection. I sanded the repaired area with 180 and 220 grit sandpaper and was able to make the transition taper correctly. It would take more sanding but you can see the progress in the next photos. I worked over the stem with micromesh sanding pads. I polished out the sanding scratches and marks in the vulcanite and the rebuilt tenon area – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and wiping it down with Obsidian Oil. After the 2400 grit pad I applied some Rub’n Buff Antique Gold gold to the crown stamp on the top of the stem. I rubbed it on and off leaving the gold in the stamping. I dry sanded the stem with 3200-12000 grit pads and wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. When I finished with the 12000 grit pad I gave it a final coat of oil and let it dry. Once it had dried, I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish Fine and Extra Fine. I rubbed it down with final coat Obsidian Oil and took the following pictures. Since I had polished the bowl and the acrylic stem I decided to put it all together. I took photos of the finished pipe with the acrylic stem. The golds, browns and cream coloured swirls work well with the grain on the briar. The old Ben Wade Hand Made Golden Walnut looks good with a different kind of stem. It will give Mark an option to have both an acrylic and the original stem to choose from – almost like having two different pipes. Here are the photos of the pipe with the acrylic stem. I finished the repairs on the original stem, repaired and polished it. I put it back on the pipe and buffed the entire pipe again with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the entire pipe several coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to raise the shine. The new stem and the original stem looked good to me and the bend was just right. The bowl polished up pretty nicely. The finished pipe is shown with the original stem in the photos below. I will be adding to Mark’s package along with his uncle’s pipes when I have finished all of them and send it to him shortly. Thanks for looking.