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Turn a Classic Wooden Bat Hyattsville MD

Almost every common wood has been used for bats at one time or another. However, a few species dominate the history of the sport. Traditionally northern ash has been the wood of choice, but currently—at least in the pros—it is a neck-and-neck race with hard maple.

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Washington, DC
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Turn a Classic Wooden Bat

Turn A Classic Wooden Bat

Learn How to Beat the Chatter

By Alan Lacer

The crack of a baseball against a wooden bat is a wonderful sound seldom heard today. Too often it’s been replaced by the metallic “clink” of an aluminum bat. Baseball has its roots in balls, gloves and shoes made from animal hides, and bats made from trees. It seems an odd place for high tech equipment to intrude. Making a wooden bat returns you and your kids to the sound and feel of real, old-time baseball. 

The Right Wood 

Almost every common wood has been used for bats at one time or another.   However, a few species dominate the history of the sport.  Traditionally northern ash has been the wood of choice, but currently—at least in the pros—it is a neck-and-neck race with hard maple.  A few bats are still made of hickory and beech.  

 For this project, I suggest buying a blank of ash or maple that has been graded for bats  (see “Sources”).  The reason is not only superior performance, but also safety. A bat made from a graded bat blank is less likely to break in use.

Bat blanks are graded differently from regular furniture grade lumber.   First, only straight-grained wood from slow-growing trees of moderate size make the grade. The blank must have tight, evenly spaced growth rings and be free of flaws like knots. The best blanks are often split from the log rather than sawn in order to follow the grain perfectly. Extra care is taken in the drying of bat blanks to create an even distribution of moisture throughout the entire thickness.

Tools And Supplies

  To make a full-size baseball bat you will need a lathe that can handle lengths up to 36-in. between centers.  For Little League bats a lathe with shorter capacity will work just fine.  It is best to have a live center at the tailstock end, and drive with either a spur or cup drive. If you are duplicating a bat, you will need to fabricate a simple V-block system to hold the master bat (the one being duplicated) directly behind your blank  (Photo 3).

Photo 3: Size the bat with calipers and a parting tool. Transfer diameters from a drawing or an existing bat (called a master) onto the blank. Lightly push the calipers into the work as you reduce the diameter with the parting tool until the calipers just slip over the cut. 

The bat can be turned with three tools: a spindle-roughing gouge (1-1/4-in. to 1-3/4-in.), a parting tool (1/4-in. wide) and a spindle/detail gouge (3/8-in. or 1/2-in.).  If you are comfortable using a skew, a large one (1-in. to 1-1/2-in.) can be added as an option for smoothing the shape and rounding the end of the barrel. 

Complete your supplies with a pair of locking outside calipers.   Make sure the caliper’s points are fully rounded smooth. Sharp points can catch when used to size your bat. Round the points with a file and smoo...

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