Wood shafted clubs require more attention to their maintenance then do modern clubs. We are using an antique for its original (and demanding) purpose and it is going to require some extra attention to make it survive for another century. These instructions are intended for wood shafted clubs that have already been restored for play and should not be applied to unrestored or collectable clubs.
The wood components in the club will require most of our attention. The finish on the wood parts of the club needs to be restored as it becomes worn off during use. The other parts, the grips and the metal heads, will also need their own specific types of care, but they are generally not as susceptible to damage as is the wood. Maintenance needs to be scheduled depending upon the amount of use the clubs will receive, the degree of exposure to moisture and the manner in which they are stored. Wood heads will lose finish through contact with the turf, and the shafts will have it worn away by rattling around in a golf bag. Removal and replacement of clubs from the bag, and wiping the wood to remove moisture and debris, will also contribute to the loss of finish. Wooden components need to be attended to after 10 rounds of dry golf, and need to be done at the end of every round played in wet conditions. Allowing the clubs to get wet and not attending to them immediatly after is one of the greatest threats to their longevity. The makers of these clubs spent six or more months drying the wood before use to make the wood as hard and durable as possible.
Restoring the finish on the wood surfaces of a previously restored-for-play club is very easy to do. Zinsser Bulls Eye Shellac (my first choice), a couple of cotton rags, and 0000 super fine steel wool, are all that are necessary to restore the finish and maintain the clubs. Beginning with the Woods, use a toothbrush along with a household cleaner such as Fantastic and clean the dirt and tee scuff marks from the head. Rinse it off and then dry it thoroughly. If you have been maintaining a finish on the clubs, the cleaner and water should not soak into the wood. If not, the cleaning process should be done quickly to try to keep the wood from absorbing moisture. Under no circumstances should the club heads be soaked in a bucket of water.
The next step is to rub out all the wood surfaces with the steel wool. Go over the entire wood head, including the insert and sole plate, while taking care not to abrade the whipping. Clean off the dust residue and then brush on or spray a coat of the shellac/varnish. Be careful in the use of the varnish, you only want a thin film so that it will dry properly. The club then needs to dry for the recommended time before applying another coat. A second coat is strongly recommended.
Instructional books from the hickory era recommended the use of linseed oil on the shaft and wood head of a club. I was originally using linseed oil but stopped after seeing an increase in shafts splitting, and cracking in the neck and heel of the woods. Because of the age of the clubs, I think that we have to deal with the wood in a different manner then when it was freshly cured. I do not recommend using any "oils" on the aged dry wood. We are using varnish to seal against moisture and stabilize the wood to stay as long as possible in it's current condition. My understanding is that nothing can be done to "improve" old wood, it can only continue to deteriorate .
Maintainance of Iron heads is fairly simple, they need to be kept clean and dry. Always try to dry off moisture immediately. I usually carry two towels on my bag , one of which I keep as my drying towel. The use of Fantastic cleaner and a toothbrush is excellent for the cleaning of the heads. If a club develops rust, try a Scotchbrite pad to remove it. Also, a 320 grit wet dry sandpaper or a finer grit emery should easily remove it, if the Scotchbrite pad is not forceful enough. If you want to use a wire wheel, a fine grade is recommended. There are wheels that have a Scothbrite like material on them that work very well. Be very careful, multiple cleaning for rust during the course of a year can alter (reduce) the weight of the heads changing the play characteristic of the club.
When cleaning is done, Iron heads should be sanded in the direction of the grain of the metal. This is done by going from the heel to the toe, and not vertically, then circular around the hosel, not lengthwise. Also, it should only be done if you get orange/red rust, and not for the normal "gray" oxidation of the metal. Excessive sanding could eventually remove enough metal to lighten the head and change the clubs playing characteristics.
The shafts and whipping on the Irons are the only things that need to have finish added. This should be done in the same manner as described for the Woods. I have not found a protective coating for use on steel heads that is to my liking other than oiling. To keep them from rusting, keep a dry towel with you specifically for drying the heads after each shot. If they are wiped off after each use and dried off after a wet round of golf, there should be minimal problems with rust.
The care for the grips is going to depend on the type of material used. If you are using the original smooth leather grips, Lexol leather conditioner does a great job of restoring that type of grip back to a softer and tackier feel. New smooth replacement deer tanned leather should benefit from the same treatment. Suede leather requires that they be kept from getting wet and to occasionally brush up the nap when it gets crushed from use. If the grips do get excessively wet they might need to be replaced. If you have used a waterproofed suede leather for the grip material, it will need little care other than the occasional brushing. A leather conditioner should not be used on suede leather, but a waterproofing spray can be used.