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It takes time to learn the difference. You can buy a template to judge slope of grain, otherwise you develop an eye. Billets can vary in weight by over 30%. They generally come in a standard size- 37x 2.75.
Chase,the percentage of really great,perfect billets is very small,say 8%. You have to work with a good honest supplier. Wood is a natural product and we all have to work with that fact. Even the very best of the best veneer grade log can be mis cut,mis split or ruined by a mill. The big problem is where are you in the chain of billet sales.The big boys own,harvest and mill their material.The best goes to the very top of MLB,the next grades filter down the chain to low level MBL,then to AAA,AA,A and so on down. The retail big boxes get the junk,you see the all black ,low priced bats in the rack.Simple tricks such as turning off center to achieve a better grain orientation in the handle,smaller profiles to get better weights,youth bats etc. help in utilization of all material.Order by the pallet,select out the best and hope your getting a fair shake. Sending material back is never a good solution,and most will not entertain the return. As a rule 5% MLB ink dot bats, 30%very good game play bats,30 % good bats,15% youth,10% junk,10% throw outs( major defects ,knots,bark,). Be ware of billet sellers who produce bats as they are preselecting the best and selling the lower grades off.Tom at Barnstable Bat
Kevin,the steak is a stain. Stains occur in all wood. They can be produced by minerals in the soil, an injury to the tree by insects,wind damage or other factors. Wood is a natural product and you will see these defects from time to time. Other factors are introduced by man,nails,screws,maple tappers,wire,bullets are all in the mix to cause defect stain. I have seen railroad spikes,arrow heads,scythe blades (26" long"steel),copper jacketed bullets,barbed wire etc. incased by wood growth to hide all notion that the object is in the tree wood. These iron based materials usually stain black. Your tan or brown color indicates mineral or water intrusion by some sort of tree damage. A broken limb,snapped top,a wind check (violent wind twisting the tree and causing internal fracture and breakage).Tom at Barnstable Bat co.