Last week, my pipe club visited Søren’s workshop in Søborg, a suburb of greater Copenhagen. Søren has been making pipes there for about forty years and has recently retired himself. He no longer spends ten hours a day in his workshop but, as he says, modestly, only comes in to work when there are orders to be filled. Which means he is still producing pipes but not on a full time basis. The workshop is well equipped, comprises two rooms, turning and finishing. A little office section hides away beyond a corridor separating it from the dust and noise of pipe manufacture.
Always willing to show the public how to make a pipe, Søren gathered those that had not seen the process around him and set to work. It took him a very short while to turn, sand and create a pipe to the point where it only needs staining and polishing. A true craftsman that knows that exactly what he is doing and knows how to do it well.
I last visited Søren’s workshop six years ago. I know beyond doubt it was six years ago because I was to celebrate my 50th birthday the following month. Unbeknown to me, my friends from the pipe club bought me a pipe the same night from Søren and presented me with it one month later. By designed chance, I had the pipe with me on this particular visit. Søren spotted it immediately and asked how it smoked. “It’s never let me down”, I said, which didn’t surprise him and brought a little smile to his face. I asked if he would mind repolishing the stem while I was there, which of course he gladly did and now my Refbjerg looks like new again.
Finally the time came to plunder the stock and reserves that were to be had. Søren opened all his cases and boxes and the bargaining began. I saw many beautiful pipes bought that evening.
Søren says the workshop is up for sale, including all the machinery and the Corsican briar stocks. Søren was the main importer to Denmark of this briar and he says that now it’s almost impossible to get. I felt that even if he sells the shop, he will still be there making pipes for a long time to come.
Retirement, it seems, is a loose term in this business!