Restoring a Malaga Custom Carved Freehand


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe in the queue is yet another interesting pipe from the Michigan lot – a Custom Carved Malaga Freehand with plateau on the rim top and horn(?) shank extension. The entire pipe had some beautiful straight grain around the bowl and birdseye grain on bottom and top of the shank. The plateau rim top had some darkening but was otherwise in good condition. The pipe has a natural oil finish that really makes the grain on the pipe pop. The carver did a great job utilizing the block of briar to maximize the grain. The pipe is stamped on the underside of the shank. It reads “MALAGA” (over) Custom Carved. The stem is vulcanite and has no marking or stamping on it. It is a typical freehand style saddle stem. This is another nice looking piece much like the rest of those in this 21 pipe Michigan pipe lot. The Malaga Custom Carved Freehand I am working on is shown on the second shelf of the rack pictured below. It is the first pipe from the right and I put a red box around it to make it easy to identify.Jeff took some photos of the pipe when he received them to show the general condition of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. Like the rest of the pipes from the Michigan collection this pipe was well used. There was a thick cake in the bowl and some lava overflowing onto the plateau rim top. It was hard to know if the edges of the bowl were damaged or not because of the cake and lava. The exterior of the briar was dirty with grease and oils from being held. The horn shank extension was dull and the fit was not perfect on the shank. The stem is dirty and there were deep tooth marks on both sides of the stem at the button edge and some wear on the button edge itself. The photos below tell the story and give a glimpse of the pipe before clean up. Jeff took a photo of the bowl and rim to capture the condition of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. There was a thick coat of lava on the rim and the cake in the bowl. It shows the mess this pipe was in when we received it. The thick lava overflow on the rim top made it hard to know what the inner edges of the bowl looked like. The outer edges actually appeared to be in excellent condition. The plateau top had a lot of grease and grime in the crevices of the top.He also took a photo of the right and underside of the bowl and shank to show the straight grain around the bowl. The finish is very dirty but the grain is visible in the photo.Jeff took photos of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It reads as noted above and is clear and legible. The horn shank extension was worn and there was grime in the junction of the horn and the briar. The next two photos show the stem surface. They show the tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. There are also some marks on the sharp edge of the button. The stem is dirty and is covered in scratches. Jeff 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 rim and the grime on the finish of the bowl. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. He was able to remove the lava build up on the rim top and you could see the overall condition of the bowl top and edges of the rim. He scrubbed the stem with soap to remove the grime on the surface. I took photos of the pipe to show its condition before I started work on it. I took a close up photo of the bowl and rim to capture the condition of the pipe before he started my restoration of the pipe. The rim top was clean but had some darkening on the surface at the back of the bowl. The stem was quite clean but had tooth marks on the top and underside near the button. There were also tooth marks on the button surface on both sides. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the brand, I am also including the link to a blog that I wrote that gives some of the history of the Malaga brand and the Malaga Pipe Shop in Royal Oak, Michigan in the USA. Here is the link – https://rebornpipes.com/tag/malaga-pipes/. That blog also includes links to a catalogue and the history of the pipemaker George Khoubesser. If you are interested to learn more, then I invite you to follow the link to get a feel for the brand and the pipemaker.

I started the process of the restoration by working on the damage to the joint of the horn shank extension and the briar shank I sanded the joint with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the transition and make it more seamless. I polished the freshly sanded horn extension and the smooth briar with 2400-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-4000 grit pads. I wiped the rim top down with a damp cloth after each pad. I found that with each successive grit of micromesh the striations in the horn shank and the grain on the bowl sides stood out more and gave a shine to the pipe. I liked what I saw when I looked at it. I decided to save the 6000-12000 grit micromesh pads until after I had addressed the rim top and inner edge. I turned to work on the darkening and damage to the rim top and edges. I addressed the damage on the inner edge first. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to give the rim edge a slight bevel. I dry scrubbed the rim top with a brass bristle tire brush to remove the darkening around the plateau high spots and the grooves. I was able to remove much of the damage. When I finished with the rim edge and top clean up I went back to the micromesh sanding pads. I polished the horn shank extension and the bowl with 6000-12000 grit pads and wiped it down with a damp cloth after each pad. I rubbed down the shank extension with Obsidian Oil when I had finished and set it aside to dry. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar and the plateau with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. I buffed the rim top with a shoe brush to make sure that the nooks and crannies had the conditioner deep in them. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The bowl and the rim top look really good and the darkening is gone. The finish looks very good with the rich oil finish on the bowl and rim. I am very happy with the results. With the bowl finished I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. I filled in the deep tooth marks and dents on the both the top and underside of the stem and on the edges of the button on both sides with clear super glue. When the repairs had cured I used a needle file to flatten the repaired spots in preparation for sanding. I sanded the stem surface with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the waves, remove the oxidation and smooth out the tooth marks on the surface of the button. I sanded with long strokes on the surface to blend in the high and low spots. I am happy with the stem surface once that was done. I started the polishing of the surface with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with a damp cloth after each pad. I further polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I wiped it down with a coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. Now with both parts of the pipe finished, I polished stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl multiple 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 came alive with the buffing. The rich oil finish on the briar works well with the horn shank extension and 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: 6 inches, Height: 2 1/2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. This one will be going on the rebornpipes store shortly and can be added to your collection. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me on this uniquely carved Malaga Custom Carved Freehand.

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