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Sadly enough, this page starts with the end:

Bjarne Nielsen died of a severe heart attack in the night of February, 26th 2008, at the age of 66. The pipe community lost one of its greatest characters who loved and lived pipes. He was one of the most knowledgeable persons about the history of the Danish handmade pipe. May he rest in peace!

He could have been an ambassador for his country, but instead he became an ambassador for Danish pipes. -- Jan Andersson from Scandinavian Pipemakers. Most of the following information is from Jan's excellent book.

Courtesy Doug Valitchka
Signature Grade, Courtesy
Bjarne Nielsen getting ready to sell some pipes and visit with customers, courtesy
Signature Grade, Courtesy
Signature Grade, Courtesy

Bjarne Nielsen was born in 1941, and started smoking a pipe when he was 16 years old, and he also made some pipes for his own use at that time. He liked the pipes and made some more, giving some away as presents to friends. At the University of Copenhagen he obtained an MBA degree and found work at the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs where he helped Danish companies that were exporting their products establish contacts in foreign countries. That was in the 1960's when the high demand for Danish freehand pipes started, so Bjarne was ofen asked if he knew of any companies that could sell those types of pipes. But all those companies had their order-books filled, so Bjarne always had to give a negative answer. One day he decided to send some pictures of his own pipes, and the response was overwhelming. He was asked how many pipes he could make and how quickly he could deliver them, and at once Bjarne had order for more pipes than he could make. What had been a relaxing hobby now became much more than that.

With a demanding job it was hard to find time to make pipes in that quantity, and Bjarne had to choose. His dream had always been to have a company of his own, and if he wanted fo fulfill that dream, now was the time to do it. But to leave a promising career, in which he probably would have become a Danish ambassador in some foreign country, was indeed a big step to take. "Many thought I was crazy", Bjarne says, "and one of them was my wife. But she supported my decision anyway."

He made that decision in 1973, and became a fulltime pipemaker. But he soon realized that it was impossible for one person to handle all of it--he could not make a lot of pipes, sell them and collect money for them all by himself. So he decided to find some pipemakers to help him. In those days Preben Holm was one of the biggest makers of fancy pipes, and he employed a great number of pipemakers. But not all of them were happy to work for Preben,m so Bjarne recruited a few of those.

During the first years all of Bjarne's pipes were sold in the USA, but at the end of the 1970s he visited the pipe show in Frandfurt and found that there was a market for his there as well. However, he found that the Germans wanted a completely different style of pipes--pipes in traditional shapes. So if he wanted to be successful there, he had to add a completely new line to his production. "It was not easy, we learned it the hard way," Bjarne says. But they certainly succeeded, and for a number of years Germany became the top-selling market for Bjarne's pipes.

From the early 1990s Bjarne had seven pipemakers employed and the pipes were sold in no fewer than 32 countries. For more than six months each year, Bjarne traveled around the world to promote his pipes by meeting with dealers and customers. But sadly, it all ended in February 2008 when Bjarne suffered a fatal heart attack. An unexpected blow fist of all to his family, but also to the pipemakers who had been working for him, and to all lover of his pipes from around the world. And as no one was willing to take over, the Bjarne pipe died together with its creator.

Among the pipemakers that worked for Bjarne were Johs (for the lower priced high volume pieces), and makers like Ph. Vigen, Ole Bandholm and Tonni Nielsen for high grade pieces. The cheaper line was stamped "Bjarne" while the highest grades were stamped "Bjarne Nielsen" (never with the pipemakers' name) and graded, from highest to lowest, by the letters: AX, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, and J.

Bjarne was also a good source for lovers of XXL pipes. These were called "Giant".

Bjarne had a small selection of tobacco blends in his name; these still are produced in Germany by Dan Tobacco Manufacturing (DTM) in Lauenburg.


See also the Brochure File:Bjarnepipes.pdf, Courtesy