Effect of Time on Graphite Shafts


Thank you for what you do for the game of golf especially the weekly answers you provide to those of us who need more information about equipment. I know you developed the first graphite shaft many years ago so my question could not be to anybody better. Does a graphite shaft deteriorate over time and does its properties change? I have heard that graphite shafts change after a number of years. Is this true?
' Ellis

Ellis, Thanks for the kind comments and recognition of my development.
It was in 1968 that I was asked ' actually told ' by Henry Shakespeare who was chairman and founder of Shakespeare Sporting Goods, to design the best shaft the world of golf had ever seen. I was working with composites at the time and decided to develop a filament-winding machine, which could wind filaments around a thin flexible mandrel ' the inner core of the mold for the shaft ' so that the shaft would have the correct fiber orientation to produce good flexural and torsional properties.
Having done this successfully, Union Carbide learned of my work and approached me suggesting I use a fiber ' used almost exclusively in the Space Industry ' called graphite. The properties of this fiber were good for pressure vessels used in space but inappropriate for golf shafts. We worked together for several months to modify the fiber properties and the graphite golf shaft was born in 1969, the rest,fishing rods, tennis rackets, bicycles, yacht masts and thousands of other consumer products, is history. I received $1.00 for signing over my patent rights to the company.
Graphite fiber shafts are now almost all made using a flag-wrap method which is less expensive than filament winding, but the properties of the composite are essentially the same and the material is very stable and will not change over time.
In fact, forty years later, the properties of the original shafts we made at Shakespeare have not changed compared to when they were introduced to the market. Fortunately the only change in graphite shafts is that they have become a lot less expensive, and more consistent ' in most cases ' because of the improved methods of mass production and lower material costs and advanced designs.
Ellis, as long as you treat your clubs with some respect, as you would any fine instrument, and dont expose them to extreme temperatures, your graphite shafts will last you into the next century. I can assure you that you will change a lot more than your shafts will.
Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf. Thomas is chief technical advisor to GolfChannel.com. He served as technical director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN system and introduced the Stimpmeter. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
Frank Thomas