I recently took a trip out to our good family friends at Johnson Brothers Lumber in Cazenovia NY to pick out the right wood for this project. This is the premier hardwood lumber mill in the area and without a doubt my go-to spot when I am feeling creative. Set against the sprawling rural landscape, Johnson’s is a blue collar family run business specializing in large quantity hardwoods like maple, cherry, oak, elm, birch, beech and walnut. On this particular mission I was interested in the preferred species by the worlds most experienced lacrosse stick makers — hickory.
A great wooden shaft starts of course with the foundation, the wood. I sat in the main office and talked with the Johnson’s about the project and what I was looking for. I told them I was looking for straight grained kiln dried 5/4 hickory boards in specific lengths. They laughed and said, “people are still using wooden lacrosse shafts?” My answer was simple, “yes.”
The best comparison for this resurgence in my opinion is vinyl records. Almost all great bands of the day are including vinyl as part of their album offerings because it’s the preferred listening method by many. The scratches, the pops and the process are considered a charming experience by music lovers and fans from all over the world. Spotify, Pandora and iTunes make it very easy for us to listen to essentially whatever we want, whenever we want by just pushing a button. The problem though is you don’t get to experience the music the way that band wanted you to hear it. It is much less intimate and creates a wall between the creator and the listener. You don’t get to physically hold the record, read the linear notes, or admire the artistic touches of the packaging. You don’t get to drop the needle on a record and hear that first hiss that signals the beginning of a work of art.
Are wooden shafts the most advanced products in the lacrosse market and the preferred shaft by the world’s top players? Absolutely not. Lets face it —they are heavy. In the new world of ultra-light alloys, titaniums and composites a wooden shaft poses a considerable difference in the weight category. But with that being said I will say this, most of the world’s top players own a collection of wooden sticks. History and nostalgia drive this yearning for connecting to the roots of the game. A wooden shaft feels different in your hands and creates a more intimate relationship between you and your lacrosse stick. Knowing that the shaft was once alive plays a part in this emotion as well.
Most wooden sticks are made by hand. We are definitely seeing several companies enter the market with machine made mass produced wooden sticks. But most wooden sticks are still made by hand. Like vinyl records, this is how the artists wants you to experience their creation.
Although there are some pioneering players that use wood shafts in games most times you will find wooden shafts in the back yards, on wall mounts, at the beach or on camping trips. Bottomline, they are fun to play with. It’s a different style. It cradles differently, not better or worse, just different. They are an awesome training tool that many players including myself use in the preseason.
The word hickory was developed by the Algonquins from Tidewater, Virginia. I used this intel as the premise of my latest design, the “Tidewater” which we have released for a 24 hour made to order sale. I tried to marry the past in the future with this particular design. It has a fast and classic graphic pattern created with water-soluble dyes and multiple finishing techniques. Wooden shafts certainly aren’t for everyone. But for those of you that love lacrosse and the history of the sport, give a wooden shaft a run and experience the connection. Or better yet, head out to the lumber mill, grab a few boards and have a ton of fun making your own!