In Praise of International Cooperation – Cleaning Up a Large Harcourt Grade D Freehand by Preben Holm for Dunhill

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

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

The pipe needed a good reaming to clear old cake from the bowl; the stem was oxidized and jammed up with tars and oils. The briar itself, however, was pristine under a thin layer of dirt and oils. The pipe is stamped on the shank with a capital “D” which put this pipe at the top end of the older Preben Holm grading system of A, B, C, D (in ascending order). Under the grade stamp, the shank is marked “Harcourt” over “Hand Carved” over “In Denmark”.

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I started work on the pipe by reaming the chamber back to briar, or as close as I could get with this cavernous bowl. My Castleford reamer proved too short to reach the chamber floor, so I switched to 60-grit sandpaper wrapped around a dowel to improve my reach.

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The airway and shank were both clogged with tars and tobacco debris. I used several drill bits to auger out the heaviest crud. The square end of my flat needle file proved useful for clearing the buildup from the end of the mortise, while cotton swabs and pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol did the grunt work.

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A quick scrub with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a toothbrush cleaned the grime and oils from the surface of the stummel. I wiped the briar lightly with mineral oil to replenish the wood and then set the pipe up with an alcohol treatment to clean up the residual tars and odours in the airway. I used cotton balls for this instead of salt as I need to replenish my supply of kosher salt.

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The cotton balls performed admirably, wicking the tars and oils out of the briar. I let the stummel sit for 24 hours and then removed the cotton balls and left the briar to air out while I worked on the stem.

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After a few hours in an Oxyclean bath, I scrubbed the stem down with Magic Eraser to remove the oxidation. There wasn’t much there, nor did the tars so prevalent in the shank extend further than the tenon up the airway. A few pipe cleaners sorted that out, and I was soon moving on to repairing the light tooth dents at the bit. I mixed up some CA glue and charcoal powder and applied it to the dents.

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When the fills had cured, I used needle files and various grits of sandpaper to smooth the fills level with the vulcanite. A full course of micromesh pads removed the sanding marks and brought the stem to a nice shine.

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A quick buff with White Diamond compound on the wheel and several coats of Carnauba wax finished up the restoration of this stunning Harcourt freehand. Without its layer of dirt and grime, the gorgeous straight grain of the briar really grabs the attention. Preben Holm certainly knew how to orient a stummel to make best use of the available briar!

This top-end Harcourt is the superb result of fine Danish-Anglo cooperation. Where else could one find both a Dunhill and a Preben Holm freehand in one pipe? The sheer size of this pipe promises a long, cool and tactile smoking experience for one lucky piper. You can find this one on the DadsPipes Store now.

Thanks for looking, and until next time, Happy Piping!

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