Tag Archives: Preben Holm Pipes

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.  

Restoring a Pair of Preben Holm Deluxe Walnut Pipes

Blog by Steve Laug

I picked up this pair in a trade for a pipe I was selling plus some restoration work credit. They are really an interesting pair of Preben Holm pipes. I have no idea of the age or where they fall in the line of Preben’s pipes but I liked the look of the two of them. Both of them are stamped Preben Holm over Deluxe Walnut over Hand Made in Denmark on the underside of the shank. Both had a matte finish dark reddish-brown stain with identical stems. Both pipes were sitters.

The first of them was a square long shanked Dublin freehand with rounded outer edges to the bowl. The grain looked quite good on the briar but it was dirty. The rim had some heavy cake buildup on it and the bowl was thickly caked. The stamping on the underside of the shank was very sharp and clear. The stem was lightly oxidized and there was lots of tooth chatter and tooth marks on the top and bottom sides near the button. The crown logo with the PH below it on the stem was faint but legible. Here are some pictures of the first pipe when it arrived.Deluxe1 Deluxe2I took a close up photo of the bowl rim to give you a clear picture of what the rim and the cake looked like. It would take some careful scrubbing to remove the build up without damaging the finish.Deluxe3The second of the pair had a more rounded edge semi-square shank and was also a more squat Dublin freehand with rounded outer edges to the bowl. The grain on the briar looked just as good as that on the first and was just as dirty. The rim on this one also had some heavy cake buildup on it and the bowl was thickly caked. The stamping on the underside of the shank was very sharp and clear. The stem was lightly oxidized and there was lots of tooth chatter and tooth marks on the top and bottom sides near the button. The crown logo on the stem was faint but legible. Here are some pictures of the second pipe when it arrived.Deluxe4 Deluxe5I took a close up photo of the bowl rim to give you a clear picture of what the rim and the cake looked like. It would take some careful scrubbing to remove the build up without damaging the finish.Deluxe6I reamed both pipe with a PipNet pipe reamer starting with the smallest cutting head and working up to the third head. I cleaned up the transitions with a Savinelli Pipe Knife.Deluxe7I scraped the tarry build up on the rims of the pipes with a pen knife I used for that. It is sharp and thin so with it I can carefully scrape the cake off the rim. I wiped the rims down with alcohol on cotton pads.Deluxe8I sanded the inside of the bowls with a rolled piece of sandpaper around my index finger. I was able to smooth out the inside of both of the bowls.Deluxe9I scrubbed out the mortises and airways in the bowls and stems with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners.Deluxe10 Deluxe11I sanded the tooth chatter and tooth marks on both sides of both stems. All the marks were identical on both pipe stems so I am guessing that they belonged to the same smoker. The first two photos are of the first pipe’s stem and the next two are from the second pipe.Deluxe12 Deluxe13I used a small brush and some white acrylic paint to touch up the crowns on the top of each stem.Deluxe14I waxed both bowls and buffed them on the buffing wheel. The photos below show the bowls after the cleanup and buffing.Deluxe15 Deluxe16 Deluxe17I polished the stem on the first pipe with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed down the stem with Obsidian Oil between each set of three pads. When I got through with the 12000 grit pads I gave it another coat of oil and set it aside to dry.Deluxe18 Deluxe19 Deluxe20I repeated the polishing practice spelled out above on the second stem. The photos below show the progress of the work.Deluxe21 Deluxe22 Deluxe23I buffed the pipes with Blue Diamond on the wheel and gave them both multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth. The finished pipes are shown in the photos below. These two came out looking really nice. The shape and the finish of both are eye catching. Thanks for looking.Deluxe24 Deluxe25 Deluxe26 Deluxe27 Deluxe28 Deluxe29 Deluxe30 Deluxe31 Deluxe32 Deluxe33 Deluxe34 Deluxe35 Deluxe36 Deluxe37 Deluxe38 Deluxe39