Story of Finishing Process 2 Trying to Be Just Like the “1-3-8-ers”
Why were Honma’s craftsmen called the “138-ers”? Back then, Honma’s most expensive line of clubs cost \138,000 each. The handful of craftsmen allowed to work on this line were called “138-ers” out of respect--and even envy.
Known as the old masters, the craftsmen who earned the title of “138-er” often had their names carved onto the clubs they designed, or went on to establish their own plant later. They were the creators of the “genetic material” of Honma’s original club design. This tradition is perpetuated today by those craftsmen, young at the time, who were inspired by these great old masters.
In 1982, four rookies from the club manufacturing division who had just completed their training, including Domon, were posted to the newly built Sakata Plant. They were assigned to the part of the manufacturing process known as “finishing.” Around 20 years old at the time, these craftsmen were suddenly in charge of some 120 part-time employees old enough to be their mothers.
The process of finishing is divided into three major stages: polishing, painting, and final polishing. First, the club head, which has already been through the molding process, is polished with fine sandpaper to the point where absolutely no flaws remain. This is done because paint accumulates in any scratches or other flaws, which can cause color irregularity. The head shape resembling contour lines running toward the toe, and in order to maintain its gorgeous design, the piece must be polished ever so delicately, as if to remove the finest of membrane.
Next comes the painting, and there are several stages involved here as well. First, a special type of clear lacquer is applied to create bordering on the head face. Drawing rough guidelines using a pencil or other such equipment is impossibility due to the fact that this leaves undesired marks. A brush coated with lacquer is used to directly draw a half moon, while the other half is drawn on that momentum. “It’s like when women trace their lips with a lipbrush,” Domon says. “Each and every piece has its own distinct face, and we can tell who did it. That gentle face is the work of so-and-so, and that tense face is the work of so-and-so.”
The inside of the face bordering is coated with lacquer, and then other surfaces besides the face are treated with sealer. Pin holes overlooked in the polishing process are closed up as the piece is treated all over with water putty, a type of adhesive. This ensures beautiful, even color for the paints.
Take a moment to imagine how this process, done by some 120 employees twice their age, would be supervised by a small group of young new employees. At times they were timid about saying what had to be said, or their employees overwhelmed them, or they couldn’t get across exactly what they wanted to convey—and the result was that they ended up doing overtime to correct the mistakes of their subordinates for long nights on end.
But this wasn’t even the end of the coating process. The stage yet to come was the part of the finishing process that people took the most care with—the real coating process that comes after the priming stages.