How Are Golf Shafts Made?

Looking at the manufacturing process for steel shafts and graphite shafts

There are two types of golf shafts: graphite shafts and steel shafts. And, as you would expect with shafts made of two, completely different materials, they are manufactured in different ways.

So here's a look at how each type of golf shaft is made:

How Graphite Shafts Are Made

Graphite shafts start out as successive layers of graphite fibers held together by a resin (not unlike a form of epoxy) that is called a "binder" material. These sheets of graphite fiber-plus-binder material are called "pre-preg." The graphite fibers used to make the pre-preg sheets can vary in strength and stiffness (called the "modulus" of the graphite material) to afford the shaft designer more creativity in the performance design of the shaft.

These pre-preg sheets of graphite-plus-binder are tightly wrapped around a solid steel forming mandrel (a mandrel is a metal rod around which other material is formed into shape). The mandrel dictates the inside diameter, or core, of the shaft. That diameter, plus the number of layers wrapped around the mandrel and the variety of pre-preg material used, determines the weight and stiffness of the shaft.

More layers wrapped around the mandrel equals greater wall thickness, which equals a stiffer and heavier shaft.

In addition, greater stiffness can also be achieved by using stronger and stiffer sheets of pre-preg. In this manner, the shaft walls can be thinner - but still have enough stiffness - to achieve a lighter weight in the shaft.

Once all the prescribed individual layers of the pre-preg graphite material are tightly wrapped around the forming mandrel, a thin wrap of cellophane is added over the shaft to hold the pre-preg layers in place. The shafts are then put into special ovens whose heat causes the binder material to slowly "melt," fusing all the pre-preg layers together into one contiguous tube of graphite.

After baking, the forming mandrel is pulled out of the inside of the shaft through the grip end of the shaft. The cellophane covering is stripped off, the shafts are sanded smooth on their surface and then painted in the cosmetic scheme dictated by the customer.

How Steel Shafts Are Made

There are two primary ways to manufacture steel golf shafts. One is called "seemless" construction; the other is "welded tube" construction.

A seamless steel shaft starts life as a large cylinder of solid steel. The cylinder is heated and pierced with a special machine, turning the solid steel log into a large, thick-walled tube. Over a series of stretching operations on very specialized machines called draw benches, the large, thick tube is gradually reduced in diameter and wall thickness to become a thin-walled steel tube five-eighths of an inch in diameter. These shaft "blanks," as they are called, are then subjected to a series of squeezing operations that form the individual sections of diameter reduction called the "step-downs" on the shaft.

A welded tube construction steel shaft begins as a flat strip of steel that is coiled and welded into a tube. The welding procedure is quite different than what most people are used to seeing. Through what is called high-frequency welding, the two ends of the coiled strip are literally fused together without the presence of a second, different material as in the case of most welding. A special machine then removes the excess metal from the outside and inside of the welded tube in a procedure called "skiving." Once formed, the tube is stretched down to the required 5/8-inch outer diameter in the same procedures used in the forming of the seamless steel shaft, with the step-downs formed in the same manner as well.

Once formed into the step pattern dictated by each individual shaft design, the raw steel shafts are heat treated, straightened and then nickel-chrome electroplated to prevent rusting.