Breathing Life into a “Malaga” Carved Ball


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 Ball or Apple with some interesting grain around the oil cured bowl and shank and some carved “feathers” around the bowl bottom. There is some beautiful grain around the bowl – almost a flame grain pattern. 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 tapered stem is vulcanite and has no marking or stamping. This is the first Malaga Ball/Apple that I have worked on. It is a nice looking piece much like many of the pipes Alex is picking up. The bowl had a light cake in the chamber but the edges appeared to be in good condition. There was some lava on the rim top and some darkening on the rim top. The exterior of the briar and the carved areas were dusty with grime and dust. The stem is lightly oxidized and there was some tooth chatter 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 bowl had a thin cake and the rim top had a lava overflow on the front and back side. The inner edge of the rim seemed to be undamaged but the lava made it hard to know for sure. The stem was in decent condition. There was some light pitting and deep oxidation on the stem. There was also some light tooth 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 – 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 reamed bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer using the third cutting head. I  took the cake back to bare briar so I could check out the walls of the chamber. I cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to get rid of remnants of cake. I finished by sanding the bowl with a dowel wrapped with 220 grit sandpaper until the inside of the bowl was smooth. 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 then turned to address the damage to the inner edge and top of the rim by carefully sanding it with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I was able to remove the darkening to the rim top. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the inner edge of the bowl.I polished the rim and 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. I had forgotten to clean up the inside of the shank and mortise. So I went back to clean up the internals. I scraped the mortise with a dental spatula to remove the tar build up. I ran some cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and alcohol through the shank to remove the tars and oils. I also cleaned out the airway in the stem using pipe cleaners and alcohol. 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. I put the pipe back together and polished both 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 dark feather/leaf like carvings stand out dark against the grain providing a rich contrast. The rich finish on the briar works well with the polished black vulcanite stem. The finished pipe is a well-proportioned, nicely grained Apple. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 1 1/2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This apple shaped Malaga with its unique carved surface is a new shape and carving design for me. The Apple/Ball 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.

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