Baseball Bat Billets

Tips on sawing and drying rough stock for bat makers (a tough market to break into). June 18, 2010

I would like to explore the possibility of making baseball bat billets. I have quite a bit of ash and hard-soft maple available, and I have a band mill and an L-200 Nyle kiln. I would appreciate any tips on sawing and drying and marketing billets. Much of our ash is starting to die out. I'm in Michigan.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor E:
That might be a tough market to get into. Can't help you with sawing and cutting. As for marketing, there are about 27 licensed batmakers for MLB. I think they are listed on the website for MLB. I would contact them and see if they are interested in new suppliers. They'll also give you their specs for billets. Pros have a lot of demanding specs and they are different for different batting situations. I do know Louisville Slugger sorts them by weight, in half ounce increments for the same size billets.

You could start turning your own. Louisville Slugger has only one employee who can turn bats by hand. He's been there for 40 years. I believe the small shops do CNC and hand turning.

From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
In order to reduce the chance of breakage of a bat, it is critical to saw parallel to the grain. This means straight logs, no twisted or spiral grain, and sawing parallel to the bark. In fact, if you split a log in half, you will find out exactly the angle of the grain and can saw parallel for the best bat material. Ash is still popular, but hard maple is also going strong and breaks more easily, as the grain is seldom perfectly straight.

In any case, I have worked with several bat manufacturers and they do have plenty of wood. Therefore, you might find it hard to break into this market, as mentioned in the above posting.

From contributor P:

Right, doc. I see maple bats shattering a lot more than ash. I try to look at the growth rings when the batter gets up to see which species he is using. Painted bats are impossible, of course. I remember about 30 to 40 years ago that people in my area of central NY would make wedge shaped "splits" out of white ash for the bat market. These were green lumber and I don't know how they were dried. There were a couple of small shops that would then turn them into the finished product.

I don't know if they retailed them or were a job market for a larger producer such as Adirondack Bat in Dolgeville, NY, which by the way, Hank Aaron used. I don't know if they are still in business.

From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
The key to avoiding breaking bats is to have the grain parallel to the length. The grain is often determined by splitting, as a split will follow the grain. With hard maple (hard maple seems to give the baseball better bounce off the bat), the grain varies every couple of inches, so it is impossible to get the length parallel to the grain. It takes only a few degrees of angle for the bat to weaken significantly.

From contributor D:
Things may have changed but Larimer-Norton used to dry all the ash for Louisville Slugger. They split all the billets by hand. The billets are/were dried by blowing air gently into the end of the charge since the sides of the charge were so irregular.

From contributor P:
Thanks. I wondered how the drying was accomplished. Also I am pretty sure that the players are willing to put up with shattered bat if the "liveliness" of the maple helps them. I wonder how many fans have been injured by the shards of wood.