Hans "Former" Nielsen
Hans "Former" Nielsen
The Early Years
Hans "Former" Nielsen was an avid pipe smoker when he entered the Danish army in 1962 for his national service, and a friend of Sven Knudsen, older brother of Teddy Knudsen, and already an accomplished pipe maker who had previously worked as shop manager for Poul Rasmussen in the famous "Suhr" workshop in downtown Copenhagen. To commemorate the event, Sven made Former a pipe in the style of the day. Former keeps that pipe in his workshop, and it is shown below:
Former started making his own pipes while in the army for himself and his friends, and when he got out a year later, he got a job at Suhr as a "gofer," doing lots of repairs, and delivering the repaired pipes on his bicycle to the various tobacco shops around Copenhagen. Former recalls that he always looked forward to visiting the shop of Emil Chonowitsch, father of Jess, since of all the proprietors, only Emil would offer him a cup of coffee!
Late one Thursday afternoon, Ole Larsen called Poul Rasmussen to say that he'd decided to start a pipe making workshop in his basement, and did Poul know anyone who could make good pipes? Poul recommended Former. But when Former got wind of this on Friday, he panicked, as he didn't know how to make pipes very well, and Poul was notoriously secretive with his techniques. Poul reassured him, and sent him over to the machines, saying "Make a pipe!" Here is that first pipe, which was unfortunately slightly burned by Former's mother (with whom Former was living at the time) when she dropped a lit match into the ashtray in which it was sitting.
Still anxious, Former consulted with his friend Sven, who invited him down to his farm in Praestoe for the weekend. There Sven coached Former in making seven pipes to show Ole the following Monday as a kind of "portfolio." Here are the remaining five of those pipes, very much in the Svend/Rasmussen style as you can see:
When Former showed these pipes to Ole on Monday, the job was his. He remained at Larsen as factory manager for some years, until moving to Switzerland to take over management of the Bentley pipe factory. During that time, he introduced many of the Sven shapes to the Larsen catalog, including the famous "Swan" and "Walrus" pipes, and trained many of today's best hand carvers, including Peter Hedegaard, Poul Ilsted, Tonni Nielsen, Teddy, and P.H. Vigen.