When asking a pipemaker how he started, you usually get one of the following two answers:
– He has started as an apprentice in an established pipemaker’s workshop.
– Or he has started making pipes as a hobby and been so fascinated that he has built a workshop of his own.
Henrik Olsen, however, started a little different, because when his workshop was ready and fully equipped with all necessary machines and tools, Henrik had not yet made one single pipe. To understand that, we have to look at his background.
Henrik started his career as a car mechanic and later on as a technician. In 2001 he had a major accident and his back was seriously wounded. After a long treatment in hospital he had to retire in 2004. So he could not continue with the job he had liked a lot, nor could he devote himself to the hobbies he was interested in. He had to find something else. And then he got the idea about making pipes.
But, if you want to make pipes, you have to know how a pipe works. And that was a problem, as Henrik was not a smoker. It is true that he had tried once, but that attempt had not been very successful. It was in 1988 when Henrik became a father for the first time, and he had an idea that as a father, he had to have a full beard and smoke a pipe. But, as Henrik says: “The beard itched and the pipe released the fire alarm”. So the beard was cut and the pipe was put aside.
When now, several years later, Henrik had plans to make pipes, he had to try again. He bought a pipe and then it was only to start. Only! Henrik says that it is often heard how difficult it is to stop smoking, but it is not that easy to start either. But this time he did not give up, and today Henrik now and then enjoys a pipe when relaxing.
Henrik started searching the internet for sites from different pipemakers, and in that way he got an idea what is needed in a pipemaker’s workshop. He also studied all literature he could find on the subject. There was a suitable house on the premises, a stable which, however, was in a rather bad shape. Due to his back Henrik can not make heavy work himself, but with the help of his family and a lot of good friends, it went beyond expectations.
Henrik meets Tom Eltang
In fall 2004 most of it was ready, so Henrik and his wife Tine went to Copenhagen to buy some material that was needed. They also had plans to visit a few pipemakers. The first of them was Bjørn Thurmann, who at that time had a workshop and a shop in central Copenhagen. After a detailed demonstration of Bjørn’s workshop, they went to the north part of the city to visit Tom Eltang.
Tom cordially welcomed Henrik and Tine and asked what he could help them with. “I want to learn how to make pipes”, Henrik answered. Even if Tom is quite used to visitors interested in pipemaking, I think he was a little surprised by that straight answer from Henrik. But Tom is a very helpful person and he showed Henrik all there was to see in his very well equipped workshop. So this visit, the first of many to come, lasted for several hours. When Henrik and Tine in due time went home, Henrik had got a lot to think about. But he was convinced about one thing – he wanted to make pipes. And he also thought he had the ability to make them.
But first the workshop had to be completely ready, and in January 2006 it was. Now Henrik made his very first pipes, and I had the privilege to see some of them. I was very impressed with how meticulously they were made, and so were the others who saw them.
Henrik prefers classical shapes, and it is common knowledge that those shapes are the most difficult to make. A challenge is the rounding between bowl and shank, but I think the pictures illustrating this article show very clearly, how well Henrik has succeeded there. Henrik is a true perfectionist, there is no doubt about that! That is also proved by the stems, which have a very thin and comfortable bite.
The pipes are stamped “Olsen Denmark” and are available in smooth, rusticated or sandblasted finish. The sandblasting is performed in Tom Elang’s workshop.
Henrik has a site on www.olsenpipes.com. It is under construction, but hopefully you will soon se more of his pipes there.