THE ART OF WHIPPING HICKORY CLUBS
I note that the act of whipping clubs is an art form because there are a number of iterations on what was perhaps a very utilitarian exercise. The earliest clubs had scarf joints, which were born from the skills of the crews on sailing vessels who would use such a technique to repair masts. An oblique angled cut was made to the end of two pieces of wood. The joint was glued together and the joint was bound to reinforce the union. The scarf joint on clubs produced prior to 1900 employed this method and the joint always ran in the direction of the swing for added strength and stability. The entire length of the joint was whipped using waxed linen, which was often coated in pitch to contain the threads. The pitch turned the white linen black. Black waxed linen came along and is utilized to this day.
Just as the grip that I have removed reveals the use of colored leather, so too is my belief that if there were colored waxed linens available, these would have been incorporated in the process. The use of whipping on the grip was meant to dress up the ends of the leather wraps and to prevent them from becoming undone, should the nail securing the beginning and end of the wrap come loose.
There are quite a number of patterns, methods and uses for the whipping that I have noticed in my forensic analysis of both ends of the club. Let’s begin with the hosel end of a post-1900 wood shaft with a wood clubhead.
The shafts that followed the era of the scarf joint were for the most part bore-through shafts. The neck of the club head was bored to accept the tapered end of a shaft. The tapered end of the shaft was inserted with a liberal amount of glue and left to dry. The maker made certain that the growth rings of the shaft were aligned in the direction as the swing to ensure added strength. Sometimes the bore in the neck of the head fell shy of going completely through the sole, but most times it did. In brassies, spoons, baffys, and bulldogs the drilling was put through the sole and covered with a brass plate. In drivers the bore was often left shy.
The fastening of the two club parts resulted in a joint that was slightly noticeable only because the head was persimmon and the shaft hickory. To conceal this joint a small band of whipping was employed. It did not serve the function of the whipping found on a scarf-jointed club but was, instead, more cosmetic. As a side note, the whipping utilized in pre-1900 clubs was a 7-ply diameter as opposed to the 4-ply utilized after the demise of the scarf joint. To add accent to the head side of the shaft, I have employed an argyle pattern of two contrasting colors of whipping. (see photo)
As whipping is more ornamental, I have decided to extend it above and below the joint and add a bit of “Scottish bling”. It is akin to a pair of argyle socks beneath a pair of plus fours.
This brings us to the whipping of grips. As mentioned earlier, the purpose of whipping was to add security to the polar ends of the grip. There were also uses of whipping to add a measure of traction to the grip. I have discovered a number of grips where the whipping is run the length of the grip to add traction (see photo). Whipping was often just a few laps of linen around the top and bottom of the grip, enough to secure the grip. Bear in mind the Scots were a frugal bunch of lads.
Almost every grip top is whipped the same – with four to seven loops of whipping that form a narrow band. The base of the grip has been the end most open to artistic interpretation. To narrow the taper of underlisting and leather to wood, early club makers would incorporate the use of ribbon or colored paper to soften the transition. They would often seal the paper with shellac or colored paint as a highlight to the base of the grip. The whipping would begin below this paper and a skip whipping would cover the paper to allow the color to show through. The whipping would also resume over the leather-to-paper joint, culminating after a few loops (see photo).
This method was even incorporated where no paper or tape used and the skip whipping was done over the first inch of the grip (see photo).
So, let’s try and describe the actual process of whipping. Regardless of where you are applying the whipping, it is best to apply the whipping from the more tapered end to the less tapered end. For example, when whipping the bottom of the shaft and the flair of the head start your wrap at the grip side and work your way toward the head. The grip should be done from the head end toward the butt end of the shaft. There are some excellent videos, which describe the process better than words may capture. The beauty of the whipping process is that there are no rules, and if you make a mistake you can simply unravel the waxed linen and try again.
Whatever method you might incorporate in whipping your clubs, take pride in making a statement that may one day become your trademark.