Tag Archives: Harcourt Hand Carved by Preben Holm

Just A Little TLC And This Amazing Harcourt ‘S’ Came Back Alive Again

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.

Initial Inspection
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.

Replacing a Broken Tenon and Restoring a Harcourt Hand Carved S Freehand

Blog by Steve Laug

About a month ago I received a phone call from a guy from Nova Scotia who was visiting in Vancouver and had made a stop at City Cigar on 4th Ave. W. and asked about having a pipe repaired. He told me that he had a freehand pipe that had been sitting in a bag for years with a broken tenon. He was going to leave it with his brother in law and they would get in touch with me about repairing it. Earlier this week I received a text from his brother in law with photos of the pipe that needed the repair. I have included those photos below. It was a nice looking Freehand with a fancy turned stem. The tenon was snapped off in the shank and was stuck from the look of the photos. The shape and the look of the pipe reminded me of other freehands I have worked on that were made by Preben Holm. We made arrangements and we booked a time for him to drop the pipe off. Today I had the day off and I received a text that he was dropping the pipe by today for a repair. I took some photos of the pipe before I started working on it. The tenon was stuck in the shank and was not moveable. The finish was dusty but in excellent condition. The rim top and edges were in excellent condition. There was a light cake in the bowl and the pipe smelled of a strong vanilla aromatic in the bowl. The stem was lightly oxidized and was snapped very close to the square/diamond turned piece on the fancy stem. I took a photo of the plateau on the rim top and the shank end. The pipe was dusty but otherwise the finish was in great condition. I took a photo of the stem surfaces. Other than being lightly oxidized there were no tooth marks or chatter on the stem surface. I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It had a uppercase S at the top of the stamping. Under that it read Harcourt over Hand Carved in Denmark.After I took the photos I put the bowl in the freezer so that I would be able to pull the broken tenon from the shank. The time in the freezer causes the briar to release the broken tenon that was stuck.  After a half hour in the freezer I took it out and the broken tenon easily came out of the shank. I took photos of the parts.I decided to refresh my memory about the brand before I started working on it. I did a quick search on rebornpipes to read the posts that I had there. The first of these was by Charles Lemon of Dad’s pipes (https://dadspipes.com/2016/10/20/in-praise-of-international-cooperation-cleaning-up-a-large-harcourt-grade-d-freehand-by-preben-holm-for-dunhill/). I quote the pertinent part of Charles piece.

By all accounts, the Danish Fancy pipe boom of the 1960s and 1970s caught the great English pipe house of Dunhill unprepared. Dunhill was unable to produce the new Freehand shapes in-house, so if the firm was to capitalize on the surging demand for Danish pipes, it would have to look elsewhere. The answer came in the form of a contract with the Preben Holm factory for the production of what became the Harcourt brand of pipes, destined for distribution through Dunhill’s network of principal pipe dealers.

The Harcourt on my worktable arrived in excellent estate condition. It is easily one of the largest pipes I’ve worked on – its overall length is just 5.75 inches, but the stummel is a real fistful of briar measuring 2.5 inches tall by 1.6 inches wide with a copious tobacco chamber of nearly one inch in diameter and 2.25 inches deep! Despite its size, the pipe weighs only 2.3 ounces or 64 grams.

That helped me confirm the connection to Preben Holm that I remembered. It connected Preben Holm with Dunhill as well. The other blog was one that had written on a Harcourt that I restored (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/06/29/a-harcourt-hand-carved-freehand-7-of-anthonys-dads-pipes/). I quote a portion of the blog and include one of the photos that I had used in that blog:

I had some vague memory about the Harcourt brand that had a connection to Preben Holm and the stamping seemed a lot like the way that he stamped his pipes. I did a bit of research on the brand to see the connection. The first place I looked was on Pipedia at the following link: https://pipedia.org/wiki/Harcourt. There I found the following information which I quote in full.

The brand Harcourt was produced by Preben Holm (†) for Dunhill to secure a share of the Danish fancy boom for Dunhill’s principal pipe dealers. Later Erik Nørding made Harcourt pipes for a shorter period. These pipe are sometimes (partially) rusticated.

It had been reported that the second generation of Harcourt pipes were sold exclusively through Dunhill stores, but we now know through Rich Mervin that the Brick Church Pipe Shop, a chain of 3 stores in NJ sold Danish freehands in the 1970s and 80s including Knute, Ben Wade, and Harcourt. They were also an authorized Charatan and Dunhill retailer. So, apparently Harcourt freehands were sold through at least some Dunhill dealers as well as the Dunhill stores.

I then turned to the pipephil site at this link and found out some more information on the brand. http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/infos/harcourt1.html. I followed the links there to some photos of a boxed pipe and the stamping on the shank.

This box contains a pipe carved for Dunhill in the 1970s. Harcourt pipes were Dunhill’s answer to the passion Danish style raised during this period.From my previous research I confirmed the connection between the pipe I am working on and the Harcourt pipes that were made by Preben Holm. The connection between Preben Holm and Dunhill’s desire to tap into the Danish Freehand market in the US was also helpful as it gave me a potential date for the pipe. It was made in the 1970s – the height of the Danish period in the US. Now it was time to replace the broken tenon.

I used the Dremel and sanding drum to smooth out the face of the stem and remove the damaged portion of the broken tenon. I also went through my box of tenons and found one that would be a good replacement for the broken one. It was a threaded tenon that was a Jobey replacement tenon. It had the correct diameter and with a bit of work the threaded portion would anchor well in the stem.    I used my cordless drill to open the airway in the stem to the diameter of the threaded portion of the new tenon. I started with a bit slightly larger than the current airway. I drilled it to the depth of the threaded portion of the tenon. I worked my way through various drill bits until I had one that was slightly larger than the new tenon.I took a photo of the open airway on the stem. I roughed up the threads on the tenon replacement and removed the ridge in the middle with the Dremel and sanding drum. I coated the end of the tenon with super glue and pressed it into the open airway on the stem. Once the glue cured I took photos of the stem in the pipe. Once the glue cured I took photos of the stem in the pipe. The pipe still needed to be cleaned up but the look was very good and the feel in the hand and mouth was perfect. I took a photo of the stem out of the shank to show the finished tenon replacement. The stem and tenon needed to be polished but the fit and shape is perfect.With the stem repaired it was time to do the restoration on the pipe as a whole. I started with the bowl. I reamed the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife, scraping the light cake from the bowl. I sanded the inside of the bowl to remove the rest of the cake with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel.I cleaned out the inside of the shank and the airway to the bowl with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs. I cleaned the inside of the airway in the stem at the same time.I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. Mark Hoover’s Balm is a product that I have come to appreciate and one I use on every pipe I have been working on.  I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to break up the oxidation. I started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to remove the scratching. It is starting to look good.     I have one more tin of Denicare Mouthpiece Polish left from a few that I have picked up over the years. It is a coarse red pasted that serves to help remove oxidation. I polished the stem with that to further smooth out the surface of the vulcanite (and to be honest – to use it up). I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. Once I had finished the polishing I gave it final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. When this pipe was dropped off yesterday I told the fellow that it would be a couple of weeks before I got to work on it. However, yesterday afternoon I felt like doing something a bit different in the restoration process. I finished the repair yesterday and finished the polishing it today. With every pipe I work on, I look forward to when it all comes back together, polished and waxed. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and the vulcanite. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I 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 sandblast finish looked really good with the polished black vulcanite. This Harcourt Hand Carved Preben Holm Freehand was another fun pipe to work on. It really has a great Freehand look that catches the eye. The combination of various oxblood, black and brown stains really makes the pipe look attractive. It is another comfortable pipe to hold in the hand. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 3 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. I look forward to when the fellow picks it up and I get to hear what he thinks of the pipe. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This is an interesting estate to bring back to life.