Blog by Steve Laug
As mentioned in the last few blogs, Jeff picked up some amazing freehand pipes lately. When I was in Idaho for my mom’s funeral I packed and brought them to Canada. There was a Soren Hand Carved, Granhill Signature, Ben Wade Golden Walnut, Veeja 900 C6 and Viggo Nielsen Hand Finished. All were handcrafted and had interesting shapes and finishes. Some had full plateau rims, some partial plateau rim. Tonight I started working on them. The next pipe I chose was a Soren Hand Carved. My brother had done the entire cleanup – reaming, scrubbing the exterior and cleaning the interior. That left me the finishing work. The bowl has a smooth finish with plateau on the rim top and shank end. The pipe is a pick axe shape with an interesting collar then flares toward the plateau on the shank end. The finish on the pipe was in excellent condition. The vulcanite stem had very light tooth chatter on the top and bottom at the button and was lightly oxidized as well. Jeff had cleaned the rim top and removed the debris in the plateau. He had scrubbed the exterior with Murphy’s Oil soap and a tooth brush to remove the dust and grime that had accumulated there. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and touched it up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He cleaned the interior of the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. It came to me clean and ready to touch up and polish. The stem was cleaned but had tooth chatter on the top and underside near the button and on the surface of the button. I took close up photos of the rim top and the shank end to show the condition of the plateau. I also took photos of the stem to give a clear picture of what I had when I started. I took photos of the underside of the shank to show the stamping there. It read Soren over Hand Carved over Copenhagen over Denmark. On the left side of the collar on the shank the number 3 was stamped. I am assuming that may well be a grade stamp.I needed to refresh my memory on the history and background of the Soren pipes so I went to a previous blog and reread what I had written. https://rebornpipes.com/2016/09/12/repairing-and-rejuvenating-a-soren-danish-freehand/. I quote from that blog post: I looked up the brand on pipephil (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-s10.html) and found that the brand was carved by Søren Refbjerg Rasmussen. Pipes that he made for the European market were mostly stamped “Refbjerg” while those made for the US market were stamped “Soren”. Thus I knew that one I was working on was imported into the US market.
It looked like I was once again working on a pipe made by Soren Refbjerg Rasmussen for the US market as it was stamped Soren. I continued to do reading on another of my go to websites, Pipedia. Here is the link for the article there. https://pipedia.org/wiki/Refbjerg. I quote some of the more pertinent information.
Søren Refbjerg Rasmussen founded a company in 1969, which employed an average of 8 – 12 craftsmen in the 1970’s. The semi-freehands they produced were traded under his prename Søren. Rasmussen himself finished only the very best pipes. So his way of pipemaking closely resembled the ways of Preben Holm, Karl Erik Ottendahl or Erik Nørding. Altogether more than 1,000,000 pipes were sold.
There was also a note from Soren himself regarding the Danbark line of pipes that he made. I think that it is interesting to note that even on these he used the finest Corsican and Grecian briars. I assume that is also true of his other lines as well. I quote the note in full.
“A note from the carver:
I am very proud to introduce my new (!) series of hand-carved Danbark Pipes by Søren. These pipes are crafted from the finest Corsican and Grecian briars. I take a great deal of pride in crafting the Danbark Pipes to be highly functional and so they will provide the smoker with many years of dedicated service. The Danbark Pipes by Søren are available in several different styles and finishes with my personal touch and inspirations. At this time I favor making classic shaped pipes with a slight touch of my own hands and feelings. I do not produce many pipes today but the pipes that I do make available are individually crafted from the finest Corsican and Grecian Briars available to me. I still make free-hand pipes but not as many as I once made. For the past 35 years I have always tried to make good smoking pipes in my workshop located near Copenhagen, Denmark. I have always tried to craft my pipes in such a way as they will be long lasting and best friends with the owners. I take great pride in the shape of my pipes, the drilling of the pipes, and the overall dimensions of the pipes. I enjoy spending my spare time on the very long, rugged coasts of Denmark. I derive much relaxation from being on the coast while angling for Sea Trout with my own hand-tied flies. I find this environment is a great inspiration to me for making pipes. Many times I think to myself, “Inspired by nature, made by me”. — Happy puffing, Søren”
From that I knew that the pipe in my hands came from the 1970s. It bears the Soren signature stamp which also says that it was made for sale in the American pipe market. Armed with that information I turned my attention to restoring the pipe. I started with the clean bowl, I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the briar bowl and shank. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I hand rubbed it with my fingers, working it into the exterior of the pipe and working it into the plateau areas with a horsehair shoe brush. I wiped it off and buffed it with a soft cloth to polish it. The pipe really began to have a rich shine. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded out the tooth chatter out of both sides of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper. I worked over the surface with sandpaper to remove the tooth chatter and the oxidation.I polished the vulcanite 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 Obsidian Oil to protect and polish the stem. When I finished with the last pad I rubbed it down with Before & After Pipe Polish – both fine and extra fine. I gave it a final coat of oil and set aside to dry. I polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. I gave the 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 pipe polished up pretty nicely. The plateau on the rim top and shank end and the smooth Dark and Medium brown contrast finish work very well with the black vulcanite stem. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I have worked on several Soren pipes by Soren Refbjerg Rasmussen and several Refbjerg pipes over the years and I have always been impressed by his craftsmanship and ability to work a pipe to follow the grain of the briar. He does great work and is quite innovative in terms of shapes, flow and finishes on his pipes. The dimensions of this one are quite large but delicate at the same time. The Length: 7 inches, Height: 3 1/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 inches wide and 2 inches long, Chamber diameter: 7/8 inches. This one is already sold to Paresh in India who always has an eye out for interesting freehand pipes. I am looking forward to hearing from him once he receives it. It is a beauty! Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this Soren Freehand. I have other Freehands that I will be working on in a variety of shapes and sizes in upcoming blogs.