23 June 2011

They lathe bats, don't they?: Making Bats for Orioles (Part II)

In part II, Allan Donato (DS Wood Bats (twitter)) and I discuss more on how bats are made.  This will include some information on what players ask for when ordering a bat and even a little bit on issues with bats breaking into splinters.

Jon Shepherd: When a player comes to you and asks for bats what specifications do they typically ask for? 

Allan Donato: When I speak to a player about their order, the important things are what wood type (ash, maple or birch), what bat model (a set model or custom model), length, weight, cup or no cup, finish, and engraving they would like.  There are a lot more variables than most people think.

JS: From your own experience, what makes for a good bat?

AD: Not only does the quality of the wood make a bat good, but making it exactly like the client wants makes it a good bat.  I see bats a lot of times that are not made exactly as the player asks and they are disappointed.  Majority of the time, this has to do with the bat being heavier than they would like.  Feel is a big thing in baseball.  Players want the bat to feel a certain way, and you must duplicate that feeling. 

JS: There has been a great deal of talk about wood types and the danger of shattering bats.  Is this something that has to be accepted as part of the game or not?  Have you looked into ways for making bats safer and what would they be?

AD: There definitely has been a great deal of talk about the shattering of maple bats lately.  I think it has been accepted as part of the game for a while now, but as of late I believe they are trying to educate the players and public more and show them this should not happen to the extent it has.  The testing done by a third party company through MLB has done a great job of showing what is causing the breakages and helping to educate and resolve the problem. 
JS: Not being a maker of bats, I imagine I am missing things that might be important with respect to making an excellent bat.  Is there anything you would like to add?
AD: I think one thing that gets over looked about the smaller companies like ourselves is the amount of handcrafting that goes into every bat.  We aren't the type of large company with numerous lathes and automatic sanders that has machines doing the vast majority of the work.  Every bat has hands touching it from the mill, to the lathe, to the finishing room.  Every aspect is done by hand in some fashion.  There is a lot of time and effort that goes into every single bat.
JS: Finally, this may be too technical for some, but what pieces of equipment do you use to make a bat and how long does it take to make one?
AD: We have three lathes that we use to cut and sand the bats.  One of our lathes is a Centauro which is used to duplicate and model that we turn by hand.  We also have a Jet lathe that is much smaller and used to turn our models by hand and make templates, along with a Delta that we use to sand our bats by hand.  For finishing the bats we also use a laser engraver to engrave the model, name and team into the bat.

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