How Split Billets Make Better, Stronger, and Safer Wood Baseball Bats.

Ink Dot: Why is it important to your game?

The Ink Dot is the stamp of the highest quality wood bat. Bats that feature the Ink Dot signify that they are in the top 3 percent of wood from the harvest and they satisfy the strict slope of grain requirements by Major League Baseball. Indicating that your bat is big league quality and approved. All playing bats sold by The Wood Bat Factory carries this seal of approval. This guarantee is supported by our sister company Leatherstocking Hand-Split Billet Co.

Splitting: A Craftsmen Trade Brought Back to Life

Wood baseball bat billets being graded at Leatherstocking Hand-Split Billet Co.

Back in the day, baseball players made their own bats. Historically, all wood baseball bats were made by splitting logs, and then turning those triangular staves into round billets. This resulted in wood baseball bats that had straight-grained wood, which is exactly what you are after.

Today, with higher production sawing equipment and increased demands for yields and efficiency, a large percentage of wood billets are sawn from logs. Sawn billets are inherently weaker, because often, logs that are produced at a sawmill are sawn across the radial and/or tangential slope of grain. This means they are forcing a path through the wood - regardless of the direction of the woods natural grain - weakening the bat and making it vulnerable to dangerous breaks or multiple-piece fractures (MPF). Because the tangential grain in today's most popular wood species (Hard Maple) is difficult to see with the naked eye, it is commonly overlooked.

This lead to bats breaking at catastrophic levels in MLB in the years leading up to 2008. MLB put together a committee to find out why bats where breaking at such astronomical levels. There were many findings in this study, but the single most important revelation, was that bats were breaking due to Slope of Grain (SOG). This is the straightness of grain along the length of a baseball bat. It has been found that a deviation in SOG of just 2-3 degrees makes a bat roughly 10% weaker. It is near impossible to get a sawn billet to have such low tolerances.

When wood is hand-split, it naturally follows the tangential grain of the wood, rather than forcing the cut through the tangential grain with a saw. Splitting the wood creates stronger billets, which in turn strengthening the bat and all but remove the chance of a slope of grain failure. Leatherstocking Hand-Split Billet Co. does not saw its billets. Each log is hand-split, providing consistent quality, higher yields and safer wooden bats.

As a result of the bat breaking 2008 season, in 2009 MLB has mandated that all bats sold to MLB players must have an ink dot on the face (tangential) grain. When the ink soaks into the fibers of the wood it will bleed along the tangential allowing you see slope of grain more easily. this method helps identify direction it does not always properly determine and eliminate use bats with poor grain. sawn billets still make into players hands at all levels game.

Our Hand-Splitting Process

Leatherstocking Hand-Split Billet Co. begins it's process with harvesting or buying timber. We have specialist in the fields of forestry, and wood science that know how to identify which trees are good enough to be harvested. Not every tree will have grain straight enough to even be considered for a baseball bat billet. All of our timber comes from the Northeast. This is because the NE has the right amount of rainfall, the proper amount of sunshine, and the correct mix of glacial till to grow the perfect trees for billet makers. There's no doubt about it - we are in the sweet spot for growing bat wood.

Even when our specialist find a straight tree in the right species for bat making - that doesn't mean once it's cut into logs it will meet the bat making standard of LTP. Once logs are procured, only a select few will be destined to become baseball bats. And of those, an even smaller selection will be made into bats for MLB players. In "Good Wood" Stuart Miller wrote that a 10 foot log could theoretically make two dozen baseball bats - if the wood is acceptable, but only one in ten logs are good enough to produce bats, whether or not they reach MLB, Little League, or anything in between.

Leatherstocking Hand-Split Billet Co. hand-splits each log to follow the wood’s natural grain. This process ensures a straight tangential grain, which in turn strengthens the bat and almost entirely removes the chance of a tangential slope of grain failure, in all grades of billets. The importance of straight tangential (face) grain is critical and cannot be understated, because the wood’s slope-of-grain has an overwhelming effect on the strength of the final baseball bat. By definition, slope-of-grain is determined by how close to parallel a piece of wood is produced, with respect to the longitudinal axis of wood cells in the tree. When a piece of wood is processed so that it is perfectly parallel to the grain direction of the tree, it will have the highest strength. When wood is cut at an angle to the grain direction of the tree, the strength quickly diminishes, and a bat made with this wood is vulnerable to dangerous breaks or multiple piece fractures. Splitting is the only process that produces straight tangential grain with a near perfect success rate.

Our Vacuum-Kiln Drying Process

Traditional kiln drying creates a more browned appearance in the wood billet due to oxidation that naturally occurs throughout the drying process. Leatherstocking Hand-Split Billet Co. vacuum-kiln dries all of our products, which prevents oxidation from occurring by removing the air from the drying chamber. This creates the most consistently bright white wood billets available. This process also keeps our wood from becoming brittle during the drying process, which can be a significant issue with other drying processes.

Leatherstocking Hand-Split Billet Co. was the first company to vacuum dry hand-split billets. From Harvest, to grading, from splitting to drying we combine the very best methods to produce the absolute best product.

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