Renewing a “Malaga” Algerian Briar Apple

Blog by Steve Laug

I seem to have passed on my love of Malaga pipes to my friend Alex here in Vancouver. He is moving out a lot of his previous rotation and adding more Malagas to his pipe rack. He has been scouring eBay and has found some real beauties. The fun part of his hunts is that I get to see them and restore many of them. On the work table today is a beautifully grained Malaga Apple with a straight shank. (Here is a link to some history of the Malaga Brand for those of you who may be interested in learning more: and another link to the maker George Khoubesser and an old catalogue that I have scanned:

Malaga Briar Pipe Company was in Royal Oak, Michigan, USA. They billed themselves as “devoted to the greater and true enjoyment of pipe smoking”. There pipes have a unique curing process that makes them a sweet smoking, light weight smoking machine. They are beautifully carved and shaped and quite unique as an American made pipe. They were made in both classic and freehand shapes. I am including a couple of photos of George Khoubesser the pipe maker to give some colour to the pipe that I am working on.  

With the image of George puffing his pipe and standing at his lathe crafting a Malaga pipe I turned my attention to this interesting Malaga Apple shaped pipe. It is stamped on the left side of the shank “MALAGA” and on the right side of the shank Algerian Briar. The grain on the pipe is quite stunning and is a mix of straight, flame and birdseye. The round shank flows into a vulcanite tapered stem that is oxidized and has light tooth marks and chatter near the button. The stem is spotted and speckled from sitting in a display case or on a pipe rack somewhere. The smooth finished briar is dirty but even under the grime there is something quite beautiful about the pipe. There is grime and tars on the surface of the bowl and shank. The bowl had a thick cake part way down the bowl and some lava overflowed onto the back of the rim top. The bottom part of the bowl still showed raw briar so it had not been smoked too much. I took pictures of the pipe before I started working on it. I took some close up photos of the rim top and the stem to show what I was dealing with. This Malaga Apple was in decent shape all things considered. The cake in the bowl was thick on the top half of the bowl while the bottom of the bowl was raw briar. There was lava on backside of the rim top. You can see the cake in the bowl in the first photo below. The stem was dirty, oxidized, almost mottled looking. There was some light tooth chatter on the top and underside for about an inch ahead of the button.I took a photo of the stamping on the left and right side of the shank. It was very sharp and readable. The photos also show some of the dark spots of sticky grime on the shank and bowl.I reamed the bowl to remove the cake on the walls and the debris that still remained in the bowl. I used a PipNet pipe reamer to start the process. I followed that with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to clean up the remaining cake in the conical bottom of the bowl. I sanded the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel. It smooths out the walls and also helps bring the inner edges back to round. I cleaned up the rim top and removed the thick lava coat on the back top side of the rim. I used the Savinelli Fitsall knife to scrape away the high spots of lava and sanded it lightly with a well-used piece of 220 grit sandpaper.I polished the rim top and the rest of the bowl and shank with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. The pictures tell the story and show the increasing shine of the briar after each set of pads. I cleaned out the internals of the bowl, shank and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until they came out clean. It was dirtier than I expected in the shank and stem but now it not only looks clean but smells clean.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the smooth finish of the bowl, rim top and shank. I worked it into the surface with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the wood. I let the balm sit for about 20 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth to polish the bowl. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process to show what the bowl looked like at this point. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded out the tooth marks and chatter on the surface of the vulcanite with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I followed the 220 grit sandpaper with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to minimize the scratching. The two papers combined did a pretty decent job of getting rid of the tooth marks and chatter as well as the oxidation.I polished the stem with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish to take out the oxidation at the button edge and on the end of the mouthpiece. I also worked hard to scrub it from the surface of the stem at the tenon end.  I polished out the scratches with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. Once I had finished the polishing I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and the vulcanite. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I 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. The grain really stands out on this beautiful Malaga. The contrast of swirling grain looked good with the polished black vulcanite. This Malaga Apple is one of three pipes that I am working on for Alex. Once I am finished with the other two it go back to him to enjoy. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/8 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. Alex, I am looking forward to your thoughts on this one! Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it.

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