bat making

The art of bat making.

Making the finest quality cricket bats requires the careful selection of the world's best raw materials.

The timber we use is Salix Alba Caerulea (Cricket Bat Willow), grown in England. The willow is renewably harvested across the whole of England and sold through the wood yards of Essex and Suffolk.

Only the highest grades of willow are hand selected by willow merchant Jeremy Ruggles, Director of J.S.Wright & Sons (www.cricketbatwillow.com). The density of the wood and consistency of the grain through the playing area of the bat is of vital importance to the end balance and performance.

Salix Alba Caerulea - Cricket Bat Willow

Willows grow to a maximum height of 21-27m (70-90ft) with a diameter of 0.9-1.2m (3-4ft). The tree will be encouraged to branch out at about 3m (10') from the ground and are generally grown in plantations at about 12 yard centres (10 yard centres if they are on river banks). Trees grown for manufacture of cricket bats are felled when they reach a circumference of about 56".

Timber Properties

The quality of the timber is considerably affected by the general habit of the tree it comes from. Cricket Bat Willow is characterised by extremely rapid growth and a shapely habit, these two factors combine to produce straight grained, lightweight wood ideal for high quality cricket bats. Unfortunately, under less favourable conditions, timber of inferior quality may be produced. Colour: Heartwood - Pinkish Sapwood: Nearly white. The width of the sapwood varies according to species and growth conditions, being particularly wide in fast growing willow. Grain: Straight textured fine and even. Weight: Average about 450kg/m3 seasoned. High quality cricket bat willow is rather lighter in weight - 340-420kg/m3

Cricket bat willow values

Moisture content Bending strength Modulus of elasticity Compression
Green 31N/mm2 5600N/mm2 13.6N/mm2
12% 62N/mm2 6600N/mm2 27.3N/mm2

There is little movement in cricket bat willow - 0.5% radial movement in 60% relative humidity. The willow dries well and quite rapidly, however local pockets of moisture sometimes remain in the timber. Special care is needed when testing the moisture content to ensure that reasonable uniformity is achieved.

Only the best boles of cricket bat willow are used for cricket bats. Other material of this species and timber of other willows is used for a variety of purposes requiring a lightweight, easily worked timber. Uses include artificial limbs, toys, chip baskets and other basketwork.

Cricket bat willow is grown mainly in the Eastern and South-Eastern counties of England, although it will grow successfully in other parts of the country, if the site is carefully selected. It grows well near running water, but not in marshy, waterlogged ground. This species of willow is fast growing and it is possible to obtain trees of suitable diameter with a 7 - 10ft clear bole in 18 years from the time of planting the sets. The trees are tended very carefully as they are subject to disease and defects which detract seriously from the quality of the timber for bat making: buds are rubbed off the stem regularly to prevent the formation of lower branches which can cause knots in the timber.

After felling, the lower 3.5m length of the trunk is sawn into 3 or 4 rounds each of about 700mm long, these are then split longitudinally into clefts in a process known as riving. This process is highly skilled and only experience will determine the best way to split the timber so as to avoid any imperfections and maximize the amount of top quality timber that will eventually make up the finished bats.

The cricket bat industry differs from most other timber users in requiring abnormal width of white or light coloured sapwood. This is produced by an exceptionally fast rate of growth in rich, moist soils. The other quality most desired is freedom from defects. This is due to the fact that straight grains combined with resilience, toughness and lightness is essential. Major defects that occur in the billets can be avoided when it is cleft, but others such as small knots are allowable in second quality bats.

Seasoning

Most manufacturers obtain their willow from suppliers in the south of England; the largest of which are J.S Wright and Sons. The willow is supplied as clefts; nowadays usually kiln dried, although J S Wright & Sons offers traditionally air-dried willow, which is seasoned for about a year. When first cut, the clefts can weigh up to 10kg but they lose more than half that weight through the drying process.



Initial Shaping & Pressing

Making cricket bats is a traditional and highly skilled job that has changed little since the game began.
The first job of the batmaker is to roughly shape the clefts using a circular saw, the clefts are then left to dry out further and then graded.

Each blade is then individually shaped to ensure the right amount of wood is in the right place to give a perfect balance. During the shaping process the bat is passed underneath the roller of the cricket bat press and the face and edges compressed, this will ensure resilience and provide a hardened surface capable of withstanding the impact of a cricket ball.

At Laver & Wood we finish this process with a hardwood mallet whilst the bat is held in a padded bed, which ensures improved performance. Manufacturers differ in the number of times the bat is passed through the press and the amount of pressure that is applied. The bat is generally subjected to a load of up to 2 tons per square inch. After pressing, the splice (V) is cut at the shoulder end of the blade to accept the handle.

Willow Micrographs

Courtesy of Dr.Michael Walmsley & Materials & Process Engineering Dept,
University of Waikato, Hamilton, NZ

Just below surface of region A, scale in mm shown, show compressed and uncompressed regions.

Just below surface of region A, 100 micron scale shown, uncompressed.
Just below surface of region A, 100 micron scale shown, compressed – no cells can be seen.

Just below surface of region B3, 100 micron scale shown.

Just below surface of region B2, 100 micron scale shown.
Just below surface of region B1, 100 micron scale shown.


Handle

High quality handles are produced using Manau cane harvested from the jungles of Sumatra. And Malaysian Sarawak cane The 3 metre canes are initially boiled in oil and dried in the sun for several weeks before being graded according to size they are then cut to the right length, split and then the faces planed to ensure a good gluing surface. The planed pieces of cane are then glued together with three cork / rubber laminations for shock absorption.                                    

The top part of the handle is then shaped to the batmakers specification and shipped ready for the splice to be cut. The most popular pattern has 9 pieces of cane with 3 rubber inserts. Once the splice (V) has been cut this, it can be fitted in to the blade using a mallet to make sure the handle has reached the base of the joint. PVA adhesive is used to ensure a strong joint is made.

The first solid Manau cane handles were used in 1853, they were deemed to cause too much vibration which made the bat painful to hold therefore rubber laminations were introduced in 1856, the same handle materials are used to this day. We do however use carbon in some handles now due to the need to use a renewable resource.


At Laver & Wood we usually make our bats with an oval shape at the base of the handle. We use this shape as it provides more strength to the handle and helps to diffuse the shock waves created from the ball meeting the blade.

The oval shape in the lower handle also gives the bat a better directional feel. It is hard to grip the bat too hard with the bottom hand. One can only hold with thumb and forefinger, which encourages the top hand to control the shot.

The oval shape improves the pickup due to having a larger mass nearer to your body. Most batsmen that feel our oval handle will never revert back to a round one.

The round handle is best suited to those who like to use their bottom hand to hit the ball hard and lift it.

The size of a batsman’s hands can alter the specification of the handle. This is changed by either applying extra rubber grips or in the case of needing a thinner handle, specifying you have small hands when you place your order.

We can provide a standard round handle on request, but recommend the oval handle for anyone who wants to bat technically correctly.

Grips

The number grips you have on your bat will be determined by personal preference. As a rough guide all of the bat weights we have specified in recommendations are with one rubber grip. Each additional grip will increase the bat’s weight by one and a quarter ounces.

We do have double thickness rubber grips for those who like a thick handle or have big hands. These do weigh three ounces so add considerable weight to the bat.

Increasing the number of grips raises the centre of gravity and improves bat speed, as well as the feel of the bat. Too many grips, however, can make the bat feel very heavy and seem to be without life.

 




Shaping & Finishing

The bat is now expertly shaped using traditional drawknives, spokeshaves and wooden blockplanes, the greatest care being taken to obtain the correct shape and balance. Drawknives are used because the batmaker can remove a large amount of wood from the blade and start to form a rough shape. A wide, flat drawknife is used to carve the back and toe of the bat whilst a thin blade with a steep bevel is reversed to blend the shoulders into the handle of the bat.

The wooden blockplane is then used to achieve a more refined profile; this is a much lighter tool and the batmaker benefits from this after a long day at the workbench.

The final smoothing process is done with an adjustable smoothing plane; one uses a very coarse set curved blade in this plane to achieve maximum weight distribution throughout the back of the bat.

The shoulders and lower part of the handle are smoothed and tidied up with a wooden spokeshave. Many batmakers use metal spokeshaves but with the wooden body one can produce a better shape. The handle is then rounded off to the customers requirements with a surform rasp, taking care to get rid off all ridges that could prove uncomfortable to hold for the batsman.

The blade is sanded on a pneumatic sanding drum inflated to varied pressures for sanding different bat profiles. This is a complex process and can prove to be the hardest part of the batmaking process to learn due to the finer balance of the handmade bat. The finishing section is crucial for Laver & Wood cricket bats, as this is where we do most of our quality control.

We hand sand the whole bat with finer grades of sandpaper and then polish the bat with a horse's shinbone to give a smooth finish. We also burnish the bat blade with a burnishing mop and chalk/wax compound for a more appealing finish.

The bat is then ready to have the handle bound with twine to provide more strength, PVA adhesive is used to bind the twine to the handle, the binding is done on a simple pedal operated machine to ensure the uniformity of the twine. Once this has all dried the rubber grip is rolled on using a gripping cone. The Laver & Wood label is applied and bats are all oiled with Raw Linseed oil at this stage to start the knocking in process.



The Genisis of a Private Bin

Specfications:

Length: Standard Length
Handle: Short Handle, Oval Shape, CARBOCANE, 2 Grips
Weight: 2lb 12oz. Finished
Toe: Lami-Toe with Toe Guard
Status: Ready to Play
Profile: Bowed with thick edges
Sweetspot: Lower middle to Low
Hand crafted on: July 7, 2007

As with all our bats, be it, Signature, Private Bin, Heritage, or Carbo, we at Laver & Wood take great pride in selecting the best willow possible in each grade range, and handcrafting each and every aspect of the bat. This page gives you an idea of what goes into hand crafting one of our bats.

Please contact us for details of the type of bat that will best suit your game.

Willow Cleft Selection Cleft
Initial Pod Shaving Cleft
Handle Assembly and Bat Shaping Cleft
Bat Shaping Cleft
Bat Shaping Cleft
Bat Shaping Cleft
Bat Shaping
Cleft
Shaping out an Oval Handle
Cleft
Shaping the Bow and Sweetspot
Cleft
Bat shaping per specs
Cleft
Bat shaping per specs : Bat is weighed, Lami-Toed
Cleft
Final Shaping of an oval handle
Cleft
Application of livery and 1st grip : Bat is weighed
Cleft
Smoothing out the finish, Knocked in and Toe Guard
Cleft
After application of the 2nd grip and finishing touches
Cleft
After application of the 2nd grip and finishing touches
Cleft

The name Private Bin comes from winemaking as the best, reserve wine is kept aside in a Private Bin and we are situated in the winemaking capital of New Zealand.

Private Bin Bats come in the following sizes & styles: Short Handle, Long Handle, Long Blade with a weight range of 2lb7ozs through to 3lbs6ozs.

The Private Bin bat can also be made with the Carbon Handle and in our Carbo Label (pictured Left) Please specify on the order form if you would like the Private Bin Carbo Labels.             

 

Bat Making Demos
Bat Making Demos Next one - Champs Glenfield

When and Where:

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Laver & Wood at Champs Sports, Auckland


 James
will be making  bats in the Panmure and Glenfield Champs stores to demonstrate the art of hand crafting throughout the season. We are doing this in order that we give our customers full support and enable good access to information first hand. We can size you up and then organise to have your bat custom made for you. We have workbenches in situ at both shops in Auckland to enable regular bat making and sizing appointments.

Please give a call to the team at Champs on 09 444-9520 or James on 021 752 441 if you would like to get a bat made to order. Or email us to have a flyer sent to you about each event.
www.champs.co.nz

Panmure and Glenfield Store Directions


 

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Laver & Wood at the SCG,Sydney, Australia


James will be making  bats at various locations to demonstrate the art of hand crafting. We will be doing this during the cricket season so that we are able to give our customers full support and enable good access to information first hand.

Please keep checking this page to find out where we will be next.

salix