27 Sep Cricket Bat Making: 1 of 20
Cricket Bat Making No.1
It’s always a great feeling when you get a referral from a previous customer. Especially when it was from a bat you made a while ago as you know the bat’s lasted and has performed well enough for them to send someone your way. Plus it’s another opportunity to get some Cricket Bat Making done.
The request was for 2lbs 9oz, with a balanced profile, nothing too low and Grade 3. That was it. I especially like the customers who keep it simple, it makes the process easier and I think they end up with a better Cricket Bat. I also like working with lower grades of Willow. You’re more often than not pleasantly surprised rather than disappointed and the odd bit of cranky grain keeps things interesting.
By no means was this Grade 3 a bad looking Willow Cleft. It had the odd mark, but the business end was clean and I always say to people “You don’t look at the face of the Cricket Bat when you hit the Ball”.
The first thing I always do is what I call “Toeing the Bat”. Not an especially fancy name I know, but we all know what I mean. I remove as much wood as I can to establish the initial shape and ignore the idea I’m removing weight. You’re going to make a dent in the weight but you won’t magically reach your target weight in a few strokes of the drawknife… unless your target weight is 3lbs 10oz.
The same is done at the handle end with plenty of wood to remove and more weight than is worth worrying about needing to go. It’s often the way that I’ll end up leaving one patch of untouched Willow about where I want the middle. Initially it’ll be a generous patch as shown below. Then as time passes this area will be refined more and more, narrowing in on the middle position try and get some balance.
Below is an illustration of the difference between Sharp and Blunt. On the Right we have a shaving that shows the blade has stuttered and struggled through the stroke. Losing bite in the Willow and skipping over the slighter tougher bits of timber. On the Left we have a true shaving that’s consistent in thickness and still complete. One thing that can be said for Willow is that it accommodates a blunt blade better than most timbers. So that dull edge can creep up on you slowly without you realising, then all of a sudden you’re crushing timber into submission.
Some people use them and some people don’t, I’ve always found that an edge line is useful. It’s only a help to have a guide and it provides the added assurance that you’re making progress. One important benefit of the pencil line is that it helps me shape the spine profile. It can be easy to get carried away once you get your hands on a certain tool, this is why I drop the drawknife pretty early on in the shaping process. I love it, when it’s sharp and it slices through timber like it’s not there it can be a joy to use.
However, it’s a double edged sword. I used to end up watching and enjoying the drawknife cut, rather than concentrating on what I was doing. It became clear that it was safer to put it down before I took one cut too many…
Eventually something close to the profile I’m after emerges and importantly by this time I’ve got every tool out and the bench is a mess.
You should be able to see a difference between the shape above and the one below. Everything has been steadily pinched in.
Below are the tooling marks from my Travisher. What isn’t clear is that I’ve crept up from the toe with every stroke until I’ve reached the point where I’m no longer cutting with the grain. It’ll become obvious when you’re not, especially with Willow, as the fibres will tear and pull out rather than slice. All you do then is turn around the tool and work the other way. Whilst it’s not a perfect way of ascertaining where the peak of the curve is, it’s certainly a good indication.
The shape is basically finished. The major shaping has finished and all I’ve done is get lighter with the tool strokes to refine everything.
Then we go through the finishing…
We got there. I’ll trim these posts down in future or write it in one day. I just forget where I am and struggle to pick it up. Oh and the 20 clefts has become 18 but that bit will come in another post.