Tag Archives: Bjarne Handmade pipes

Refurbishing a Bjarne Hand Made Nosewarmer

Blog by Steve Laug

In the past weeks I finished up some pipes for a guy here in Vancouver and when he came to pick them up he brought some more for me to work on for him. I finished up some of the ones on the worktable so I decided it was time to work on these. The third of them is a Bjarne bent apple nosewarmer with a short stem. It is another really beautiful pipe. The shape, the rich reddish brown finish along with the black acrylic stem with the bj logo all combine to make this a uniquely beautiful pipe.   The bowl had a thin and uneven cake. The upper half of the bowl was more thickly caked than the bottom half. I would need to ream it to even out the cake. There was some slight darkening on the rim top as well as dents and nicks in the top of the rim. The inside of the shank was dirty and needed to be cleaned. The black Lucite stem had tooth marks and chatter on the top and underside of the stem near the button. There was one deep tooth mark on the top edge of the button. The short saddle stem looked good otherwise. I took photos of the bowl and stem to give a clear picture of the condition of the pipe before I started to work on it.I did a quick review of the history of the brand by turning to Pipedia. Here is the link https://pipedia.org/wiki/Bjarne. I quote from part of that article to give a short synopsis of the history of the brand.

With a demanding job it was hard to find time to make pipes in that quantity, and Bjarne had to choose. His dream had always been to have a company of his own, and if he wanted fo fulfill that dream, now was the time to do it. But to leave a promising career, in which he probably would have become a Danish ambassador in some foreign country, was indeed a big step to take. “Many thought I was crazy”, Bjarne says, “and one of them was my wife. But she supported my decision anyway.”

He made that decision in 1973, and became a fulltime pipemaker. But he soon realized that it was impossible for one person to handle all of it–he could not make a lot of pipes, sell them and collect money for them all by himself. So he decided to find some pipemakers to help him. In those days Preben Holm was one of the biggest makers of fancy pipes, and he employed a great number of pipemakers. But not all of them were happy to work for Preben,m so Bjarne recruited a few of those.

During the first years all of Bjarne’s pipes were sold in the USA, but at the end of the 1970s he visited the pipe show in Frandfurt and found that there was a market for his there as well. However, he found that the Germans wanted a completely different style of pipes–pipes in traditional shapes. So if he wanted to be successful there, he had to add a completely new line to his production. “It was not easy, we learned it the hard way,” Bjarne says. But they certainly succeeded, and for a number of years Germany became the top-selling market for Bjarne’s pipes.

The photo below shows pictures of Bjarne Nielsen. The photo is from the Pipedia article and comes from Doug Valitchka as noted below the photo.I then turned to the Pipephil website – http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-b5.html  and did a screen capture of the article there on Bjarne pipes. Bjarne Nielsen distributed his own brand of pipes carved by Danish Pipemakers. It is stamped on the underside of the shank with Bjarne over Hand Made in Denmark. There are no other stampings or numbers on the shank. The pipe was obviously made prior to 2008 when Nielsen died.I started my clean up on this pipe by reaming out the bowl and smoothing out the cake on the walls. I reamed it back with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I sanded it smooth and even with a dowel wrapped in 220 grit sandpaper. Once that was finished the walls were smooth and undamaged and the surface ready for a new cake.I worked over the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I removed the most of the damage to the rim top with the micromesh sanding pads. I removed the area on the rear that had been darkened. I polished the exterior of the bowl with the pads at the same time. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth. I touched up the cleaned up rim top with a Maple stain pen to match the colour of the rest of the bowl. The match was perfect and once the bowl was waxed and polished would be indistinguishable from the rest.I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the finish with my fingertips and finished working it in with a shoe brush. I worked over the rim top to blend it into the rest of the stain. The balm works to clean, preserve and enliven the briar. I really like the effect of the product on briar so I took some photos of the pipe at this point. I cleaned out the airway in the stem and shank, the mortise and shank interior with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. It did not take as much as I expected to remove all the tars and oils in the shank and mortise. The stem had some debris in the edges of the slot in the stem.I set the bowl aside and turned to address the stem. I sanded the tooth marks and chatter out of the stem surface with some folded 220 grit sandpaper. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratches in the acrylic. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I polished the stem with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine polishes. I wiped it down with a cotton pad and gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil. I set the stem aside to dry. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I carefully avoided the stamping on the underside of the shank. I gave both the smooth 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 finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I have five more pipes to finish for him – one move from his personal rotation and four of them that are some finds he made while pipe hunting. This is a fun bunch of pipes to work on. I look forward to moving through the rest of them. Thanks for looking.  


An Exceptional Bjarne Hand Made Freehand

Blog by Robert M. Boughton

Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the Author except as cited

He could have been an ambassador for his country, but instead he became an ambassador for Danish pipes.

— Jan Anderson, author of Scandinavian Pipemakers (2012)


Jan Anderson was speaking of Bjarne Nielsen, the great Danish pipe maker, who finished his studies at the University of Copenhagen with an MBA in the early 1960s and went to work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the export division.  Nielsen made his first pipes when he was 16 and gave them to friends then and later at the university, and of course he continued making pipes as a hobby.  Whether he knew it or not, he was bitten by the bug.  Call it Pipe Makers Disorder (PMD), if you like.  Bjarne was considered a likely candidate for appointment as ambassador to a foreign country, but he gave it all up to pursue his real ambition, which will come as no surprise to anyone with creative leanings was to form his own business.

Bjarne may never even have imagined turning his pastime into a career, but fate, if there is such a thing, is powerful.  The freehand pipe movement was first building speed when Bjarne was at the Ministry, and he was often asked to help find foreign buyers for the style of pipe that was more popular abroad than in Denmark, where it started.  Many older smokers, deeply rooted in the English tradition of the classic Dunhill style, considered the new direction outlandish, crazy and worst of all, ugly.  And every source Bjarne knew had orders for such pipes up the wazoo.  I’m sure he used more diplomatic words.

Then, out of the blue, again if there is such a phenomenon, Bjarne had the idea to send photos of some of his pipes to a few of those same foreign distributors.  I’m sure he put it out of his mind and wasn’t watching the pot until it started to boil over with so many positive responses he had to decide whether to stay with the Ministry or pursue his innate talent.  Not being the average man, fearful of taking such a huge risk – or, rather, being the typical young man he was, still full of dreams – Bjarne embarked on the journey that would make him a legend, meaning most of the world has never heard of him.

The hand-made Danish freehand in this blog has three lines of clear block nomenclature on the bottom of the shank, below the stem: BJARNE/HANDMADE/ IN DENMARK.  The stem also bears a mark – a lower-case b sitting in the curl of a lower-case j.

Courtesy Pipephil

This means Bjarne did not make the pipe himself, but instead delegated the job to one of three master carvers who were and are in business for themselves and did special work for him.  They are Mogens “Johs” Johansen, Jes Phillip Vigen Jertsen (Ph. Vigen) and Tonni Nielsen.  These pipes were sold by Bjarne as lower-grade pieces than those he carved and on which he ascribed his full name, in cursive script, above HANDMADE/IN DENMARK.  The pipes Bjarne carved himself also bore a grade of AX or A-J.  The man’s self-appraising standards were refined to the extreme.  They bear no mark on the stems.

Bjarne Nielsen Bulldog Grade O, photos, courtesy abel2antique on eBay

I didn’t mind that my new Bjarne, whichever of the fine craftsmen above made it, came with a box and sock as well.

RESTORATION Three long years ago, before I learned lessons beyond count and, more than anything else, that the process never ends, I wrote a blog here called “Ben Wade and the Chamber of Horrors,” in which I recounted the restoration of a huge BW poker with cake so gnarly it took me hours to repair.  As I can think of no better words to describe the terrors of uncovering layer after layer of hardened old carbon, only to reach a patch of almost perfect smoothness and then reaching spiraling new veins and lumps, I’ll give a brief quote from the BW blog.

“The ongoing task of removing all of the cake, every time I thought I achieved smoothness all around, only uncovered still more hidden holes, like microcosmic pits and craters on the moon, only black…the evil chamber walls in spots felt like the bowels of a volcano.”

But this pipe was so much worse, it took me days of concerted effort to get to the bottom of the years of iron-like cake.  I am certain that had this pipe come my way three years ago, I would have been forced to set it aside in the to-do pile.

I started with my Junior Reamer, which, due perhaps to the curve of the freehand chamber, made almost not even a dent. The coarsest sandpaper I had was a small old finger-length strip of 180-grit that has stood by me for years and is most often the roughest I need to get with a chamber’s walls.  A half-hour or so of that left my hand aching, my fingers burning and one of them torn open, as was the case to a much more serious degree with the BW chamber of horrors.  I put the chamber ordeal on pause and decided to see how awful the shank’s airway might be.  I admit my attitude sucked by then, but also that I was pleased with the relative ease of clearing the shank of grime with alcohol-dipped regular pipe cleaners.  The first one took some finagling to break on through to the other side, but only four cleaners were needed for the preliminary cleaning. I girded for another go at the chamber with the following armaments.I hoped I would not have to resort to either (and certainly not both) blades, but I was going to be prepared for anything.  As it turned out, the Dremel I used in the BW chamber of horrors case would have come in handy, but I had to borrow it and didn’t want to take the time.  The task was longer and more arduous than I can detail in photos, but here are some time lapses – during the first day.  I hope they show the bulges and veins that appeared hither and thither with each new attack.  Indeed, both the pen and utility knives were needed throughout the three-day process of perfecting the chamber. Another problem I’m sure has not gone unnoticed was the rim burn that was fairly bad, but on the plateau area of a freehand presented greater than average problems.  I did not want to use sand paper or even spot-soak the rim in alcohol, if black stain was under the char.  After debating the options available to me with my resources at hand, I opted for an approach that may seem unusual but I knew from experience would leave any black paint intact.  I submerged the entire stummel in alcohol for several minutes at most, and when I removed it I thought I had the desired result of eliminating the old stain and excess char. Scrutiny of the outer wood showed a perfect piece of briar, free of any blemishes or even a single scratch.  The only other such experience I recall after alcohol-stripping a stummel was with my previous blog about a Capitello Jonico Dublin.  I tried to tell myself the remaining blackness on the rim was natural or maybe left-over stain.

Other than the final sanding, which tore through the final layer of uneven cake, the time for micro-meshing had arrived.  Giving the stummel a final inspection, I overrode my misgivings about the dull murkiness that pervaded most of the rim, with random rays of nice red wood making it through the gloom. I remembered a Ben Wade by Preben Holm I restored and had to re-stain the rim black, and I’ve never quite been happy with it.  The whole approach to this project was to restore the freehand to a better look than it may ever have had, if I may be excused the apparent impertinence.  Still, I proceeded with the micro-mesh, which only confirmed my gut instinct. Before I return to the rim, there are a few minor wrap-ups to make.  First, look at the discoloration of the wood at the top of the front view above.  I figured Super Fine 0000 steel wool should do the trick, and it did.Then there were the stains on the tip of the Lucite tenon and inside the button of the stem.  I scraped out the difficult to reach crud from the button with a mashed end of a pipe cleaner dipped in alcohol and sanded clean the open end of the tenon with my trusty 180-grit fragment of paper.The retort went well, requiring only three Pyrex test tubes of alcohol – the first that was sucked up into the cotton stuffed in the chamber, the second coming out moderately dirty, and the third, after boiling through the pipe four times, was clear.The last step I imagined before the final wheel buffing – there would be no stain – was to fill in the congruent bj etching on the stem that had not been worn away.Unfortunately, the curl of the b is completely faded away.

I just could not see proceeding with either of the courses that presented themselves, leaving the dull, scorched earth look of the rim as it was and trying to make it shine or buying more black stain and hiding the beautiful wood I was sure was hidden.  And so, I gave the rim a spot-soak in alcohol to see what lay beneath.The result was a very pale rim, but I knew that would change with another, focused full course of the micro-mesh pads.  The semi-final result as I headed for the buffers was just what I wanted.  I buffed the stummel with brown Tripoli and a heavy coat of Carnauba, and the stem with Carnauba.


This restore was one of the biggest surprises I’ve had in the few years I’ve been learning a few of the myriad techniques and resources available.  Thinking at first it would be done overnight, three days later I knew never to underestimate the opponent each new pipe presents as.  I struggled with the question of to sell or not to sell, and gave in to my P.A.D.  All I have to say is, I’m glad I did, because, as the title says, this is one extraordinary freehand.



A Light Restore of a NOS Danish Made Bjarne Handmade 15 Churchwarden

Blog by Steve Laug

Courtesy Doug Valitchka on Pipedia

My brother found this beautifully grained Bjarne Hand Made Churchwarden pipe on EBay listed by a seller in Kentucky. The seller said that the pipe looked as if it was unsmoked. Those of you who buy pipes on EBay have heard that before only to find that you bought a dog of a pipe that was smoked to death. But this one actually looked good and even if it was smoked it was worth a risk.

The pipe is a six sided sitter with the long churchwarden stem. The top is rusticated while the panels are all smooth. The flat bottom of the bowl is also smooth. The shank is almost pencil like, thin and round with a slight taper back to the stem. The grain on the smooth sides was beautiful and a mix of straight and birdseye. The grain on the shank was birdseye and was amazing. The stain colour was perfect for the highlighting the grain. The rim was rusticated with divots but had been smoothed out slightly to give it a soft rusticated look. It was stained black and really contrasted with the smooth grain on the rest of the bowl. It is stamped on the underside of the shank next to the stem/shank junction. It reads Bjarne over Handmade Denmark over 15. The 15 is a shape number.

The finish is in perfect condition – no dents or nicks. The bowl was polished to a shine when my brother received it. The black rim top was in excellent condition. The bowl had a bowl coating that was put in to protect the pipe through the break-in period. It was indeed unsmoked! The seller had been correct contrary to many of my previous experiences on EBay. The stem was oxidized all the way around. It seemed like the right side and underside were less oxidized than the left which led me to conclude that the pipe had been kept on a display board and the light of the display and perhaps a window had led to the oxidation. I could not wait to receive it and clean up the oxidized stem.

I took a trip to Idaho to meet with my brothers and our aging parents to talk through some decisions that we had to make. In the process I loaded a suitcase with the pipes that my brother had purchased for us. This Bjarne was one of those pipes. It came with its own black leather pipe bag with a draw string top. I took the following photos of the pipe displayed on its leather bag to show the condition of the stem when I brought it to my worktable. I took this close up photo of the rustication on the rim top. I really like the look of the way Bjarne did the rustication and gave it an interesting texture.The next photos show the difference in the oxidation on the top and underside of the stem.The Bjarne logo was stamped in white on the left side of the stem and was in perfect condition. There was no wear or tear and it was crisp and legible.I wiped down the bowl with a bit of olive oil on a cotton pad to remove the slight grime on the bowl sides and bottom. I also wiped down the rim top with the oil as well. I let it absorb into the briar and buffed it with a microfiber cloth. While I worked on the bowl I put the stem in the Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer that I have referred to in previous blogs – the one on the Borlum and the Hilson. I purchased the Deoxidizer from a guy on Facebook named Mark Hoover. He is on the Gentlemen’s Pipe Smoking Society Group there. Mark has a pen making site where his Before & After products are available. You can email and order the deoxidizer and the polishes directly from Mark on that site (http://www.lbepen.com/). After the initial two uses of the Deoxidizer I have become less skeptical. I let the stem soak overnight and the product does its work and leaves the stem oxidation free. I forgot to take a photo of the stem in the mixture. The photo below shows the oxidation floating in the container I let the stem soak in.The next morning I dried off the stem with a soft cloth and rubbed the stem clean of the remnants of oxidation that remained on the surface. The cotton pads that I used were dark brown with oxidation and the stem was quite clean. The next photos show the condition of the stem after wiping it down after removing it from the soak.I decided to use Mark’s entire system this time in the cleanup. I used his Before & After Pipe Polishes – both fine and extra fine to polish the vulcanite. I skipped the process of micromesh sanding pads on this stem. The soak did not damage the logo stamp on the side of the stem. It came out of the bath looking clean and fresh.I buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to polish and begin to give it a richer shine. I gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine from the wax. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to complete the polishing. The dimensions of the pipe are length: 11 inches, height: 2 ¼ inches, outer diameter: 2 inches, chamber diameter: ¾ inches. This beautiful pipe will be on the rebornpipes store shortly. If it is something you would like to add to your collection send me an email at slaug@uniserve.com or a message on Facebook. Thanks for looking.