Roughly 15 years on from that little willow being planted, the willow tree is chopped down and taken back to the factory where it is then split into sections from the middle of the tree, these sections are the start of what become known as clefts. From here, they shall be shaped into a more known traditional cricket bat shape, dipped in a wax and dried out in a kiln.
The bat maker will then grade the cleft from 1 – 4 with grade one being the better cleft. When grading the bats you would look for straightness of the grains, width and blemishes. So a grade one would have more grains which are straight and evenly spaced out and less blemishes.
The Pressing stage will then begin, where the cleft will be pushed back and forth under a weighted for which will compress the fibres of the wood and will also shape the bat face. This is closely monitored by checking the hardness of the blade with a mallet, once it is sufficiently hard enough with minimal dents the pressing shall be finished.
Once it has been figured out which is going to be the top and bottom of the bat, a V shape will cut out, also known as the splice, ready for the handle to be glued into place.
From here the remaining shaping of the bat will be completed by carefully shaving the blade until the desired shape weight and pick up is formed.
The final touches will then begin which includes:
- Binding the handle, which is where the handle is glued and wrapped in string.
- Applying a toe guard or as Charlie does, using a thin layer of glue instead to protect the toe.
- Polishing the blade with a wax compound. This helps prevent moisture from entering the wood.
- Putting the stickers on.