Thunder Matt's Bat Odyssey (Part III)

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

Wow. A lot of discussions and musings about maple baseball bats lately. They're exploding into shards everywhere, people are getting impaled, Reed Johnson is getting frustrated, and I remembered that I'm supposed to be making a bat. An ASH bat, nonetheless. Quickly my attention went back to the project. If Slumpbuster can make a big enough debut, maybe I could quit my day job and make bats for Reed Johnson! We'll see.

I set up the white ash bat blank (or billet) on the lathe and went to turning it down, meaning I started roughly shaping the bat. I'll have to say that I was quite nervous working with the actual wood that is to become Slumpbuster. I actually went through the trouble of sharpening all of the gouges and skews that would be used in the manufacturing, and what a difference it made. The pictures do show it to an extent, but the amount and velocity of the shavings are somewhat lost in two dimension, still-action photos. It was actually quite fun seeing all the shavings fly everywhere and get caught in all of the spiderwebs that I never knew my garage had. It was like being a kid again, save for the fact that carelessness could leave to a loss of fingers and or hands and eyes.

I decided to start with the barrel, more so just because it has less wood to take off. Starting there, I would have a point to work from while making my way down the handle. Again, not sure of this is the proper way to do it, I'm just thinking that it's easier to taper down than taper up. Surprisingly, after only 15 or 20 minutes, things started taking shape. The barrel was done in about 10 minutes and after I began tapering, the thing actually started looking like a bat.

Working on the handle has proven to be the most nerve-wracking and intricate part of the odyssey. The knob on the end of the bat has a pretty tight inside curve, which loves to "grab" your gouge and try to fling it in the air. As you can imagine, this is not fun. To make matters worse, the knob was also the section that I had the blowout on while fabricating the prototype. I love all of you guys that read this site (that's a lot of love spread around 14 ways), but not enough to keep buying blanks of "bat quality" white ash if I screw it up.

After some light sanding and fine tuning after fine tuning on the handle and taper, I think she's just about done. As the picture shows, I'm still a bit chickenshit on finishing the handle. I'm putting that on hold until I can consult a local Quad City woodturner on the best way to attack it. This old-timer has been a great resource so far on this project, and I'm gonna milk him for all his worth. That sounded gross.

I took Slupbuster off the lathe and gave her a maiden swing. Words can't describe the feeling it gave me, but "heavy" and "sore back" kind of come to mind. Maybe I'll have to thin it down a bit more. That will have to wait, the local minor league team is playing tonight, and the opposing coach is none other than Ryne Sandberg. I may have to scout some players and see who'd be interested and worthy of swinging a Slumpbuster during their rise to stardom. Until next time, kids, be sure and wear eye protection...

The Prototype, The Model, Slumpbuster