In a Swedish tobacco shop, even in small places in the province, there were usually a fair number of pipes in the 50s and 60s. Most sold were Dollar and Brilon pipes with a nylon stem but also Ronson and Falcon with stems from aluminum. But even for the more traditional pipesmoker, who wanted a pipe from wood and ebonite, there was a lot to choose from. Ratos was the dominant brand, but for those who were willing to spend a little extra, there were usually at least a few more exclusive pipes – pipes in green or blue-checked boxes. Those pipes came from Norway, from G.L. Larsens pipe factory in Lillehammer.
Lillehammer pipes were found in two qualities, Bastia was a little cheaper and Lillehammer GL was for the truly discerning pipesmoker. Later I have learned that there were also more expensive and finer qualities, even one called Best Make, but those luxury pipes were never found in the shops in the small town where I lived. Lillehammer pipes were easily recognizable, they usually were rather slim and with a long stem, which was the fashion at the time. So while a true English gentleman smoked a Dunhill with the white dot on the stem, Norwegian or Swedish pipesmokers preferred an elegant Lillehammer.
We will not go into detail about the interesting story of Lillehammer, but unfortunately we can see that from the beginning of the 70s, it rapidly went downhill for the factory. They bought the Danish company Kriswill but that was not a success, nor was the new series of shapes created by the pipemaker Thorbjørn Rygh. So G.L. Larsen’s pipe factory in Lillehammer had to close, deeply missed by many of us. This feeling persists to this day, which is particularly evident in the great interest in the Lillehammer pipes at auctions and collector’s markets.
Until last spring, I thought that Norwegian manufacture of smoking pipes was just a memory, but fortunately I was wrong. In Bergen there is a man called Bård Hansen, who carries the tradition on.
It all began six years ago when Bård met Hans Tandberg, a retired engineer who had been working as a pipemaker in Larsen’s pipe factory. He had built a workshop with machines from his old workplace and as he had no heirs, he wanted to sell it all to someone who could carry on the traditions. Bård was interested to learn, so he bought the machines and a large stock of briar from the old Lillehammer factory and, not least, he was trained in the art of making pipes by Hans Tandberg.
Bård keeps the old traditions from the Lillehammer factory alive. He prefers the classical, clean lines and two things are important to him: balance and rhythm.
Mainly Bård makes small and medium-sized pipes. The pipes are stamped Tabago. The stems are from ebonite, except on some pipes, where the shaft is from briar. Those who wish can get their name or any other engraving on a silver ring.
You see some Tabago-pipes on these pages. You can see many more – and buy – if you go into the online store at www.pipe-maker.com.