Turn a Classic Wooden Bat - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Turn a Classic Wooden Bat

 In Projects, Questions And Answers, Techniques

Turn a Classic Wooden Bat

Learn How to Beat the Chatter

By Alan Lacer

The crack of a baseball against a wooden bat is a wonderful sound seldom heard today. Too often it’s been replaced by the metallic “clink” of an aluminum bat. Baseball has its roots in balls, gloves and shoes made from animal hides, and bats made from trees. It seems an odd place for high tech equipment to intrude. Making a wooden bat returns you and your kids to the sound and feel of real, old-time baseball. 

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If you’re starting with a purchased round blank, mark the center on both ends with a plastic center finder. On a square blank use a ruler across the diagonals to find the centers.  

Click any image to view a larger version.

True the cylinder’s entire length with a spindle-roughing gouge. This step is necessary because the blank may be warped, or your center marks aren’t perfect. Take light cuts. You don’t want to remove too much stock.

Size the bat with calipers and a parting tool. Transfer diameters from a drawing or an existing bat (called a master) onto the blank. Lightly push the calipers into the work as you reduce the diameter with the parting tool until the calipers just slip over the cut. 

Use a spindle-roughing gouge to “connect the dots”. The goal is to join and blend the different guide diameters to create a smooth cylinder that tapers towards the handle.

Take light cuts and create level transitions as you approach the final shape of the barrel. Work from the large diameter to the small to minimize tearout.

Roll over the end of the barrel with a detail/spindle gouge. Shoot for a smooth, gradual curve like the master has.  Leave about a 1/2-in. by 2-in. diameter waste area near your live center for now.  

Spiraling or chatter is a big challenge for the bat maker. Spiraling results from the wood flexing, or the tool bouncing or a combination of both. As the bat gets thinner, the problem becomes more pronounced. 

Support the work with your hand to reduce spiraling. This is a safe and common practice. Make sure there is little gap between the tool rest and the wood. Keep your hand pressure on the back of the blank. 

A steady rest is an alternative to the hand-support method.  It virtually eliminates chatter and spiraling because the work is supported on three sides at once. A steady rest requires a smooth area for the wheels to run upon.  

Work the area to the right of the knob. Cut from the large diameter towards the small diameter (also known as cutting downhill). This produces the smoothest cut with the least tearout.

Establish the width of the knob with a pair of dividers.  I keep the wood on either side of the knob as fat as possible until the handle area is almost complete. This helps reduce spiraling from a flexing blank.

Roll the knob using the spindle/detail gouge. Start at the widest portion of the knob and ride the bevel of the gouge down to the handle or waste block. The open or U-shaped portion of the gouge faces the direction of the cut.

Sand your bat with the tool rest, steady rest, and master bat removed. Start with 100 grit followed by 120, 150 and 180 grit paper.  

Add a customized look to your bat by burning in your own brand. The brand is always placed on the face grain portion of the bat (see inset) to give the hitter a point of reference for positioning the bat. 

Apply a finish to give a richer look to the bat as well as some protection against moisture. 

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker July 2007, issue #129.

July 2007, issue #129

Purchase this back issue.


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