FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
I can buy wood bat billets from any lumber mill. Why should I buy them from you?
Does your mill specifically make wood bat billets? If not, they may not be creating wood bat billets properly. Grain orientation, moisture content, defect sorting, etc all are very important to the manufacture of wood baseball bats. Secondly, you can order a dozen or so from any mill but what you get may not be what you need. You can’t order a dozen or so 85oz premium maple billets from them. What you get from them is a mix and very often, the billets are too heavy or closer to B-grade. This means that they have been picked over by bigger clients…you get the scraps. Ordering through us means you get great wood in the weight range you need. The bottom line is that you save money and turn great bats.
Why can’t I do the same thing you are doing?
You can and good luck! It requires having at least 6-8 decent lumber mills to maintain supplies year round. It also requires a stock of at least 400-500 raw bats and a similar number of raw billets to keep up with orders. It also requires, at any given time, at least 600 billets ordered and enroute to maintain stock. This means you have to have approximately $30,000 - $50,000 invested in billets and raw bats to meet the needs of 8-10 companies, including your own. Wouldn’t it be easier to use our services?
I heard that northern ash billets should have 9-15 growth lines per inch to be a good billet. Is this true?
Here’s what we know to be true on that. Northern Ash can have a growth line count ranging from 3-4 per inch up to about 15 per inch depending on where the ash was grown. Low elevation ash or ash grown in the southern regions of its range generally have less growth lines due to longer growing seasons. We have found that the number of growth lines is less important than the porosity of the lines themselves. Ash is an open grain hardwood and this means that air cells form in the growth line. This porosity can be pronounced or minimal. Since the air cells can be considered a structural defect, obviously the less there are or the less porosity is present, the stronger the ash billet will be. We usually grade out high porosity ash and make it B grade. This means that our A grade ash can have a wide range of growth lines and still be very strong wood.
Do you ink dot test all of your maple billets?
No. When one of our clients request ink dot tested billets, we will go through our stock and pull a primary group that complies visually first. We then test those billets for grain deviation via the ink dot test.
Why is it so hard to find Yellow Birch?
Several years ago, a major ice storm went through the Northeastern U.S. and Canada. The combination of extreme cold and ice buildup on the trees, killed off a large number of yellow birch trees. Only now, are the surviving trees reaching maturation and becoming large enough to harvest. Yellow birch is starting to reappear on the market again but it will be a while before significant amounts are available.
Why do you use 2-3/4” for your billet diameter?
It’s just our preference. That is the smallest diameter you can use to turn an adult bat. It saves a few dollars in shipping. An extra 1/8” in diameter on a billet can increase the weight by 4-6oz, Multiply that by 300 and your shipping weight is 112 lbs heavier and that costs more. Smaller diameter also means less wear and tear on your lathe knives.
Some of our suppliers use 2-7/8” as well as 2-13/16’. Your order of wood billets may have a mix so we always mark the 2-3/4” equivalent weight on the billet as well as the actual billet weight. We also send an equivalency chart to our clients to make conversion simple. We are doing what we can to standardize our billets at 2-3/4”.
Do you give out samples?
No. You may purchase a 6 pack to evaluate our billets but wood baseball billets cost too much to give out as samples.
What do you know about the Emerald Ash Borer beetle?
Enough to know that it’s unlikely we will have Northern Ash trees within 15 years. I just heard that 80% of Michigan’s Northern Ash population is infected. Similar reports are heard from every state that Northern Ash grows in. Higher elevation ash is still unaffected as the beetle doesn’t like the cold. I have heard that several preservation groups have collected large amounts of Northern Ash seeds to keep the species from going extinct.
The real problem we have now is that ash trees already infected are not being harvested since the furniture and building industries are at a standstill. Infected logs could still be used as the borer does not affect the wood until the tree dies. It merely destroys the bark which eventually kills the tree.
With that in mind look for maple to become the predominate wood in baseball bat production. Also, look for Yellow Birch to become more popular.
Do you turn your own bats?
Yes. Derek and I have a combined 30 years experience in wood bat turning. We also are partners with a woodturning company to do large runs and they have over 80 years experience. We have a CNC X-Y axis lathe (much like SamBats) and a Jet standard lathe at our facilty and our partner company has 6 Mattison lathes available for use.
Aren’t your billets a bit pricy?
No….and here’s why. Let’s say you have a large order (6 dozen) for model 271 maple baseball bats come in and you are out of billets. You contact a mill and order a skid of 300 billets. Remember, all mill orders are for unsorted billets so you have to order at least 300 to get that many 271 billets. Model 271 billets are usually in the middle of the skid weight group and represent about 1/3 of the entire skid. Your cost per billet up front is $16.50/billet and add $1.00 per billet shipping. Total billet cost is $17.50. Now, by experience, approximately 10-20% of that skid will be unusable (can be as high as 50%). Mostly, the unusable billets will be too heavy or too light. So let’s be conservative and say 15% of the skid or 45 billets are too heavy, too light, have too large of checking, have twisted grain, has a large open knot, or any other reasons why billets can’t be used.
So, the initial loss of 45 billets cost you $787.50. You have to subtract those lost billets your original purchase price of the skid so, $5,250.00 divided by 255 gives you a billet price of $20.59. You only needed the 271 billets and there are 76 of them (300 minus the 45 losers equals 255). One third of 255 is 76 usable 271 billets and you need 72 (close!). So for the 72 billets you need to fill this order you spent $5,250. Your per billet cost is now $72.91. . Your charging $60 per bat turned so 72 times $60 is $4320. This means that for this specific order, you lose a whopping $929.52!
Of course you will be able to use the other billets…eventually. But right now, you are spending four times the regular price for those specific billets at this time.