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Antique Clubs: In Hickory Veritas

Restoration Hardware
If you like hardware stores, this is the hobby for you. You will need, among other things, a flat bastard and a rat-tail, two types of files. Both have many uses. The former can rough up a hardened leather grip to resemble the original sheepskin suede. The latter is perfect for cleaning crusted glue out of iron hosels. Elmer's is the glue of choice to restore shafts, but it should be diluted 1:1 with water to help it penetrate cracks. You may raise eyebrows at the hardware store when you load up on, say, hose clamps, strapping tape, Exacto knives and Sterno. But with these items you can straighten warped hickory and splice broken heads onto shafts, turning useless relics into playable clubs.

To straighten a warped shaft, first cut a straight, grooved channel the width of a shaft into the edge of a board and lock it into a vise, groove side up. Then rub the shaft with linseed oil and warm it over the Sterno. As the heat relaxes the shaft, place it in the channel and run it back and forth, applying pressure until it straightens. By that time dinner should be ready.

Clubhead Games
In any case, your most valuable tool will be patience. "I may work three hours on an iron head, just to get off a little rust," says George Lewis, who runs the web site golfiana.com. If you want to try it yourself, start with 0000 steel wool, which is so fine it would hardly scratch a baby's bottom. Hurdzan dips his in vinegar; the mild acidity helps dissolve rust. Others throw up their hands in horror at that idea, saying vinegar can ruin wood and discolor metal. Allen Wallach, a Philadelphia dealer, recommends WD-40 with fine steel wool; others prefer paint thinner. Whatever you use, after a few hours of rubbing you'll begin to appreciate the famously light touch of Bob Kuntz, who literally wrote the book on restoring antique clubs.

Kuntz, of Dayton, Ohio, is eighty-eight and doesn't get into the workshop much anymore. In his 1990 bible, Antique Golf Clubs: Their Restoration and Preservation, he illustrates how to remove rust with a motorized wire wheel, carefully, using a disc with ultrafine .007 diameter inch bristles. Not everyone agrees with Kuntz on that. "A fine wire wheel is way too much for anything but heavy rust," says Ralph Livingston III, who runs the encyclopedic web site hickorygolf.com. "I use what is basically a glorified Scotch-Brite pad built into a wheel."


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