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 “Malaga” large, chubby Billiard with some heft and some beautiful grain around the oil cured bowl and shank. The entire pipe has some beautiful birdseye grain around the bowl and cross grain on the front and back of the bowl. The pipe has not been stained but sports the usual Malaga oil cured look. The carver did a great job utilizing the block of briar to maximize the grain. The pipe is stamped on the left side of the shank. It reads “MALAGA”. On the right side of the shank it is stamped with an upside down Imported Briar. The tapered stem is 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 cake in the bowl and some darkening on the rim top. The exterior of the briar was dusty with grime and sticky spots on the shank and bowl. The stem is oxidized and there were light tooth marks on both sides of the stem at the button edge and some wear on the button edge itself. The entire pipe reeked of the licorice odor that remains when a pipe has been used to smoke Half and Half tobacco. This one is pungent with the odor. 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. Other than the darkening at the back side of the rim top the rim was in good condition. The was a light cake in the bowl. The inner edge has some nicks but not to bad. The outer edge of the bowl appeared to be in excellent condition. The biggest issue was the heavy stench of aromatic tobacco. In this case the smell of Half and Half as noted above. The stem was in decent condition. There was some oxidation and wear on the button surfaces on both sides of the stem. There were light tooth marks and chatter on both sides of the stem but otherwise it was not too bad.I also took a photo of both the left and right side of the shank to show the stamping on them. The stamping is readable in the photos below.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 restoration by reaming the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer followed by a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the remnants of the cake on the walls in the heel. I sanded the inside of the walls with a dowel wrapped with 220 grit sandpaper. I worked on the slight damage to the inner edge of the rim by sanding it with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I was able to remove the damage and the burned areas.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. I used a lot of pipe cleaners and cotton swabs but I was not beating the stink in the bowl. I knew that I would need to do something a bit more intrusive if I was going to beat it. It was getting late and I was ready to call it a day. I stuffed the bowl with cotton balls and put a folded pipe cleaner in the shank to wick out the tars and oils in the shank. I used an ear syringe to fill the bowl with isopropyl alcohol. It would sit overnight and I would see what came out of the briar. It would also tell me where the issue was.In the morning when I got up I took a photo of the bowl. The cotton balls and alcohol had definitely pulled some oils out of the bowl but not too much. The interesting thing to me was the amount of oils and tars that the pipe cleaner had wicked out of the shank and mortise. This meant a lot more cleaning for me. I took out the cotton balls and pipe cleaner and had a look. I scrubbed the shank and mortise once more with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol until it was clean. Finally I had beaten the stench radiating from the shank of the pipe.Once I finished cleaning out the inside of the pipe, 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. At this point in the process of restoration I decided to top the bowl to remove the damage to the rim top and the darkening. I topped it on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper until the rim top was smooth and the darkening was reduced.I polished the outside of the bowl with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad to remove the sanding debris. I worked on the darkened area on the rear right side of the outer edge of the rim. I was able to remove much of the damage with the sanding. The photos tell the story. 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 very good with rich grain patterns. With the bowl finished I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded the stem surface with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation and smooth out 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 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 oil cured finish and the grain came alive with the buffing. The rich finish on the briar works well with the polished black vulcanite stem. The finished pipe is a chubby billiard that is a nice handful. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/8 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 another of Alex’s Malaga collection.