Faces: Stamping the Faces of Iron Club Heads, the Old Fashioned Way
You can’t pick up a golf magazine or watch TV these days without seeing golf equipment manufacturing companies telling you about and showing you the high-tech ways they mass produce golf clubs today. There’s no doubt that today’s clubs are created by brilliant designers, using the most amazing computer programs and manufacturing equipment. Specialist companies around the world manufacture the golf heads, shafts and grips which are then sent to the OEMs (original equipment manufactures’) facilities for precise assembly. This blog focuses on the marking of iron faces, the old fashioned way.
Face markings were the subject in a TV documentary, showing how lines are cut into iron club heads in these modern times. The method used the latest laser process and it was very impressive. Seeing this gave me a flash-back to the early 1950s when I was serving my apprenticeship as a maker of handmade golf clubs. One of my tasks was to stamp the faces of irons. Thinking about it now I guess I must be one of the last people alive who actually sat at an anvil and punched pin-dots into the faces of irons. The photo shows the face of a Gerald Melvin “Crackshot” 5 iron (possibly one I worked on) with the pin-dot pattern. The back of the club shown is a putter and yes we also stamped pin-dots into putter faces.
If you’re interested I’ll take you through the process as I remember it. Before that let me give you a little background on who I served my apprenticeship under.
Gerald “Gerry” W. Melvin. Member of the Professional Golfers’ Association of New Zealand.
He was my Uncle, born in St. Andrews Scotland, in 1904. He served his apprenticeship in his Uncle David’s factory of D. Anderson & Sons where hickory shaft golf clubs were manufactured. From the early 1890s up until WWI, the company exporting thousand of clubs along with their St. Andrews brand golf balls to the then booming golf market in the U. S. A.
Uncle’s apprenticeship was in the hickory shaft era, ending before the introduction of steel shafts in 1929. In 1926 he moved to New Zealand, and became the golf professional at the St. Andrews Golf Club, in the city of Hamilton. That’s where I served my apprenticeship from January 1950 until the end of 1954.
About the Pin-Dot Punching Process
Gerry’s factory had a staff of seven clubmakers and we were called craftsmen. We all took great pride in carefully shaping the clubs we made into what in-the-day were considered works of art. We used persimmon imported from Memphis, Tennessee for our wooden head clubs and imported raw forged iron heads from Forgan of St. Andrews. Looking back now, in comparison to the top-of-the-line clubs produced today and considering the hand-tools we used, we were almost primitive. But to the golfers of that time our clubs were custom made and truly beautiful.
In our factory was a blacksmith’s anvil. On top of that sat a solid, very heavy steel block about 8 inches (200mm) wide by 5 inches (125mm) across and 5 inches (125mm) deep. Machined out of the top was a cavity 5 inches (125mm) wide by 3 inches (75mm) across and 1 ½ inches (375mm) deep. Into this cavity we poured molten lead (no health restrictions back then) and before it cooled and hardened we pressed the back of an iron into it making sure the face was level with the top of the steel block. Because of head shape differences, each iron in the set had its own lead mold. The lead mold made a solid base for the iron head to sit in as we worked on stamping the pin-dots, using a 2 ½ pound hammer. The steel block also helped keep the mold from being hammered out of shape.
A steel stamp with a row of points that left small evenly spaced pin-dots on the iron’s face was used to mark each pin-dot’s position. Then we went back to each of these marks and with a pin-punch enlarged the depth and size of the hole. It was a job that took some time and skill. After that process the club’s model name and maker’s cleek markings were stamped into the back and then the iron’s number into the sole.
Finally, each head went through the buffing and polishing process. From there shafts were fitted and leather grips hand wrapped.
Hope you found this article interesting
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