Thunder Matt's Bat Odyssey (Part II)

April 21, 2008 | Comments (0) | by The Hundley

Definitely an old school flavor. Working on a belt drivn lathe from the 50'sWell, after talking about it, I finally got around to starting the Thunder Matt Bat. First off was making a prototype. Originally I had some regular 2x4 lumber glued up, but after roughly shaping it, I was growing tired of half of it chipping off and hitting me in the face. If you're scoring at home, that's not good. As luck would have it, I found a solid piece of fir (very soft wood) that would hopefully do better, and it did.

I started out trying to shape the bat by memory, but I quickly found that since Little League, years of Mt. Dew, Old Style and roll-your-own cigarettes had left my memory about as sharp as a Jamie Moyer fastball. A quick trip to the parents house produced a wooden bat from the Field of Dreams and got me back on track. Working away in my garage for the first time this year was nice. The weather is better, I could open the windows, but everyone and their grandma seemed to wander in and see what was going on. "That doesn't look like bat!" was the most common remark. "You have a misshaped head" was my common retort.

I do not recommend trying to take a lathe action shot by yourselfWhen I finally was left alone, I set to work on the bat. Never having done this before, I didn't know if you were supposed to start at the barrel or the handle. Because there was more wood to take, I started by roughing out the handle end of the bat. Nothing too terribly exciting to report, you don't have to be super careful when making the initial shape, mostly working with a gouge tool. The initial shaping went pretty well. I'm not an overly accomplished wood turner, but still it only took me about 30 minutes to get to a rough bat shape.

When I started working on the handle end to do some finer, finishing cuts with a 1" skew tool, disaster struck. Because fir is a soft wood with an almost flaky Son of a bitch!grain (and most certainly because I did something wrong), the bat blew out on the end. Needless to say, it was a little frustrating after putting in all the work. I guess that's why you do a prototype first, right? I'm banking on learning from my mistakes on this one, so it won't happen when I get around to turning the final ash stock. In a sense, I was lucky the chip wasn't more severe. I was still able to turn the rest of the bat save for the bottom six or seven inches. Practice, practice, practice.

After getting it pretty darn close to resembling a bat, I decided to call it good. I found that I really need to get a set of calipers and use the Field of Dreams bat for a template, customizing certain features here and there. For example, I like a bigger knob on the end of the bat and I like the bat to have a little bit thicker handle. Like Soriano's bat, I guess. It will probably yield similar batting average results as well. I may also try to hollow out the end to give it some more balance. We'll have to see. For your viewing pleasure, I added some lemon oil to give the bat some color, and you can see it sort of looks like a bat.

That's all for now. Don't forget to vote for name to be engraved on the bat in the right hand column.