Turn Your Own Bat


Over the years I have turned many wood bats. In fact, for a while, I owned and operated a small wood baseball bat company known as Southern Bat Company. You might still see a few of our bats floating around in various wood bat leagues throughout Sydney. These days, I turn bats for my friends and the enjoyment of it. But back when I was selling bats throughout Australia and overseas, the majority of these bats were turned on large CNC (Computer Numerical Control) lathes. On the CNC machines, basically you input the necessary CAD (Computer Aided Design) profile that you wish the machine to produce and the high speed cutters do the rest.

By Stuart Miller

But, you don’t need any fancy machinery to turn a baseball bat. In fact, turning a baseball bat is one of the most basic projects you can do on the lathe. As you can see in the video, this is a basic lathe that has been lengthened to turn a 36-inch billet, which is about as long as you want to start with if you are turning a 33-inch bat. Many lathes today will only allow a 30″ billet, so be sure to check that if you are interested in purchasing a lathe. I would also like to note that there is no right or wrong way to turn a baseball bat.

Several years ago, I was interviewed by American author Stuart Miller, who actually included Southern Bat’s story in his book ‘Good Wood: The Story of the Baseball Bat’. In this book, you can read the history of the wood bat and learn how many of today’s companies manufacture their bats. If you’ve watched the video, hopefully the following notes will help fill in some of the blanks and elaborate on some of the more important details.

Step 1:

Start with a squared off billet, find the centers, and securely fasten to the head and tail stock. Initially you will want to use the lowest speed setting on your machine. The more you take off, the more you can increase the speed until you have a perfectly cylindrical billet.

Step 2:

Mark out the length of the bat and each interval marker you plan on working off. I find it’s easier to copy a bat in front of you, until you become confident enough that you know exactly what your depths need to be.

Step 3:

Starting below the barrel, start turning down to the required depths at each interval marker. Remember, you can always take more off, but it’s near impossible to put it back on. So be careful!

Step 4:

Work your way down the bat, taking off much of the mass. The finer shaping comes later.

Step 5:

The handle is one of the most important parts of the bat. It often determines whether a bat feels good in the hands or not. Remember to leave some wood there for refinement later. It is also important to take your time, Often trying to take off too much too fast will result in chipping across the grain. Be very gentle!

Step 6:

Once the knob and handle are taken care of, you can start working on the barrel. Ash has a tendency to “jump”, causing the billet to become oval in shape. Be gentle during this process.

Step 7:

With the knob finished, you can now set the length of your bat. Remove all the wood beyond the barrel down to about a 25 mm in diameter. You don’t want to be cutting too much off on the band saw later, but you also don’t want your bat to jump off the lathe. Once the excess is removed and the length is established, you can round off the barrel.

Step 8:

If there are any adjustments that need to be made, now is the time to make them. Again, be very careful. After all this work, you’d hate to ruin it now!

Step 9:

Start sanding with a coarse paper. I like to start with 80-120 grit paper, depending on how well you turned the bat. If you want that glossy finished, you will want a nice smooth finish. Finish with a 180 grit.

Once you are finished on the lathe, you can nip off the ends on the band saw. As you have probably seen, some bats are cupped on the barrel. You can cup the bat at this point or leave it the way it is. I always like to think of new stains and finishes, to give the bat a slightly different look.

Have fun turning your bats, and I hope this short video helped you a little.

8 Comments on “Turn Your Own Bat

  1. Mate,

    looking for someone who can lathe me a baseball bat out of a 3 x 3 piece of Australian Hictory. It has been sitting in my shed for 25 years and I would like to have it made and engraved with a mate sons name on it, so his son can use in little league baseball.
    Is this something you can do? or can you refer me to someone that can please?

  2. Hi Brett

    I have a fair bit of woodworking experience but I’ve never used a lathe. I and my boys are baseball mad and am thinking of getting a lathe and having a go. Where is the best place to get a maple billet? Are there any local timbers that you’d recommend we use – how about a tassie Oak or Vic Ash? Alternatively could one use something like spotted gum (possibly heavy). Finally could we vista you at some stage to give us a demo?

    • G’day Scott,

      In terms of learning how to turn a bat, my brother Craig (Craig@DiamondDreams.com.au) is who you need to speak with. Craig will be happy to assist with any questions you might have.

      Over the years Craig and I have turned bats out of fabricated Tassie Oak / Vic Ash billets. They work ok. Stay away from the gums. Actually Spotted Gum is a great specie to turn and work with, but hopeless for a bat. Having said that, we’ve turned many bats out Spotted Gum.

      It might pay to call Harper Timbers, and Trend Timbers. Both companies sell retail. Anyway get in touch with Craig and he’ll be more than happy to help you out.

  3. Hi Brett,
    I was just wondering if it is possible to make bats out of Jarrah?
    Is it strong enough?
    The bat wont be used in any games, more just for fun around the house and oval.
    Any suggestions?

    Cheers
    Tim

    • G’day Tim,

      Absolutely you can use Jarrah if you just using it for mucking around. I’ve made bats out Blue Gum (looked lovely and was great to turn) but is too heavy. When considering a wood for turning, consider:

      1) Density / Hardness
      2) Flexion

      If you have any other questions, shoot Craig and email (Craig@DiamondDreams.com.au). He’s the expert.

      Thanks,

      Brett

  4. HI There

    Am after 2 x 18″ bats to be made. Are you able and willing to do so, if so at what cost?

    Needed within week-2 weeks time.

    • Hi Naomi,

      Sorry for not getting back to you sooner. We receive quite a lot of bat inquiries due to this post, however at this time we are not turning bats for people mainly due to not having enough time to produce quality bats that people expect.

      Regards,

      Brett

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