Saturday, May 2, 2015

Some Additional Tips On Long Nose Golf Clubmaking

ERE are a few additional random tips to pass on if you want to try your hand at making featherie or gutta percha era long nose golf clubs. Many of the tips are based on methods described by J.H. Taylor in The Book of Golf and Golfers, by Willie Park, Jr in The Game of Golf as well as from my own observations.

  • When looking at the butt end of the shaft with the clubface toward the target, the grain of the shaft should run left to right (generally towards the target) rather than front to back.

  • Attention to grain direction of the clubhead is important. Here is what J.H. Taylor described in the Book Of Golf And Golfers in 1899:

This is my interpretation of his J.H.'s description.
Clubheads seen at the bottom are a view of the top of the clubhead.
Taylor says to avoid grain like clubhead  "A"

  • The shaft is rubbed with boiled linseed oil. After drying, rub, then quickly wipe off some liquid asphaltum. The asphaltum will produce those black lines in the grain that one sees on hickory shafts as well as the amber hue. Pitch or asphaltum closes the pores to reduce water damage. One or two thin coats of shellac (thinned 50% with denatured alcohol and applied with a lint-free finely woven rag) finish off the shaft.  Liquid asphaltum can be purchased from Dick Blick's Art supply online. Raw solid bitumen has also been described instead of asphaltum, but I have no idea where to purchase bitumen. I wear rubber gloves when applying asphaltum. Is this the same stuff that is used in Japanning metal planes? 

  • The scare joint should be at least 4" long, preferably 5 -6" to allow for a better gluing surface. Not only is there more surface, but there is less of an end grain to end grain surface because of the shallow angle which allows for a stronger glue joint. A 4" scare/scarf probably will suffice for a putter.

  • Many long nose clubs had a subtle, or not so subtle, hooked shaped clubface towards the toe.
Hook shaped clubface.
The grain direction is not ideal for this clubhead.
The curved grain lines should flow toward the clubface.
  • There are two key sets of lines or arrises (an arris is the intersection of two angled surfaces to form an edge) to help guide you in shaping the clubhead. The first is on the top of the clubhead where there is a subtle flat c-shaped arris running from heel to toe. The arris eventually will be smoothed down to become a subtle dome. 

  •  There is a v-shaped pair of arrises forming the heel of the club with the point running up the rear of the neck. 

  • The pegs through the ram's horn are angled back away from the face. 

Angle back the peg holes.
To shape the cavity for the horn, hand tools or a trim router will do the job.
A trim router with fence is handy on difficult grain.

  • The round Microplane tool has served me well in shaping the clubhead. It hogs off material quickly. Wooden spokeshaves are also invaluable for shaping the sole and top of the clubhead as well as the area around the scare joint after gluing

Shaping tools. The wooden spokeshaves and the Microplane (third from the top) are invaluable.

A Putter

Willie Park, Sr
    Illuminated letter "H" by Thomas Hodge from Golf, The Badminton Library


    1. great photo's, excellent workmanship. Appreciate the information as I too have embarked on this traditional method of clubmaking.

    2. There aren't too many of us. Let me know if you come across any new insights on 19th century clubmaking.

    3. Hi there. I enjoyed looking over your site. I build replica feathery and guttie clubs.
      I have experimented with many grain directions on the club head. I noticed one picture where you mentioned the grain should be running towards the face.That club would have been better if made left handed? I've had grain running straight from toe to heel, diagonally both ways, U shaped grain and grain running from face to back. I like the look of U shaped grain but haven't figured out a way to consistently achieve it. Before I cut out a head I focus on the end grain and with many reference pieces in my shop, I have a good idea what the grain will look like on the top of the head. Some of my blocks of beech are destined to be putters because of the end grain.

      1. Kelly,

        At the risk of getting too pedantic, here are my thoughts on grain direction:
        Grain straight across from toe to heel or with a slight U shape is best. But, with fruitwoods, finding a large straight grain slab is not so easy. So, we are usually dealing with curved grain.Two factors for club head durability need to be considered: prevention of crushing the wood fibers and prevention of splitting. My thought on U-shaped grain would be that the apex of the "U" should point toward the lead, not the head. This would have the end grain toward the face. This would be similar to having an end grain butcher block, which holds up better than face grain against hammering. A ball impacting end grain (axial load) will compress/crush the wood less than if it hits the face grain (apex of "U" toward face). On the other hand, splitting of wood along grain lines would be more likely when hitting into the grain, as would happen when we split wood. However, pear and apple, being diffuse porous, rather than ring porous, tend to split much less readily than some other woods along the grain. That is part of the reason we don't use some hard woods, like hickory for the heads. It is a hard wood, but splits easily. We are dealing with compromises.

        Jeff Ellis' book, The Clubmaker's Art, shows a variety of grain patterns, but I only saw one club with the grain running diagonally from face back toward the area between the heel and toe.

        Here is what J.H. Taylor said in The Book Of Golf And Golfers:

        What I mean is this, the grain of the head should run in one of three ways, either straight across from the face to the lead, longways from the toe to the heel, or curve from the face back towards the heel. With either of these three ways there is not much wrong, but if the grain runs from the face with an inclination towards the toe, the face will generally break up very soon after it is played with. The grain will usually be right if the block is sawn out so that the face of the club shall be formed of that part of the plank which was nearest the heart of the tree. This is also best for durability, as heart-wood, or duramen, is always the strongest. After the blocks are sawn out, they should be stacked in a well ventilated room to season. Plenty of space must be left between

        We exchanged info by email back in May. You do beautiful work. I am still having a tough time finding beech or fruitwood thick enough for making these clubheads. I have also been "sidetracked" and haven't made a club for a while because of a tall case clock I have been working on.

    4. Elm,

      Your a beauty! Thanks very much for taking the time to explain. I have read your post a few times trying to get everything straight. I had to google pedantic! If this is pedantic, I don't mind it one bit.

      I don't remember much of our talk/talks back in May, but I do remember you were building a tall clock. My apologies. During the summer months my focus changes towards my summer work and when November/December come around I change gears back towards club making. I'm always thinking about club making however during the summer months that's about the extent of it.

      I would be grateful if you could clear up a couple uncertainties.

      #1. You said "this would have the end grain toward the face". I will assume you are laying out your club on the face of the plank. When I put a club template on the plank I will always look at the end grain to see which way it is running in relation to the position of the template. So when looking at the head from the toe does that mean the end grain would be running horizontal?

      #2. "The grain will usually be right if the block is sawn out so that the face of the club shall be formed of that part of the plank which was nearest the heart of the tree." I never heard this before. I have some beech in the shop, not very much but I will try this method out. I also have some "puzzle pieces", heads that were cut out but the waste pieces were kept and put back loose on either side of the cut out head. I thought this would be a good thing for future reference. I will revisit them today and see how they compare to information in this post.

      I will try to simplify this one. Let's take a right handed head and look at it from the top view. If we visualize the head as a capital D are you saying the grain direction should mimic the lead side or radius side? In this case it would look like a reverse C? I really hope this makes sense!

      Elm, if possible I would like to have you look at a few club heads and tell me what you see. I don't see a way to post a picture on this blog, however if you go to my website at you can see some of my clubs and I always try to have an overhead pic of the clubs. If you send me your email address I can send you some pics. Whatever works best for you.

      I am also having difficulty finding appropriate wood for club heads. This is now a serious concern. A friend of mine who used to order from the same supplier many years ago brought in a big piece of beech and pear. I'm pretty sure I used all the beech but he thinks there is some pear left. It's in storage and am waiting for the time when we go hunting for it. If I get my hands on some good lumber I will let you know and if you would like some I could send you some.

      Good Luck on the clock, and Thanks again for your help.


      1. Kelly,
        I had time to look at your site. Wow! Quite prolific. It looks like you have made some of the older "Troon" clubhead repros as well as the Philp style. Very nice. Not living in Manitoba, the golf course beckons me outdoors probably more than you.

        After spending a day's work on making a club, I am afraid to put it to use (except for the putters, which have been the last half-dozen that I made).

        I have two play clubs that I took out for a test drive that withstood a few Titleist hits. The necks are a bit heftier front to back than the "display" clubs. It is a wonder how they made the necks so thin. But, that was during the featherie era. Necks seemed to thicken up a bit after the guttie ball.

        Many of your clubheads come from quartersawn or riftsawn wood which should be perfectly fine. Because of Taylor's description, I have relegated clubheads made from flatsawn stock with grain running from the face diagonally back between the toe and rear to putters.

        If you look back near the top of this post, I added some additional photos describing the grain do's and don'ts, according to J. H. Taylor, which hopefully answers your questions.

        There are only a few of us around, so it's nice to hear from a fellow long nose clubhead maker. Having just bought my daughter a record player made me think that the long nose's resurgence may well have it's day.


    5. Elm,
      Thank You. I watched Part 1 of your presentation a couple days ago. I think you did a very good job. I look forward to watching Part 2. I will make some notes and post anything that might not look right. As far as I have seen, everything looks accurate.

      Great post of the grain direction! I have to say when it comes to building a club that is the most difficult step. If we were able to have the end grain running vertically or horizontally it would be much easier. Quarter sawn should give you grain running from toe to heel. Horizontal end grain should give you a grain direction of face to back . It's when you have flat sawn planks you have to be careful. Especially when the end grain is swooping.

      I cut out a head yesterday. It was going to be a right handed club. However, after looking at the new posts on grain direction, the grain on the head for a right handed club would be angling from toe to the face. If I lay out the head as a lefty the grain is running from toe towards the back and heel. I will take a picture of the piece and email it to you. I traced out the head on the neck of the club to visually see what the grain would look like if I had the option of using the neck as the head. All that does is just flip the club back to a right handed club. For that reason, I like the method they used which gave them the option to use either end. You waste more wood that way but you give yourself options.

      The club pic I sent you has the grain running from the toe to the face. The convex side of the grain on the top of the head is pointed toward the back of the club. This club is still being hit with a modern low compression golf ball. What does that tell us?

      I'm going to send pictures now. Have a look and tell me what you see. Thanks.


      1. Regarding the pic you sent, the grain of the clubhead runs from the face diagonally back towards the heel/rear. According to J.H. Taylor, this would be appropriate. I believe his thought was that if there is grain running from face diagonally back to the toe/rear, you have created a short grain situation (and especially at risk if coming over the top with an outside in swing path).

        It is hard to tell from your pic if the grain in the neck then becomes compromised. I would think that having the straight grain running down the neck trumps the clubhead grain issues. The grain in your pic has a boomerang shape across the stock. If you had enough material, could the orientation of the head be rotated 90° so that you can harness the curved grain so that it runs straight through the neck and then curves through the "hosel" and then runs straight through the head? Those were said to be unbreakable.

        "The convex side of the grain on the top of the head is pointed toward the back of the club." That seems right. You have essentially used the same theory of why we use end grain for butcher blocks and wooden mallets. Axial compression strength on wood is much higher than on the face.

        Looking at Jeff Ellis' book again, I see that quite a number of clubs have straight grain through the head, a fair number with grain running straight front to back, and some with grain from face back towards the rear/heel. But there are certainly a few clubs (albeit some are putters) that have the grain in the direction that Taylor said it should not be oriented. The other thing to keep in mind is that you have good experience "in the field" hitting the clubs. Have you noticed any particular grain orientations that do not work?

    6. awesome elmer,thats amazing.What a great hobby!

      1. Two passions colliding. Thanks Vasudev.

    7. I enjoy your articles always although not much is said about the feather/ balls.
      Where are they available keen to hits shots with them
      I'd appreciate any help regards,
      Richard Jones