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

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.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review</em></div>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.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review</em></div>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.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review</em></div>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.'
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review</em></div>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.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review</em></div>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.'
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review</em></div>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.'
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review</em></div>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.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review</em></div>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.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review</em></div>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.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review</em></div>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.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review</em></div>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.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review</em></div>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.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review</em></div>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.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review</em></div>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.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review</em></div>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.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review</em></div>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.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review</em></div>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.

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By Photos and Story By Phil Pavely
Sunday, March 30, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

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.

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