Blog by Paresh Deshpande
I was and still am a big fan of Preben Holm and never miss an opportunity to own one of his creations, specially the older ones. His early pipes were graded from 1 to 8 in ascending order and I have grades 1, 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8 in my collection. These are all stunning pipes without doubts. Thus when this pipe came up for auction on eBay in 2018, I had to bid on it. Waiting for the last opportune moment to place my bid is always the longest wait and the timing has to be just right, too late and your bid may not be accepted and too early gives reaction time to other buyers. In this case, everything went just right and I landed being the highest bidder. A month and a half later, the pipe was received by Abha in Pune.
This ruggedly beautiful free hand pipe is unsmoked with pristine bowl coating, save for the dust that has accumulated on the coat. The aggressively rusticated stummel is large and fits snugly in the palm with a tactile hand feel. It is stamped on the lower smooth surface at the shank end as “S” over “HARCOURT” over “HAND CARVED” over “MADE IN DENMARK”. The vulcanite fancy stem is devoid of any stem logo. All the stampings are crisp and easily readable.Dimensions Of The Pipe
(a) Overall length of the pipe: 5.2 inches.
(b) Bowl height: 2 inches.
(c) Inner diameter of chamber: 0.8 inches.
(d) Outer diameter of chamber: 1.7 inches.
While researching Dunhill pipes that I have restored, I remembered that to cater to the Danish Free Hand pipe craze in the 1960s Dunhill had engaged Preben Holm to carve pipes for them and this line was named as HARCOURT. However, this being the first Harcourt pipe that I would be working on, I searched my first ‘go to’ site, rebornpipes and the very first search result was this pipe that has identical stamping including the grade stamp ‘S’. For interested readers, here is the link to the write up which provides all the information on these pipes.
The only additional piece of information that I would like to add here is the grading system adopted by Preben Holm for Harcourt line of pipes. This information is reproduced from pipedia.org (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Harcourt)
And I quote:-
The stamping includes a letter, and seems to adhere to the Preben Holm grading scale with grades of A, B, C and D in ascending order.
The grade lettering on the pipe that I am working on is “S” and finds no mention in the above grading scale by Preben Holm. Since the grading system is in ascending order starting with A, I safely assume that the letter S denotes the highest grade or even Special grade. Any informed input on this issue is most welcome, in fact, solicited.
This pipe has one of the most aggressive rustication that I have seen on pipes and it looks and feels fantastic. The reddish brown hues, the Acorn shaped bowl and the talon shaped shank adds to the visual appeal of the pipe. The pipe is unsmoked and thus the chamber, the platueau rim top and the rim edges are all pristine. The stummel surface has accumulated dust in the crevices of the rustication, giving it a dull and tired appearance. The vulcanite fancy stem is undamaged but oxidized. Given below are a few pictures of the pipe before I started working on it. Detailed Inspection
As mentioned above, this is seems to be an unsmoked pipe. The plateau rim top is as good as new with no lava overflow or charring or chipped surfaces. The bowl coating is still intact with no signs of being smoked. The only cleaning that is required is for removing the dust that has lodged itself in to the nooks and crannies of the plateau surface. There are no odors of old tobacco and oils and gunk and that is a refreshing change from the last project. The large rusticated stummel with thick walls are in excellent condition with no damage. The gnarly high points in the rustication are a pleasure to hold in the hand. The Acorn shaped bowl nicely fills up the hand making for a very comfortable grip. Dust has covered the crevices in the rustication giving a lifeless and dull look to the pipe and would need to be cleaned. The plateau shank end is also dusty and would benefit for a nice scrub. The mortise is clean. The fancy vulcanite stem is sans any logo or tooth chatter, bite marks. The only issue that requires to be dealt with is the minor oxidation over the surface. Running a couple of pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol will be sufficient to clean the air way of all the dust that may have been lodged inside.The Process…
I started the restoration of this pipe by first cleaning the internals of the stem with bristled pipe cleaners and 99.9% pure isopropyl alcohol. I followed it up by sanding the entire stem with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper to remove the surface oxidation and cleaned the surface with a cotton swab and Murphy’s Oil Soap.
I dropped the stem in to “Before and After Deoxidizer” solution developed by my friend Mark Hoover. The solution helps to draw out heavy oxidation to the surface, making its further removal a breeze, while the minor oxidation is eliminated to a very great extent. The initial sanding also helps to draw out the complete oxidation as the sanding opens up the stem surface that has been initially covered with oxidation. I usually dunk stems of 4-5 pipes that are in-line for restoration and this pipe is marked with blue arrow. I generally allow the stems to soak in this solution overnight to do its work.The next morning, Abha removed the stem that had been soaking in the deoxidizer solution overnight. She cleaned the stem under warm running water and scrubbed the raised oxidation from the stem surface using a Scotch Brite pad and cleaned the airway with a thin shank brush. She further removed the oxidation by scrubbing the stem with 0000 grade steel wool and applied a little EVO to rehydrate the stem.Abha, thereafter, continued the sanding cycle by dry sanding the stem using 320, 400, 600 and 800 grit sand papers followed by wet sanding the entire stem with 1000, 1500 and 2000 grit sand papers. This not only ensured a nice even and smooth 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, she 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. The time that Abha was working on the stem, I ran a pipe cleaner dipped in alcohol through the mortise and airway to clean out the dust that had gathered over time. The shank internals were all clean save for a little stain that had made its way into the shank while staining.Once the internals of the 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 nooks and crevices of all the accumulated dust, dirt and grime from the rusticated stummel. I also cleaned the shank internals with dish washing soap and shank brush. To enliven the briar wood and further enhance the contrast of the dark reddish browns of the high points of the rustication with the black of the rest of the stummel surface, I rubbed a little quantity of “Before and After” balm in to 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. This was followed by the routine regime of polish with carnauba wax using my hand held rotary tool. This Preben Holm carved Harcourt 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.