Process of How Wood Bats Are Made

Overview

America’s pastime has always been baseball. One of the unique and unifying aspects of this sport is the selection of the bat. A player wants a bat that fits his style of play. The bat will be designed not only to strike the ball with force and accuracy, but it will give piece of mind at the plate. In the beginning of the game, players made their bats themselves. They were made with barrels of all shapes and sizes. In 1869, baseball instituted the rule that all bats could no longer be more than 42 inches in length. In 1890, baseball finished its retooling of what we recognize as a modern baseball bat by stating all bats must be round at the end, effectively ending flat bats that were primarily used to gain an advantage when bunting.

Selecting Raw Materials

When processing your bat, the selection of the wood is extremely important. Normally players and bat manufactures want to choose a wood with a close grain, which will make the bat strong. There are three main types of wood to select for processing: hickory, ash or maple. Hickory is extremely heavy, making it harder to swing. Northern white ash found in Pennsylvania and New York provides the feel, strength, durability and hardness that make for the perfect modern-day bat. Maple bats are durable and have a good feel to them, but they are significantly more costly than ash bats.

Processing for Shipping

After you select your bat material and the tree is cut, the logs are inspected for knots and uneven grains. The logs that make the grade are sent to the hydraulic wedge that cuts them to 40-inch splits. The split is placed on an automatic lathe that shaves the roughness off the wood. The ends of the wood are then painted with a preservative to keep the wood from fraying or rotting.

Lumberyard Process

At this point the wood arrives at the lumberyard and is referred to as billets. They are placed outside for six to 24 months in an air-drying process known as seasoning. This is done to remove the sap and gum from the billets. After which, they are once again placed on an automatic lathe and shaped into a baseball bat. The bats are then sanded and separated by weight.

Matching the Bat to the Model

The bat turner is the skilled manufacturer that produces the final product. Based on the model bat that the customer wants, the bat turner selects the appropriate billet (weight and length) and slowly sands and cuts the billet on a lathe to the specific measurements of the customer. As the bat turner is doing this the model bat is hanging on a rack in front of him as a reference. Every 1 or 2 inches the billet is measured by the bat turner using calipers to ensure perfection. Unlike the lathe used in previous sections this lathe is not automatic and is controlled by the turner.

Finished Product

After the bat is measured and weighed for accuracy, the bat turner will brand or stain the bat. The brand or trademark is placed 1/4 turn on the barrel or sweet spot of the bat. If the player requires staining, the bat is placed in a staining vat. Regardless of whether the bat is stained or if a trademark is branded all bats are varnished then shipped in cartons to their destinations.

About this Author

Michael Saunds lives in New York, where he is a K-12 educator, and kinesiology professor. He has been recognized as a highly qualified teacher in New York City. Saunds received the Gotham Gives Back Award in 2008. He holds a master’s degree in general/special education from Touro College.