Ever stop to consider what it takes to make a baseball bat, any baseball bat, not just those used by major league baseball players, but the one you have setting in your room?
Baseball bats are made out of several different varieties of trees from, ash, hickory, oak, maple and bamboo. Let’s exam what it takes to make a bat made of ash, as all other varieties follow similar procedures 9nine Sports.
There are now commercial ash tree farms which grow trees solely to be used for the fabrication of baseball bats, although few trees withstand the staunch standards required to become a bat.
Historically, the trees were mainly harvested in Pennsylvania and New York State, where they had a tendency to grow in dense groups, which required them to grow straight in search of sunlight, which reduced the limbs and knots the trees had. It required a 40 to 50 year old tree to reach a diameter of 14 to 18 inches which could be harvested in 12′ to 16′ foot lengths. The logs are carefully inspected for defects before being loaded and shipped to the saw mill.
Once the trees were harvested they are sent to the lumber company where they are cut into 40″ pieces, called Splits, which are placed in a planer which removes the outside bark, leaving only the plain wood. These Splits are again inspected for any flaws in the wood, such as lack of straightness of grain, which would create a problem.
Passing this inspection the Splits are now split into Billets which means it’s passed inspections but is green wood, wood which still maintains water and sap inside it. These Billets are banded together, 6’x6′ or 8’x8′ stacks and are placed outside, where the ends are treated with a preservative to keep the wood from splitting, fraying or rotting, and is allowed to season for anytime between 6 months and two years.
Once the billets are certified as seasoned, they are again inspected for any flaws, and passing the inspection are sent to Bat Turners who place the billets in a lathe to be shaved into the shape of a baseball bat. These bats are then sanded, re-inspected, weighed and placed in bins according to weight and length.
Let’s assume a major league team has placed an order for 100 bats for 26 different players. Each player has already had a bat made for and approved by them, and an exact replica of that bat has been kept in storage at the manufacturer.
The Bat Turner retrieves the model bat, or template bat and installs it in a devise directly above the lathe where the new bat will be produced. He then goes to the storage bins and selects a billet which is heavy and long enough to be made into an exact replica of the desired bat.
The Bat Turner slowly operates the lathe, which is mimicking the shape of the model bat being held above. This requires very tedious work as the bat must be measured every two inches, or less, with the use of calipers, and constantly weighed.