Restoring a Malaga Hand Made Freehand Sitter


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe in the queue is from the batch of pipes I am cleaning up for Alex – this one is a Hand Made Malaga Freehand Sitter with plateau on the rim top and shank end. The entire pipe had been sandblasted but some beautiful straight grain around the bowl and birdseye grain on bottom showed through the blast.The pipe has a dark under coat of stain in the blast and a top coat of brown that really makes the grain shine through the blast. 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) Hand Made. The saddle stem is fancy, turned vulcanite and has no marking or stamping. This is another nice looking piece much like many of the pipes Alex is picking up. There was a thick cake in the bowl and some lava overflowing onto the plateau rim top. The exterior of the briar was dusty with grime in the crevices of the blast. The stem is dirty and there were 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. I took a photo of the bowl and rim to capture the condition of the pipe before I started my cleanup work. There was a lava on the rim and the cake in the bowl. The inner and outer edges of the bowl appeared to be in excellent condition. The plateau top had a lot of grime in the crevices. The stem was in decent condition. There was some light oxidation and there was wear on the button surfaces on both sides of the stem. There were tooth marks and chatter on the underside of the stem but otherwise it was not too bad.I also took a photo of the underside of the shank to show the sandblast and the stamping on the smooth panel on the end. The stamping is readable in the photo below – MALAGA over Hand Made.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 cleaning out the grooves in the plateau with a brass bristle tire brush. Once I finished I scrubbed the bowl with a tooth brush and undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap. I rinsed the bowl under running water to wash off the soap and the grime that the tooth brush had loosened. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the remnants of cake. I sanded the inside of the walls with a dowel wrapped with 220 grit sandpaper. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar and the plateau with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush 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 very good with rich contrasting stains. I scraped the mortise with a dental spatula to remove the hardened tars and oils on the walls. I then scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. 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 repairs the tooth marks on the surface of the button. 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. With both parts of the pipe finished, I polished the bowl and the stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax 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 sandblast finish and the grain came alive with the buffing. The rich contrasting colour 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: 6 inches, Height: 2 1/2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This one will be going back to Alex to add to his rack of Malaga pipes that are in his collection. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me on this uniquely carved Malaga Hand Made Freehand Sitter.

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