Share This Page

South Hills family brings lumber to life for sluggers in 20 states

| Sunday, March 30, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Billets, all 37-inches long and 2 3/4-inches wide, are stacked and ready to be made at Aul Bat Company in Whitehall Tuesday, March, 11, 2014. The lumber, either from ash, birch,or maple, will be taken through a seven-step process with the end-result being a hand-crafted baseball bat.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Joe Aul, founder and co-owner of Aul Bat Company, lines up the next piece of lumber with a template in Whitehall Wednesday, March, 11, 2014. A lathe will chip away the wood until a desirable piece of lumber is left resulting in one of the roughly 500 bats he produces each year in his garage.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Using a lathe as a duplicator that his father Jack built, a carpenter at Carnegie Mellon University, Joe sizes down a maple billets into a baseball bat at Aul Bat Company in Whitehall Wednesday, March, 27, 2014.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Joe Aul sands a billet as it is turned into a bat at Aul Bat Company in Whitehall Wednesday, March, 11, 2014. Joe, who made his first bat in seventh or eighth-grade, describes the process as, 'A bit slower (hand sanding each individual bat), but the end process keeps the integrity of the wood.'
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Looking more like a baseball bat, some pieces of lumber are stacked-up in order to cut off the end of the billet at Aul Bat Company in Whitehall Tuesday, March, 11, 2014. Joe Aul made his first bat around five-years-ago and now produces about 90 percent of the inventory leaving the family garage.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Awaiting only the finishing process, Joe Aul looks over a maple billet that more closely resembles their 32-inch Model A71 maple baseball bat in the family garage that doubles as Aul Bat Company in Whitehall Tuesday, March, 11, 2014. 'When you call us (for an order),' explains Joe Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 'It's either me or my dad making the bat. And because we are doing it by hand, we can make little adjustments the other guys can't.'
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Using a blow-torch to add a flame temp, Joe Aul applies a finishing detail strictly for eye appeal at Aul Bat in Whitehall. 'It's agonizing at times being one-at-a-time. It's all handmade.'
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Joe Aul goes for a bat hanging on the rack in their garage business, Aul Bat Company, Thursday, March 27, 2014 in Whitehall.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Working beneath baseball netting in his garage, Joe Aul checks out the top coat he just applied to a nearly-finished baseball bat Tuesday, March, 11, 2014.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
The finished product hangs from a rack at Aul Bat Company in Whitehall Tuesday, March, 11, 2014. Aside from a store in Florida, the baseball bats are still only available through their website.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Cupping, or hollowing out the end of the bat to get to a desired weight, is done by Joe Aul Thursday, March 27, 2014 in Whitehall.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Joe Aul feels a near-finished product in his shop.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Joe Aul finds the center of a billet at Aul Bat Company, Wednesday, March 26, 2014 in Whitehall.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Joe Aul applies a logo to an Aul Bat Company, Tuesday, March 11, 2014 in Whitehall.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Joe Aul apllies a clear coat Tuesday, March 11, 2014 in Whitehall.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Joe Aul goes through the tedious process of sanding each bat at Aul Bat Company, Wednesday, March 26, 2014 in Whitehall.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Patrick Aul takes a cut in batting practice with one of his regular bats Thursday, March 26, 2014. The Baldwin-Whitehall High School senior has been using a custom Aul Bat.

It's Aul good in this South Hills garage.

Springtime. Baseball returns. Orders arrive for custom lumber.

When Joe Aul, 24, graduated from St. Vincent College two years ago, “I combined my passion of playing baseball and making things. It was a natural fit.”

The family, working in this garage, has turned out bats for the better part of a decade since his father, Jack, started making them as a hobby. Joe Aul played baseball in college, using family-made lumber.

The oldest of eight home-schooled children, Aul took the business to the next level, forming Aul Bat Co.

As the only Pittsburgh-area bat maker, Aul produces about 500 bats a year. He hopes to quadruple that number and expand beyond the 20 states to which Aul ships. Customers include professional players, though no major leaguers yet; those in the minors; the Winter League; American Legion; and several colleges.

“I think with the Pirates back on track, it is good for business,” Aul said.

He eyed a freshly sanded bat and smiled. “The end result is a pretty bat, that is for sure.”

Phil Pavely is a Trib Total Media photographer. Reach him at ppavely@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.