Every English Willow cricket bat needs to be oiled and knocked in before use. A summary of the process is as follows:
Oiling stops the willow from drying out and therefore greatly reduces the risk of cracking. If you are buying a covered bat, or one fitted with an anti-scuff sheet, there is less oiling needed as these bats are able to retain their moisture – but please don’t overlook the exposed areas around the edges and toe of the bat. For natural faced bats, apply a light coat of linseed, or specialist bat oil, to the blade and edges, using a soft rag or your finger. You can also oil the back, but this isn't essential. Be careful not to oil the splice, handle, stickers and never stand the bat in oil. It is also very important not to over oil the bat as this can increase the weight and cause ‘wood rot’. Indeed, under oiling is better. Once the oil is applied, leave in a horizontal position – bat face up – so the oil can soak through the blade. Allow the bat to stand for twenty-four hours. Covered bats can then move on to the “knocking-in” stage, while uncovered bats will need to be oiled again at least once (but we would recommend twice), repeating the process exactly.
Firstly, a word of warning: many modern cricket bats are “pre-prepared” in the factory by the manufacturer. Pre-prepared does not mean that the bat is ready to use, however. It will have been oiled, pressed and lightly “knocked in” by hand, but will still require a minimum of two hours “knocking-in” before it can be used, otherwise there is a high risk of seriously damaging your bat. Cricket Bats that aren’t pre-prepared will need even longer, usually around 5-6 hours before they are ready to play; and even after “knocking-in” is complete, should not be used in matches for at least two weeks.
When you knock in a cricket bat you compress the fibres of the willow and knit them together, so they become tough enough to withstand the impact of a cricket ball. Effective “knocking-in” will dramatically improve performance and increase the lifespan of the bat.
Using a wooden bat mallet, tap the blade of the bat – avoiding the handle, back and splice – and keep tapping, gradually increasing in force, until your wrist begins to ache. Make sure you pay particular attention to the toe and face edges of the bat, as these are more susceptible to damage, but do not hammer the edges at right angles. You should notice that the edges become rounded and compacted the more you knock them in. The ‘ping’ will also improve as you go along.
When you have finished knocking the bat in, you should start by practicing in the nets with an old (but good quality) cricket ball, and play in a defensive manner. Perhaps add a few throw downs or slip catching practice to test how well you’ve knocked in those edges! Then move on to normal practice play and try to play a few more shots – still with a good quality, old ball – before finally unveiling your new secret weapon to the world in a match situation, at least a fortnight later.
It's Just Cricket's "Knocking-In" Service
Knocking in a cricket bat is a noisy, laborious process that we realise is not for everyone, especially if you don’t want to upset your housemates or neighbours! So if you don’t have the time or inclination to knock in your own bat, don’t worry – we’ll gladly do it for you. The service will include oiling, knocking-in and, if required, the application of edge tape or, at a small extra cost, an anti-scuff sheet. Unlike various other cricket shops, we do not rely on a machine for our handiwork. No, no, no - we do it the old fashioned way, by hand - using a wooden bat mallet. This way the most vulnerable areas of the bat, like the toe and edges, get full attention and are properly knocked in, not just the sweet spot. So, if you get your bat knocked in with us, it should last you a lot longer than one that's been done by a machine.
As we knock in all our bats manually, they take a little bit longer to do, especially at busy times of year. We knock in over 500 bats per year! With this in mind, we have a queue system in place and turnaround times are typically 10-14 days, sometimes a bit longer during peak season (March-July). We urge you to be patient throughout the process and allow for this time. We advise that cricket bats are not bought at the last minute! If you buy a bat during the week with our knocking-in service, please do not expect it to be ready for your game that weekend! Next weekend is always more likely...
In addition, we knock in bats that have been bought from other stores. These are all done by hand, with a mallet, as well. The same turnaround time applies. Bats can either be handed in at our store or posted to us, but we can only cover the return postage cost.
Here is a full breakdown of options and associated costs for our knocking-in service:
BATS BOUGHT FROM US (ONLINE OR IN-STORE): £20.00 (includes oiling and full knocking-in with a mallet).
BATS HANDED IN AT OUR STORE: £30.00 (includes oiling and full knocking-in with a mallet).
BATS POSTED TO OUR STORE: £45.00 (includes oiling, full knocking-in with a mallet and return postage and packaging).
Anti-Scuff Sheets, Toe Guards, extra grips etc. if required are not included within the above and will need to be paid for separately.
Cricket Bat Maintenance
The lifespan of a cricket bat varies, and is dramatically effected by how well the bat is knocked in and how regularly it is oiled. If you have a covered bat, we recommend that you oil the exposed areas during the off season, or any other period of significant non-cricketing activity – on average once a year. If your bat has a natural face, it should be oiled on a monthly basis to ensure consistently high levels of performance. We would also recommend applying fibreglass tape to the inside and outside edges as this will reduce the risk of cracking in these vulnerable areas. The “knocking-in” process will not need to be repeated, however, unless you start noticing seam marks appearing on the face, in which case we recommend another coat of oil and one more hour of “knocking-in”.
All cricket bats are different, and the above instructions are merely a general guideline. If you want more specific instructions on how to oil, “knock in” or look after your bat, we recommend that you contact the manufacturer directly. Most cricket bat manufacturers have detailed bat care guides on their websites, too.