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Chapter 1: Salix alba var. Caerulea

Chapter 2: Watermark Disease

Chapter 3: Why English Willow

Chapter 4: Grading Willow

Chapter 5: Butterfly Willow

Chapter 6: Grain Structure & Willow Colour

Chapter 7: Testing a Cleft

Chapter 8: Laver & Wood’s Guide to Cricket Bat

Chapter 9: Laver & Wood’s Handles

Chapter 10: Handle Breakage

Chapter 11: Revised Handle Laws

Chapter 12: Handle Manufacture

Chapter 13: The Coefficient of Restitution and Centre of Percussion – What are these?

Chapter 14: Importance of Pressing Cricket Bat Willow

Chapter 15: Traditional Bat Making

Chapter 16: Tools used in Traditional Batmaking I

Chapter 17: Tools used in Traditional Batmaking II

Chapter 18: Tools used in Traditional Batmaking III

Chapter 19: Tools used in Traditional Batmaking IV

Chapter 20: The Weather & Bat Making

Chapter 21: Part IV Bat Maintenance

Chapter 22: Bat Repair and Maintenance

Chapter 23: Knocking In

Chapter 24: Oiling Bats

Chapter 25: Moisture Damage

Chapter 26: Batting in Wet Conditions

Chapter 27: Making Bats Last Longer

Chapter 28: Why Bats Break & How to Protect Them

Chapter 1:

Salix alba var. Caerulea

 

 

The Laws of Cricket state that the cricket bat blade has to be made of wood. The stipulation that the blade should be made of wood came about when the Australian player Dennis Lillee used an Aluminium bat in a test match against England in Australia in 1979. After only a few deliveries Mike Brearley complained that the bat was damaging the ball and the umpires instructed Lillee to replace it. Lillee declared that it was “the thing of the future”, however the cricketing world agreed that it “just wasn’t cricket” and soon after, the M.C.C. amended law 6.

Within the laws of cricket there is no restriction on the type of wood that should be used. Many timbers have been experimented with, but Salix alba var. Caerulea has been found the most suitable. Salix alba has the common name of White Willow, with the specific var. Caerulea commonly known as Cricket Bat Willow.

Cricket Bat Willow grows well throughout the world, but for cricket bat making purposes, the British climatic conditions are best. The British climate is perfect for growing cricket bat willow, not too hot in the summer, not too cold in the winter, with an ideal rainfall, combined with favourable soil types.

To find out more about Salix alba var. Caerulea please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

Chapter 2: Strategy

 

Since the beginning of the twentieth century the cricket bat willow, Salix alba Caerulea, has been subject to a serious infectious bacterial disease, Watermark Disease. Watermark Disease results in the crown of the tree dying back, but rarely brings the death of an entire tree. This infection is known as watermark disease because affected wood has a dark watery stain.

Trees of any age are liable to infection, but those under five years of age seldom show any signs of attack. The disease is easy to recognise by the stain in the wood, but the external symptoms are sometimes confused with those of the honey fungus, Armillaria mellea, which slowly kills the tree without staining the wood, and with die back due to various causes including drought or bad drainage.

Trees infected by Watermark disease present with certain visible symptoms. In England the first signs that a tree has the disease is in about the third or fourth week in April and into early May. The first leaves, which by then have appeared, lose their grey colour, wither and turn reddish.

To find out more about Watermark Disease please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

Chapter 3: Why English Willow

 

 

English cricket bat willow is regarded by batmakers world wide to be the highest quality. The growing conditions in England allow Salix alba var. Caerulea to grow at the ideal rate, especially in the warm, wet summers, which means the wood remains dense.

Dense willow provides the best balance of performance and durability. Willow that grows too fast does not have both performance and durability as the wood does not have the required density for making the best cricket bats. Fast growing willow does not have the performance or durability sought by cricket bat makers.

Graded Clefts
Cricket Bat Willow grows all over the world. Unfortunately only willow growing in England has the right climatic conditions and soil types to produce willow able to be used for high grade cricket bats.

To find out more about why Laver & Wood uses only English Willow please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

Chapter 4: Grading Willow

Making a good bat begins with grading the willow. Grading willow is not an exact science. It is more a craft that is developed over time, where an intuitive feel for what a cleft can become is as important as any specific measurements.

At Laver & Wood we grade each piece of willow at least four times before it is turned into a bat. This is a time consuming process, but crucial to getting the best performance out of an individual cleft.

All Laver & Wood’s willow comes from JS Wright & Sons in Essex. Wrights are recognised as one of the top, if not the top, willow merchants in the world. Wrights send us a variety of grades, and make sure that all bat makers take a range of willow from several different grades. Wrights enforce very sensible purchasing rules making bat makers purchase a range of grades, rather than just the top of the line willow.

To find out more about why Laver & Wood grades our willow please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

Chapter 5: Butterfly Willow

 

 

Making a good bat begins with grading the willow. Grading willow is not an exact science. It is more a craft that is developed over time, where an intuitive feel for what a cleft can become is as important as any specific measurements.

At Laver & Wood we grade each piece of willow at least four times before it is turned into a bat. This is a time consuming process, but crucial to getting the best performance out of an individual cleft.

All Laver & Wood’s willow comes from JS Wright & Sons in Essex. Wrights are recognised as one of the top, if not the top, willow merchants in the world. Wrights send us a variety of grades, and make sure that all bat makers take a range of willow from several different grades. Wrights enforce very sensible purchasing rules making bat makers purchase a range of grades, rather than just the top of the line willow.

To find out more about why Laver & Wood grades our willow please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

Chapter 6: Grain Structure & Willow Colour

 

 

One of the most common questions asked by cricketers is how different grains perform in cricket bats. There are a number of different factors to consider when discussing grains, and there are no absolutely right answers. The natural variation in willow means that there are rules, rather than hard laws, about grains in bats.

The number of grains affects the grade of the willow, and affects the look of the bat. From a bat makers perspective we like to get a balance between performance and durability. There is often, but not always, a trade off between the performance of the bat and its durability.

Some players will have had bats with a large number of grains that have performed better than any other bat they have used, so they want to stay with blades with a large number of grains. Others will have been disappointed that their tightly grained bat did not last very long, and prefer to go for a more conventional seven to nine grains. Batsmen of the calibre of Viv Richards and Sunil Gavaskar favoured bats with few grains, so a lot of the decisions about the number of grains ultimately comes down to personal preference.

To find out more about grains structure and willow colour and how these affect the performance of your bat please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

Chapter 7: Testing a Cleft

 

 

Part of the craft of hand making bats is understanding the type of bat each individual cleft is capable of becoming. A good bat maker can turn an average cleft into a bat that performs well, and a good cleft into a bat that is absolutely stunning.

Each cleft has inherent qualities, the two most important being density and weight. Bats that are very dense will not perform well, while bats that are not very dense may not be particularly durable.

Weight can be reduced by drying the cleft, though the batmaker has to be careful not to over dry the cleft or some of the strength of the willow will be reduced. Clefts that are over dry will be light, and will perform exceptionally well, but will not last.

To find out more about how James & Toby test clefts please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

Chapter 8: Laver & Wood’s Guide to Cricket Bat

 

 

Cricket bats were originally made out of a single piece of wood. This meant there was no shock attenuation when the bat struck the ball. The bat would have jarred in the hands of the batsman every time they hit the ball.

To overcome this problem bats were made out of two pieces of timber, usually just another piece of willow spliced into the handle. In the 1850’s there was another evolution to the handle, with cane, usually Manau Cane, being introduced in 1853. This subsequently improved the balance of the bat but still did not adequately attenuate the shock.

Three years later, in 1856, handles took the form they have maintained until now. Canes were split and then laminated back together with rubber between the canes. The rubber helped dampen down the shock of the ball hitting the bat. This dealt with the jarring, and the 1850s technology has stood the test of time.

To find out more about handles please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

Chapter 9: Laver & Wood’s Handles

Laver & Wood use handles that are not too dissimilar to those used in the 1850s. We source our cane from South East Asia, and have experimented with making our own handles, although we also purchase handles in their most basic form.

When handles arrive they will be about half to twice as thick as the finished handle. The first stage of the manufacturing process is to turn the handles on a lathe, to reduce them down to close to the width required to go into a bat.

The next stage is to cut the splice. This cut needs to be carefully made so the join between the handle and the blade there is a very tight fit. After applying glue the splice is tapped in with a knocking in mallet.

To find out more about Laver & Wood’s handles and James’ favourite handle designs please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

Chapter 10: Handle Breakage

Handles & the splice of the bat are one of the major break points in a bat. Careful craftsmanship can extend the life of handles. At Laver & Wood we are absolutely pedantic about how we make our handles, as we can dramatically reduce the chance of the handle breaking or the splice coming apart.

There are many weak points in handles and through making our own bats and repairing other brands’ bats we have gathered a very good idea of why handles break.

The most common weak point on a handle is the join where the rubber strips are glued to the cane in the centre of the handle. Often the canes delaminate causing the handle to become very flexible. This is almost impossible to spot when buying a bat, but in general, thicker handles last better than thin handles, so it is best to avoid bats with thin handles.

To find out more about why Laver & Wood uses only English Willow please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

Chapter 11: Revised Handle Laws

In the middle part of the first decade of this century batmakers began innovating with handle designs. This was driven partly by a shortage in high grade cane for handles, as well as a desire to create a point of difference with other bat makers though innovation.

C-10 handle insert.

At the same time concerns that the bat was dominating the ball were troubling the cricketing community. Stiffer handles can increase the distance the ball travels as the give in the rubber and cane handle means that it does not deliver as much power as a stiffer handle will.

Carbon fibre inserts in the handle were used to stiffen up the handle. Our experiments showed that our stiffer handles gave the batsman a huge advantage, being able to hit the ball far further than with a bat with a conventional handle.

To find out more about handles please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

Chapter 12: Handle Manufacture

Cricket bat handles have been manufactured in the same manner for over 150 years. The process, from the time of harvest, may have become a little more mechanised over the years, but is still essentially the same as it was in the 1850s.

James’ preferred splice & handle configuration, with high shoulders supporting the handle.

Fumigation

Fumigation, using Sulphur fumes brings out the best of the canes’ colour at the same time as killing any borer. After the canes are washed, they are fumigated in a chamber with an external container burning the Sulphur. The fumes are carried into the chamber by a flue, and the canes are smoked overnight, or for up to 24 hours until an even colour is obtained.

Once fumigated the canes are air dried and sorted into different grades.

To find out more about handle manufacturing please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

Chapter 13: The Coefficient of Restitution and Centre of Percussion – What are these?

Before becoming a bat maker James trained as a Construction Engineer. He has attempted to explain some engineering principles as they apply to cricket bats.

The performance of a cricket bat is dictated by the physical properties of both the bat & ball, where the bat connects with the ball, and the relative velocities of both on impact. The measurement of the result of the collision between the bat and ball is known as the “Coefficient of Restitution”.

The Coefficient of Restitution is a simple relationship between the velocity of a ball just before impact dropped onto a solid surface and the resulting velocity immediately after impact. Measuring the Coefficient of Restitution allows a bat maker to make decisions about a particular cleft based on hard data, rather than intuitive feel.

To find out more about the underlying theory of cricket bat performance please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

Chapter 14: Importance of Pressing Cricket Bat Willow

The game of cricket involves a bat that is made of a soft material and a ball made of a hard material. The ball, although hard on the outside, is designed to change shape slightly on impact thus minimising any potential damage to the bat. The bat is designed to withstand the pressure of the hard surface of the new ball.

Pressing is important for two reasons. Without pressing the willow absorbs the velocity of the ball, rather than transference of the energy back to the ball. The hard surface created by pressing also protects the bat from damage. A key part of the batmakers’ craft is getting the right balance between pressing too softly and having a bat that lacks durability, and pressing too hard so its performance is killed.

Bats pressed and shoulders cut out.

Cricket bats have been pressed since the early 1800’s. Prior to shaping and balancing, the piece of willow was subjected to a huge amount of pressure by striking the surface of the willow with a heavy mallet. Pressing in this manner resulted in a very hard layer of compressed willow that made the bat very resilient to wear and tear. The only problem with this method was that the bat was very often too hard and did not perform.

To find out more about how Laver & Wood press cricket bat willow please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

Chapter 15: Traditional Bat Making

Crafting cricket bats has changed dramatically in the last few decades, with mass produced, machined bats dominating the market. Using machinery and a production line where individuals only make one part of the bat means manufacturers can make as many as 50 bats per employee per day.

Sanding using a drum sander.

Custom making bats is near impossible with machinery. To get the precision required to make a custom made bat to match batsmans exact specification requires a great deal of feel. This feel is impossible to obtain using machinery and mass production techniques. Using hand tools provides a much higher degree of control over the making process. Hand tools also allow the bat maker to regularly check to see that the willow chosen for a particular bat is right for the bat being made.

An experienced bat maker custom making bats will be able to produce or reproduce any shape of bat requested. This is not the case in machined bats, which are very uniform in shape, and designed to be sold off the rack to the mass market.

Laver & Wood is one of the few remaining bespoke Cricket Bat companies in the world. To find out more about the traditional methods we use please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

Chapter 16: Tools used in Traditional Batmaking I

The bat making process can be divided up into three distinct stages. This chapter provides an overview of the entire process.

Bats ready to be knocked in.

Stage I Initial Machining and Preparation

Willow arrives as a raw cleft that has been sawn to a rough size 28” long x 5&1/2” wide x 3” high. The ends of the cleft have been dipped in wax to arrest splitting during the drying process.

The cleft is cut to length and planed on the face and edges to reveal the grain of the timber to enable the grading. The cleft is moistened with water on the face and then pressed. Then the cleft has a wedge cut from the back of the block to enable some willow to be removed for the roughing out of the shoulders.

To find out more about how Laver & Wood make cricket bats to our customers’ specifications please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

Chapter 17: Tools used in Traditional Batmaking II

Stage I Initial Machining and Preparation

Willow Clefts before Dispatch

The willow merchant, and at Laver & Wood this always means JS Wright & Sons, prepares the clefts for batmaking in their yards in Essex. After splitting the willow, a table circular saw with a 600mm ripping blade is used to rough out the cleft from the initial split piece of willow.

Rough sawn clefts from the willow merchant.

To find out more about how Laver & Wood make cricket bats to our customers’ specifications please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

Chapter 18: Tools used in Traditional Batmaking II

Stage II Fitting and Shaping

The fitting and shaping process is the most time consuming part of the bat making process. When bats are made by hand, this is the most physically demanding part of the process, 
 requiring a great deal of strength and stamina.

A draw knife in action.

To find out more about how Laver & Wood make cricket bats to our customers’ specifications please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

Chapter 19:Tools used in Traditional Batmaking III

Stage III Sanding and Finishing

The bat is first sanded using a Bobbin Sander, rotating on a horizontal shaft. This is inflated to approximately 20psi, and begins with a 100 grit coarse sanding sleeve. This stage is done totally by eye, and is one of the most complex parts of the batmaking process. It takes many years of practice before a Batmaker is truly competent sanding bats, and is the most difficult part of the bat maker’s craft to learn.

Sanding using a drum sander.

To find out more about how Laver & Wood make cricket bats to our customers’ specifications please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

Chapter 20: The Weather & Bat Making

Humidity & Batmaking

At Laver & Wood we make all our bats by hand, and this means with the traditional hand tools used by batmakers’ from two hundred years ago. Draw knives and two types of planes are the main tools we use to shape bats, and all these require energy and strength.

A Laver & Wood Signature being numbered.

When we have a wet day, or a humid day, making bats becomes difficult. When our humidity monitor is reading over 65% we know it is going to be a tough day on the planes. Humid weather is energy sapping, and shaping bats with planes on these days is really hard work. Usually we spend a humid day fitting up bats, sharpening tools, doing maintenance and repairs and setting up for when the humidity lowers to an acceptable level.

To find out more about how Laver & Wood make cricket bats to our customers’ specifications please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

Chapter 21: Part IV Bat Maintenance

Preseason Bat Check

At the beginning of each season Laver & Wood get many, many requests for rapid refurbishment of their favourite bat. Some of these bats can be refurbished, and some have scored so many runs they need to be replaced. Replacing a bat takes time, so it is wise to do a preseason check well before the season begins. Allow at least four weeks for a bat to be refurbished and/or replaced.

A bat returned to Laver & Wood for refurbishment.

Your preseason check should be both early and thorough. Often minor damage repaired early can save the life of a bat, while leaving the damage unrepaired can mean the bat needs to be replaced sooner rather than later.

There are four key areas of your bat to check.

To find out more about the four key areas of your bat to check before the season begins please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

Chapter 22: Bat Repair and Maintenance

At Laver & Wood we repair a large number of bats from many, different manufacturers. Over time we have built up a large base of knowledge of damaged bats and their repair, and have incorporated this knowledge into our own bat designs. Careful design prevents damage, although all bats will inevitably die after prolonged use.

A bat returned to Laver & Wood for refurbishment.

The most common repairs are for handles and toes of bats.

For more details about James’ approach to bat repairs please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

Chapter 23: Knocking In

Almost all new cricket bats require knocking in before use. Knocking in is the process of hardening and conditioning of the blades’ surface. Knocking in protects the face of the bat from cracking, so increasing the bats usable life. It also improves the middle of the bat so it performs better.

Knocking in.

The nature of the game of cricket is that a hard ball is propelled at high speed toward the batsman who swings the bat hitting the ball. This contact will cause a bat that is not knocked in correctly to crack and these cracks will shorten the life of the bat. Knocking in provides a protective layer on the face of the bat and prevents the cracking. 

For James’ recommendations on how to knock in your bat please please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

Chapter 24: Oiling Bats

Oiling bats is important for protecting them and making them last longer. There is, however, an art to oiling a bat. The biggest risk with oiling bats is over oiling them, as too much oil can deaden the blade.

Laver & Wood recommend that once a bat has been knocked in, it is only ever very, very lightly oiled and only very rarely oiled. The lightest smear of oil is all that is required for maintenance and to protect the bat.

Knocking in.

Bats should be oiled with raw linseed oil. Raw linseed oil stays moist longer than boiled linseed oil, and one teaspoon is more than enough for most bats. The raw linseed oil moistens the surface of the bat, and enables the fibres to become supple. This helps them knit together, forming an elastic surface that stretches on impact, rather than cracking.

For James’ recommendations on oiling bats please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

Chapter 25: Moisture Damage

Moisture is extremely bad for cricket bats. Wet bats will often become broken bats, or bats that require extensive repairs.

A favourite bat returned to Laver & Wood to have the toe repaired.

When a bat gets exposed to excess moisture the compressed willow fibres expand. The willow acts like a sponge, as the surface of the bat is incredibly porous. As bats expand the protective harder surface is lost. Bats without the hard facing will be much more likely to crack or split.

Moisture damage occurs often when playing on wet surfaces, or having throw downs with a wet ball. Be particularly wary of artificial pitches or nets, as even if the surface is dry the subsurface may be wet. When the bat is tapped on the pitch moisture will be drawn up and affect the toe of the bat.

To find out more about moisture damage and the repairs that may be possible for a moisture damaged bat please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

Chapter 26: Batting in Wet Conditions

Almost all cricketers will end up having to play in wet conditions, especially early season. This can cause major damage to bats, but there are a few tactics you can use to protect your bat.

A match bat & a net bat. Laver & Wood recommend use of a net bat for batsmen who practice often or who play in wet conditions.

The most common issue related to playing in damp conditions is the uptake of moisture through the lower portion of the bat. This will happen when the raw willow comes into contact with the damp ground through your stance, tapping at the crease, turning for runs and sliding your bat into the crease.

Too much moisture is not good for willow as it can affect the structural integrity of the timber as well as the weight and balance of the bat. It is in your best interests to limit the amount of moisture that comes into contact with your match bat so that it stays in the best possible condition. 

To find out more about batting in wet conditions please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

Chapter 27: Making Bats Last Longer

Cricket bats take time to performing at their best. As a bat matures its middle will improve, and batsmen will get greater value for shots. Once the middle has been compressed so much that the willow has lost its elasticity the bat will need to be replaced.

Looking after a favourite bat will help extend its life. This starts with knocking the bat in properly, as described in Chapter 23.

Repaired bats drying in the window above James’ bench.

It is also important to give your bat a tidy up and refurbishment at the end of each season.  This is a very simple process involving removing any protective facings, sanding the wood down and lightly oiling it.

At Laver & Wood we hate seeing a bat damaged before its natural life has come to an end. To find out how to protect your bat from a premature death please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

Chapter 28: Why Bats Break & How to Protect Them

Just about every cricketer has had a favourite bat break, and gone through the pain of having to find a replacement. Bats break because they are inherently fragile, and made from natural materials. Cricket Bat willow is a natural product that decays over time and with use, meaning bats do not last forever, and as they get older they are far more likely to break.

A bat with a toe guard.

Bats break for many reasons, with some of the most common being dry willow, letting the bat get wet and or playing poor shots. They also break in unfortunate circumstances, such as jamming down on a yorker, or if the willow has suffered storm damage. A breakage in a storm damaged bat can be spectacular, and is almost certainly irreparable.

Dry willow can be dealt with through oiling the bat, although be careful with how much you oil your bat as over oiling can damage the bat. Excessive oil may cause the fibres in the face of the bat to separate and therefore delaminate, making the bat vulnerable to splitting.

At Laver & Wood we hate seeing a bat damaged before its natural life has come to an end. To find out how to protect your bat from a premature death please purchase Laver & Wood’s Cricket Bat Lore Volume I from Amazon.

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