Sunday, April 5, 2015

Tools For A 19th Century Long Nose Golf Club

From Horace Hutchinson's The Book Of Golf And Golfers


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Ramshorn Saves Your Sole

FTEN, people describe the horn along the leading edge of the sole of a pre-1900 long nose golf club as 'ramshorn'. Most of the clubs through the 19th century used a whitish translucent horn actually derived from cattle rather than the horns found on rams from Scotland.

Here are the steps to insert the horn with the accompanying steps described by J.H. Taylor from The Book of Golf and Golfers:

Tom Morris putter, left, circa 1870.
Replica putter, right, with beech head and approximately 1/8" thick horn

1/8" thick translucent horn cut with Plexiglas cutter. 
The horn behaves similar to Plexiglas except for an odor.
Mark out mortise for horn with a marking knife.
Make the lines deep. 
Also score a line with a marking gauge along the bottom of the face
 a bit less than the thickness of the horn.

Chisel out the waste. Go slowly. This process takes quite a bit of time.
You could also consider using a hand router or electric trim router with fence.

The horn is curved with heat prior to gluing to better conform to the slightly curved sole.
There is a slight inward taper of the wall to lock in the horn, which has a complimentary dovetail-like taper

Holes are bored through both the horn and clubhead.

Ensure that the peg holes are angled back toward the rear of the club. 
This will keep the horn better seated as the club contacts the ground.
On the first clubs I made, I had glued the horn first, then pegged the horn. But, it's probably better to create the pegholes first to prevent the horn from drifting while gluing and clamping. The horn is clamped on the ends and the middle hole is bored first. The middle peg then is tapped in slightly to stabilize the horn while the two end holes are bored. I use Old Brown hide glue.

 Clamps can be placed between the pegs.

The pegs are made of hickory or other hardwoods. I use the dowel plate seen in the background.

Play club made of pear wood.

John Whyte-Melville, Captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, St. Andrews 1823 and 1883 at the 18th tee/17th green with the Swilcan bridge in the background. At first, when I saw this painting, it seemed strange that the caddie was teeing up the ball, yet Whyte-Melville has a putter in hand (based on length of shaft and fairly acute angle of the neck). I thought, perhaps, he was using a driving putter, but the shafts on those were longer. The putter does make sense because in those days, players would tee the ball six to eight club lengths from the prior hole and he has not yet switched clubs. This is confirmed by the fact that we see the driver on the ground behind the caddie.
Painting by Sir Francis Grant, 1874.

Illuminated letter "O" by Thomas Hodge from Golf, The Badminton Library

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Scare Joint

P until the 1890's, the golf club head was affixed to the shaft using a 4-6" taper on the head glued to a matching taper on the end of the shaft. Woodworkers know this joint as a scarf joint, while Scottish golf clubmakers call it a "scare joint". Besides golf, connecting two pieces of wood with adjoining tapered ends has many applications.

A simple scarf joint can be used to connect mouldings, siding, boat masts, etc.

An angled scarf can be used to attach the headstock of a guitar to the neck.
Simple scarf joints are connected together with opposing angled cuts, then glued and may use some sort of external buttressing. More complex scarf joints can use interlocking arrangements to provide more gluing surface and stability.

For hundreds of years, a simple scare joint was used for golf clubs. The year 1891 marked the gradual disappearance of the scare joint when Robert Anderson patented the socket neck. Since 1904, the majority of woods have been attached with the socket method where the shaft bores through a hole in the clubhead. The socket design is easier to manufacture. Traditionalists continued to use the scared neck design claiming better feel and tempo. The great Harry Vardon played all of his competitive rounds with the 'scare', and Walter Hagen won his fourth Open Championship in 1929 at Muirfield with one, the last major victory for the 'scared'. In his 1906 The Complete Golfer, Vardon makes a convincing argument for the continued use of the scared neck versus the socket neck:

Early Anderson socket neck club, left. Photo courtesy Sotheby's
Shaft end visible on the sole through bored hole in clubhead  on a early 20thcentury club, right. 
Golfers had there choice of socket or scared clubs in the early 20th century. From Spalding's Official Golf Guide 1902

The scared joint typically ranges from 4-6"

Block plane used to make the scare on the neck of the clubhead..
The length and angle of the scare should be the same for the shaft and clubhead neck
The angle can be adjusted surprisingly well with the plane and your eye.

While it may appear that the shaft is connected to the clubhead on this view, this is actually an aerial view with the clubhead above the shaft in preparation for pencil marking the correct angle for the shaft scare using the clubhead scare as a guide.
The taper follows the pencil line which is faintly seen. 

Both ends of the planed surface should end in points.
The grain of the shaft should run side to side rather than front to back

Traditionalists used string to clamp the scare joint while the glue dried.
I prefer clamps.

J. H. Taylor's description of the scare joint in The Book of Golf and Golfers

William Innes of Blackheath, by Lemuel Francis Abbott, 1790.
Not only is the caddie carrying multiple clubs, but he also has a wine bottle in the pocket. Gatorade in plastic bottles had not yet been popularized.
Illuminated letter "U" by Thomas Hodge from Golf, The Badminton Library