Why Are We Writing About a Shop Making Custom Baseball Bats?

I recently learned about a 153-year-old manufacturer that has produced billions upon billions of precision, metal pins which started another business making one-off wooden baseball bats. (Like I asked it to do for me and you’ll see at this year’s Precision Machining Technology Show). Here I explain why it’s worth the time to read that article.
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Derek Korn, baseball superstar

The custom Major League Baseball quality bat Walter Bat Co. is making for me resembles the one shown here. Stop by the Production Machining booth #4041 at PMTS to check out what they made for me. This photo was taken during a video shoot at the company’s Nashua, New Hampshire, production operation which it shares with W.H. Bagshaw and includes a baseball training facility. It shows me clearly displaying my potential warning-track power. Ha. Gotta have a little fun with all this, people. And, yes, I’m a lefty. (Photo Credit: PM)

My cover story this month reminds me of a previous one I penned for sister publication Modern Machine Shop back in 2011. Also included in that issue was my then monthly “One-Off” column which was titled that month, “But I Don’t Machine Custom Camshafts!”

That cover story from 12 years ago explained how Comp Cams — a leading automotive aftermarket company that specializes in high-performance valve train components for street and racing applications — had become more efficient and effective at machining small batches of custom, billet camshafts using a twin-spindle/twin-turret turning center.

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In my column that issue, which complemented the article, I recognized there’s a strong chance many readers don’t machine camshafts or might not even have customers in the automotive industry. Which, on the surface, might lead them to think there’s not much to gain by reading the article.

I suggested, though, that readers take the camshaft out of the equation.

Instead of focusing on that specific type of workpiece, why not consider some of the general strategies, techniques and approaches Comp Cams was applying that could possibly spark ideas which could ultimately lead to process improvements for similar types of parts? Special chuck jaw coating. Quick-change tooling. Choice of coolant. Toolpath strategies. Heck, the twin-turret/twin-spindle machine tool platform in general.

Now, let’s fast-forward to our cover story this month. On the surface, you might think it focuses on how to effectively turn custom wooden baseball bats. Well, it does touch on what’s involved in the process, and I personally found it to be interesting and cool. But, there’s more to it than that. Like, why did W.H. Bagshaw, which has been manufacturing precision metal pins and related parts for 153 years, decide to start up what I call its Walter Bat Co. “side hustle” in the first place?

As I hope you’ll glean from the article, and video at, much of it boils down to family, creativity, entrepreneurship, mentorship, growing interest in manufacturing careers in general and creating a stronger bond with the local community.

I also hope it might spur you to consider thinking outside the box in terms of what new equipment (besides turning centers) might be worth considering — maybe spurred by emerging markets you’re eyeing. Perhaps that could come in the form of wire, sinker or hole-popper electrical discharge machining (EDM) equipment for very challenging materials; metal additive manufacturing — as that is starting to become more accepted; waterjet machining, maybe not to create complete parts but instead near-net-shape blanks that can be more easily completed versus starting with barstock or billets; and so on.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that maybe it’s time to consider processes and perhaps business opportunities that aren’t necessarily in your wheelhouse.

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