Giving New Life to a “Malaga” Cherrywood Sitter

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” –a Cherrywood with some interesting grain around the oil cured bowl and shank. There was a “bald” spot on the left side of the bowl but otherwise there was great grain around the rest of the bowl. There is some beautiful birdseye grain around the bowl and cross grain on the shank. 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”. The saddle stem is vulcanite and has no marking or stamping. This is the first Cherrywood Malaga that I have been working on. It is a nice looking piece much like many of the pipes Alex is picking up. The bowl had been reamed and was in decent condition. There were some burn marks on the front outer edge of the bowl and some darkening on the rim top toward the back. The exterior of the briar was dusty with grime on the shank and bowl. The stem is lightly oxidized and there was some tooth chatter and marks on the top and underside near the button. 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. The rim top was clean but there was burn damage on the front outer edge of the rim. There was some darkening on the back topside of the rim. The inner edge of the rim was damaged at the back side and had been poorly beveled inward to mask it. The stem was in decent condition. There was some light oxidation on the stem. There was also some tooth marks and chatter on the top and underside of the stem at the button.I also took a photo of left side of the shank to show the stamping. The stamping is readable in the photo below and is as noted above – “MALAGA”.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 then I invite you to follow the link to get a feel for the brand and the pipemaker.

Since the pipe had been cleaned and reamed by the pipe shop that sold the pipe to Alex I decided to check out the clean up. The bowl had been well reamed. I used a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to scrape out the slight cake remnants that remained. I then turned to address the damage to the outer and inner edge of the rim by topping it on a topping board with 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 used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the inner edge of the bowl. I decided to check on the cleanup work on the inside of the shank and mortise. I scraped the mortise with a dental spatula to check on tar build up and it was clean. I then ran some cotton swabs through the shank and found that it was filthy. Upon that discovery I 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 out the airway in the stem in the same manner.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 and the tooth marks and chatter on both sides ahead 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 1500-12000 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 Cherrywood Sitter. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/8 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. This unique shaped Malaga, one I had not seen before. The Cherrywood Sitter 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.

2 thoughts on “Giving New Life to a “Malaga” Cherrywood Sitter

    1. Alex Kramer

      I was really looking forward to this one and I love it! Even more so than the Apple/Ball this is a ‘like new’ Malaga. What a pleasure it was to be able to enjoy it on the porch for the first few bowls!


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