Caleb Grant - the Australian creating cricket bats in Lancashire
PUBLISHED: 00:00 06 July 2018
A young Australian who came to England to play professional cricket has settled in Nelson to make beautiful bats.
Bowled over by the love of a Lancashire lass, Australian Caleb Grant is now batting for England. Or, to be more accurate, he is making bats for the English.
Caleb, who first came to England as an overseas professional for a North Yorkshire cricket club, hopped over the border and opened a workshop at Nelson Cricket Club, with only his dog, named Nelson in honour of his new home, for company.
‘I had completed an informal apprenticeship with a Yorkshire bat maker, so I did know what I was doing,’ laughs the 30-year-old, who has handmade bats for sale starting at £180. He also makes some special bespoke versions which are individually numbered and, of course, more expensive.
A psychologist might link his love of making bats to the time when, as a teenager in Melbourne, he found himself 50 dollars short for the bat that he really wanted and, plead as he might, the cash wasn’t forthcoming from the bank of mum and dad.
‘I still hanker after that bat, although the particular brand is no longer manufactured. Maybe that’s why it gives me so much pleasure now to see people leave my workshop with their dream bat,’ says Caleb, who marries Colne seamstress Emily Mitchell next January.
Of course, before any bat can be made you first have to gather your willow and Caleb has a secret location where he goes to select the best. However, if his dream comes true, it won’t be long before he can just go to the bottom of his garden for it.
‘Lancashire has the right conditions for growing willow and, although they need to grow for at least ten years before any leather hits it, I’m a patient guy and I’m willing to wait for my own plantation,’ says Caleb, whose clients come from across the north of England and Wales.
The first thing Caleb does when making a bespoke bat is to take note of their physical characteristics – their weight, their build and how they like to hold a bat.
‘These things will determine features such as the weight and the most appropriate handle. I listen to them too, in order to find out how they like to play and what sort of shots are their favourite. Clients range from people who feel that a bespoke bat could give an extra edge to their game to parents who have decided to buy a bespoke bat as an 18th birthday present for their son or daughter.
‘Bespoke bats as gifts have become popular. Lots of people are given them as retirement presents with hope, I guess, of long lazy days of cricket practice ahead of them! One grandfather came along with his bat and his grandson. He had treasured it since he was a young man but his cricket days were now more pavilion-based. Deciding to pass it onto his grandson but finding it was too long, he asked me to re-fashion it for him so it had a new life in his descendant’s hands.’
Many people share that affection for their bat and that results in Caleb being asked to undertake repairs. ‘I can usually make bats good again but I do warn people to take notice of climate when storing bats over the winter – avoid a damp cellar or garage and certainly don’t expose it to rain. When I moved into this workshop, there was a small hole in the roof and the first thing I had to do was shin up there and repair it,’ says Caleb, who once had to mend a crack in a bat that had been pieced together with nails. Caleb has a couple of machines in his workshop, including a jig that he made with his dad but many of his tools have been handed down to him by his grandfather and father. He even has several rolling pins ‘borrowed’ from his mother, that he uses to give bats the linseed oil treatment.
‘This is my dream job, making cricket bats and talking cricket all day – even when people want to talk about things like the recent Australian ball tampering incident. Sure enough, that was a disgrace but you know the game of cricket is bigger than any one player or even any one team. It will take a lot more than that to stop people enjoying the sound of leather on willow.’
You can find out more about Caleb and his bats at www.grantcricket.com.