by Professor Gene Wengert
I've heard that the best ash for baseball bats comes from Pennsylvania. Is this true, and if so, why?
Ash is called a ring porous hardwood because early in the growing season the tree makes large cells. Then later on the cells become much smaller and denser. The zone of large cells each year is actually the weakest part of the wood--large cells mean a lot of empty space and poor strength. (Oak is also a ring porous wood.) Well, if you grow the ash too slowly, then there will be a larger proportion of large vessels, which means the wood will be weaker; too fast means too heavy as there will be too many dense, small cells. So, it is important to find the correct growth rate that maximizes the properties of the wood. There is a band of good growth--just north of Louisville, KY, upper PA, etc. So, there is a lot of truth to the statement about PA and NY--ON THE AVERAGE, the ash there is the best for bats (strength). But for beauty, Louisiana has some of the best color! Okay?
Professor Gene Wengert is Extension Specialist in Wood Processing at the Department of Forestry, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
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