Blog by Steve Laug
The next pipe on the work table came to me as a trade for work on pipes from Alex. I have worked on quite a few of his pipes and this pipe was one that he bought and was disappointed with when it arrived (I will spell out the issues below). It is a beautifully grained Malaga Hand Made Ras Kassa Dublin that is really quite nice. The Ras Kassa is the top of the line for Malaga pipes and very few receive that premium stamping. The grain on this one is a mix of straight and flame grain around the bowl with some mixed grain as well. The stamping is the readable. It is stamped on the underside of the shank and reads the Malaga [over] Hand Made [over] Ras Kassa. The Malaga Oil finish had a coat of varnish on it that I really find irritating. To me it defeats the quality oil finish on these Malaga pipes. The bowl was clean however the inner edge of the bowl had a lot of damage and was out of round. The biggest issue thought was there appeared to have been a shank repair done where it met the bowl. There was a visible crack that was tight. The repair was well done but whoever sanded it left a dip over the crack which resulted in a hump on the top of the shank. It took a very flowing shank and ruined the geography and flow of it. The fancy turned Freehand stem was clean but there was still oxidation on the turned areas, in the creases of the button and even on the smooth surfaces. It was polished over the oxidation. I took a trade because I thought I might be able to improve on it. It was such a nice piece of briar and the shape was stellar. I wanted to give it a go! We shall see how it works. I took a couple of photos of the problem area. I have drawn a red box around it. The repaired crack is in the valley of the photos noted by a blue arrow in the pictures below. The hump is very noticeable in person and you can feel it when you run your finger over it. The crack is tightly repaired and sound so that is not an issue. It is the sanding of the valley above it that is the issue.I also took a photo of the rim top to show the damage to the inner edge of the bowl. I know many folks do not like to do any work on this but to me it makes a big difference in the finished pipe. You can see the darkening on the edge and the notches and nicks clearly in the photo. It is hard to see the oxidation on the rings on the stem and surface in the photos but it is present and annoying to me. I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. While it is faint it is still very readable. I also took the stem off and took a photo of the bowl to try and capture the beauty of the pipe. Again the issue for me on it is the thick coat of varnish on the oil cured bowl masks the finish that was originally there.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. I have written an earlier blog to give a little history of the Malaga Brand and the pipemaker, George Khoubesser. 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. Follow the link to get a feel for the brand and the pipemaker if it is new to you.
I started my work on the pipe by addressing the dip above the repaired crack and the hump on the shank top behind it. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the hump and transition to the dip. It did not take too much effort to remove the damage. I started the polishing of the area with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. The photos below tell the story. To deal with the damage to the inner edge of the bowl I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper and smoothed out the edges and remove the burn and damaged areas. I was able to bring the bowl back to round. I polished it with some 400 grit wet dry sandpaper before using micromesh to polish the bowl.I wiped the bowl down with alcohol to remove the varnish coat and of course forgot to take a photo of that work. The varnish came off with some scrubbing and what was left was the oil cured Malaga briar. I polished the bowl and the rim top, sides and shank with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping it down after each pad with a damp cloth. I carefully avoided the stamping on the top and underside of the shank so as not to damage the already faint stamping. I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides, plateau top and shank end with my fingertips and a horse hair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. I scrubbed the stem surface with Soft Scrub All Purpose cleanser to remove the remaining oxidation. The oxidation was strongest in the twists and turns of the lower portion of the stem. It took quite a bit of elbow grease to remove the oxidation but when I was finished it looked very good. I polished the vulcanite stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. This beautiful Malaga Hand Made Ras Kassa with a fancy turned vulcanite stem is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored. The rich oil finish that Malaga used came alive with the polishing and waxing. The repair on the shank/bowl joint looks very good and the transition is smooth. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Malaga Ras Kassa is a beauty with the great grain and flowing lines. It fits nicely in the hand and looks very good. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¾ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. If you are interested in adding this pipe to your collection send me a message or an email. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!