We only use the finest English willow for the production of our cricket bats.
The cultivated timber is grown throughout Kent and Essex. Each tree is planted by hand and is tended to by the grower to ensure that the tree will be suitable for bat making. In the past 5 years we planted over 75 willow trees at our workshop in Kent.
This replenishment programme ensures the countryside and species are protected. The mature trees are then cut into rounds, then split into clefts. Each cleft used as a Hell4Leather bat is hand selected by our master bat maker.
Each cleft is inspected by our master bat makers to establish the best use for the timber. Great care is taken to shape the blade around the best part of the willow. Every willow cleft is unique and must be monitored throughout the production to guarantee the quality.
The willow fibres have to be compressed in order to strengthen the timber to withstand the impact of a cricket ball. This process is known as pressing. This stage of production helps strengthen the willow and prevents splits and splinters in the face. Pressing is a delicate balance between hardening the willow for strength and leaving the blade soft enough to play well. Our experts use great care and judgement in hand pressing every bat to keep the willows natural spring. Our press is custom built and forces 2 tons per square inch.
Fitting the handle is a precise process. A deep V is cut into both blade and handle so that the two fit together perfectly. Our handles are made from cane and use a three rubber spring system, with a shaped oval base to ensure ultimate control and comfort.
The blade is then formed by 'pulling off' the willow and kept to the maximum legal size of (e.g. 4 ¼" wide). A balance between leaving as much of the wood as possible, but creating a balanced pick-up associated with top quality bats. The hand shaping is completely unique to each bat and it is important to find the character within the wood. The bats a continuously tested for balance and quality by the bat maker to ensure the ultimate result.
Once shaped, the bat are finished using sanding machines and of course by hand. Our craftsman are perfectionists and take great pride in the final result of every bat.
Once the bat is finished the handle is bound and the grip applied. A light polish is applied but the quality finish is due to the great deal of time spent sanding. The result is a beautiful satin finish. A clear PU face guard is applied to help to reduce surface or edge cracks, and a fibreglass eding tape is set on both edges as used by by most professionals.
The bats are then given a final quality control inspection. The performance is tested and the result is an excellent combination of pick-up and power. Every bat is then carefully hand labeled with our state of the art labels. The labels are specifically designed to avoid damage on impact from the the ball.
All new cricket bats require some level of knocking in before use. Knocking in is the process of hardening and conditioning of the blades surface.
The 2 main reasons for knocking in:
• Protecting the bat from cracking and increase its usable life
• Improving the middle of the bat so the middle is bigger and better
We are the only company in Kent with a fully automated knocking in machine, guaranteeing your bat gets the guaranteeing required.
Cricket bats are pressed in our workshop using a mechanical press. The press applies up to 2tons/square inch of pressure to the face of the bat. As willow is a very soft timber, it has to be pressed to form a hard, resilient layer on the surface.
To completely protect the bat and to get the best performance knocking in by hand with a mallet is still required. While it is possible to prepare a bat solely by pressing, this compresses the wood too deep into the blade, which dramatically reduces the performance of the bat. A bat pressed heavily will have a small middle and the ball will not "ping" as far as with a bat pressed lightly and knocked in by hand.
Use this knocking in time to get know your new bat!