Your perfect made to order bespoke English willow cricket bat - in 19 steps
Step 1/19 : Willow Grade
There are four grades on English willow available on the market (A Grade 1 to A Grade 4). There is a fifth (A Grade 1+), but this is the ultimate finest willow and normally reserved for the pro market.
- A Grade 1 - finest willow used in the top of the range models. Blades would typically have straight grains, be unbleached and have very few imperfections (usually the playing area will be clean). Some red wood may be present around the edges.
- A Grade 2 - fine quality willow but with potentially higher red wood content (playing performance will usually be unaffected). Imperfections will be present in the form on minor blemishes and pin knots. Mostly straight grains and unbleached.
- A Grade 3 - good quality willow but with some irregular grain patterns. Imperfections may be present in the playing area, in the form of stains and overall, more prominent knots and higher amount of red wood are likely. Blade may be bleached.
- A Grade 4 - the lowest grade, certainly bleached and often used for `non-oil cover` bats but may play as well as some higher grades. Likely to contain more imperfections, including butterfly stains, knots and red wood.
As a natural product, even the finest willow will have some `blemishes` or `pin knots` and hence even a top grade bat will not be 100% clean; some imperfections may exist but not in key areas (potential on the reverse). While some imperfections will effect playing ability, others will not; for example, the presence of a butterfly stain was long accepted as giving additional strength to the blade; in modern times, cosmetic looks sometimes hide the truth.
Step 2/19 : Weight
Bat weight is very personal and you may have a favourite bat that you can weight to find your preference. Remember that modern bat making techniques have resulted in 2lb 12oz bats now feeling like 2lb 8oz bats of 10 years ago. The curved blade is the largest factor in this. *** Please note that with changing climatic conditions in the UK where most top class willow is grown (as used by Make My Cricket Bat), tree growth is currently rapid and lightweight clefts are at a premium; this is reflected in a premium price for lightweight bats.
Step 3/19 : Grains
This is an area often overlooked by the bat buyer. For a customer `in the know`, the number of grains on a bat can provide a lot of information.
English willow (the "Salix Alba Caerulea") trees have very visible grains and each grain represents one year of growth; the space between each grain indicates the growth rate and is a direct result of the soil quality and amount of sun and water the tree has received. This is sometimes managed to control speed of growth.
Two general considerations apply. Firstly, performance. A narrow grain bat (more grains across the blade) will give better performance from an early stage. Why? The narrow grain indicates slow growth, potentially less moisture, and results in a more responsive end product. However, narrow grain bats (8+ grains) will certainly not last as long and may, in the hand of a professional, be discarded after a thousand runs. Wider grain may play very well over a period of time but perhaps not initially.
Secondly, lifespan. A wider grained bat (less grains across the blade, usually considered as 7 or less) will last longer. Why? The wider grain indicates quicker growth, allowing an early felling and therefore giving a younger, stronger wood, potentially with more moisture. In the modern world, even the willow grower is subject to commercial decisions and it is very likely that quicker growth will be in favour. makemycricketbat.com list the average number of grains in each bat range for our customers to use when making a choice - in summary, more (narrow) grains for better response but potentially shorter life, fewer (wider) grains for longer life.
Step 4/19 : Heartwood Preference
Heartwood (the reder wood from the centre of the tree) does go in and out of fashion. In the 80s, an inside edge of heartwood was favoured for strength but in the 90s, it went so out of fashion that there was a time when some makers bleached it white. Currently (2018/19), many test cricketers are favouring bats with up to one third heartwood, with performance considered to be more immediate, through the denser and harder characteristics. It is interesting to note that JS Wright (the largest produce of English willow) states with grade 1 willow that "there may be some red wood evident on the edge of the blade".
makemycricketbat.com allow our customers to provide a "Heartwood Preference" and we will endevour to provide this as requested. If "no heartwood" is selected, this is accepted on a minimal quantity basis, based on JS Wright grading as stated above.
Step 5/19 : Blade (Face) Profile
Curved blades were introduced to allow the batmaker to use more wood at key points in a bat while maintaining balance and a light pick-up. We can provide a slightly curved blade as with most popular branded bats or a more pronounced curve. And if you would like a traditional straight blade, that`s no problem at all!
Step 6/19 : Spine (Reverse) Profile
There are three elements to the reverse profile. The spine can be a standard height or a high height to give a meatier middle; the shape can be concave (the modern approach resulting in `scoop` shaped sides) or convex (slightly convex as per a more traditional designed bat); and the spine can be tapered or continue to the toe. The most common choice would be standard spine, concave, tapered. Note that some combinations are not possible, eg high spine with convex shape.
Step 7/19 : Sweet Spot
Each batsmans preference for front or back foot strokes determines the position of the sweet spot - or balance if you wish - of the bat. If you are a front foot player, you will probably prefer bats with lower middles; conversely, batsmen who play more back foot shots go for higher middles. However, modern thought is that you will be able to play the shots you are good at with a bat of your preferred weight and it could be advantageous to move the sweet spot to an area that will help you with shots you struggle with - it`s a personal thing and you`ll probably want to replicate a bat you`ve had success with. One extra note. Pitch bounce can be a factor in the position of the sweet spot; a lower sweet spot may be of benefit on pitches with low bounce (sub-continent countries) whereas higher sweet spots may help on wickets with greater bounce (Australia or South Africa).
Step 8/19 : Edge Width
There is a choice of edge thickness measured at the thickess point; depending on the weight you have chosen, there are some limitations. Bats with an edge width of more than 40mm (and a reserve profile depth of more than 67mm) are now prohibited by Law 5.7.2, introduced in October 2017, with the thickness of bats restricted to "redress the balance between bat and ball"
Step 9/19 : Handle Length
For years, cricket bats were available in short or long handles. Now, it is very rare to see a long handled bat. But if that is your requirement, we can offer that to you. And we offer a super short handle with longer blade.
Step 10/19 : Handle Shape
The top of the handle will always be round. The bottom can be either round or oval. The oval bottom hand gives a natural, comfortable grip position.
Step 11/19 : Handle Quality (Pieces)
There is a choice of 4, 8 or 12 piece handles. 4 piece handles are more flexible (larger pieces of flexible cane with flex more), 8 and 12 become less flexible as the the cane has been separated into smaller elments, re-constructed with inserts. The more pieces the stiffer the handle and limits energy loss through the shot and, in theory, better performance. However, when a shot is mis-timed or mis-hit, more vibrations will be felt with a stiff handle. Advise: top league players use 12 pieces handles, otherwise make use of the flex in a 4 or 8 piece.
Step 12/19 : Handle Inserts
There is a choice of cork or rubber handle inserts. Both of these materials are present in the handle to absorb shock and have slightly different characteristics. Cork is slightly lighter but gives a firmer handle. Rubber is a little heavier but gives more elasticity and a more flexible handle. The rubber and cork option has firm cork at the top and flexible rubber below. In the branded marketplace, only top end bats will have cork inserts.
Step 13/19 : Grip Texture
We can finish your bat with a choice of six grip textures. Diamond is the traditional cricket bat grip with opposing thin lines creating a diamond pattern. Chevron grips have alternating diagonal lines in one direction only, ressembling the chevrons on a road-sign. Matrix, similar to chevron, with narrower rows of more pronounced diagonal groves, alternating in direction. Octopus, probably the most common grip in use since it's inception, is a grip covered in hundreds of tiny octopus suckers; this grip is very kind to gloves. Scale (or snake) grips, in our opinion, provide the best bond between glove and bat. You can also choose new textures, Aqua Wave (Ripple), Players Matrix, Pyramid and Zigtech.
Step 14/19 : Grip Colour
We provide a choice of 10 or more colours. Some colours may not be available in certain grip textures.
Step 15/19 : Extra Grip
If you prefer a thicker handle or if you need a thick grip due to large hands, we can apply one or two undergrips before applying your top grip. Note that bat weights are determined with one grip fitted and each extra grip will add one to two ounces to the bat weight you have selected.
Step 16/19 : Toe Guard
A toe guard protects the base of the bat from moisture when the bat is used in damp conditions. There are a variety of colours available to match or contrast your grip colour. Toe guards are optional and you can choose not to have one fitted.
Step 17/19 : Finishing
A single sheet of clear or fibre edged face protection, applied to the bat blade, can help prevent splitting and cracking of the surface and prolongs the lifespan of the bat. Oiling is available on bats as an alternative to face protection.
Step 18/19 : Knocking-In
A knocking-in service is optional.
Step 19/19 : Stickers
Leave the bat as it is (and possibly add your own branding) or add the high-gloss MMCB stickers.
Free Spare Grip and Padded Bat Case
We provide a free spare grip (same as the grip you have chosen for the bat) and a free padded bat case with shoulder strap.