Tim Schneider’s love of baseball and a yen to “swing a better bat” led him to get into the wood baseball bat making business. In 2015, he, along with his friend and former college teammate, Mike White and brothers, Dan and Greg, started Three Brothers Bats, a name their sister, Sarah, suggested.
Two years before, Schneider bought a used wood lathe and chisels he found online and set up shop in the family’s West Salem garage. Using a length of wood provided by a friend, Schneider tried his hand at turning a wood bat.
While his first bat took five hours to make and wasn’t quite up to the standards he wanted, Schneider wasn’t deterred from pursuing the craft.
Over the next couple years, Schneider’s skill progressed to turning out a bat in 30 minutes. He subsequently produced 800 handmade bats on the traditional lathe. With an increase in orders, Schneider bought a CNC lathe that can turn out a bat in two minutes and 45 seconds.
Although the process to form the wood bats is now largely mechanized, Schneider still relishes the craft of wood-turning.
“When you hand-make a bat, you forget everything else,” Schneider said. “It’s kind of therapeutic in a way; there’s a certain level of artwork. You never have the same wood; they all have a little different feel.”
TBB bats are made from maple, birch and ash blanks or billets. The company obtains the majority of the cylindrical blanks from the northeastern part of the country. Recently, Schneider has begun looking into getting some of his hardwood supply closer to home through an Ontario lumber company.
“Seventy-five percent of our bats are made from maple; it’s a harder and stiffer wood and has taken over in the last 10 to 15 years,” Schneider said. “Ash is a lighter wood and will have a little more flex. Birch is kind of a combination of the two.”
When the bat comes off the lathe, it goes through four levels of sanding. Game bats can also be “boned.” Boning is the process of rubbing a dried cow femur against the wood to compress the grain, making the bats denser.
“It was something done a long time ago; we just brought it back,” Schneider said.
Schneider and his brothers played baseball in college. He and Dan continue to play amateur ball on the Wisconsin Baseball Association’s champion Sparta Miller Baseball team; the team has made TBB bats its official bat.
Schneider prefers wood bats to metal, partially because metal bats are too forgiving. Wood bats make for a truer version of the game.
“Also, wood bats drive you to improve your fundamentals in the batter’s box,” Schneider said.
With help from his father, Bob, Schneider continues to handle the manufacturing aspect of the business with brother, Dan, taking on the marketing. Greg has relinquished his position as financial officer and has been replaced by White.
At this time, all the partners have full-time jobs outside the company and are putting all revenues from TBB back into the business.
“Before this year, it was a hobby,” Schneider said. “Now, we’re getting close to filling 500 orders. We consider ourselves very fortunate and blessed to have support and encouragement from our families and close friends as we continue to grow.”
TBB concentrates on selling its bats to amateur leagues, schools and colleges. A significant part of their sales are award and trophy bats painted in school or team colors and stamped to recognize players’ accomplishments.
The company recently bought a historic building in downtown West Salem, moving the business back to the brothers’ hometown after operating for a while from a site on St. Joseph Ridge.
“We love being in downtown,” Schneider said. “We’re near the interstate and by the (village) park.”
The building is across the street from the ballfield where Schneider hit his first home run.