Svend Axel Celius
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 school 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. Howsoever, Celius closed his workshop sometimes in the middle of the 1970's.
After that he tried to establish himself as a pipemaker working solo up to the late 1980's. This period is characterised by permanent ups and downs; 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 passed away 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 - 7 (although 5 is unconfirmed). Chip Fadeley owns a grade 2, 6, and recently acquired a grade 7. 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.
An unsolved riddle is the stamping "Randsborg" or "Randsborg crafted" on many Chess pipes. Obviously there is no town, village or any other geographic place by the name of Randsborg to be found in Denmark. This fact nutured the theory, Randsborg stands for one of the pipemakers Celius employed. But as far as known these pipes are not old enough to be made in the manufacture era, and, what's more, a pipemaker named Randsborg could not be identified until now. - Most probably this stamping was not more than an attempt of Celius in order to make things a bit more interesting by fitting out the pipes with an impression of somewhat new. We can't ask him anymore.
The same about 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.