27 Sep Making handmade cricket bats is dangerous!
In the time it took to drop a catch, making handmade cricket bats became dangerous! Not in a climbing Everest, Pot Holing, doing your Tax Return the day before the deadline type of danger, but where you realise what a fragile position being handmade can be. Seven weeks ago I fractured my thumb playing cricket.
As I remember it, I left the ground at speeds previously only associated with Concord, momentarily defied gravity and attempted to make dreams happen as I tried to take a one handed “Paul Collingwood” style catch in the Gully, although my teammates remember it differently…
They claim I reacted slowly, didn’t get my hands up quickly enough nor in the right position, before Thumbing the ball to the ground as I used my tried and tested dropping technique of “harpooning the ball with my digits”. To add insult to this scandalous fabrication, a rumour quickly circulated on the field of play that I let out an effeminate shriek. I recall it being more akin to Barry White letting out a battle cry.
Despite my teammates’ poor memories, it wasn’t until a week later that I went to hospital to discover it was worse than just bruised. During this time I continued in the workshop with a great deal of difficulty and quickly realised how handmade is great fun when you’re fit, but less enjoyable when nursing an injury. Much like when we prepared willow clefts by hand, lessons have been learnt.
There have been some positives to this down time, as it’s provided an opportunity to properly reflect on where White Willow has been and where I hope it will go. The honest answer is that I’ve been meandering down a road not quite knowing whether to take a left, a right or just stop. It’s probably fair to say I was committed only to my indecision, but making no decision was perhaps the worst one of the lot.
So I’ve decided (yes, a decision) to change what I offer to satisfy what I’m already doing and what I wanted to do originally. The style 1 and 2 cricket bats have quietly taken over and this range will be extended in 2015 to offer a little bit more variety. The Custom option isn’t satisfying my ambition for White Willow and I’m already customising the bats I’m making to meet the odd unique request. Yet there have been ideas I’ve been unable to integrate or undertake due to a lack of a suitable outlet, the Custom part of White Willow will become that outlet. All the little things I’ve been holding onto in anticipation of an appropriate project, can be created under this banner. I started by adding a stamped leather inlay to the top of the handles, but when a little is not enough you have to go further.
With my injury curtailing any significant progress in the workshop, I dedicated some time to resharpening any dull edges and cleaning up. Despite my best efforts to stretch this out, it didn’t make it into a second day. So for a few weeks I’ve been making some refinements to my hand planes and designing new ones.
A while ago I asked the Instagram community for their ideas of a tough timber to work in order to test my hand planes before shipping. There were some interesting suggestions including Kingwood, Purpleheart, Quartersawn Cherry, White Oak and some others I’ve never come across. Armed with this list of possibilities I made a call to Exotic Hardwoods in Derbyshire and explained what I was looking for and how I was intending to use it. After a quick discussion we settled on Indian Rosewood. Upon its arrival I was amazed at how deep the colours were. Purples, Chocolate Browns and as you can see from the picture below, the odd light streak as well. However I didn’t order it for its good looks and this piece is certainly putting a well tuned hand plane to the test.
My thumb still isn’t better and seven weeks can be a long time when all you can do is stand in your workshop and stare forlornly at your tools. However this pause in proceedings has afforded an opportunity to take a step back, something I haven’t been able to do for a while.
All in all, a fractured thumb can be cathartic