Giving New Life to a “Malaga” Custom Carved Acorn

Blog by Steve Laug

I am working through a lot of the queue of pipes that are sitting in my repair bin in the evenings this week. Next on the table is another Malaga from Alex that he dropped off for a restoration. It is what Malaga called a Custom Carved pipe. It is an Acorn or Strawberry shaped pipe with a smooth finish. The top is slightly crowned with a flat rim top. The pipe has an unstained natural oil finish. The pipe had been lightly reamed and cleaned according to the seller. The bowl and shank were dirty but there was a light cake that was heavier in the bottom half. The rim top had a thick lava coat and some damage on the top surface. There was a deeper burn mark on the front inner edge. The pipe is stamped on the right side of the shank and reads “MALAGA” over Custom Carved. The finish on the pipe is spotty with a lot of grime and dust ground into the finish. The stem was very deeply oxidized and polished over the oxidation. There was tooth damage on the button itself and on both sides of the stem. The photos give a pretty clear picture of the shape of the pipe and its general condition when I received it. I took a close up photo of the bowl and rim to capture the condition of the pipe before I started my restoration of the pipe. The rim top had some tars and lava build up but the edges were fairly clean. There was a light burned are on the right front inner edge of the bowl. The stem itself was an interesting mess. It had been shinned and polished but there was still some very deep oxidation that is visible – with the shine is a cloudy brown colour. There are also tooth marks on both sides of the stem and on the button surface. I took a photo to capture the stamping on the right side of the shank and one of the underside of the shank. The first photo shows stamping as noted above. The stamping on this pipe is clear and readable. This time it includes the quotation marks that show up on various Malaga pipes. There was also the letter C was stamped on the underside of the shank at the stem/shank junction. I believe this refers to the fact that the pipe has the Malaga Carved finish. 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 – That blog also includes links to a catalogue and the history of the pipemaker George Khoubesser. If you are interested to learn more, than I invite you to follow the link to get a feel for the brand and the pipemaker.

I reamed the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to clean up the remaining cake and to scrape away the tars and lava on the rim top.I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush. I rinsed the bowl under running water and dried it off with a soft cloth. I took photos of the bowl at this point in the cleanup process. I started my work on the pipe topping the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper. I wanted to remove as much of the damage to the rim top as possible and minimize the burn damage on the front edge of the bowl. Once I had the bowl topped I repaired a damaged spot on the front of the bowl with clear super glue and briar dust. While the repair dried I used a folded piece of sandpaper to smooth out the inner edge of the bowl. Once the repair cured I sanded it smooth. I polished the bowl, shank and the freshly sanded rim top with 2400-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 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 grain stood out more and gave a shine to the pipe. I liked what I saw when I looked at it. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar 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. 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. I cleaned out the airway in the shank and wiped out the bowl to clean out the tars and oils. I used a dental spatula to scrape out the hard tars that coated the walls of the mortise. I scrubbed it with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol. With the bowl finished I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. I “painted” the surface of the stem with the flame of a lighter to raise the deep tooth marks. Heat can raise dents and level out the surface of the stem. Even though I was not able to remove all of them I was able to remove the majority.I filled in the remaining two tooth dents on each side of the stem with clear super glue and set the stem aside to let the repairs cure.Once the repairs cured, I sanded the stem surface with 220 grit sandpaper to blend in the repairs with the surface of the stem and to remove the oxidation. 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 cleaned out the airway in the stem with alcohol and pipe cleaners until all of the tars and oils were removed.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 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 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 1/2 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. This one will be going back to Alex with the rest of his pipes that I am working on. Thanks for walking through the restoration on this Custom Carved “Malaga” Acorn.

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