Blog by Steve Laug
I have mentioned several times in the blogs I have done on the Malaga pipes that I have restored for Alex that he is now collecting them in a focused manner. He has found some beautiful pieces that come from the Malaga Pipe Shop in Royal Oak, Michigan in the USA. The more I work on the brand the more I am impressed by the quality of the craftsmanship and beauty of the pipes that came from the shop. I have written an earlier blog to give a little history of the Malaga Brand if you are interested: https://rebornpipes.com/tag/malaga-pipes/. That blog also includes links to a catalogue and the history of the pipemaker George Khoubesser). Follow the link to get a feel for the brand and the pipemaker. If the pipes Alex has found have been beautiful, this one was not! It was a bleached and varnished mess. The stem did not fit in the shank and the feel of the pipe when I ran my fingers over it was ridged and bubbled. It was a strange feeling pipe. It is stamped on the left side of the shank with “MALAGA” and on the heel of the bowl with a 0. I have not seen the 0 stamp before so I am unclear of the meaning. All I know is that this pipe was going to be a hard one to make beautiful again. Here are some photos of it before I started. The varnish coat had protected the bowl from scratches and dents but it was rough feeling with its ridges – almost like it had been painted on with a brush. The rim top was dirty with some darkening around the surface and the inner edges of the bowl. The outer edge was clean. The bowl had a thick cake. The finish had some dark stains along the left side of the shank around the Malaga stamping. There were also some stains on the underside of the shank. It really was an odd pipe in many ways. The stem was quite oxidized and there were deep tooth marks on both sides near the button. The button surface was also marked. The stem did not seat in the shank. That led me to believe that the shank was lined with tars and oils.The stamping was hard to capture because of the painted on varnish but is clear and readable. It is stamped “MALAGA” on the left side. The 0 on the heel of the bowl is very clear.The varnish coat was so hard and impervious I decided to throw the bowl into an alcohol bath to soak overnight. I did not think it would work but thought it was worth a try. I closed up the container and called it a night.In the morning I removed the bowl from the bath. It had not done any damage to the thick coat of varnish or whatever… it was a hopeless endeavour so I decided to wait and deal with it later. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer using three of the four cutting heads. I took the cake back to bare briar. I followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to scrape away the remnants of cake and clean up the walls of the bowl. I finished the reaming with a piece of dowel wrapped in 220 grit sandpaper and sanded the walls of the bowl. To remove the damage to the rim and the varnish coat I used a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper and worked the rim against the surface of the board in a circular motion to remove the damage. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the inner edge of the rim and to remove the darkening present there. I decided to go back to stripping off the painted coat on the bowl. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to break the shiny surface of the topping. I wiped it down with acetone on a cotton pad and sanded more and repeated the process until the finish was gone. With the varnish/plastic coat removed I polished the bowl with micromesh sanding pads. Wet sanded with 1500-24000 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200-12000 grit pipes. I wiped the briar down after each pad with a damp cotton pad to remove the sanding dust. The colour of the briar was uneven and the area around the stamping had some dark streaks that I could not remove. I worked on them with a corner of micromesh but I was thinking I would need to stain the bowl to take care of the issues. Before I went that far I decided to rub the bowl down with some Before & After Restoration Balm. I rubbed it into the briar and buffed it to see what showed up. I like the grain but I wanted to go for a darker brown to cover the stains on the shank. I was not happy with the overall look yet but decided to clean out the shank and the mortise. I scraped the mortise walls with a dental spatula to loosen the build up in the shank. I used cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and alcohol to remove the tars and oils that had built up in the shank and kept the stem from seating against the shank end. With the inside and outside clean it was time to stain the bowl. I heated the briar and then applied some Fiebing’s Light Brown stain to the briar. I flamed it and repeated the process until I was happy with the coverage on the bowl.I let the stain cure for several hours and worked on another pipe. Once the stain had set I wiped it down with isopropyl alcohol on cotton pads to remove the excess and make the stain more transparent. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. I worked some Restoration Balm into the newly stained surface of the briar and it came alive. The following photos show the new look of the pipe. I buffed the pipe on the buffing wheel using Blue Diamond polish. It removed a little more of the darker stain and the grain really began to shine through more clearly. I set the bowl aside and addressed the issues with the stem. I sanded the surface of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove as much of the oxidation as I could. I wiped down the surface of the stem with a damp cloth and cleaned out the tooth marks with cotton swabs. I filled in the tooth marks with black super glue and laid the stem aside to let the repairs cure. I turned to work on another pipe while the repair cured.Once the repairs had hardened and cured I used a needle file to sharpen the edge of the button and smooth out the repair on the stem. I sanded the stem repairs with 220 and 400 grit sand paper to blend the repair into the surface of the stem. It took a lot of sanding to smooth it out but the finished product looked a lot better than when I started. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil and then cleaned the airway in the airway with pipe cleaners and alcohol. I was quite surprised by the lack of debris and grime in the airway.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – Fine and Extra Fine. When I had finished it I wiped it down a final time and set it aside to dry. This Malaga Billiard came alive with the buffing. I polished the bowl and the stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. 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 various styles of grain shining through the finish on the bowl. The rich contrasting brown colour works well with the polished black vulcanite stem. The finished pipe is a beauty and feels great in the hand. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 3/4 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 inch. I will be putting this I have a few more of Alex’s pipes to finish then this one will be heading back to him. I look forward to hearing what he thinks of the new look Thanks for walking through the restoration with me on this Malaga.