At RockBats, we have implemented a 4 step process for the development of each of our bat models:
- The Design
- The Wood
- The Manufacture
Each model was developed on a computer and analyzed to assure that the stresses in the handle do not exceed a certain threshold. If stresses in the handle are too high, the bat will break more often than you'd like. We analyzed the properties of the shape, and this provides an early indication about feel and performance.
Before we were a baseball bat business, we operated our lumber business that sold baseball bat blanks to bat manufacturers. Before we began operating our baseball bat and lumber businesses, the founder of RockBats was a Wood Scientist at the USDA Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory.
We have taken all of the latest technologies on wood processing, and applied all of the latest knowledge on wood properties, and developed a detailed set of specifications for the physical and mechanical properties of the wood required for each baseball bat.
At RockBats, we use special testing techniques to assure that our bats possess the desired mechanical properties to achieve the "pop" and performance that are receiving rave reviews from players.
In this pile of logs, note that we didn't just pick the biggest logs.
RockBats selects their logs based on a long list of wood properties that assures top performance when made into a baseball bat.
Through our direct sourcing of logs from around our area, we use logs that are absolutely the highest quality possible. If a bat manufacturer is not physically located in the Sugar Maple growing regions, like we are, then they likely do not have access to these kinds of logs. Our group has logged many miles in sourcing the logs that get used for RockBats.
Logs are processed using state-of-the-art sawing technology.
Before a single cut is made on a log, laser scanning technology is used to fully map the diameter and shape of the log. This allows the sawyer sitting in the "cockpit" to make the appropriate decisions when cutting into the logs. This produces the absolute straightest grain possible in a baseball bat billet.
After log processing, comes billet processing. Each plank processed at the mill is individually inspected and processed for baseball bat quality 3x3s.
Careful attention is paid to processing parallel-to-the-grain, resulting in billets that are straight-grained on all 4 faces. In the plank shown, normal processing would have resulted in THREE billets with slope-of-grain issues. However, with our slope-of-grain grading process, the same plank produced TWO major league quality billets.
Finally comes kiln-drying. We use the most advanced vacuum kiln-drying technology possible. Below left, you see the platform where baseball bat billets are stickered and stacked, and then they are rolled into the vacuum chamber seen at the far end. Billets are monitored real-time while they are being dried. Electronic sensors are used to measure temperature, relative humidity, and wood moisture content in the kiln. Temperature and humidity are continuously controlled to achieve the optimum rate of moisture release, and when the moisture content reaches the target, the wood is ready.
And one final note regarding the wood, we only use Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) - which only grows in North America. There are many other species of maple from all over the world that look like Hard Maple, but do not have the superior mechanical properties. A comparison of mechanical properties will show that Acer saccharum is the strongest maple in the world.
Manufacturing involves wood turning, sanding, cupping, and finishing. The lathe process cuts the bat in one pass, and multiple stages of sanding are conducted to achieve a smooth surface.
Finishing involves the application of stain and clear coat - we have a multi-step process that results in a beautiful finish. For use in Professional Leagues, we have had to develop a black-stain process that allows the wood grain in Hard Maple to show through.
All of our RockBat models have passed one final stage - player testing and feedback. Even with all of the advanced processes that we described above, we still made sure that our bat models were tested by actual players at all levels of play. Even our Youth bat models were tailored toward young players who are only used to swinging -10 aluminum. In all cases, we were not completely satisfied with the final design of each of our bat models until we achieved a feedback rating of "WOW".
One Final Question
What solid-wood baseball bat would you choose for your game?