Well, before you give up on it, consider sending it out for putter refinishing at Black Oxide Service, because hope, it turns out, just might not be lost.
Indeed, like the rest of us, sometimes an old putter just needs some love.
Some of you may have read the story about how PutterZone.com’s own Mizuno T.P. Mills putter was beautifully restored (see below) by Black Oxide Service (they recently launched a new site at BOSGolf.com). At the time, it seemed like magic: the putter left as a rusty old beast, and it returned as a sparkling beauty. How’d they do that!?
Well, PutterZone.com recently had the rare opportunity to peek behind the curtain at Black Oxide Service to see just how, exactly, they do it.
Black Oxide Service occupies an unremarkable industrial building off Highway 78 in San Marcos in northern San Diego County. It’s not a structure that calls attention to itself, which is probably by design.
Inside, we met Monica Slivnik and her brother August Slivnik (pictured above with his black oxide bath), who are carrying on their family’s tradition of fine machining and metal work under the banners of Slivnik Machining, Black Oxide Service and BOS Golf.
Putter refinishing is just one of their many specialties. They also mill golf club heads and provide services to other industries as well, such as the aerospace industry. While we were there, a man came in looking for a machining fix to a broken water pump.
But golf is most definitely the Slivniks’ passion. August helped establish Scotty Cameron’s renowned putter studio back in the day, and his eyes light up whenever the subject turns to golf and clubmaking. His office is strewn with a variety of golf creations and old putters, including original Scotty Camerons.
We asked August to take us on the same journey that our putter had taken as it went from beast to beauty. First, he led us to a small brightly lit room upstairs, where incoming putters are inspected and prepared. Preparation includes removing the head from the shaft and assessing the overall state of the putter. If necessary, the heads are then ground and polished to remove nicks, dents and other imperfections.
From there, we headed downstairs to the black oxide baths, which are simply humble metal bins filled with bubbling liquids. First, the heads are dipped into a cleaning solution. They then transition through a series of liquids, finishing with the steaming black oxide. August was intentionally vague about the process, lest he reveal any trade secrets, such as how they achieve their proprietary “oil can” finish.
Black oxide is essentially a controlled rust. It seeps into the pores of carbon steel and coats the metal, providing a barrier to common corrosive rust. A black oxide finish allows you to protect your putter from the elements while retaining the soft native feel of the carbon steel, in contrast to harder platings. Because stainless steel is naturally rust resistant, stainless putters require different finishes, which BOS Golf also provides.
From the baths, the putter returns to the upstairs room, where it is finished, paintfilled and reassembled. August says that his staff is highly trained, and they go so far as to limit their caffeine intake, lest a shaky hand result in an imperfect paintfill.
While we were there, we spotted some wedges being finished for a famous sports star (we won’t drop names). According to August, it’s not uncommon for them to get a call from the rich and famous to apply a special finish or look to their clubs.
The Slivniks are ultimately a throwback to the good old days of American ingenuity and entrepreneurship, when manufacturing and metal work (including golf club making) were booming businesses instead of industries endangered by overseas suppliers.
When it come to extreme putter makeovers, the Slivniks are indeed at the top of their game.