Tag Archives: Brakner’s Micro-Rustication finish

Restoring my Grandfather’s “Brakner” with Steve and Jeff Laug

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

How often does it happen in one’s life that the person/ persons you are very keen to meet do finally meet up for a week or so? This, especially with the background when each of these friends is from across the world, has to cross the seven seas, numerous hurdles of visas and fine tuned itineraries of all the stake holders!! Well, believe you me readers, these remain as the most treasured days.

I recently had this great experience when Mr. Dal Stanton (The Pipe Steward) from Sofia, Bulgaria, Mr. Steve Laug (rebornpipes.com) from Vancouver, Canada and his brother Jeff from Idaho, USA, visited my family. The following week was a flurry of activities, which also included learning the finer nuances of pipe refurbishing while restoring some nice pipes from my grand old man’s collection, it was something like OJT (on the job training). One such pipe that was selected by Steve was this Brakner. This pipe was nowhere in the “To Restore” list of pipes that I had drawn out as I thought it to be some run-of-the-mill pipe, but was cherry picked by Steve with a smile while sifting through the pile of pipes.

This uniquely rusticated 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 # 108, most likely the shape number. The vulcanite stem is adorned with a green dot (larger than a Dunhill stem logo), which has now faded to a light brown color. There is a smooth band around the end of the shank.I researched this maker and it was then that I realized the uniqueness of this brand and why Mr. Steve had selected it to work on. I visited rebornpipes.com and sure enough, Mr. Steve has worked on a Brakner before and researched the maker/ brand in detail. Here is the link to the write up that he has posted on his web page: https://rebornpipes.com/2018/08/26/breathing-new-life-into-a-brakner-antique-hand-cut-807/

From this write up, I have picked this picture which shows the Brakner design # 108 (ticked in red) that we were working on. The only variation is that my inherited pipe has a smooth band on the stummel below the rim.Having read the detailed account, I now know that I am holding a piece of pipe history and cannot thank my lucky stars for the inheritance and having being introduced to Mr. Steve.

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, with the inner rim edge, Steve and I suspect charring in the 4 o’clock direction and is highlighted in pastel blue circle. The outer rim edge too shows damage in the 6 o’clock direction and is circled in yellow. There is a thin smooth briar band extending down from the outer rim edge, which too, is covered in overflow of oils, tars and grime. The contrast of dark and medium brown stains on the rim top and the band should highlight the beautiful grain on the briar and will go well with the rusticated finish on the bowl and shank once cleaned up. The mortise and the shank air way are clogged as expected making the air flow restricted and 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 excitement of restoration and fun filled involvement of Steve, Jeff, Abha and me, all resulted in none of us taking any pictures of before and detailed pictures of the process. Each one thought that other was taking the pictures and the end result was that none of us took any!! Lol…

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 rim top and the band below the rim outer edge. The vulcanite stem is heavily oxidized and showed heavy tooth chatter and deep tooth marks on the upper stem surface. The button on the upper surface has bite marks and will have to be rebuilt and reshaped. The same holds true for the lower stem surface, albeit with less severity. As brought out earlier, the trademark green dot on Brakner pipe stem has turned a shade of brown. The tenon does not seat flush inside the mortise. This issue, in all probability, should get addressed once the mortise is cleaned off the entire accumulated gunk. Sorry again, I did not take sufficient pictures of the stem either!!All in all, judging from the initial examination, we do not envisage any major/ serious issues to present themselves in the course of restoring this beauty, with the exception of charred inner rim edge and damaged outer rim edge.

Even before Steve and Jeff had arrived, it was decided that Abha, my wife who helps me in the initial clean up, and Jeff who does it for Steve, would work together on the initial clean up and Steve and I would do the repairs and final finish on these pipes. This would help us understand and learn the techniques and processes involved in restorations. This exactly what we did while working on this pipe, but with a twist, which I shall bring out later.

Abha and Jeff reamed the chamber with Castleford pipe reamer set (one of the many gifts for Abha from Steve and Jeff) followed by cleaning the mortise and shank airway using dental pick, cotton buds/ hard and soft bristled pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. Once the shank internals were cleaned, we called it a day.

And this is where the twist occurs!!

When we met again over breakfast the next day, the Brakner was completed!! In short, what really started as a combined project was eventually completed by Steve and Jeff alone. What follows is the narrated sequence and pictures that Steve and Jeff shared with me over a pot of coffee (perfect brew was demonstrated by these two gentlemen as we are predominantly tea drinkers).

Once the chamber and shank were cleaned, Jeff cleaned the external surface of the stummel and the smooth rim top surface 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 both the smooth brown bands around the rim and shank now contrasts beautifully with the dark stummel surface. However, the inner and outer rim damage revealed itself in all its ugliness and this is what Steve decided to tackle at this stage in restoration. No pictures available to show the condition of the stummel at this point…sincere apologies!!

Steve began the process of addressing the inner rim damage by creating a bevel to the inner rim edge to mask the blackened rim and address the out-of-round chamber with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. Once satisfied with the repairs, he polished the entire rim top surface with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. The rim top surface now appears amazing and the repairs appear to be almost non-existent. To enliven the briar wood and further enhance the contrast of the bands with the rest of the dark stummel surface, he 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 he hand buffed it with a microfiber to deepen the shine. The stummel looks nice and vibrant. All this while, Jeff was busy working the stem. He cleaned the internals of the stem using pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. Once the stem internals were clean, he cleaned the stem surface with cotton pads dipped in isopropyl alcohol. This step also helps to remove surface oxidation to some extent. With this, he handed the stem back to Steve to address the tooth chatter and deep bite marks.To address the issue of bite marks and tooth chatter on the stem surfaces, Steve flamed the surface with the flame of a Bic lighter. Vulcanite has the property to return to 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 were filled with clear super glue and set aside to cure. Once the fill had hardened (and it was pretty quick, thanks to the 43 degrees temperature that was prevalent at that point in time!!), he sanded the fill and the entire stem surfaces with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. 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. He rubbed the stem surface with some Extra Virgin Olive Oile and set it aside to be absorbed in to stem surface. It was at this stage that self, Abha and my kids joined them for breakfast. After a hearty breakfast, I launched a 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. 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. 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 all the encouragement and support extended. P.S. – As I mentioned above, the excitement of working and learning from Steve and Jeff coupled with the ambiguity of who is taking pictures and not to mention the chilled Beer and humorous banter, all resulted in a limited number of pictures.

Secondly, those of you who have been following rebornpipes.com regularly, would surely have read the detailed write up on the restoration of an 1846 BBB Amber stem by the master story teller, Dal Stanton (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/05/30/west-meets-east-in-india-to-restore-a-grandsons-treasure-an-1846-bbb/) !! While in one corner of the world, on the 10th floor apartment in Sofia, Bulgaria one of the longest write ups on rebornpipes.com was being shaped, here I was trying to piece all the processes involved in restoration of this unique piece of pipe history from memory and ending up with what could be the shortest write up on rebornpipes.com.


Breathing New Life into a Brakner Antique Hand Cut 807

Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table is a Brakner Antique Hand Cut. It has a very interesting shape that is unique to Brakner. It has an eye shape bowl with a rim top that is smooth. The finish is rusticated in a unique style that he developed that I have never seen before seeing this pipe. There is a smooth band around the end of the shank and a smooth panel on the underside of the shank that is stamped. It came to me from a friend who is having me work on and sell some of his pipes. This one is a beauty and it comes in its own brown leather case that I will show once I have finished the pipe. I have included the photos of the pipe before I cleaned it up. This pipe was well cared for by the previous pipeman who owned it. The finish on the sides and shank was in excellent condition but dusty. The rim top was dull and had a film of tobacco oils on it but was otherwise undamaged on the inner and outer edge. It has some interesting grain. The contrast of dark and medium brown stains highlighted the beautiful grain on the briar and went well with the rusticated finish on the bowl and shank. The bowl was lightly caked and would need to be reamed but otherwise good condition. The stem was oxidized and lightly pitted from the oxidation. There was some light tooth chatter on both sides of the stem near the button as well as some calcification. The next close up photos of the rim top and both sides of the stem show the overall condition of the pipe.I took three photos of the stamping on the underside of the shank to capture the stamping that flows on the curves of the shank. They all give various angles of the stamping as it is quite wide and cannot be contained in one photo. The top line of the stamping reads BRAKNER ANTIQUE. The second photo shows the second line of the stamp – it reads HAND – CUT 807. The third photo shows the third line of the stamp – it reads DENMARK 37152. The stamping follows the curve of the shank band.I took the stem off the pipe and dropped it in the Before & After Deoxidizer Bath to soak over night.If you have been following the blog for any length of time you have come to know that when I am working on interesting old pipes (even sometimes those not so interesting) I like to know a bit about the background of the brand. I like to “meet” the carver to get a feel for their work and style. This is the first Brakner I have worked on so I felt compelled to do a bit of reading before I started the cleanup of the pipe.

I looked first on the Pipephil website (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-b7.html) to see what I could find. I have found through the years that it gives me a good summary of the information available and some pictures of some of the pipes from the brand. I have included a screen capture of the first pipe in the listing as it shows the logo on the stem and a bit of the stamping that is on the underside of the shank. There was not much information on the site regarding the history of the maker. It did tell me that most Brakner’s pipes had the carver’s “micro-rustication” finish. He made few smooth pipes. Next I turned to Pipedia for more information and detail (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Brakner). I quote in part:

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,can not 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 a 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…

The pipes came in three different series.

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

The Pipedia article also showed pages from a W.Ø. Larsen Catalog from 1961-1962. I have included the pages from the site. The catalog showed the variety of shapes that pipe came in as well as the unique finish of the micro-rustication. I have circled the shape of the pipe I am working on in red. That gives a good picture of the history and development of the Brakner brand and the connection to some of the great carvers of Danish pipe history. Armed with that information I turned to work on the pipe in hand. I started my cleanup of this pipe by working on the internals. I reamed out the cake with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and took the cake back to the bare briar. I sanded the walls in the bowl with a piece of dowel wrapped with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth the walls.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the micro-rusticated briar with my fingers and with a shoe brush. I use the Balm to enliven, clean and preserve the briar. I set it aside for a little while to let the balm do its work. I buffed it off with a cotton cloth and then buffed it with a microfiber cloth. The photos below show the pipe at this point in the restoration process. I took the stem out of the Before & After Deoxidizer Bath and rinsed it under runner warm water. I blew air through the stem and then ran water through it as well to rinse out the inside of the airway. The bath removed the oxidation and left the stem in clean condition. I took photos of it at this point to show how it looked. The Deoxidizer did its work well.I cleaned out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and alcohol. It was dirty but I was surprised it was as clean as it was all things considered.The stem was in excellent condition when it came out of the Deoxidizer so I did not have to sand it with any of the usual 220 grit folded pieces. I was able to immediately move on to polishing it with micromesh sanding pads. So under the watchful eye of my shop supervisor, Spencer (my 14 year old Cocker Spaniel) I polished the stem using micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. After each pad I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil to protect and enliven the stem.

Spencer sits next to my desk/work table whenever I am working on pipes. Periodically he will knock me on the leg for a treat I keep on top of the desk just for these occasions. Mostly though he just watches me work and when I get up for a break he follows me like a shadow. I am sure going to miss his presence once he is gone but for now he continues to go strong. Back to the pipe, I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. When I finished with the polish I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. The pipe came with its own case. I was told that the previous pipeman purchased this pipe directly from Peter Brakner himself when he visited Peter in Denmark. The case is in great condition. There are some scuff marks in the leather but it is solid and well made. The lining is also in good condition. I have included a photo below of the restored pipe in the case to give a sense of the fit. I am sure the case was made for this pipe.This is the first Brakner Antique Danish Hand Cut that I have worked on. The micro-rustication process that he developed is really quite beautiful and leaves an almost sandblasted pattern behind on the briar. It swirls and undulates around the bowl almost as if it is living. The smooth rim with contrasting stain and the thin band around the shank end and on the underside  is quite nice and has some swirls of grain in the briar. The contrast browns of the bowl look really good with the black of the polished vulcanite stem. I carefully buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel so as not to have the polish build up in the rustication. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond polish to raise the shine in the vulcanite. I was careful to not buff the stamping and damage it. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the entire 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. The dimensions of the pipe are: Length: 7 inches, Height: 2 1/4 inches, Outside Diameter: width is 1 1/2 inches and length is 2 inches, Diameter of the chamber: ¾ of an inch. This Brakner is a well-made pipe with a beautiful finish and a comfortable stem. I am waiting to hear from the fellow who asked me to clean up the pipe so that I can get a price set that he wants for it. Once I have that I will be adding it to the rebornpipes store shortly if you are interested in adding it to your rack. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me.