Why did you start making cricket bats?
I started to properly learn the processes for making cricket bats when I was 20, but I remember making a really basic shaped bat when I was 13 to use with a tennis ball in the garden out of a piece of 2x4.
Your bats are handmade from 100 per cent English willow, what are the benefits of this?
English willow is more like a reed and so is very fibrous, which gives a spring like quality to the wood. Once the top surface has been compressed it creates a hard layer that withstands the impact of a cricket ball, while the spring fibres underneath gives the bat the renounce quality or what is referred to as the ping. This makes willow perfect for making a cricket bat. As every piece of willow is different it’s important to constantly check the performance and the weight of the bat as you make it, which is why my bats are individually handmade. With a machined process, while each bat will look the same shape they will all have different pick ups. Even on machined bats there will be an element of hand finishing to get the bat to the right weight and feel.
What new products have recently been introduced to your range?
This season our pads and gloves have been designed working closely with our manufacturer to ensure the softs are up to international players standards. They manufacture for a lot of pros and we have used that knowledge to go into our gear. This year the gloves are filled with a softer filling to give greater comfort and feel.
What is the process of making a bat?
First of all I would plain the face of the bat and look at the grains and structure of the wood. By doing this I am looking for anything in the face that would indicate if there's any issues with the bat, then I would sort them into a grade. Grading is like buying a car. One will be in brand new condition the other may have a small dent. Both will have the same performance, but one will sell for less than the other.
All of the making process is done at my workshop. I pick the clefts myself, take them back to my workshop and start roughly shaping them prior to pressing. I do this as I like to control the whole process to ensure the customer is getting a quality product at the end of it.
How long does it take to make a bat?
About four hours from start to finish.
We are excited to welcome you back to Pilch on 3rd June – what will you be demonstrating in store?
I will be going through the making process from a roughly shaped bat to the finished product.
Robert James will be at Pilch on Saturday 3rd June from 10.30am. For more information click here