Our Workshop is the heart of the company, we have a recently opened up the factory to the public by creating a stunning viewing gallery that allows visitors the opportunity to see how we make hickory golf clubs. You can see all the major steps that are required to make a fully playable hickory golf club.
A different metal template is used for each head design. There have been many different types of wood used over the centuries. Many have been the by product of other applications. The main ones being Maple, beech and persimmon . The process starts with a plank with thickness between 2″ and 4″ is required dependant on the model and head shape required. It is important to place the template so that the grain of the timber runs in the correct direction so as to maximise the strength of the finished product
As you will see from the image the blocks are cut using a band saw and stacked ready for loading into the head turning lathe.
This heavy duty lathe will turn 4 copies of the same head shape during each run cycle. A master copy of the head shape required is mounted first into the machine followed by 4 timber blocks. While the steel master copy is being slowly rotated a copy wheel follows it’s shape while a set of cutters transfer the shape to each timber block eventually reproducing the original shape of the master. In years gone by each wooden head had to be fashioned by hand which was a very labour intensive process. This type of machine and earlier models allowed the early industry to fulfil periods of heavier demand for product.
It is necessary to add weight to each wooden head, some of which will come from the brass sole plate and its fixing screws and some weight comes from the turned head. However, this is usually not enough to give the putter that certain feel that is important.
Extra head weight is gained by first drilling a hole under the sole which is then filled with molten lead. A pre-determined weight is reached before the head can pass on to the next stage
The sole plate is cut from sheet brass plate. The plate offers an opportunity to personalise the putter and there are different ways to achieve this. One of the old methods is to use a hand punch which is formed using a good quality steel with a tungsten steel cutting edge. Using an anvil and pound hammer and depending on the size of imprint required, the punch may need to be struck very precisely 5 or 6 times, each time relocating it exactly back into the indentation it has already created. At the St. Andrews Golf Company we also utilise other methods that can reproduce a very complex precise designs onto this part of the club.
Once all the information has been put onto the plate several holes are drilled and countersunk to accept its brass fixing screws. For added strength the plate is also glued onto the head. Once the adhesive has hardened the rough edges and protruding screw heads are ground off. The sole plate not only protects the wooden head when in use but also adds weight which is vital to the feel and usability of the finished putter.
One of the strongest parts of the club is the joint between head and shaft which is known as a scarf joint or scare. To get the correct visual flow from the shaft into the head takes experience and a steady hand. In years gone by this would have been done with a wood rasp, scraper, sand paper and shark skin.
Different grit sleeves are used on the pneumatic drums, working gradually from course to fine, this modern method of sanding and achieving the pleasing contours of the head has reduced the number of man hours required to create a finished product. It still requires a skilled clubmaker to create the desired shape of the head, even now a momentary lapse of concentration or heavy handed approach would destroy the putter.
The hickory shaft needs to be sealed against the ingress of water. In years gone by the grain was first raised with oil and covered with bitumen, this was then heated and rubbed vigorously with a course cloth until the grain was filled. After being allowed to dry, several coats of heavy shellac varnish were applied. With today’s modern stains and sealants which are far more durable than those of old the laborious process of sealing the shaft has been superseded.
As with the shaft, modern materials are used to seal and colour the wooden head. Many different colours are available. This enables us to customise the product to a particular colour and design. For extra durability each colour coat is sealed with two layers of clear varnish.
If required a decorative transfer is applied to the colour coat and then sealed with the clear varnish finishing coats. When placed in the correct area on the crown of the putter the transfer acts as a visual reminder as to the whereabouts of the sweet spot on the putter face.
Before you can twine the club you need to prepare the shaft. We gently sand the shaft then we place a sticky resin which will help strengthen the joint once the twine has been applied.
Flax whipping twine is still used at the St. Andrews Golf Company to strengthen the head to shaft joint in preference to using more modern plastic filament thread. The wax and bitumen coated twine grips better than plastic and readily accepts a finishing coat of varnish.
To facilitate a firm foundation and tacky surface the hickory shaft is primed with bitumen in the area where the grip is to be fitted. Starting at the butt end of the club the grip is then wrapped tightly onto the shaft until it is the correct length. Once trimmed and tapered the ends are whipped with waxed thread.
We then drill the end of the club and then attach an end cap to the but end of the club. This is principally decorative and often has the emblem of the maker or the person to whom it is designed for.
This end cap is also important as with the constant banging a golf club receives when in the golf bag one of the most vulnerable parts of the putter is the butt end of the hickory shaft. This helps protect this area as well as adding a pleasing yet functional finishing touch to the club a brass end cap and decorative button is screwed and glued in place.
St Andrews Golf Co. inspects every product before shipping to ensure we deliver consistently high quality product every time, the product is also packed in a protective presentation package. This maintains a rigid quality control and protection for our hand crafted traditional hickory shaft products, the last of their kind to be produced by skilled clubmakers using traditional methods in the,”Home of Golf.”
The factory is open to the public.