Golf Historical Society of Canada

12. Restoring a Smooth-Faced Iron

Image #1: Starting Point

12. Restoring a Smooth-Faced Iron (25 Images)

By: Ken Leedham, GHSC Member

This post deals with the restoration of a smooth-faced iron.

The club in question is a Forgan heavy iron which I bought from another GHSC member at a GHSC event. The club was not in bad shape at all, but was fairly typical of ‘as found’ antiques – there was no grip, the head was loose, and somewhat rusted (but not at all badly), and there were some scratches on the shaft, presumably from being mounted in a display with a clamp at some point.

The process of putting this club in playable shape combined various things already covered in detail in other posts – re-setting the head, removing rust from the head, adding a 19th style grip with listing, and re-finishing the shaft.

The 25 thumbnail images below read left-to-right across each line, and then down to the next line. Mouse over an individual thumbnail image to see the title. Click on an individual thumbnail image to see a larger image.

Image #1: Club Head – This is the back of the head as it came. The Forgan mark is almost entirely worn away, but you can quite clearly see the Prince of Wales’ plumes on the left – these were used by Forgan in the late 19th century, as they were the official supplier of clubs to the Prince of Wales (the eldest son of the monarch). They switched to using a crown, as supplier to the King, in 1901, when Queen Victoria died, and their client became Edward VII. The head was a little rusted, and quite loose on the shaft.

Image #2: Club Face – This is the face of the club, as it came, with a little rust, and normal playing nicks.

Image #3: Top of Shaft – This is the top of the shaft, as it came. You can see a tack from the previous grip at the bottom right.

Image #4: Scratches on Shaft – Here is a close-up of the scratches on the shaft. I assume that these resulted from the club being at some point held in a display using a crude clamp, with sharp edges. At least that is better than drilling holes in the shaft… which I have quite often seen done, and which essentially destroys the shaft.

Image #5: Pin is Visible – If you look closely, in this picture you can see the circular head of the pin, in the centre, towards the top of the hosel. Because the pin is visible, there is no need to use any rubbing or other measure to find it.

Image #6: Mark the Pin– I mark the pin with a Sharpie, to make sure that I punch in the correct place. I will then remove the pin using punches on an anvil – see Reset Heads of Hickory Irons – Part 1 (removing and re-gluing) for more details.

Image #7: Remove the Head – Here I have removed the head, and you can see the condition of the cone on the end of the shaft.

Image #8: Sand the Shaft – I sanded the lower part of the shaft somewhat, to try to eliminate the scratches. I did not completely get the scratches out, as I did not want to remove a significant amount of wood from the shaft.

Image #9: Polishing & Patina – The head could have just been polished with steel wool and left with a degree of patina. This is somewhat a question of taste. I decided to remove rust, using a bath of Evapo-Rust.

Image #10: Evapo-Rust – Here is the head sitting in a bath of Evapo-Rust, in a old yoghurt container. 

Image #11: Tack Removal – Whilst the head was soaking, I continued work on the shaft. I removed the old tack, starting by levering it with a thin blade.

Image #12: Rusty Tack – I actually had the devil of a time getting this old tack out – it was large, rusty, and very solidly in. After getting it up a bit with the blade, I used side-cutters to pry it out.

Image #13: Apply Grip – Next I apply a grip with listing to the shaft. It is easier to grip shafts when there is no head on them, so if you are re-setting the head and gripping, you might as well do the gripping while the head is off. Here I have wrapped friction tape on the area of the shaft to be gripped, and then wrapped listing over that. See Gripping with Listing for more details.

Image #14: Friction Tape – In this case I am going to use leather suede side out for the top wrap, and since the smooth side of the leather is quite slick, I am putting an additional wrap of friction tape over the top of the listing. Obviously friction tape is hardly historical… but it does help to prevent grips from slipping, and can’t be seen when the grip is complete.

Image #15: Leather Wrapped – Now I have wrapped a leather strip, suede side out, over the second layer of friction tape, with, of course, tacks in each end. These are the larger 7mm tacks from Etsy.

Image #16: Whipping – And now I have whipped, top and bottom, using Crawford 4-ply waxed linen thread. See Whipping the Grip for details.

Image #17: After Bath– Here is the head, after around 5 hours in the Evapo-Rust bath.

Image #18: Dry Head – I take the head out, rinse it off with water, and then dry it using a heat gun (I especially don’t want to leave any water inside the hosel).

Image #19: Wipe the Head – I wipe the head down with fine emery paper and steel wool. Here is the face.

Image #20: Back of Head – And here is the back. There is not much left of the stampings. This is most likely due to the club being peristently cleaned with emery cloth back in the ‘old days’, probably by caddies.

Image #21: Emery Cloth– I use a piece of emery cloth on a stick to finish cleaning out the inside of the hosel.

Image #22: Head on Shaft – Here is the head, back on the shaft, and put to cure after epoxying. There is a temporary wooden pin in, which will be drilled out and replaced with a new steel pin after the epoxy cures. Masking tape wrapped round the join prevents any epoxy leaking out before it cures. The club is left head-up, so that the epoxy will settle and cure in the gap between the cone and the hosel. See Reset Heads of Hickory Irons – Part 1 (removing and re-gluing) for more details.

Image #23: Ready for Stain – I have re-riveted the head now. Now I rub some wood stain on the shaft, to blend the colour of the sanded section in with the rest. It is surprising what a dark stain is necessary for hickory – this is ‘Dark Walnut’, but when applied and wiped down, it actually produces quite a light colour on hickory.

Image #24: Apply Shellac – I apply a coat of Bulls Eye shellac to the shaft, and hang it up to dry.

Image #25: Finished Club – Here is the finished club. I am not sure if I will really be able to play this one – it is a real 19th century ‘heavy iron’: over 39″ long and with an F7 swing weight. UPDATE: Yes, I certainly am able to play it. I do tend to choke down a little on the grip, since it is so long… but it hits a gutty, as they used to say, ‘far and sure’ (well, only relatively far, in my case).

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