Kathy’s Dad’s Pipes #11 – Restoring a Beautiful Custom Carved Malaga Freehand


Blog by Steve Laug

With this blog I worked on another of the Malaga pipes from Kathy’s Dad’s estate. This is the eleventh of the pipes from collection. For a reminder to myself and those of you who are reading this blog I will retell the story of the estate. Last fall I received a contact email on rebornpipes from Kathy asking if I would be interested in purchasing her late Father, George Koch’s estate pipes. He was a lover of “Malaga” pipes as well as others and she wanted to move them out as she cleaned up the estate. We emailed back and forth and I had my brother Jeff follow up with her as he also lives in the US and would make it simpler to carry out this transaction. The long and short of it is that we purchased her Dad’s pipes – Malagas and others. I have never seen this many “Malagas” together in one place in all of my years of pipe restoring and refurbishing. There are some beautiful pipes in that lot. The condition of all them varied from having almost pristine to gnawed and damaged stems that will need to be replaced. These were some well used and obviously well-loved pipes. Cleaning and restoring them will be a tribute to this pipeman. (Here is a link to some history of the Malaga Brand if you are interested: https://rebornpipes.com/tag/malaga-pipes/. There are also links there to a catalogue and the maker George Khoubesser.)Those of you who have followed me for a while know how much I love getting to know about the pipeman who held the pipes in trust before me. That information always gives another dimension to the restoration work. This is certainly true with this lot of pipes. I can almost imagine George picking out each pipe in his collection at the Malaga shop in Michigan. Once again, I am including that information so you can know a bit about the pipeman who held these pipes in trust before they are passed on to some of you. I include part of Kathy’s correspondence with my brother as well…. I may well be alone in this, but when I know about the person it is almost as if he is with me while I work on his pipes. In this case Kathy sent us not only information but also a photo of her Dad enjoying his “Malagas”.

Jeff…Here is a little about my dad, George P. Koch…I am sending a picture of him with a pipe also in a separate email.

Dad was born in 1926 and lived almost all his life in Springfield, Illinois. He was the youngest son of German immigrants and started grade school knowing no English. His father was a coal miner who died when Dad was about seven and his sixteen year old brother quit school to go to work to support the family. There was not much money, but that doesn’t ruin a good childhood, and dad had a good one, working many odd jobs, as a newspaper carrier, at a dairy, and at the newspaper printing press among others. He learned to fly even before he got his automobile driver’s license and carried his love of flying with him through life, recertifying his license in retirement and getting his instrumental license in his seventies and flying until he was grounded by the FAA in his early eighties due to their strict health requirements. (He was never happy with them about that.) He was in the Army Air Corps during World War II, trained to be a bomber, but the war ended before he was sent overseas. He ended service with them as a photographer and then earned his engineering degree from University of Illinois. He worked for Allis Chalmers manufacturing in Springfield until the early sixties, when he took a job at Massey Ferguson in Detroit, Michigan. We lived in Livonia, and that’s where his love for Malaga pipes began. After a few years he returned to Allis Chalmers and we moved back to Springfield. I remember that when we went back to Michigan to visit friends, Dad had to go to the Malaga store and acquire a few new pipes. Many a year I wrote to Malaga and they picked out a pipe for me to purchase that I could give Dad for a Christmas or birthday present. He was always pleased. His favorites were the straight stemmed medium sized bowl pipes, but he liked them all.  He had some other pipes, but the Malagas were his favorites. I remember him smoking them sitting in his easy chair after work, with feet up on the ledge by the fire burning in the fireplace.  Growing up it was my job to clean them and he liked the inner bowl and stem coated with Watkins vanilla, leaving a little of that liquid in the bowl to soak in when I put them back on the rack. Dad quit smoking later in life and so they’ve sat on the racks for many years unattended, a part of his area by his easy chair and fireplace. Dad passed when he was 89 years old and it finally is time for the pipes to move on. I’m very happy they are being restored by you and your brother and hope they find homes who enjoy them as much as Dad did. Thank-you for your care and interest. — Kathy, the oldest daughter

Kathy, once again I thank you for providing this beautiful tribute to your Dad. We will appreciate your trust in allowing us to clean and restore these pipes. I am also trusting that those of you who are reading this might carry on the legacy of her Dad’s pipes as they will be added to the rebornpipes store once they are finished.

The eleventh of the pipes that I chose to work on is a nice looking Freehand with beautiful grain all around the bowl – straight, flame and birdseye. The top of the bowl is very rustic looking plateau briar that is filled with nooks and crannies. The end of the shank has one small spot of plateau that is almost a token piece. The plateau top was almost filled in with a heavy lava build up flowing from the bowl. It appeared that underneath the rim top was in good condition and the inner and outer edge of the bowl was in good condition. The stamping was on the underside of the shank and was clear and read “Malaga” over Custom Carved. The brown, swirled, pearlized Lucite stem had tooth dents and chatter on the top and the underside of the stem. The interior of the pipe was dirty. I could see that this was another pipe that George thoroughly enjoyed this pipe along with the others as is evidenced by the wear that all of them show. Jeff took these photos before he started the cleanup work on the pipe. Jeff took close up photos of the bowl and rim to show the condition of the pipe before he started to work his magic on it. The exterior of the bowl and shank were dirty. You can see the lava on the rim top, the thick cake and remnants of tobacco in the bowl. The second rim top photo shows the thick cake and debris in the bowl. It is dirty but in otherwise good condition.  He also took photos of the sides of the bowl and shank from different angles to show the condition of the design of the bowl. The pipe looked good. He took photos of the shank end to show what it looked like before cleanup.Jeff also took a photo to capture the stamping on the underside of the shank. The next two photos show the stem surface. There are tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. On the second photo below there appears to be a tooth mark/hole deep in the surface of the acrylic. I am hoping that it is not all the way the surface of the stem.Jeff cleaned this one up before he sent it my way. After having cleaned quite a few pipes lately, it was nice to work on another one that he had cleaned for me. He is really good at the cleanup work. He had reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the cake. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim, shank and stem with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the oils and tars on the bowl, plateau rim and shank. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. The lava mess on the rim was thoroughly removed without harming the finish underneath it. Without the grime the finish looked really good. The Lucite stem would need to be worked on but I really like the thin profile it cast. I took photos of the pipe to show its condition before I started my work on it.   I took close up photos of the bowl and rim top as well as the stem. You can see the condition of the rim top and bowl in the first photo. The top was in excellent condition and Jeff was able to remove all of the lava and oils. He had scrubbed the bowl with a tooth brush and oil soap and it looked really good. The thin profile acrylic/Lucite stem had tooth chatter and some bite marks on the top and a deeper more prevalent tooth mark among the chatter on the underside of the stem just ahead of the button.The underside of the shank was stamped with “Malaga” over Custom Carved. I took a photo of the shank to show the stamping. I am not sure how far up the hierarchy of Malaga pipes this one comes. It is a beautiful piece of briar.I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the plateau on the rim and the smooth portions to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I worked it into the plateau on the rim top and the shank end with my fingertips and the help of a horsehair shoe brush. I let the balm sit for a little wall and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. There were some tooth marks and chatter on the top and more chatter and a deeper tooth mark on the underside of the acrylic stem at the button. I cleaned off the surface of the stem with alcohol and filled in the deep tooth mark with clear super glue. Once it cured, I sanded both sides smooth with 220 grit sandpaper to blend the tooth chatter and the repair into the surface of the stem. It did not take too much sanding to remove the marks and smooth out the stem surface. When it was sanded it was smooth and the marks were gone. I polished the acrylic stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with a damp cloth. I the polished stem and lightly polished the bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches and raise the shine. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem several coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. This turned out to be a beautiful pipe in terms of shape and finish. This is the eleventh pipe that I am restoring from Kathy’s Dad’s collection. I am looking forward once again to hearing what Kathy thinks once she sees the finished pipe on the blog. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 1/2 inches, Height: 2 1/2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/4 inches wide and 2 inches long, Chamber diameter: 7/8 inches. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this Malaga from George’s estate. More will follow in a variety of shapes and sizes. I will be adding it to the rebornpipes store shortly so if you are interested in adding it to your collection and carrying on the trust from her father send me an email or a message on Facebook. Thanks for looking. 

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One thought on “Kathy’s Dad’s Pipes #11 – Restoring a Beautiful Custom Carved Malaga Freehand

  1. Kathy McClain

    This was one of my favorite pipes of Dad’s. I loved the richness of the briar and the feel of it in my hand. I hope its next owner will enjoy it as much as I believe my dad did. Lovely work!

    Reply

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