Tag Archives: Preben Holm Freehand pipes

Finally a Preben Holm Crown Hand Made Standing Freehand…and then I saw this!


Blog by Steve Laug

I have worked on many Preben Holm pipes over the years in many of his lines – Danish Pride, Monte Verde, Ben Wade and even his Walnut line which was a bit more classic in shape. I have always enjoyed his take on the flow of the pipe and how well he follows the way the grain takes him shaping his work. I have never worked on one that bore the Preben Holm Crown stamp on the shank. This particular smooth finished Freehand pipe was purchased from an auction in 2020 in Salina, Kansas, USA. It really is a filthy pipe though underneath all the grime it is a beautiful looking Freehand pipe that stands. It combines a plateau rim top and shank end with a smooth finish on the bowl and shank. It is stamped on the underside of the shank and reads Preben Holm [over] Crown [over] Hand Made [over] In [over] Denmark. The classic walnut finish is incredibly dirty but I was excited about it being a Crown – until Jeff mentioned to me that there was a hairline crack on the heel of the bowl! The bowl had a thick cake lining the walls and overflowing onto the plateau rim top in thick lava. It filled in the inner edge of the bowl and the rim top. It was a mess! There was grime ground into the smooth, grooved finish and dust and debris in the plateau valleys on the shank end.The turned vulcanite saddle had a twist in the saddle and had a faint Crown stamp on the topside. It had deep tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. The pipe must have been a great smoker judging from the condition it came it. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his work on it. Jeff took photos of the rim top and the stem to show the condition of the pipe when we received it. You can see the thick coat I the bowl and the heavy lava on the plateau rim top and inner edge of the bowl. The plateau on the shank end is also filthy. The turned vulcanite stem and has chatter and a few deep tooth marks on both sides near the button. He took photos of the sides of the bowl and the heel to give an idea of the shape and the condition of the briar around the bowl. The third photo below that shows the flat bottom of the heel shows a hairline crack from the back edge inward for about ½ inch and down into the groove about ¼ inch. I have circled it in red in the photo below. Certainly depressing but fixable! It has a shape that truly reflects the style and process of grain chasing that Preben Holm was famous for in his pipemaking. The next photo Jeff took shows the stamping on the underside of the  shank. It is clear and readable as noted above.I turned first to Pipephil to see what I could find about the Crown line of pipes and get some background (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-p5.html). I have included the photo capture below as it shows the look of the stamping and logo on the pipe I am working on.I turned then to Pipedia and read the listing on the brand to refresh my memory and flesh out the knowledge of the brand (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Holm,_Preben) and the article on Ben Wade (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Wade). I quote the portion of the Ben Wade article that summarizes the Danish period of the history of the brand:

Young Copenhagen master pipemaker Preben Holm had made a meteoric career heading a pipe manufacture employing 45 people at the age of 22! But around the turn of 1970/71 he was in major financial difficulties. His US distributor, Snug Harbour Ltd. in New York City, left him in the lurch. Holm had three unpaid invoices on his desk and another large shipment was ready for the USA, when Snug Harbour’s manager told him on the phone that there was no money at all on the account to pay him.

So the Dane went to New York for an almost desperate search for a new distribution partner. He made contacts with Lane Ltd. and met Herman G. Lane in February 1971. Lane Ltd. had no interest in Holm’s serial pipes produced at that time but so much the more in the hand-carved freehands because the hype for Danish freehands and fancies in the States was still on its way to the climax then. The meeting resulted in an agreement to start a cooperation. Lane insisted to improve the quality considerably and in return he assured to be able to sell essentially larger quantities.

Holm went back home to work on new samples with all-new designs and altered finishes for Lane. Both, Lane and Holm, agreed that it would be unwise to sell the pipes under Preben Holm’s name as long as Snug Harbour had a considerable stock of Preben Holm pipes and might sell them pipes at very low prices just to bring in some money.

So on Mr. Lane’s proposal it was determined to use the name Ben Wade belonging to Lane Ltd. Lane spent considerable amounts of money for advertising the new brand in the big magazines– the centerpiece being whole-page ads showing a very exclusive Seven Day’s Set.

The cooperation with Lane Ltd. proved to be an eminent business success for both partners. Within a very short time Ben Wade Handmade Denmark sold in much larger quantities and at higher prices than they had ever dreamed of. And the hype these freehands and fancy pipes caused went on unbroken long after Herman G. Lane deceased. Preben Holm – obviously much more brilliant in pipe making than in pipe business – was in major troubles again in 1986 and had to sack most of his staff. The Ben Wade production was significantly lowered but continued until his untimely death in June of 1989.

Up to now Preben Holm made Ben Wade pipes are cult and highly sought for on the estate markets.

With that information my initial thoughts were confirmed. This pipe was a Preben Holm made Freehand distributed in the US by Lane Ltd under his own name. The freehand rage occurred in the late 70s and the pipes were made until Preben’s death in 1989. My guess would be that this pipe was made sometime during that time period and potentially in the late 70s.

Jeff had cleaned up the pipe following his normal cleaning process. In short, he reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer to strip out the cake in the bowl and then cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a tooth brush. He worked over the lava and debris on the plateau rim top and shank end and was able to remove it. He rinsed it under running warm water to remove the soap and grime. He cleaned out the inside of the shank and the airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the stem with Soft Scrub and cotton pads to remove the debris and oils on the stem. He soaked it in Briarville’s Pipe Stem Deoxidizer and then rinsed it with warm water and dried it off. I took photos of the pipe once I received it. It really looked good. I took close up photos of the stem and the rim top to show both how clean they were and what needed to be addresses with both. The rim top and bowl look good. The stem looked better and the tooth marks and chatter were still present. I would need to remove those to bring the stem back.I took a photo of the stamping on the left side of the shank. You can see from the photo that it is readable. It is clearer on the top half of the stamp than the lower but it is still readable.I removed the stem from the bowl and took a photo of the parts to give a sense of the beauty of the pipe.I decided to start my work on the pipe by addressing the hairline crack on the heel of the bowl. I  examined the inside of the bowl with a light to see if the crack had come through. I had not gone through at all. I looked at the heel of the bowl and saw that it truly was a hairline surface crack probably made by dropping the pipe. I drilled small pilot holes on each end of the crack to stop it from spreading. I cleaned out the crack with alcohol to remove any dust. I filled in the holes and the crack with clear super glue and briar dust. When the repair cured I sanded it smooth with 220 grit sandpaper to blend it into the surrounding briar. I used a folded piece 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the inner bevel of the bowl and the grooves flowing out of the bowl toward the outer edges.I polished the smooth briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped down the briar after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the dust and debris from the surface. The briar began to take on a shine. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my finger tips and a horse hair shoe brush to get into the crevices of the plateau rim top and shank end. The product is incredible and the way it brings the grain to the fore is unique. It works to clean, protect and invigorate the wood. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I “painted” the surface of the stem with the flame of a Bic lighter to try and lift the tooth marks. I filled in the remaining marks with clear super glue. Once the repairs cured I sanded them smooth with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the briar. I started the polishing of the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I touched up the faint stamp on the top of the stem with Rub’n Buff Antique Gold. I rubbed the product into the faint stamping and buffed it off with a soft cloth. While not perfect it was very visible and distinguishable.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it 1500-12000 pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each pad to enliven and protect the vulcanite. I polished it with Before After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave the stem another rub down with Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I am really happy with the way that this Preben Holm Crown Hand Made Danish Freehand turned out. It really is a beautiful looking pipe with a great shape and smooth finished bowl and rim and the remnant of plateau on the shank end. The hairline crack repair went very well and it is virtually invisible. The fancy original vulcanite saddle stem is really nice. The polished black of the stem works well with the briar. The briar really came alive with the buffing. The rich brown stains of the finish gave the pipe a sense of depth with the polishing and waxing. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Preben Holm Crown Hand Made really is a beauty and feels great in the hand and looks very good. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 7 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 ½ inches long x 2 inches wide, Chamber diameter: 1 inch. The weight of the pipe is 86 grams/3.03 oz. The pipe will be going on the rebornpipes store soon. It will be in the section on Danish Pipe Makers if you would like to add it to your collection. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. It was a fun one to work on!

Restoring a Large Preben Holm Regal Freehand Sitter


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the table came to us from a recent pipe hunt Jeff and his wife Sherry did in Utah. They picked this beauty up at an Antique Mall along the way of the hunt. Even though the finish was dull and lifeless it showed promise under the grit and grime of the years. On the underside of the shank it was clearly stamped Ben Wade in script [over] Martinique [over] Hand Made [over] In [over] Denmark. The finish is filthy with grime and oil ground into the smooth briar of the bowl and shank sides. There were flecks of white paint on the sides as well. The bowl had a thick cake that overflowed in lava on the plateau rim top filling in the grooves and valleys of the finish. The acrylic stem was dirty and had some tooth marks and chatter on both sides ahead of the button. Jeff took some photos of the pipe to show its overall condition before he started his cleanup work.He took photos of the rim top and bowl to give a clear picture of the thickness of the cake and the lava on the plateau finish of the rim top. There is dust and debris stuck to the walls of the bowl clearly visible in the photos. He also took photos of the top and underside of the stem to show the chatter and tooth marks.   Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to give a picture of what the briar around the pipe looked like. There is some stunning grain under the grime.    He took photos of the stamping on the shank. It reads as noted above and is clear and readable. I turned Pipephil’s section on Preben Holm pipes and found the brand listed there with and an example of the stamping on the underside of the shank and the stem. The stamping matches the one that I am working on (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-p5.html). It is like the stamping and logo that is shown in the second pipe below.I turned to the article on Preben Holm pipes on Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Holm,_Preben). The article is worth a read in the detailed history of the brand written by Preben Holm himself. Give it a read. I quote the introductory portion of the article that summarizes the Danish period of the history of the brand:

Preben Holm (1947 – 1989) has set some marks in pipe history. Just before his 16th birthday in 1963 he sold pipes to the legendary Pipe-Dan shop and at the age of only 22 he headed 45 employees. He was among the first Danish artisans who made “Danish pipe design” famous in the USA in the 1960’s. More than that he was one of the very first carvers who exceeded this moderate Danish design which based on the classical shapes. “Chasing the grain” they turned out wild and dramatic fancy pipes. Combining smooth with blasted surfaces, showing big areas of the original bark at the top of the bowl and at the end of the stem, these pipes were quite shocking to many elder and more conservative pipesmokers.

With that information my initial thoughts were confirmed. This pipe was a Preben Holm made Freehand distributed in the US by Lane Ltd. The freehand rage occurred in the late 70s and the pipes were made until Preben’s death in 1989. My guess would be that this pipe was made sometime during that time period and potentially in the late 70s.

Jeff had cleaned up the pipe with his usual penchant for thoroughness. He reamed the pipe with a PipNet Pipe Reamer and cleaned up the remnants with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife.  He scrubbed the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a tooth brush. He rinsed it under running warm water to remove the soap and grime. He cleaned out the inside of the shank and the airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the stem with Soft Scrub and cotton pads to remove the debris and oils on the stem. He rinsed it with warm water and dried it off. I took photos of the pipe once I received it.    The rim top had some darkening on the back of the bowl. The beveled inner edge of the rim looked very good with some darkening. The stem surface looked very good with a few small tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It read clearly as noted above.  I removed the stem and took a photo of the pipe to give a sense of the whole. The stem is turned fancy acrylic. I started my work on the pipe by cleaning up the darkening on the inner bevel of the plateau rim top with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I was able to remove the darkening and I like the looks of the rim top.  I polished the bowl and the rim top, sides and shank with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping it down after each pad with a damp cloth.    I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips and into the plateau rim top and shank end with a horsehair shoe brush. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for 10 minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. I set the bowl aside and turned to work on the stem. I filled in the deep tooth marks on both sides of the stem with clear super glue. Once the repairs cured I sanded the repairs to blend them into the surface of the acrylic with 220 grit sandpaper and started the polishing of the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.     I polished the vulcanite stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem.      This Preben Holm Regal Hand Made Freehand Sitter with a fancy, turned acrylic stem is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Preben Holm Regal Freehand fits nicely in the hand and feels great. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 ¾ inches, Height: 2 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 inches, Chamber diameter: 1 inch. If you are interested in adding this pipe to your collection send me a message or an email. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!

My First Ever Tenon Replacement and it’s on a Preben Holm # 7 Freehand Pickaxe Pipe!!


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

The first ever Preben Holm in my collection was from eBay about two years back. It came to me with a broken stem and the tenon stuck in to the mortise. This pipe received a new lease on life in the month of May last year when Steve, Jeff and Dal Stanton visited me here in India. I learned the process of tenon replacement along with many other tips and processes in pipe restoration. Here is the link to the informative write up by Steve on this pipe; (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/05/14/restoring-a-preben-holm-hand-cut-sandblast-freehand-in-pune-india/).

The second Preben Holm in my collection came from my Mumbai Bonanza, which I really enjoyed working on; (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/08/12/refurbishing-a-tired-preben-holm-1-from-the-mumbai-bonanza-lot/).

The next two Preben Holm pipes came to me from a seller on eBay. Both these pipes had some serious stem issues which really kept other buyers away from placing their bids and lucky me, I got both these pipes for a really good price. Even though both pipes came to me together, I shall be working on them separately since they each have a different set of issues involved.

The first of these two PH pipes was restored a couple of weeks ago and it really turned out to be a gorgeous pipe. Here is the link to the write up that has been posted on rebornpipes.com (https://rebornpipes.com/2020/03/10/refurbishing-a-preben-holm-3-freehand-pipe/).

The second PH currently on my work table, is a beautiful pickaxe freehand with beautiful flame grain all around the stummel and shank and birdseye at the foot of the stummel. The rim top has remnants of plateau along the front left side and extending to the right up to half the length of the rim top. The shank end is sleek and smooth with a slight flare at the shank end, a complete contrast to the earlier PH I had worked on that had a large flare at the shank end. Here are the pictures of the pipe as it sits on my work table. The pipe is stamped on the bottom of the flared shank end as “PREBEN HOLM” in block capital letters over “Hand Cut” in a cursive artistic hand over “COPENHAGEN” over “DENMARK”, all in block capitals. The left side of the shank bears the encircled numeral “7”. All the stampings are crisp and easily readable. The fancy vulcanite stem is devoid of any stampings.There is a lot of interesting information on the carver, Preben Holm, on pipedia.org (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Holm,_Preben) which makes for an interesting read. However, there was no information or guidelines to help understand the grading and dating of these pipes from the carver. In my previous write ups on Preben Holm pipes, I had sought input on these specific aspects and was honored by studied information from esteemed readers of rebornpipes. Here is some of the information that was shared by the readers;

Roland Borchers March 10, 2020 at 8:21 am

Hi Paresh,

What a wonderful pipe and a great job (again) on the restoration. The PH pipes were 1968-1970 graded from 1 (lowest) to 8 (unicorn) .
This page from smokingpipes.com might be of interest, but there is more to be found on the www.
https://www.smokingpipes.com/pipes/estate/denmark/moreinfo.cfm?product_id=136933

So a 3 is not bad at all…

Best wishes,

Roland

I followed the link forwarded by Mr. Roland Borchers and reproduce the information gleaned;

“Now that my pulse has returned to (vaguely) normal. Preben Holm pipes which bear a single grading number in a circle, represent Holm’s earliest ‘Hand Cuts’, a period that most estimate between 1968 and 1970. Prior to handling this amazing jewel, the highest grade that I had encountered was a ‘5’. Once (just once) I saw a smoked ‘7’ offered across the pond for a price that could feed a decent sized village for a month (mild exaggeration, but you get the idea). Here we have a ‘6’, featuring both the conservancy of shape that one would expect from the earliest days, as well as a grain worthy of such a lofty grade designation. Forty (plus) years young, utterly unsmoked and it comes with both the original presentation box and sleeve. For Pete’s sake, don’t let this one get away”.

–R. ‘Bear’ Graves

borman August 15, 2019 at 5:44 pm

Not sure how correct I am but… pipes 1-4 as such are lower to higher quality rating as A-E is low to high. The bone extensions that I have had and others I have seen appear to be from the 60’s. Hope I am not far off and also I hope it helps you.

Thus from the above information, it’s evident that this beautiful Preben Holm pipe in my hand is a very rare # 7, top grade and very expensive pipe from 1960s…

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The first and foremost issue that I noticed and was aware of from the description given by the seller is that of the broken tenon. Most of the readers must be wondering as to the rational of buying a pipe, even a Preben Holm, with a broken tenon and it’s a logical question. However, there are two main reasons why I went in for this purchase; firstly my friend and guru, Steve had demonstrated how to replace a broken tenon and I was keen to try my hand at it and secondly was the economic consideration!! Pray tell me if it is possible to get a grade 7 early hand-cut Preben Holm from the 1960s at USD $65, including shipping!! Never, I say. Below are the pictures of the broken tenon stuck in to the mortise. This is going to be a challenging repair being my first tenon replacement.The chamber has a very thin layer of dry and hard cake with the slightly outward flared inner rim edge showing darkening in the 6 o’clock direction. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber can be checked and ascertained only after the cake has been taken down to the bare briar. However, I do not envisage any damage to the chamber walls. There is negligible lava overflow and debris embedded in the plateau of the rim top surface. It is my guess that this pipe suffered said catastrophic damage very early in its existence and had since been languishing in a box with the previous piper before he decided to get rid of it. The stummel boasts of beautiful straight grain all around and extends over the shank surface too!! The surface is relatively clean and without any fills save for a few very minor scratches that could have been caused during routine use. The slightly flared smooth end of the shank is clean. The foot of the stummel shows beautiful bird’s eye grains and is sans any damage. Overall, the stummel presents a sparingly used and a well-cared for pipe. The mortise has the broken tenon stuck in to it. However, given the condition of the chamber and the overall pristine appearance of the stummel, I think the mortise should be clean too!!

The fancy vulcanite stem shows traces of oxidation and is otherwise sans any major damage. The horizontal slot end of the stem is heavily oxidized to a dark brown coloration. The broken tenon end is jagged and sharp at the place where the tenon has snapped. The fancy stem, though it looks beautiful when black and shiny, is a bear to clean with all the dips and narrow gaps between the beads and rings etc.THE PROCESS
I began the process of refurbishing this pipe with cleaning the internals of the stem using pipe cleaners with isopropyl alcohol (99.9% pure) and dunking 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. I usually dunk stems of 5-7 pipes that are in-line for restoration and this pipe is marked in green arrow. I generally allow the stems to soak in this solution overnight for the solution to do its work.With the stem soaking in the deoxidizer solution, I worked the stummel starting with reaming the chamber with my fabricated knife as the layer of cake was too thin and did not warrant the use of a reamer. It was at this stage that I realized that the pipe has been so sparingly smoked that what I was assuming to be a layer of cake, is in fact a layer of bowl coating!! The walls of the chamber are smooth and solid. I tried to wriggle out the broken tenon that was stuck in to the mortise. Lucky me, it came out without any resistance!! That’s a big relief. Next, I cleaned the mortise with hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I scrubbed the external surface of the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s oil soap and hard bristled tooth brush and dried it using paper towels and soft cotton cloth. I carefully cleaned the plateau rim top with a soft brass wire brush to remove the accumulated dirt and debris from the surface. Thereafter, I cleaned the mortise, plateau rim top and stummel surface with anti-oil dish washing soap on shank brush and tooth brush. The entire stummel, including the platue rim top, cleaned up nicely. I set the stummel aside to dry out naturally. Staying with the stummel restoration, I polished the stummel with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 pads. This time around, I did not repeat the mistake of polishing the plateau rim top as I had done with the PH # 3 earlier! I wiped the surface with a soft cloth at the end of the micromesh cycle. The stummel looks amazing with a deep shine and beautiful straight grains popping over the stummel surface. I rubbed a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to briar. I rubbed this balm deep in to the nooks and crannies of the plateau rim top surface with my fingers and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance with the dark brown hues of the grain contrasting with the rest of the stummel surface. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. As mentioned in the previous write up on refurbishing of pipe PH # 3, I had worked on all the stems that had been soaking in the deoxidizer solution overnight. I fished out all the stems and cleaned them under running warm water and scrubbed the raised oxidation from the stem surface using Scotch Brite pad. I further removed the oxidation by scrubbing the stems with 0000 grade steel wool and applied a little olive oil to rehydrate the stems and set them aside for the oil to be absorbed. Complete oxidation was removed on this stem by the process described above. Unfortunately, I did not click any pictures of these stems at this stage.

With this, I have now reached the most critical and challenging part of this restoration; replacing the broken tenon. While Steve, Dal and Jeff were here in India, Steve had replaced a tenon on a Preben Holm which had come to me with a broken tenon. I had minutely observed the procedure, made detailed notes and read the relevant blogs that Steve has written on rebornpipes.com.

The process starts with sanding the broken tenon end of the stem till a smooth and even stem face is available for the new tenon. This step also reveals and opens up the stem airway for drilling to accommodate the new tenon. I did this by topping the tenon end of the stem face on a piece of 220 grit sandpaper till smooth.Next, I selected a Delrin tenon that was the closest fit in to the mortise. I mounted a sanding drum on to my hand held rotary tool and setting the speed at its lowest, I shaped the tenon to a perfect fit in to the mortise. I was very slow, deliberate and frequently checked the progress being made. Once I had achieved a snug fit, I kept the tenon aside and worked the stem.The one and most important aspect that has to be kept in mind while replacing a tenon is to keep the new tenon and stem airway straight and aligned. To ensure this, with a sharp knife I gave a slight inward bevel to the stem’s airway opening which will serve as a guide to the drill bit when drilling. I use the length of the end of the tenon to determine the depth of the drilling. I marked off this length with a rubber band wound tightly on each and every drill bit that I used. I started the drilling with a bit that was slightly larger than the existing airway. I proceed through a series of bits starting with a 3 mm bit until I had drilled the airway with the final bit of 5.5 mm, the same size as the end of the replacement tenon that I had shaped earlier. I proceed with caution as I wanted to make sure that I kept the airway straight for a good fit of the new tenon.I used a file to knock off the threads on the tenon end just enough to pressure fit it in place in the stem. I carefully checked the alignment to make sure the tenon was straight on the stem before setting it aside to cure. I subjected the stem with the replaced tenon to the pipe cleaner test. The pipe cleaner passed through the air way smoothly and without any obstruction. Once satisfied that the alignment is perfect, I put some super glue on the tenon end and pressed it into the airway and set it aside to cure. I am very pleased with my first attempt at a tenon replacement. I further sand the stem with 600 and 800 grit sand paper and wiped the stem with cotton pad dipped in alcohol to remove the resultant dust and rubbed some extra virgin olive oil in to the stem and set it aside to be absorbed in to stem. I polished the stem with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 grit pads. I rubbed a little extra virgin olive oil in to the stem at the end of the micromesh pads polishing cycle. I completed the polishing regime of the stem by rubbing a small quantity of Extra Fine Stem polish developed by my friend Mark Hoover, and giving it a final polish with a soft cotton cloth. The stem is now nice, smooth and shiny.To apply the finishing touches, I first mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool and apply a coat of Blue Diamond to the stummel and the stem to polish out the minor scratches.With a cotton buffing wheel that I use for carnauba wax, I apply a coat of carnauba wax to the stummel and stem and continue to work on it till the complete coat of wax has been polished out. I mount a clean cotton cloth buffing wheel and give the entire pipe a once over buff. I finish the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine further. The finished pipe is shown below. P.S. – First things first; tenon replacement, now that I have personally worked on it, is definitely not a very difficult procedure. All it takes is a lot of patience and I strongly recommend that before attempting it, one should go through as many write ups on tenon replacement as possible. Steve has some nice, simple and informative step by step write ups on this procedure which is strongly recommended.

I am really fortunate to be in the process of learning the nuances of pipe restoration and cannot thank Steve enough for his support and guidance.

I wish to thank Mr. Roland Borchers and Mr. Borman who have explained the numbering system followed on Preben Holm pipes and also on dating these pipes for the larger good of our fraternity.

Thanks for your patience and looking forward to inputs about the write up. Cheers…

 

My Preben Holm Story


Blog by Joe Gibson

August has been a good month for rescuing pipes from various antique shops in Mississippi. Earlier this month, I bought a Peterson Kapp-Royal and a Søren Refburg Rasmussen freehand from an antique mall in Picayune, Mississippi.

This past weekend, we visited the antique shops/flea markets in the Meridian, Mississippi area and after not seeing any pipe or tobacco related items (except for 4 brass spittoons), we walked into the last shop on our list. To be honest, we almost didn’t go into Penny’s Little Flea Market. None of the previous shops had air conditioning and were hot. What convinced us to go into Penny’s was the big sign, “Air Conditioned.”

Talk about a lucky sign! The first thing my wife saw was a display case on the counter containing pipes. I could tell before the case was open that these were not the usual suspects – Kaywoodie, Dr. Grabow, Medico pipes. The first three I picked up were a Preben Holm and two Ben Wade freehands. The case also held three pre-1965 Charatan’s Make and four Savinelli’s.

The Preben Holm caught my heart though.

Preben Holm carved and sold his first pipe before he turned 16. By the time he was 22 years old, he had his own shop and employed 45 employees. He is widely considered one of the godfathers of the Danish freehand design. For those wanting more information check out the about Holm on https://pipedia.org/wiki/Holm,_Preben.

Interestingly, Holm also produced the Danish Era Ben Wade pipes. Holm signed on with Herman Lane of Lane, Ltd. in 1971 after his previous distributor could not pay him. That dates the Preben Holm Delight as either pre-1971 or after 1980 according to my research. Since his prior distributor still had a stock of “Preben Holm” pipes, Lane decided to market the pipes under the Ben Wade name. My understanding is that once the old distributor depleted his stock, Holm and Lane reinstated the Preben Holm name on the pipes.

Despite the outside of the bowl being dark and grimy, there was relatively little cake in the pipe when I bought it. The stem was moderately oxidized but hadn’t turned dark orange yet. When I sniffed the bowl, it smelled like old tobacco but didn’t have that funky smell I normally find in pipes at flea markets.

The Cleaning Process

My first cleaning step on this pipe was to scrub it down with a Magic Eraser and undiluted Murphy’s Oil to remove as much of the dirt and grim as I could. I followed that with scrubbing the bowl with isopropyl alcohol and a Scotch Brite pad. It was then packed with cotton balls and saturated with isopropyl alcohol for an overnight soak.

The next morning, I put the stem to soak in an Oxyclean solution to soften the oxidation. After dumping the cotton ball and alcohol, I went to work on the outside of the pipe again. I really wanted to lighten up the smooth portions of the bowl to increase the contrast between smooth and rustication. I started wet sanding with 320 or 400 grit sand paper dipped in the alcohol. After rinsing, I wet sanded with 600 grit until I was happy with the results.

After cleaning the outside of the pipe with isopropyl alcohol and Murphy’s Oil, I sanded the smooth portions with 400 and 600 grit sandpaper.Following the 400 & 600 grit sandings, I used alcohol wipes to remove the dust residue.Next, I move to finishing sandpaper starting with 1000 grit. It removes any residue the alcohol wipe left and starts polishing the pipe. I use 2K, 4K, 8K grits next.I finish this process with 12K grit sandpaper. It requires time and patience, but the result is a nice, glossy shine before applying wax.The same technique is used on the rim. The top of the bowl looks out of round but it was apparently carved like that.I’m a big fan of using finishing sand paper and micro-mesh sanding pads to bring out the grain and shine on pipes. I have been told that I overdo it, but I like my results. I start with 1,000 grit sand paper and move up the scale – 2,000 grit, 4,000 grit, 8,000 grit and finally 12,000. Between each step, I use an alcohol wipe to remove and residue. The end result is always a very smooth feel to the pipe and a glossy shine.  The pipe gets a second overnight alcohol soak after that.

For some reason, the stem was almost more challenging to clean than the pipe. Using micro-mesh pads and a lot of elbow grease usually give me a nice black, semi-glossy stem. This stem didn’t want to cooperate. The micro-mesh removed all of the surface oxidation and looking at it under room lighting, it looked good. When I looked at the stem under sunlight though I could still see discoloration, especially around the curved parts of the stem.

Red Tripoli applied with my buffer reduced the discoloration, but it took over an hour of buffing to remove the last vestiges of the oxidation. A light application of carnauba to the stem and bowl had both gleaming and ready to smoke. 

Next in line – A Ben Wade Golden Walnut Hand Made


Blog by Steve Laug

As I have 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 them and brought them to Canada with me. There was a Soren Hand Carved, a Granhill Signature, a Ben Wade Golden Walnut, a Veeja 900 C6 and a Viggo Nielsen Hand Finished. All were hand crafted and had interesting shapes and finishes. Some had full plateau rim tops, some partial plateau rim. Tonight I started working on them. The next pipe I chose was a Ben Wade Golden Walnut Freehand. My brother had done the entire cleanup – reaming, scrubbing the exterior and cleaning the mortise and the airway in the shank and stem. That left me the finishing work on it. The bowl has a smooth finish with some plateau on the rim top and shank end. The pipe is a sitter. The shank flares toward the stem that is not the original but similar. The finish on the pipe was in excellent condition. The vulcanite stem had tooth chatter on the top and bottom at the button. Jeff had cleaned the rim top and removed the debris in the plateau. He had scrubbed the exterior with Murphy’s Oil soap and removed 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 a photo of the underside of the shank to show the stamping there. It read Ben Wade over Golden Walnut. Under that was stamped Hand Made in Denmark. I refreshed my memory of the history of Ben Wade pipes. I remembered some, but had forgotten much. I looked on Pipedia to refresh myself. Here is the link, https://pipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Wade. I summarize in part below.

Young Copenhagen master pipemaker Preben Holm had made a meteoric career heading a pipe manufacture employing 45 people at the age of 22! But around the turn of 1970/71 he was in major financial difficulties. His US distributor, Snug Harbour Ltd. in New York City, left him in the lurch. Holm had three unpaid invoices on his desk and another large shipment was ready for the USA, when Snug Harbour’s manager told him on the phone that there was no money at all on the account to pay him.

So the Dane went to New York for an almost desperate search for a new distribution partner. He made contacts with Lane Ltd. and met Herman G. Lane in February 1971. Lane Ltd. had no interest in Holm’s serial pipes produced at that time but so much the more in the hand-carved freehands because the hype for Danish freehands and fancies in the States was still on it’s way to the climax then. The meeting resulted in an agreement to start a cooperation. Lane insisted to improve the quality considerably and in return he assured to be able to sell essentially larger quantities.

Holm went back home to work on new samples with all-new designs and altered finishes for Lane. Both, Lane and Holm, agreed that it would be unwise to sell the pipes under Preben Holm’s name as long as Snug Harbour had a considerable stock of Preben Holm pipes and might sell them pipes at very low prices just to bring in some money. So on Mr. Lane’s proposal it was determined to use the name Ben Wade belonging to Lane Ltd. Lane spend considerable amounts of money for advertising the new brand in the big magazines– the centerpiece being whole-page ads showing a very exclusive Seven Day’s Set.

The cooperation with Lane Ltd. proved to be an eminent business success for both partners. Within a very short time Ben Wade Handmade Denmark sold in much larger quantities and at higher prices than they had ever dreamed of. And the hype these freehands and fancy pipes caused went on unbroken long after Herman G. Lane deceased. Preben Holm – obviously much more brilliant in pipe making than in pipe business – was in major troubles again in 1986 and had to sack most of his staff. The Ben Wade production was significantly lowered but continued until his untimely death in June of 1989.

From that I knew that the pipe in my hands came from the period between 1971 and Preben Holm’s death in 1989. It bears the Ben Wade stamp which also says that it was made for the American pipe market under the direction of Herman Lane of Lane Ltd. 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. 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 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 black and brown contrast finish work very well with the black vulcante stem. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I have worked on quite a few Ben Wade pipes over the years and several of them have been Golden Walnut pipes. Preben Holm was an amazing innovator in terms of shapes, flow and finishes on his pipes. The dimensions are Length: 6 1/2 inches, Height: 2 1/2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 inches wide and 2 1/4 inches long, Chamber diameter: 7/8 inches. This one is already sold to a fellow in Kentucky who collects Ben Wade 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 Ben Wade Golden Danish Freehand. I have other Freehands that I will be working on in a variety of shapes and sizes in upcoming blogs.  

Chasing the Grain and Restoring a Ben Wade by Preben Holm, Part 2


Blog by Robert M. Boughton
With special thanks for the contributions of Lon “Pipe Lon” Schwartz
Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the Author except as cited

His hands are miracles.  I can watch them for hours, transforming wood into something it never dreamed of being. *
— Katja Millay, in The Sea of Tranquility (2012)

INTRODUCTION

Happenstance often plays a major part in major historical, cultural and business changes.  A 25-year-old American named Lon Schwartz, who owned a shop called Pipe Lon on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, was in Copenhagen, Denmark pursuing a rather nebulous search for “distinctive” pipes.  Coming upon a certain provision store, Lon went inside and saw 18 pipes fashioned in the newly exploding freehand style.  The young pipe entrepreneur, who now lives in Florida and still puffs on cigars, knew at once that he wanted all of them and more.  Lon’s warm and generous insights made this blog possible.

“I never saw anything like them,” Lon told me.  “I was in the right place at the right time.”

More accurately, as Preben Holm, who had carved the pipes and was 18 at the time and off performing his mandatory military service, which lasts from four to 12 months, Lon was in the right place at almost the right time.  Upon the awaited arrival, Lon met the teenage pipe crafter and was so impressed with the youthful artisan’s work that he repeated his offer to buy all 18 pipes in stock and added that he would like as many more as Holm could produce.  Persistence and determination to make the deal inspired the independent pipe distributor during that frigid winter to visit the Danish capital three times, staying in a small, uncomfortable room when he wasn’t prowling the city for pipes.  One of Copenhagen’s stronger beers helped Lon sleep.

“One or two Carlsberg Elephant Beers, and you’d be out,” Lon said, remembering the 12% ABV content.  Apparently, the alcohol level has been reduced to 7.2% in the intervening 53 years.

Popular with tourists from around the U.S. and elsewhere, St. Thomas was an outstanding starting point for the sale of such unusual pipes exclusively by Pipe Lon, the shop’s name from its beginning in the early 1960s until Lon’s retirement in 1986.

“I sold millions of pipes and had the largest open display of pipes in the world, about 300 feet of them,” Lon said.  Now, for those who are not sports-oriented, that’s the length of a football field, or a 100-yard dash in track and field.

“I had the Virgin Islands rights to all of the brands that were big in the U.S. and Europe,” Lon added.  “They included English makers like Charatan, Barling, GBD and Comoy; some French brands, and Danish names such as Criswell and Stanwell.”

Lon pointed out that most people still don’t know where the U.S. Virgin Islands are, and I will hazard a guess that the same folks would not imagine any one of the three main islands – St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas – and about 15 minor islands is big enough to hold a football stadium.

Lon’s chance encounter brought about the ensuing wild success of freehand pipes, by Holm and others, in the U.S.  One word I came across in several sources described the resulting introduction to the U.S. market as hype, which translates in the best sense to hoopla, a term I’m sure Holm would have embraced.

Holm wrote of the experience: “I could simply not have had any better starting point, because the taste changes quite a lot from one place in the U.S.A. to another, but here came, as mentioned, pipe-smokers from all the States.  It was wonderful to feel how something one enjoyed making really was accepted.”

That was a tremendous understatement.  By the 1970s, every major Danish pipe maker and more were engaged in business in the U.S. and many on an international basis.

If anyone deserves the esteemed if a tad cliché designation of late great artist, as I have called him before in this forum, it is Holm (1947-1989).  Then again, the best clichés are truths propagated across generations within cultures.  Holm dedicated almost the entirety of his all too brief 42 years to the practice and innovation of pipe craftsmanship, his most outstanding accomplishment.  His vocation pushed those wild vertical and horizontal lines as far as he could during the short time he spent in this dimension; his legacy is the part he played in advancing the style that was called “Unfinished” by Sixten Ivarsson and other names by different early artists.  Now this wonder of woodwork and engineering is known throughout the pipe world as the Danish freehand.

Poul Winslow, another master freehand carver, cut his teeth in pipe making starting when he was 16 and began training under Holm.  Winslow had this to say about his early mentor:  “Preben was a genius.  Maybe a bit wild, always flying from idea to idea and impatient for results.  But could he turn a pipe!  Some of the most extreme freehands came out of our workshop in the ’70s, and whatever his critics say, they sold like crazy, mostly in America.  And when it came to finishing, he was the best in the business.”Many old-schoolers throughout the pipe world, in Denmark and everywhere else, considered the “crazy” shapes offensive.  “They thought these wild new pipes were funny, or stupid,” Lon said.  “It took some time to realize their potential, artistically and financially.”

Maybe if I had been a codger in the 1960s I would have agreed, but as a child then I had already learned to deal with stranger things: Flower Children in their VW Love Vans, Hasbro’s Twister and the Slinky, for example (which was, in fact, introduced in 1945).  Later, as a young man, I added news of the soiled clothes saved by a certain White House intern to the list.

A series of autobiographical articles by Holm, written from 1983-1984, was published later online and in The Pipe Smoker’s Ephemeris magazine (TPSE).   The first article concerns Holm’s earlier years and offers fascinating details of the young boy’s immersion into his father’s large provision shop in Copenhagen, the capitol of Denmark and one of the world’s cultural hubs.  Then there are the blank spots, like spaces in the New York Times daily crossword, that can tell still more about the man   Some can be penciled in with tentative answers to erase and correct from clues provided later in the disjointed narrative; others are enigmatic, parts of tight knots jumbled in Down and Across clusters of cross-questions within questions.

Tom Dunn’s founding of The Universal Coterie of Pipe Smokers (T.U.C.O.P.S.) in 1964, at the time a rag-tag group of pipers held together by Dunn’s untiring work in his Queens, New York apartment, led in short order to TPSE.  As becomes the fate of many pipers, Dunn’s life was plagued by avid collections of books and pipes.  As many, but not all, of the books no doubt concerned pipes, the dual diagnosis would seem to be Book and Pipe Acquisition Disorder (BPAD) and its fraternal twin, Pipe Book Acquisition Disorder (PBAD), or just BPBAD.  Hardbound editions of every TPSE issue from the magazine’s inception in 1964 as an irregular quarterly through 2004 were published by T.U.C.O.P.S./TPSE.  Book Two [1994, pp 670-673] contains the article relied upon most for this part of the essay and was cited by Pipedia in its re-print of the text that I found.

Mindful that, as an autobiographical work, the series called “The Story of My Firm” is written from Holm’s perspective, I took his suggestion that he was behind the transition of old Danish designs into the revolutionary freehand technique with a reporter’s mandatory skepticism, no matter how much I would like to believe.  Here is the passage I didn’t wish to question but had to do so, describing Holm’s life when he was 18 or 19 – in the late-1960s.

“One day while making the rather traditional hand-carved pipes as we had to in order to come by some money, I took a fancy to make something completely untraditional at that time.  From the very beginning I had only worked with the finest Bruyere that could be provided, and on the whole it all had very pretty grain patterns, and that gave me the idea to try something novel.  Contrary to what was done so far I started to form some of the pipes according to the grain pattern, and out of this I got some quite particular models…I began also to let the raw bark-top be part of the design.” 

Considerable research now under the bridge, I found numerous sites suggesting earlier origins of the style, but they were all vague and inconclusive.  Lon confirmed my suspicion that Holm, despite his great achievements as a carver, was not the father of the freehand.

“There were people playing around with new shapes and using the bark in the 1940s and ’50s, before it really got going in the ’60s” Lon said.  Sixten Ivarsson (1910-2001), “the grand old man of Danish pipe making, was just one of these chasers, but many cite him as the rightful patriarch of the now large family.  The truth may never be known, but Ivarsson started repairing pipes after the end of World War II and was soon asked to make them.  The results that at first followed the classic English shapes evolved into variations that were sleeker and curvier, and eventually freeform.

CHILDHOOD’S COST

Holm’s account of his childhood working in his father’s provision shop is conflicted, to say the least, and offers no truly personal insights into the man whatsoever.  As an adult, the son gives alternate descriptions of his father as “somewhat mean” and “altogether a very wise man.”  There are other signs that the boy might have been confused by what he saw as contradictory strictures of his father’s.  For example, Holm’s father forbade the smoking of cigarettes but was not opposed when the boy took to pipes around the age of 13-14.  And in at least the first installment of the series of articles he later wrote, there is the absence of a single mention of the elder Holm’s given name or having a mother much less any other family.  Lon filled in some of the family gaps as well.

“Preben’s mother sewed the pipe pouches, and he had a brother he didn’t talk about,” Lon said.  Holm also had a wife, still alive in Denmark, from whom he was divorced.  “We were very close also.  She came to the Virgin Islands with him.  He was a very odd person, a bit disturbed, and he let all of it out in his pipe making.”

Any concrete conclusions from these signs, however tempting to wade into, I will leave to psychologists.  Furthermore, the overall nature of his youth, other than being a bit precocious with adult duties and interests, may have been more a product of his generation and culture than an outright unpleasant upbringing.

At any rate, the store had three departments – wine; magazines, cigarettes and other convenience items, and the part of the shop that in a short time drew young Preben into its irresistible mysteries, the pipe and tobacco department.  Best of all, the tobacco shop included a small repair service area that Preben soon took over.

Holm’s prodigious start and rapid rise in his father’s family business

Starting as an errand boy when he was 12-13, Holm possessed a pragmatic maturity which led him to the early conclusion that his wage was “a sixth of what I could earn somewhere else, but [continuing with my father], I think, was very sound.”  That young Preben already was considering his advancement options seems clear.  Even as a youngster, Holm saved the tips he made running about town, depositing them in the bank and using his meager wages to purchase fine tobacco that was much more expensive than the lesser Danish blends at the time available at his father’s shop and most other places.  Although at first his father thought this practice “crazy,” so charismatic and business-like was his son, and one can only imagine just as persuasive the samples of superior tobacco mixes provided to the elder Holm by the boy, that the master of the shop was won over and began offering a wide selection of foreign pipe tobacco.  Most of the higher quality blends were English, meaning made in England.

Even before he was put in charge of pipe and tobacco purchases when he was only 14, Holm writes, he had a large role and the adult demeanor to fill it.  “Most likely I was not always popular with the sellers of pipes who considered me too critical, but I thought that necessary in order to live up to the confidence our customers of pipes gradually placed in me.”

In most cultures, the notion of a child manufacturing tobacco pipes would be frowned upon.  Not so in Denmark, where a cursory survey of the Who’s Who of that craft reveals many such examples.  At the age of 15 in Holm’s case, his obsession with pipes had grown so overwhelming that he became fascinated with “an elderly gentleman, who himself made hand-carved pipes.”  The unidentified man visited the shop to sell them and ended up offering to help young Preben obtain the machines he would need.  Holm’s hard-earned savings of 1,400 kroners (USD231.00 today) proved to be enough, again with the guidance of the gentleman, who also supplied other tools.  [I can’t find a handy inflation calculator for Denmark prior to 1981.  Perhaps someone could give me an educated conversion for kroners to kroners starting earlier.] 

 With the equipment installed in a Spartan 13.5 square foot room in the basement, Holm began experimenting late into the nights – after the demanding work of his day job.  But the daily practice paid off, and just short of his 16th birthday, Holm handed over his first batch of pipes he deemed acceptable for sale in the shop.  Without delay, the confident boy decided it was time to tackle the biggest seller in Copenhagen, Pipe Dan, who offered to buy 20-30 pipes every week.  The most Holm ever earned from Pipe Dan, which was quite a bit, was 500kr, or USD83.00 today, for one exceptional pipe – an elaborate freehand.  Holm suspected Pipe Dan didn’t believe the lad could pull it off when he described his plan and made the deal.

Before the end of his partnership with Pipe Dan, Holm and one “journeyman” were able to produce 50-60 pipes per week that the venerable middleman sold.  Holm was one of the most promising pipe crafters to produce the freehand style.  Of still more significance, however, is that he was the crafter responsible for the spread of the new form’s popularity to the U.S. and elsewhere.

Before Holm’s 22nd birthday in 1969, he and his 45 employees at the time were outproducing the sales he and Lon could handle, and the two concluded something needed to change.  The choice of a distribution outfit called Snug Harbour in New York had mixed results, to be nice.  Although sales increased, Holm ended up never seeing much of the money due to the distributor’s eventual failure to pay its bills.  Holm had a hefty supply of pipes ready for export and nobody to move them.

GOING DANISH WITH LANE LTD.

“I set up a meeting with Holm and Herman Lane in New York where I was present,” Lon said.  “Lane and I were very close friends.”  That turning point was in February 1971.

Herman G. Lane was the enormous ego behind Lane Ltd., a continuation of the original pipe and tobacco interest opened in Dresden, Germany in 1890 by Herman’s grandfather and resurrected in Manhattan by the emigrant grandson in 1938.  The Lane Ltd. empire distributed some of the world’s foremost pipe brands, including Dunhill, Charatan and for a while Dr. Grabow, as well as many more, and had made Captain Black tobacco since the family business first opened in Germany.

To say the least, the chance to “team” with the pipe giant was an opportunity for young Holm that he could not have been expected to let slip away.  For the ambitious Lane, on the other hand, the talented but not very business savvy Dane was an easy conquest.  In raising the price of Holm’s pipes higher than they already were, Lane’s goal, of course, was to make money.  That the two did, leading to the aforementioned hoopla.

THE BEN WADE CONNECTION

Lane was only interested in Holm’s freehands, and there was one snag to overcome: Snug Harbour retained a stockpile of Holm’s pipes and could be expected to sell them at cut-rate prices.  To avoid this contingency, Lane and Holm made an exclusive rights deal for distribution of the freehand pipes and agreed the use of Holm’s name was inadvisable.  As Lane Ltd. owned the Ben Wade name, Herman Lane suggested marketing Holm’s Golden Walnut Hand Made in Denmark line under that brand.  One fine example of Holm’s traditional Danish pipes is the following example.Pipedia notes that “Within a very short time Ben Wade Handmade Denmark sold in much larger quantities and at higher prices than they had ever dreamed of.”

Advertisements hiked the prices well higher than Holm’s pipes ever sold for before, and one key campaign was a New York Times full-page spot for an elegant Seven-Day’s Set.  The set, no surprise, is now difficult to find.

When I began work on these two blogs, I expected to accomplish the task in a single essay.  Becoming bogged down by the complexity of pulling together so much information and realizing the result was becoming massive even by my wildest discourses, I knew I had to do a two-parter.

This installment started as the re-stemming of the first Danish freehand I bought for a pittance on eBay, in January 2015, as a sort of New Year’s excuse to make another P.A.D. gift to myself.  Besides, it was a Buy Now deal for no more than $25 with shipping included, and no other watchers seemed to know it was something special.  I wrote the original “Grooming a Ben Wade Golden Walnut Freehand” blog in 2015 because, until then, I never received an estate pipe from that online source that was anywhere close to being ready to smoke.  The clean-up, in my mind, would be easy, just sanitizing the insides, removing a few petty scratches and deciding what to do with the rough rim and shank opening that were coated black, a condition I pretty much disliked.  I modify the fact that the pipe was the first I bought, as I already had a couple of other freehands, as noted in Part 1.

In hindsight, I recognize how, in the easier process of cleaning the freehand, I preserved what I now consider to be an unpleasant though common black finish for the natural, radiant, lighter golden hue of the walnut that was, furthermore, left with what I considered an inappropriate dark brown finish.  And so, instead of the sole re-stemming idea, I found myself with the option of removing the black stain where it was added and lightening the original dark brown stain on the rest as well as the minuscule scratches.  Even though I intended the pipe for my own personal use, I had a compulsion to do the job as I would for sale to a customer.

RESTORATION

After choosing the full refurbish course, I began with the replacement of the original Vulcanite bit that had broken during a harried move using my car.  The photos below show the bit as it was before I smoothed it out when I first bought the pipe.Here’s a similar new Lucite bit as it came in the mail, showing the huge 9mm tenon that was almost the same diameter as the one I used.If I owned a proper, electric stem turner, the job of fitting the tenon of the fancy Lucite bit to the shank opening would have been easy.  But I had the pleasure of doing it by hand, and after previous experiments I didn’t want to mess it up with a single miscalculated stroke of a file.  That left the sandpaper method.  And now the fancy replacement, after hours of going over with 150-grit paper and smoothing with a steady, ascending progression, ready to heat in the oven for about 20 minutes at 210° F., and again after bending. I micro meshed the stummel, other than the rim, from 1500-12000.I was ready to soak the stummel in isopropyl alcohol. Micro meshing again, the wood was nice and smooth, and the rim and shank opening only needed some work with the 180-grit side of a sanding pad.Reaming and sanding the chamber from 150-600-grit paper, that part looked much better.Just for good measure, I retorted the pipe, and the result was magnificent.Having re-thought my initial desire to lighten the wood, I used red and brown Tripoli and several coats of carnauba in the buffing. CONCLUSION

Wanting more than anything else to get an idea of what Holm was like as a person, I put the question to Lon.  His answer came back with almost no delay.

“Preben once bought a 1960s Chevy Camaro – a muscle car – for about $3,000.”  After a pause, Lon finished.  “He shipped it back to Denmark.  It cost him crazy money, at least $100,000, to do this, but that’s how he was: a rock star.  He was the only person in Denmark with that kind of car!”

Perhaps because I am a recovered alcoholic with 30 years of sobriety, something in the pervasive silence concerning the cause of Holm’s early death made me suspect that alcohol was involved.  Looking at various photos of Holm, I couldn’t help noting the sadness of his face and eyes.  At last, I found a single comment in a thread about Holm’s Ben Wade pipes on a popular smoker’s forum that read in part, “Preben literally drank himself to death…after his wife bolted with the kids.”

And so, again, but with difficulty, I turned for an answer to the man who might have been the best friend Holm ever had.  There was a long pause before Lon replied.

“When he was very strong working, making crazy money from his pipes, he was drinking a lot, as a youngster will, with everything that goes with that,” Lon said with great care and delicacy.  I didn’t ask him to expand on the last part.  “He was a rock star!  He didn’t know what to do with that.  He was getting everything he wanted and was bored.”

We both fell silent for a moment before Lon concluded, “I think we’ve said everything that needs to be said about that.”

I agree.

My hope is that this two-part essay will inspire future pipe makers, hobbyists and artisans alike to take up Chasing the Grain.  I, for one, intend to try my hand and imagination at the noble goal, even if the results are less than spectacular.

I want to express my deep gratitude to Lon, a consummate gentleman, for his invaluable help filling in details of Preben Holm’s life, craft and various business adventures.  Lon was unstinting in taking the time to share his reminiscences, not one but three times.  The only protest I have is that Lon ignored my repeated requests for a photo of himself of his choosing.  That’s why I was forced to track down, with great difficulty, the one I used.  So, Lon, don’t blame me if you don’t like it!

Lon also opened up about himself.  Born in 1940 in New York and now retired as a pipe buyer and seller, Lon described himself as the only child of highly educated parents who considered him “an idiot” because of his dyslexia.

“That was my motivation to leave home when I was 17 and look for work in the city,” Lon said in a matter-of-fact tone.

The uncontrollable condition, which causes written letters to become jumbled beyond sense, places Lon in the company of such historical and cultural figures as Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Tom Cruise, Walt Disney – and even at least three U.S. presidents: George Washington, John F. Kennedy and George W. Bush.

The idea horrifies me, the more so because, when I was a child, I suffered from another optic disorder that mimicked dyslexia but proved curable.  I’ll never forget the shame of not being able to read or write until I turned 10 and moved to Shaker Heights, Ohio, where I was blessed to meet a woman who loved children and teaching more than anything else.  Sonia Golden was an innovator in special education and knew how to do her job when my so-called teachers in California had dismissed me as “borderline retarded.”

On his own in the Big Apple, Lon started out as a sales clerk for Wally Frank, earning $37.50/week.  That’s $321.63 in today’s dollars – not bad for a start, but a long way from the ultimate success he had after discovering Holm, for all intents and purposes, first partnering with the brilliant pipe maker and later, as a friend, guiding him to bigger distributors.

The shop known as Pipe Lon was only for a relatively short time, but the quality pipes he sold there can still be found online.  Lon told me he was in the habit of stamping various pipes he sold, whether they also bore the makers’ marks or not, with the following nomenclature.  In some cases, only the best guesswork can predict the actual craftsman.* The opening quote strikes me as an elegant example of the habit of personifying wood that I discussed in Part 1.

SOURCES

https://www.cia.gov/library/Publications/the-world-factbook/geos/vq.html
https://www.google.com/search?q=poul+winslow&rlz=1C1CHBF_enUS769US769&oq=poul+winslow&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.17027j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
http://www.danishpipemakers.com/forside/2006/1update/sixten/sixten.html
https://www.finepipes.com/danish
https://pipedia.org/wiki/Holm,_Preben
http://www.scandpipes.com/info.asp?text=3
http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-benwade.html
https://pipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Wade
https://pipedia.org/wiki/Lane,_Ltd.
http://www.nytimes.com/1982/08/05/business/business-people-lane-ltd-gets-outsider-lane-tobacco-maker-places-outsider-helm.html
https://trademarks.justia.com/722/75/snug-harbour-72275082.html
http://pipesmagazine.com/forums/topic/ben-wade-by-preben-holm
https://rebornpipes.com/2015/01/24/grooming-a-ben-wade-golden-walnut-danish-freehand/