Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe in the queue is another pipe from the batch of pipes I am cleaning up for Alex – this one is another “Malaga” – this one a Canadian with 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 top side of the shank. It reads MALAGA followed by RAS KASSA. 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 lava overflow and 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 lightly oxidized and there a line of stickiness that appeared to be left behind from a Softee Bit protector. The stem was in good condition under the grime. 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 thick coat of lava on the rim top and it was hard to know what the inner edge of the rim looked like. The was a thick cake in the bowl. The outer edge of the bowl appeared to be in excellent condition. There was a slight inward bevel to the rim top. The stem was in decent condition. There was some light oxidation on the stem. There was also a line of stickiness that seemed to be a build up where there had been a Softee Bit Protector.I also took a photo of top side of the shank to show the stamping. The stamping is readable in the photo below and is as noted above – MALAGA RAS KASSA.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 am also am including some printed material on the Malaga brand that came to me from the daughter of George Koch to help identify the particular stamping on the pipe. The link takes you to the entire collection of materials that were sent to me. I am also including one particular page that helps identify the RAS KASSA stamping on the pipe. https://rebornpipes.com/2019/02/27/malaga-pipes-catalogue-of-pipes-and-tobaccos/
It basically says that the stamping is applied to pipes with special rare grain patterns in the briar. These appear to be straight grain, birdseye, swirled grains etc. that are tight patterns. They are rare – 1 or 2 in every hundred pipes. This pipe is one of those. You can read the description in the detailed explanation below.I started the restoration by reaming the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer using three of the four cutting heads to take the cake back to bare briar. I followed by using 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 also sanded to remove the darkening and burn marks on the rim top.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 also cleaned out the airway in the stem using pipe cleaners and alcohol.I scrubbed the bowl with a cotton pad and undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap. I rinsed the bowl under running water to wash off the soap and the grime that had been loosened. I polished the outside of the bowl with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad to remove the sanding debris. 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. 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 the buildup left behind by the Softee Bit Protector. 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 well-proportioned, nicely grained classic Canadian. 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 rarer Malaga Ras Kassa 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.