Golf Historical Society of Canada

8. Refinishing the Head on a Wood

Image #1: Selection of Varnish

8. Refinishing the Head on a Wood (27 Images)

By: Ken Leedham, GHSC Member

This post deals with re-finishing the head on a hickory wood. 

Mostly, I am dealing here with a new method for me, based on recommendations in Bob Kuntz’s book – though given that the book was published 30 years ago in the USA, the exact products that he recommends do not seem to be available locally, so I am using available products that would seem to be similar. 

I start off by quickly summarizing the method I have been using for some time.



The 27 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: Selection of Varnish  For some time, the method I have been using has been to first clean the club with a damp cloth, and then, after drying, to smooth and / or remove the old finish as necessary using fine sandpaper and fine steel wool. Then I have been applying 3 coats of spar varnish (recommended to me by Paul Dietz) by brush, waiting 6 hours between coats and lightly sanding before each coat, as per the directions for the varnish. This varnish, meant for the spars on sailboats, is about as tough a finish as you can get, and looks good on club-heads.

Image #2: Baffy – This is a baffy that I refinished in this way. As you may see, there is still some discoloration on the top of the head – I was unable to remove this without sanding more than I was willing to do, so, since the head appeared smooth and even, I went ahead with varnishing.

Image #3: Baffy, Another View #1 – Here is another view of the baffy finished with spar varnish.

Image #4: Baffy, Another View #2 – And another view, showing the base-plate of the club, also lightly polished up.

Image #5: Spoon – Here is the spoon that I am going to try re-finishing with the new process, before the start of work.

Image #6: Spoon, Another View – And another view of the initial condition.

Image #7: Furniture Restorer – I am going to use Circa 1850 Furniture Restorer, which supposedly can ‘restore finish without stripping.’ This is, I am assuming, similar to the Gillespie’s Old Furniture Refinisher discussed and recommended by Bob Kuntz.

Image #8: Working in Refinisher – So I start off by wearing a rubber glove, and working in this ‘refinisher’ using steel wool. (I switched to a disposable latex glove for the second application.)

Image #9: Steel Wool – I work the product over the head, scrubbing in a gentle circular motion with the fine steel wool.

Image #10: After First Application – Here is the head after completing the first application of ‘refinisher’.

Image #11: Refinisher Directions – And here are the directions for the refinisher product.

Image #12: After an Hour – Here is what the head looked like after waiting one hour, as directed.

Image #13: After Buffing – And here is the head after buffing up with dry steel wool.

Image #14: Next Steps & Tung Oil – So… I did one more application of the refinisher, with another hour’s wait. Then I must admit I reverted somewhat to my former procedure, and used both fine sandpaper and steel wool to smooth down remnants of old finish and prepare the head for the application of tung oil finish, the other new element that I am trying (also recommended by Bob Kuntz). I did notice that the label says this product ‘contains pure tung oil’, but not what else it contains. I did not find pure tung oil for sale locally – I may try to obtain some subsequently… although apparently tung oil generally needs to be thinned for application.

Image #15: Working the Tung Oil – Here I have worked tung oil thoroughly into the head. The directions say to use a ‘lint free cloth’, but being short on lint free cloths, I used a paper towel.

Image #16: After 10 Minutes – And here is the head after waiting 10 minutes, as directed, for the first application of tung oil.

Image #17: Wipe Excess – Then I wiped off excess as directed. The directions say to wait a bit more, and if puddles form, wipe off excess again. Some small puddles did form, so I did gently wipe off excess a couple more times.

Image #18: Tung Oil Directions – Here are the directions on the tung oil.

Image #19: After 24 Hours – This is the head after standing for 24 hours after the first application of tung oil.

Image #20: After Buffing – And here is the head after buffing with dry, fine steel wool.

Image #21: Another Coat of Tung Oil – I decided to do another coat of tung oil. So here I have wiped on tung oil again, with a paper towel.

Image #22: Wipe Excess Again – And then immediately wiped off excess, as directed for subsequent coats.

Image #23: After Second Coat – This is 24 hours after the second coat, and after a buffing.

Image #24: Wipe Tung Oil – I decided to do one more wipe with tung oil.

Image #25: Wipe Excess – And then I wiped off the excess.

Image #26: Finalization – So that’s it, the end result… 3rd coat of tung oil, then another 24 hour wait, and another buffing. Now we’ll have to see how this finish stands up under playing conditions. But I will leave it at least another week to cure more first. Tung oil polymerizes when in contact with oxygen – but this is a process that takes quite some time to complete.

Image #27: Final Comparison – And here’s a final comparison – start to finish.

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