Cricket Bat Repair & Maintenance by James Laver
As the Northern Hemisphere season really kicks into gear and the Southern Hemisphere season is still a glint on the horizon it is worth having a look at your bat to see if it needs any repairs. Cricket bats can often benefit from a small amount of attention – attention that can improve performance or prolong the life of the bat or both. Relatively minor attention can add considerable life to a bat.
Most Common Problems With Cricket Bats
Over the years I have been repairing and reviving bats these are the most common problems.
The cricket bat handle is susceptible to an incredible amount of strain due to the nature of the way that the ball is played. The section about an inch above the shoulders is the weakest point. This can break reasonably easily when a ball is driven with gusto at the very base of the bat (the toe).
The bat is endeavoring to pivot around the bottom hand but is not being allowed to do so due to the top hand being in position to complete the effectiveness of the shot. Usually the front section of cane is fractured and so the handle would need to be replaced. This is best done by a manufacturer of bats or a bat repairer.
Sometimes the handle becomes very flexible and has the feel of a broken handle but no fracture can be seen. This is due to the rubbers within the construction of the handle coming unstuck. Removing the string and gently pulling apart the canes sufficient to apply some adhesive should repair this. The best adhesive to use here is superglue (the thin watery kind). Once a small amount of the superglue is applied the handle can be clamped back together by rolling a few strong rubber bands down the length of the bat handle.
If the bat feels as if it has lost a bit of power it is likely that small splits are visible running parallel to the splice going downwards from the shoulders. These are sometimes very hard to effectively repair depending on the extent of the damage. On occasion these are caused by the manufacturer not bringing the handle binding down low enough to hold the shoulders together or the rubbers in the handle go too far down into the handle splice thus causing too much movement.
If the splits are less than one inch long then one can help stopping them develop further by soaking superglue into the crack repeatedly until the crack has filled and hardened. When the splits are noticeably longer the bat is best sent to a reputed bat repairer or if still under warranty returned to the manufacturer.
The splice of the bat sometimes comes away to the point of observing movement when the handle is flexed. Applying superglue to the small hairline cracks visible can also repair this.
The base of the bat (the toe) is very susceptible to damage. The balanced design of a cricket bat means that this is the weakest part of the willow blade and yet is subjected to the fastest ball and bat speed at point of impact. Yorkers are the worst kind of bat breaking ball to be bowled and most toe breakage is as a result of receiving one.
The Yorker can often result in a vertical crack running up the length of the blade on the front and back of the bat. If the crack is only an inch or two long it can be repaired by the simple superglue method described earlier.
If the cracks are longer than two inches a good quality PVA adhesive should be used. This will require clamping. PVA is used as it is slightly elastic and absorbs the impact of a ball well. It is incorrect to use epoxies as they will crack very easily as they do not have the flexibility of PVA.
I have repaired a bat that has been split right up the middle so that it had to be separated into two halves and clamped back together with PVA, the player then used the bat for a whole season. This is not always the case but worth a try, especially if you have a bat that is perfect for you.
Doweling has sometimes been used to help with the repair of this kind of crack but from experience it does not work consistently well. Doweling creates a weak point so that the bat then breaks around the dowel. I recommend going to a professional bat repairer for any major work to be done on the toe of the bat.
A thin smear of raw linseed oil a few times over the season is strongly advised to help dispel moisture that may seep into the toe when batting on a wet wicket.
The Face & Edges
The face and edges of the bat receive a continuous battering and they must be looked after to ensure they last and the middle performs well. The bat needs to be prepared as per the knocking in guidelines given in our previous newsletter. The use of raw linseed oil is crucial to ensure that the face and edges survive the impact of the ball, read more about this in the knocking in section of our website.
Once in use the face will start to crack in horizontal lines across the grain. This is quite normal together with small vertical cracks on the blade. The best way to deal with this is to use the superglue method to help reinforce the willow and then apply an adhesive facing. We believe that the type we use is the best available out there at the moment. Please feel free to get in touch for more information regarding this facing.
The face of your cricket bat will sometimes keep going for more than a season before it starts cracking if you look after it – it happens differently in every bat. As mentioned for the toe of the bat a thin smear of raw linseed oil over the face and edges helps the bat to retain its own moisture and reduces the rate of cracking due to allowing the fibres to stretch rather than crack.
Products & Usage
I have mentioned superglue (Cyanoacrylate) throughout this publication, and it is crucial in any workshop. When superglue is used it sometimes leaves a residue around the split area. This can be sanded off with fine grade sandpaper, making sure you apply a dab of raw linseed after the repair is fully dried. The glue is the thin watery kind that is commonly used to repair broken china (describe this to your hardware store and they will know what you mean).