Tag Archives: Knute of Denmark Freehand

A New Beginning for Jennifer’s Dad’s Karl Erik Knute of Denmark Freehand

Blog by Steve Laug

I decided to change things up a bit and work on another of Jennifer’s Dad’s pipes. For the next pipe from the estate of George Rex Leghorn I have chosen a nicely shaped Knute of Denmark Freehand. You may not have read about this estate before, so I will retell the story. I received an email from Jennifer who is a little older than my 64+ (65 now – sheesh, I forget how old I am) years about whether I would be interested in her Dad’s pipes. My brother Jeff and I have been picking up a few estates here and there, so I was interested. Here is the catch – she did not want to sell them to me but to give them to me to clean up, restore and resell. The only requirement she had was that we give a portion of the sales of the pipes to a charity serving women and children. We talked about the organization I work for that deals with trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and their children and she decided that would be a great way to carry on the charitable aspect of her Dad’s character. With some great conversation back and forth she sent the pipes to Jeff and he started the cleanup process on them. Once he had finished cleaning them all he sent them to me to do my work on them.

The Knute Freehand pipe with plateau on the rim top and shank end is stamped on the left side of the shank Knute of Denmark. The bowl had nice grain on the sides and cross grain on the front and back and rugged plateau on the rim top and shank end. The finish is very dirty making it hard to see beyond that to the nice grain underneath that. There was a thick cake in the bowl and it had overflowed with lava onto the inward beveled rim top. It was a dirty and tired looking old pipe. The stem was badly oxidized and there were George’s usual tooth marks and chatter on both sides just ahead of the button. The button was also damaged. The other issue with the stem is that it did not really fit the pipe. The tenon was a bit large and I just had a feeling it was the wrong stem. The pipe had been sitting in boxes for a lot of years and it was time to move ahead with the restoration. Jennifer took photos of the pipes she was sending. I have included the two photos of this pipe below.When the box arrived from Jennifer, Jeff opened it and took photos of each pipe before he started his cleanup work on them. This Knute Freehand was a nicely shaped pipe and we have both worked on quite a few Knute pipe. This was going to be an interesting restoration. Knute pipe are well made and I have found that they not mentioned much in the online pipe communities that I frequent. I enjoy working on them. The shape on the Knute seems to really capture the flow of the grain on the briar. The briar appeared to be in good condition underneath the grime. The finish looked intact under the grime and oils on the bowl sides from George’s hands. The bowl had a thick cake that had hardened with time. The lava overflow on the rim top filled in much of the plateau. It was very thick but it could very well have protected the rim from damage. We won’t know what is under it until Jeff had cleaned it off. The stem was oxidized and also had some calcification on the surface. There were deep tooth marks on both sides just ahead of the button. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started working on it. I include those below. Jeff took photos of the bowl and rim top to show the cake in the bowl and the lava build up on the plateau rim top and dust and grime in the shank end as well. It was thick and hard but hopefully it had protected the rim and edges from damage. The lava coat looks horrible but it points to a well-used, favourite smoking pipe. George must have enjoyed this old timer a lot judging from the condition of the pipe. Jeff took a photo of the side and heel of the bowl to show the condition of the finish – the grime and grit all over the sides and bottom of the bowl. The was also a deep gouge in the heel on the right side. It is a dirty pipe but it has a stunning grain around the bowl sides and cross grain on the front and back.Jeff took a photo of the stamping on the left side of the shank. It is very clear and readable. It reads Knute of Denmark.Jeff took photos of the top and underside of the stem showing the scratching, oxidation and tooth marks on the stem surface. The tooth marks are quite deep on both sides of the stem. I turned to Pipedia to refresh my memory regarding the brand (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Knute). I had recollections that the pipe was made by Karl Erik Ottendahl as one of his sub brands so I wanted to confirm that. I quote from that article below:

Knute of Denmark pipes are said to be made by Karl Erik, see his listing herein.

Karl Erik Ottendahl was born in Aalborg in 1942, just a few miles from the very northernmost tip of Denmark. He began his career as a Lithographer as an apprentice in the craft at the age of 16. While working as an apprentice he began hand carving pipes as a hobby and to give as gifts to his more senior colleagues. He began his career making pipes for various labels in Denmark and the United States. Often he would make the higher grade pipes for a well known brand that was known for their midrange or low end pieces such as Wally Frank. While doing this he administered a factory of fifteen craftsmen. During this period he did make of some of his own handmade pipes, but he felt that the responsibility of managing the factory did not give him the freedom he wished he had.

Other brands confirmed to be from Karl Erik are: Champ of Denmark, HTL, Jobey Dansk, Knute, Golden Danish, Lars of Denmark, Larsen & Stigart (Copenhagen pipe shop), Shelburne, Sven Eghold and Wenhall (for Wenhall Pipes, New York), some Ben Wade and pipes marked IS and IIS.

I could start my restoration of this beautiful freehand with the knowledge that I was dealing with a Karl Erik Ottendahl made freehand. But before I get on to restoring the pipe I thought I would once again include the tribute that Jennifer wrote to her Dad for the blog. She also sent some photos and an article that her Dad wrote for Jeff and me to be able to get a feel for him. I have included those below. Note in each of them that he is holding a pipe in his left hand. I asked her to also send me an email with a brief tribute to her Dad. Here is her tribute from an email to me.

Steve, I want to thank you again for accepting my dad’s pipes.  They were so much a part of my dad’s life that I could not simply discard them. But as his daughter, I was not about to take up smoking them either. *laughing* I think my dad would like knowing that they will bring pleasure to others.  I know that I do.

I’m not sure what to say about his pipes. I always remember Daddy smoking pipes and cigars.

First a bit about my dad. Though my father, George Rex Leghorn, was American (growing up in Alaska), he managed to join the Canadian Army at the beginning of WWII, but in doing so lost his American citizenship.  He was fortunate to meet a Canadian recruiting officer who told him the alphabet began with “A” and ended with “Zed” not “Zee”, and also told him to say that he was born in a specific town that had all its records destroyed in a fire.  When the US joined the war my dad, and thousands of other Americans who had made the same choice*(see the link below for the article), were given the opportunity to transfer to the US military, and regain their citizenship.

After WWII, my dad, earned his degree at the University of California Berkeley and became a metallurgist. There is even a bit about him on the internet.

He loved taking the family out for a drive, and he smoked his cigars on those trips. (As a child, those were troubling times for my stomach.)

I most remember my father relaxing in his favorite chair with a science fiction book in one hand and a pipe in the other… Sir Walter Raleigh being his favorite tobacco… and the pipes themselves remind me of him in that contented way.  If I interrupted his repose, he’d look up, with a smile on his face, to answer me.

It seemed he smoked his Briarwood pipes the most, though he had others.  At the time, it was only the Briarwood I knew by name because of its distinctive rough shaped bowl.  And it was the Anderson Free Hand Burl Briar, made in Israel, which I chose for his birthday one year, because I thought he might like that particular texture in his hand.

At least two of his pipes, he inherited from his son-in-law, Joe Marino, a retired medical laboratory researcher (my sister Lesley’s late husband)… the long stemmed Jarl (made in Denmark), and the large, white-bowled, Sherlock Holmes style pipe.  I believe Joe had others that went to my dad, but Lesley was only sure about those two.

The Buescher, corncob pipe my older sister Lesley bought for Daddy while on one of her travels around the States.

A note on the spelling of my sister’s name…

My dad met my mother, Regina, during WWII and they married in Omagh, Ireland.  My mother was English and in the military herself.  The English spelling of Lesley is feminine, and Leslie masculine, in the UK… just the opposite of here in the United States.  I guess my mom won out when it came to the spelling of the name…

This pipe was a real mess just like the other ones in the collection. I did not know what to expect when I unwrapped it from his box. He reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit on the briar and the lava on the rim top. The finish looked really good when I got it. The rim top looked much better but had scratches and nicks in the surface and some darkening on the inner and outer edges. The silver band was oxidized and tarnished. Jeff had cleaned the internals and scrubbed the exterior of the stem and soaked them in Before & After Deoxidizer bath to remove the oxidation. The stem looked very good other than the deep tooth marks in the surface. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver for the second stop of its restoration tour it looked very good. I took photos of the pipe before I started my part of the restoration. I was so pumped to get started on this Karl Erik made Knute that I totally forgot to take photos of what it looked like when it arrived.

I jumped in and addressed the gouge in the briar on the heel of the pipe. I filled it with briar dust and super glue. Once it cured I sanded it smooth with 220 and 400 grit sandpaper. I restained the sanded spot and the light spots around the rim and shank end of the bowl with a Maple stain pen to match the colour of the bowl and shank. I polished the bowl and the high spots on the plateau rim with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiped it down between pads with a soft cotton cloth. You can see the progress in the shine as you go through the photos. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the finish of the bowl and the plateau rim top and shank with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect it. I find that the balm really makes the briar come alive again. The contrasts in the layers of stain really made the grain stand out. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The pipe really looks good at this point. I am very happy with the way the pipe is looking at this point in the process.  I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I examined the diameter of the tenon and the mortise. The tenon was not the right length for the mortise. It was too short and stubby. The way that the tenon was turned also did not allow the stem to seat correctly against the plateau shank end. I went through my can of stems and found one that was the perfect fit. The length and diameter of the tenon was correct and the way the stem sat against the shank end was perfect. The length of the stem also worked better with the look of the pipe. The stem was bent a bit too much but that is easily corrected.  I put a pipe cleaner in the stem to keep the airway from collapsing or kinking. I heated the stem slowly and carefully with a candle until the vulcanite was pliable and then straightened out the bend to match the flow of the rim top of the pipe.I used running water to cool the stem and set the new bend. I sanded the stem to remove the oxidation that was on the surface with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper and a piece of 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. At this point the stem is looking better and I don’t have to deal with George’s tooth marks. I rubbed the stem down with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish and a cotton pad to remove remnants of oxidation and to further blend in the sanding. The stem was showing some promise at this point in the process.  I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both fine and extra fine. I finished by wiping it down with Briarville’s No Oxy Oil and buffing it to a shine. I always look forward to this part of the restoration when all the pieces are put back together. I put the pipe back together and buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl 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. It is fun to see what the polished bowl looks like with the grain popping, the plateau on the rim and shank end contrasting well and finally the newly fitted black vulcanite stem almost glowing. This Karl Erik made Knute Freehand is beautiful and feels great in my hand. It is one that could be clenched and smoked while doing other things as it is very light weight and well balanced. It must have been a fine smoking pipe judging from the condition it was when we received it from Jennifer. There should be a lot of life left in this Knute Freehand. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This is one that will go on the rebornpipes online store shortly. If you want to carry on the pipe trust of George Rex Leghorn let me know. Thank you Jennifer for trusting us with his pipes. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog. Remember we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next pipeman or woman.

Breathing Life into a Knute of Denmark Freehand

Blog by Steve Laug

I chose the next pipe to work on from some that Jeff and I recently purchased from a guy in Illinois. There were some nice pipes in the assortment from a variety of ranges. The pipe on my worktable comes from that collection. This one is a beautifully grained Knute Freehand with a turned vulcanite stem. The rim top and shank end are plateau and have been selectively darkened in the grooves and valleys. The shape follows the grain of the block of briar very well. It is stamped on the underside of the shank Knute of Denmark. There is no other stamping on the pipe. The pipe is shaped to sit nicely on a desk or table top. The stem is stamped with a Crown over the letter K on the top. The pipe was very dirty with a thick cake in the bowl and some lava overflowing on to the plateau rim top. It was hard to know what the inner edge of the rim looked like because of the lava and cake. Other than being dirty the finish appeared to be in good condition. The stem was oxidized and had come calcification where a pipe Softee bit had been. There was some tooth chatter and marks on both sides of the stem at the button. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started working on it so I could see what he was dealing with. He took photos of the rim top to show the thick cake in the bowl and the overflow of lava. The cake is thick and hard and the lava overflows into the plateau. The bowl is a real mess but it must have been a great smoking pipe. He also took a photo of the dusty plateau at the shank end. The next photos show the sides and heel of the bowl to give a clear picture of the beauty of the grain around the bowl of the pipe. Under the grime there is some great grain peeking through. Jeff took a photo of the stamping to capture the clarity of it even under the grime. The stamping reads Knute in script over of Denmark running horizontally along the underside of the shank.The stem looked dirty and oxidized with the calcification left behind by a pipe Softee bit. The bite marks and tooth chatter on the stem was light and should not take too much work to remedy. The Crown over K logo looked good at this point. Hopefully the cleanup will preserve it well. Before I started my work on the pipe I wanted to remind myself of the provenance of the pipe. I remembered that it was linked to Karl Erik as the earlier pipe I worked on was. I wanted to know where this pipe fit into the Karl Erik lines so I turned to the first of two sites that I always check to gather information on a brand. I turned first to Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Erik). There it is clearly identified and linked to Karl Erik Ottendahl. It is designated as a second and frequently having rustication. For some reason this beauty does not have any rustication and it is a great piece of briar.

I turned to the second information site – Pipephil’s (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-k3.html) got a quick overview on the brand once again connecting it to Karl Erik.Pipedia also had this great picture of Karl Erik Ottendahl and I decided to include it here as a reminder of the artisan who first carved and released this pipe. Reminded of the tie to Karl Erik I knew a bit about the pipe at hand. I turned to address the pipe itself. Jeff cleaned up the pipe for me. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned it up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the exterior with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to clean off the grime off the finish and the heavy overflow of lava on the rim top. The cleaning had removed some of the black stain on the rim top. He cleaned up the internals of the shank, mortise and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove all of the oils and tars in the pipe. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer and was able to remove much of the oxidation. When it arrived here in Vancouver it was a clean pipe and I knew what I had to work with. I took photos of it before I started my part of the restoration. I took photos of the rim top and the stem to show their condition once it arrived in Canada. Jeff was able to clean up the incredibly thick cake and lava overflow that was shown in the rim and bowl photos above. The plateau and the inner bevel to the rim look really amazing. He was also able to get rid of the grime and grit in the surface of the briar. The rim top and edges looked very good. The stem looked very good and was much cleaner. There was light tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. The white paint in the stamping had been removed by the soak and cleaning but the stamp was still good so I could repaint it.I have noticed on some repairs that folks don’t pay much attention to the stamping when they are restoring a pipe. To me this is a critical part of the restoration to leave undamaged as it is the only link we have to who made the pipe. I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank to show that it was very readable and undamaged by the cleanup work.There was a small cut in the briar on the right side of the bowl mid bowl that I would take care of first. I filled in the cut with a small drop of super glue. Once it cured I sanded it out with a worn piece of 220 grit sandpaper and polished the scratches left behind with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.I started polishing the briar with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth. The bowl began to take on a rich shine and grain was beginning to stand out. I wet sanded with all of the pads and wiped the bowl down after each pad with a soft cloth. I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the finish on the bowl and shank. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I worked it in with my fingers to get it into the briar. I used a horsehair shoe brush to work it into the plateau top and shank end.  After it sat for a little while I wiped it off and buffed it with a soft cloth. The briar really began to have a rich shine. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. It is a beautiful bowl. I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem at this point in the process. I sanded tooth chatter and the remaining oxidation on the stem with folded pieces of 220 to remove the marks and the light brown colouration on the stem surface. I sanded them with 400 grit sandpaper until the marks were gone and the oxidation was gone. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil. I rubbed the stem down with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish and a cotton pad to remove remnants of oxidation and to further blend in the sanding. The stem was showing some promise at this point in the process. I used a liquid paper to touch up the stamping on the top side of the fancy saddle stem. I rubbed it into the stamp and set it aside to dry. I polished off the excess white product and left the remainder in the stamp itself.I polished the 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 a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. I used the Before & After Pipe Polish to remove the small minute scratches left in the vulcanite even after the micromesh regimen. I finished by wiping the stem down with a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I put the stem back on the pipe and took the pipe to the buffer. I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish the briar and the vulcanite. Blue Diamond does a great job on the smaller scratches that remain in both. I gave the bowl and the stem several 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 really nicely with a great contrasting stain look to the briar. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. This is a beautiful Karl Eric Freehand – the fancy turned stem and plateau shank end give the pipe a great look. The polished black vulcanite stem looks really good with the rich browns standing out in the grain. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 1/2 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. This is another pipe that I will be putting it on the rebornpipes online store shortly, if you are interested in adding it to your collection. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me on this beauty!


Blog by Robert M. Boughton
Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the Author except as cited

For after all, the best thing one can do
When it is raining, is to let it rain.

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in “The Poet’s Tale: The Birds of Killingworth,” in Tales of a Wayside Inn (1863)

Longfellow’s powerful poem is about man’s intolerant bent for all things natural based on ignorance of the indispensability of even the smallest part in an ecosystem.  It speaks to acceptance and “gentleness, and mercy to the weak, and reverence for Life.”  The work is sad and satirical and, in the end, surprising in its song of survival, but, alas, will never be required reading in any public school.

Knute of Denmark is a second of Karl Erik, which Karl Erik Ottendahl (1942-2004) made his main brand.  Ottendahl, an underrated and generous pipe maker who was a low-paid lithographer before he took up pipe carving as a hobby until it became his full-time vocation, understood the average smoker who made far less money than those fortunate enough to afford expensive varieties of the Danish freehand style of which he was an early crafter.  He therefore dedicated his life and work to pipes of great natural beauty at bargain prices.  Here is one that very much resembles the pipe in this blog, suggesting Ottendahl may have had a hand in making this Knute of Denmark.I suspect, or at least like to think, that Ottendahl read Longfellow’s magnificent poem, a couplet of which I quoted above, and if he didn’t, he would have enjoyed it.  And it was raining in the Isotopes City while I restored this pipe.

RESTORATION The stem was savagely damaged, with the top lip all but gone and a small hole below it and the bottom having two gouges.  Such long-term acts of mayhem must have been inflicted by someone with clear and severe anger issues who masticated the mouthpiece the way some people chomp on gum to stop smoking coffin nails.  I gave it an OxiClean bath to start.  At the same time, I stripped whatever dirt and stain (the latter of which I could see no signs) were present with an Everclear soak.  The immediate appearance of dark reddish swirls in the alcohol surprised me. The OxiClean soak, which was complete first, shows in the pic below how filthy the stem was.  Afterward, all I can say is it was clean. Figuring I had at least an hour before the stummel would be stripped, I filed off fine shavings from an old otherwise useless stem and made a nice little pile.  The ironic part of that task was that the stem was once a fancy type similar to the one I was fixing and would have been a perfect replacement had it not been toasted!  Then I added a few drops of black Super Glue, mixed it together with the shavings and quickly and liberally applied it to the stem after dipping a cleaner in petroleum jelly and inserting in the mouthpiece past the hole.  WARNING: I forgot my usual process of lubricating a small sliver of card stock paper also and inserting it inside the stem in front of the cleaner, but it all worked out later – with some extreme difficulty. That done, I had 12-24 hours before it would be dried, way more than enough time to finish the stummel that was ready to come out of the Everclear.  Checking out the progress of the alcohol soak, I was amazed by the almost blood red color of the 190-proof grain alcohol and guessed it was from residual maroon stain.For the first time after an Everclear soak, I wiped the still drying wood with a cotton rag saturated with purified water.  The water took longer to dry, but the result was stunning.  Despite the sandblasting, I believe what I beheld was the finest piece of briar I’ve ever seen.  Its natural beauty shone through the crisp dullness. I reamed the chamber, used a small sharp pocket knife to cut away some excess buildup and sanded with 150-, 220, 320- and 600-grit papers, then retorted the pipe. The following shots show the tremendous improvement of the wood’s potential color and glow.  I used the super fine “0000” steel wool in two of the photos only on the rim and shank opening.  But look at the difference. Late that night, with the stem patch dry, I took out one of my files, a narrow triangle with medium-grit flat sides to remove the thick, uneven mess on the top of the stem that is a necessary by-product of the black Super Glue method of hole-filling.  I was also able to remove most of the deep chasms on the bottom of the stem.  I began the smoothing process with a dual 150- and 160-grit sanding pad and regular, rougher 150-grit paper.The effort to salvage the ruined old stem was worthwhile and a good start on a plan of total rehabilitation for personal use, but this pipe is for sale, and I know the more difficult work of re-building the bottom lip will take longer and not, in the end, be suitable to pass off to a buyer.

But as it happened, I had two other freehands with good fancy stems with which I could play musical chairs, a Ben Wade by Preben Holm I re-stemmed before and an estate Karl Erik I’m working on now that’s far too huge to support the smaller stem it came with.  For now, I’m enjoying the BW with the damaged Vulcanite stem as the yellow Lucite one fits the Karl Erik.  I liked the dark brown swirled Lucite stem that was on the Karl Erik better, and since the tenon of the BW by PH was too thin, the issue was settled.  I sanded down the elegant brown Lucite fancy stem’s tenon and smoothed it with steel wool before micro meshing it. A thorough buffing on the wheel with red and white rouge on the stem and stummel, and it was done. CONCLUSION
In the spirit of nature, I used no stain restoring this freehand that needed no artificial help to reveal its innate beauty.