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The Differences Between Brass, Carbon Steel, and Stainless Steel

Of my knowledge, there are three common materials that putters are made of:

  • brass
  • carbon steel
  • stainless steel.

I have never worked with anything else, although I’m sure you could find a putter made of pure gold somewhere 🙂

When doing more advance finishes on putters, it is extremely important to distinguish between these materials, otherwise, the finishes that you attempt will usually not turn out right.

On this page, I will briefly go through the three materials, and give you my personal experience with them, as well as the important considerations when refinishing with the different metals.

Brass

Brass putters are the least common putter nowadays. I’m not sure that you can find a modern putter made of brass anymore, but for our sake, it is important to recognize. Many of the vintage Acushnet putters are made of brass, as shown in the picture below.

vintage brass acushnet putter

Also, some of the old Ping Anser putters are made of brass.

When working with brass putters, you must consider the following:

  • Brass is softer than other metals, so when grinding off nicks and dings with the deburring wheel, be careful that you don’t apply too much pressure. Otherwise, you will significantly alter the shape of the putter.
  • Brass is not receptive to many of the chemical finishes that are found on this site. I haven’t tried several of the finishes on brass putters, so feel free to experiment and share!

Carbon Steel

Carbon steel was a common material for putters made in the 90s and early 2000s. All T.P. Mills putters, and the earlier Scotty Cameron models are made of carbon steel. The picture below is my best example of a carbon steel putter that you might find on Ebay today:

Scotty Cameron carbon steel putter

I actually removed all of the blemishes on this putter, and let it get wet and sit for a couple of days to show you how bad it can rust:

rusted carbon steel putter

As you can see, if you try to just remove the nicks and dings, beadblast it, and let it be, these carbon steel putters will rust like crazy. I am no expert on all of this, but as I understand, many carbon steel putters have a nickel plating, so when you grind one on the deburring wheel, you remove this protective nickel plating, which exposes the pure metal to external moisture and air, which causes rust.

Some things to consider when working with carbon steel putters:

  • They will rust, but the absence of a chromium in the metal allows for some unique finishes.  Here are my favorite carbon steel rust preventative finishes:
  • If you don’t have the materials to do these finishes, or if you just love that original satin look of most putters, you have a few options:
    • Apply a rust preventative– Eezox is my favorite product.  I’ve had consistent results with this.
    • Put a new nickel plating on the putter (I will hopefully be doing a tutorial on this in the future)
    • Use a silicon cloth to wipe down the putter after each use.  If you see spots of rust, soak the putter in CLR, or Coca Cola for an hour.  This method requires lots of maintenance, but can be done.

Stainless Steel

Stainless Steel is the most common material in the modern day putter industry.  All Scotty Camerons are made from SS nowadays, as well as many other brands.

Scotty Cameron Stainless Steel Putter

Some Considerations when working with Stainless Steel putters:

What if I can’t tell what material my putter is made of??

There is no foolproof way to tell the difference as far as I know, but there are a few things that you can do:

  • Magnetism- most stainless steels are not magnetic, or at least do not have a strong magnetic attraction
  • Rust- stainless steel generally doesn’t rust thanks to the chromium present
  • Google Search- sometimes you can find the material by searching the model of the putter.  For example, Scotty Cameron has a putter archive that tells you the material of some of the putters (but not all).  This link is an example of a putter where the material is listed.
  • Use common sense!- If you have a “Studio Stainless” Scotty Cameron, you know that it is made of “Studio Stainless” steel.

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