Svend Axel Celius started around 1959/60 at Suhr's Pibemageri in Copenhagen, where he learned the craft of pipemaking from Poul Rasmussen (†), but presumeably even more from Sven Knudsen, Rasmussen's foreman. Young Celius was obviously a bright boy being one of the very first Danes who sensed the beginning boom for Danish fancy pipes looming first of all in the huge US market. And so he went off for self-employment founding a pipe manufacture in the former dairy building of Bogø By on the small island Bogø in 1963.
So he definitely improved the shining hour, because he was one of the first, who was able to supply these innovative Danish freehands in considerable large numbers to the States. Smaller quantities went to Germany. Here however he didn't become as famous as in the USA, where especially his better pieces gained cult status. In other respects Celius' business developed well, too. For instance he was contracted by W.Ø. Larsen of Copenhagen to supply pipes as Hans Jonny Nielsen (→ Former), at that time master of Larsen's workshop, confirmed. Anyhow, in it's best times Celius’ manufacture employed close to 20 co-workers.
But all the same, Celius wasn't able to make this periodically big success an enduring success. If this depended on mercantilistic deficiencies or if the often claimed minor quality of the bulk of his pipes caused the decline, will presumeably remain an unanswered question. As well it mustn't be disregarded that there were mighty - if not superior - concurrents in the field of mainly machine-made semi-freehands like the manufactures of Erik Nørding, Karl Erik (†), Preben Holm (†), Søren and others more. Celius moved away from Bogø around 1970 and sold his shop and the Celius name to a man named Jens Peter Ransborg, who continued with the business until 1975-76, when he closed the shop. During this period some of the Celius pipes were also stamped "Ransborg".
Shortly after Ransborg closed the shop, Celius returned to see if he could make another go of it. One of Celius's original employees was a pipemaker by the name of Henning Andersen who worked part time with Celius during his second run in the business. Andersen's son, Stig related an account that his father helped with the Celius pipes as well as a small production of handmade pipes for Stanwell. Andersen also worked along side Celius from the beginning on Bogø and later for Ransborg, making many of the fantasy pipes and other handmades. Many thanks to Stig for his help with this information.
The second period was characterized by many ups and downs, and his success remained inconstant and changeable. He never managed to match the top quality of his teacher Rasmussen or the students of Rasmussen's workshop like Sven Knudsen, Former Nielsen or Tom Eltang. Svend Axel Celius moved to Fyn in the late 1980's and lived there until his death around 1999/2000
Essentially three lines of Celius pipes can be described:
- Fantasy line: these are those well-known "wild to slightly crazy" shaped fancy freehands. Predominantly stamped "Fantasy", there are however also pipes Celius stamped "Fancy". Today it is sheerly impossible to decide whether "Fantasy" and "Fancy" were temporarily made in coexistence, or whether the "Fancy" functioned more or less as a successor of the "Fantasy" in one of Celius' new starts. "Fantasy" and "Fancy" both have a grading by number from 1 - 6 (although 5 is unconfirmed). Chip Fadeley, who has owned a grade 2 and 6 has recently acquired a grade 1. Chip reports the following: " I own a Celius Fantasy stamped #6. I also own another which is a rusticated sitter, and it's stamped #2. I've not met anyone who has heard of or seen a Celius rusticated pipe. The #6 is a smooth pipe with nothing fancy about the straight grain, and plateau briar top and partial on the shank's end. The shape is somewhat unusual because it has a long pointed front; and it has two separate flat spots on one side to perfectly accommodate the pairs of fingers made next to the index finger and pinky finger of a right-handed person. The stamping Celius Fantasy Denmark appear exactly the same in slant and font style and height on both pipes... The #6 appears to have a rounded bottom when viewing it from the front and back; however, it appears pointed on either side. The index and ring finger can also be used singly with the thumb overtop the shank depending on how you want to hold this pipe...
- Zenia line: pipes in classical forms. They are named for his daughter Zenia, Celius delivered this line for a limited time only.
- Chess line: the most important group of Celius pipes. The grading of these typical Danish freehands is borrowed from the chess pieces: Pawn (sand-blasted), Rook, Knight, Bishop, Queen to King. Pipes, where the natural bark of the briar was left at the rim of the bowl, were called and additionally stamped "Root". Furthermore these pipes had numbers from 1 to 31 (as far as known today). The numbers, we can take that for certain, denominate the shape. But please note that they surely have not the same binding character as the shape numbers of other manufacturers-- they rather stand for a basic form, that was modified often.
Remaining a mystery is why some Queen pipes are stamped with additional capital letters and why other (= few) pipes of the Chess line are stamped with "by hand".
Result: The quality of Celius' pipes is widely disputed. Lovers of the typical Danish Fancy pipes will however enjoy Celius' shapes - many of them later appeared again elsewhere. In the Chess line, that is also credited with very independent forms, one may find pipes of partly excellent wood quality from the Knight grade upwards. What tempers delight is the fact that many nice Celius pipe is only good but surely far away from excellent concerning the overall craftsmanship.