Thunder Matt's Bat Odyssey

April 11, 2008 | Comments (0) | by The Hundley

Like my grandfather and my father before me, I am a woodworker. Hmm, I guess that doesn't sound quite as profound as I had intended. Doesn't really reach out and grab you like professional athlete, adult film star, or Italian does. Nonetheless, some wisdom has been passed down, along with some limited skills, and most importantly, an ultimate set of tools. Now that baseball season is in full swing, what better project to take to task than making a baseball bat?

I have to admit, I'm surprised myself that I've never made a bat before. You'd think being a baseball nut that possesses some passion for woodworking would have spawned this project years ago. For whatever reason it hasn't, and the Bat Project has taken a backseat to book cases, shelves, tool boxes, birdhouses, checker boards, and other various fare that falls under the Knick Knack category or other assorted craft goods.

Luckily, I own a wood lathe, the essential tool in making a bat. I'm sure you've all seen The Natural, right? Lightning strikes a branch down from an ash tree on Roy Hobb's farm and he takes the wood and turns it into Wonder Boy. Yeah, well that's the same tool that Roy Hobb's used. The lathe spins the wood, and you use various gouges, skews, and shears to shape the wood. So very exciting! When this bat is finally finished, I too, hope to hit a monster home run that turns the outfield lights into a 4th of July fireworks celebration.

The first step is to choose the type of wood to use. The most common varieties are hickory (heavy and dense), white ash (light and strong), and most recently maple, which was introduced to the MLB in large scale when Barry Bonds starting making noise with his Sam Bat. Other species used are birch and in exotic cases, bamboo (comes from China, automatically disqualified after reading Brant's rant on them). For accessibilty, performance, and above all, price, I've selected white ash, which cost me $23 at a local saw mill.

The bat will be made according to Major League specifications, with a 2-5/8" barrel and a 32" length. A shorty to be sure, but that's the longest bat I can turn on my lathe, so that's what it will have to be. Since I've never turned a bat, I'm going to do a trial run on some glued up 2x4's, trying to perfect the taper, fit and feel before working on the ash. Like Roy Hobbs before me, I'll solder a name into it, leaving it up to you, the readers, to decide. Just look over to the right in the column and cast your vote by May 1st. I'll post pictures during each phase, and possibly some video of the "test run", where I'm going to take some BP with it and pray to God that it doesn't shatter.