Learning how to make a baseball bat on a wood lathe can be a great start to an exciting hobby and a way to create something useful and display worthy. Turning a baseball bat is straightforward, but does require some technique and smooth tool handling. In this article, we will go over the steps required to carve out a beautiful baseball bat on your lathe.
Proper Baseball Bat Length Guide
There is an entire science based on the process of selecting and purchasing the proper baseball bat. If you are interested in making a professional caliber baseball bat, you need to start with the basics. Although baseball aficionados may already possess this knowledge, we wanted to take a short dive into the process of selecting the right size for your baseball bat.
If you have been playing baseball, you should have a good idea of what works best for you. It is recommended not to shift your bat length be more than an inch at a single time. However, if you have no idea about your bat size, start by extending your arm fully and measuring the distance from the center of your body to the tip of your fingertips.
Based on the measurement above as well as your overall weight, find the perfect bat size for you in the table below.
Keep in mind that these are general guidelines. To learn more about how to properly measure yourself as well as your kids for a baseball bat, see the article here: Perfect Baseball Bat Size.
Wood Lathe Limitations
Due to the fact that a baseball bat needs to be of a certain length, you will need a larger lathe. However, if you have a smaller lathe, you can still turn a non-professional bat for decorative purposes.
Furthermore, we recommend that your lathe is capable of spinning at higher speeds as a baseball bat is essentially a spindle which will be much smoother while turning at high RPMs.
Required Woodworking Tools & Materials
You will need several woodworking tools to complete this project. The required ones are a roughing gouge as well as a spindle gouge.
The roughing gouge allows one to reduce a rough block of wood into a ready to turn cylindrical shape. It is commonly used to get square or irregular pieces of lumber into round ones prior to detail work.
The spindle gouge will be used for shaping our wood into its final shape. For a baseball bat, you can choose a spindle gouge with a large blade due to the fact that the isn’t too much detail work, but rather long cuts.
Other materials and tools you will need for this project include optional tools such as a parting and scraping tools, sandpaper, finish (oil, varnish, etc.) and gripping tools such as a wood chuck.
Selecting the Right Wood
The art of making a professional baseball bat has been perfected for centuries. A lot of experimentation, trial and error went into finding the optimal types of woods and finishes in order to create the best possible bat. As you can imagine, the wood itself plays a critical role in the way the baseball bat operates during gameplay. Characteristics such as density, hardness and damage resistance will impact the final result. That being said, the most common wood type used for professional baseball bats is Ash. Other types which are also often used are maple, hickory, and bamboo.
If your goal is to practice your woodworking skills or to create a display only piece, the wood type you select should not matter. We encourage you to experiment with different wood types and particularly those which look great on display in this case.
How to Make a Baseball Bat on a Wood Lathe
We’re finally at the stage of turning the baseball bat itself. Below, you will find the steps required to transform your block of wood into a fully functional baseball bat.
Step 1 – Mark & Mount the Wood on the Lathe
Begin by marking both ends of your wood right at the center. Do so by using a ruler or any straight object and marking two diagonal lines from opposite corners.
Mount the wood onto the lathe by placing the drive spindle directly on the center of your marking. Lock in the tailstock on the opposite end.
Position the tool rest with enough clearance from the wood so that it freely rotates without touching the tool rest.
Step 2 – Using the Roughing Gouge
Before you turn on your lathe, make sure that you’ve taken all proper safety precautions. Put on your dust mask, safety goggles and turn on the vacuum to clean the mess you will create shortly.
It’s time to turn on the lathe and to make sure that you’ve locked the wood piece securely in place. It is always recommended to start with a lower RPM setting and to slowly progress toward a higher one. Based on the diameter of your wood, you should be able to ramp up your lathe in the 1500 – 2000 RPM range.
Place the roughing gouge on the tool rest and allow the bevel to ride the wood. Slowly raise the handle of the tool and allow it to start cutting. Your goal is to round the wood by slowly moving the tool toward the center. Rotate the handle in the direction you want to move it. By doing so, allow the tool to travel along the tool rest while making cuts. Use the gouge along the length of your piece in order to smooth out all the edges and create a perfectly cylindrical piece.
Step 3 – Turning the Baseball Bat
Now, it’s time to shape our spindle. The easiest way to properly shape a baseball bat is to use an existing one as an example. By using a set of calipers, an experienced woodworker would be able to translate an existing baseball bat design onto the blank. However, if you don’t have an existing baseball bat on hand, it is recommended to follow a set of schematics you can easily locate online. Keep in mind that professional baseball bats have multiple constraints based on size and weight. Therefore, it is important to keep an eye on both while you work on your lathe.
The spindle gouge is an excellent tool to shape your bat and practice your turning skills. To smoothen out the final piece, you have several options. You can either use a handheld sander, a scraping tool or just regular sandpaper.
Step 4 – Parting the Bat & Applying the Finish
Once you are satisfied with your creation, it is time to remove it from the wood block. Chances are, the head, as well as the handle of the bat, is still stuck to the wood. You have several options to get this done. While the bat is still on the lathe, you may use a parting tool to remove each end. Alternatively, you can use a bad saw once the piece has been removed from the lathe to cut away the pieces.
Applying a finish to the wood will help it last longer and give it an incredible look. We’ve written an extensive guide to different finishes and encourage you to check it out by clicking the following link: Applying Wood Finish.
Conclusion on Turning a Baseball Bat
Turning a baseball bat is straightforward from a woodworking standpoint. However, if your goal is to create a professional grade bat, there are quite a few requirements which you should consider. This project provides an excellent opportunity to work on your roughing gouge and spindle gouge woodworking techniques while creating a beautiful piece.
Let us know what kind of projects you are currently working on and if you have any questions with regards to the baseball bat.