|bat: (noun) a usu. wooden implement
used for hitting the ball in various games.|
– Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary
In the early years of baseball, around
1845, bats were homemade, rough-cut with an axe and finished on a shaving
horse using a draw-knife. With no
official regulations on their construction,
bats were made in all sizes and shapes.
Some were as short as 24", while others
were as long as 48" (allowing an unbelievable 8' swinging arc!).
|back then, players weren’t picky – a cut
handle from a rake or a pitchfork would
do just fine. In short, a player could use
just about anything he wanted.
Early regulations entered the scene in 1859, but even they weren’t that strict: Barrels were limited to 2 1/2" in diameter, but players could still use any length they desired. Ten years later the bat length was limited to 42", and in 1895 the maximum barrel diameter was increased to 2 3/4". Bats weighed in the 24-48 oz. range (today’s bats weigh about 33 oz.), and cost around 25-40 cents for an unfinished bat and up to 85
While regulations were beginning
|to govern bat size, they didn’t limit creativity. Some bats were adorned with decorative shapes on the bat knob, such as a mushroom, a carved baseball or an acorn. One of the most unique bats that appeared in the early 1900s was the double-knob, also known as the double-ring handle, that had a standard knob at the end and second knob 6" above that. This bat was favored by such greats as Ty Cobb (Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Athletics), Nap Lajoie (Cleveland Bronchos and Indians; Philadelphia Phillies and Athletics), and Honus Wagner (Louisville Colonels and Pittsburgh Pirates). This is the bat we’ll make for this project.|
the years of the transition from the horse and buggy to the automobile,
tongues from wagon wheels were a
perfect source of bat blanks and it was
not uncommon to see ads soliciting the
public to make bats. The first bat patent was issued in 1864, while the
manufactured bat came 20 years later
in 1884. The first baseball bat factory
and trade-marked bat were established
Getting on deck
|As you plan your bat, first determine whether you want to make one
for actual use, or for display purposes;
this will help you decide what species
of wood to turn. We’ll be turning ash
in this project, but if you plan to display your finished bat, you can use
about any wood at all that would make
for a handsome showpiece.
Start with a turning blank in your
chosen wood (Fig. 1). Ready-made blanks are available from a number of sources in both square and rounded stock, or you could have one cut to order at your local lumber supplier.
Find and mark the center of each
end of the blank (Fig. 2). Then set your lathe’s spur center on your marks and tap it firmly into place with a mallet (Fig. 3). (You could also cut a pair of 1/8"-deep grooves following the center lines you marked, for easier mounting with your spur center already in place on the lathe.) With the blank now mounted on the lathe,
|check that it’s
secure between centers (Fig. 4).|
(Note: For easier turning, you might want to remove the four corners of the square blank and create a roughly octagonal shape before mounting on the lathe. You can use a band saw or hand saw before mounting.)
Roughing into first
| of the bat,
in this case – near the headstock, if
you should inadver-tently take off too
much from the headstock end, you
can simply plan to make that end of
the blank your handle instead.|
Keep working the blank until it has been turned to a uniform diameter.
Shaping into second
|As already stated, the double-knob
bat we’re making here measures 23/8" in diameter at its widest
point; overall length is 35". Starting from the barrel
end, our bat tapers very slightly – only
1/8" – over the first 8". From that point it
tapers a bit more steeply to a diameter
of 2" at the 12" mark, 13/8" at 18", down
to 11/16" at the 25" point. From there
to the front of the first knob the shaft
remains a uniform 11/16". The handle
portion between the two knobs flares
very slightly from 11/16" just behind
the first knob, to 11/8" just in front of
the second. The front knob is 111/16" in
diameter at its widest point, while the end knob is 13/4".
Remember to start and end your
profile about 1" from the blank ends (if you have a very long blank, it’s all right to leave more than 1"). Using a caliper and pencil, transfer your key transition points that will define the shape of your bat to the
| blank, as in Fig.
7. Now you’re ready to start making your own
piece of baseball history come to life.
Turning into third
|Finishing into home
When you’re satisfied with shap-ing, proceed through increasing grits of sandpaper to arrive at a nice, smooth surface (Fig. 10). The last step before removing your bat is to burnish the sur- face. Do this by gently but firmly rubbing several handfuls of shavings across the spinning surface as in (Fig. 11). You’ll actually be able to see a shine developing on the wood.
Using your parting tool, turn the
waste at each end of the spindle to 1/4" or so as in Fig. 12, then remove the bat from the lathe. Cut off the waste tips at the ends, and hand-sand and smooth the cutoff nubs from the ends.
I like to stain my bats and seal them with a coat of paste wax. But with historical reproductions, you can arrive at a final finished look and still be true to the originals. In the case of your new bat, you can top it off with a plain