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Leeds family firm bowled over with success of hand-made cricket bats

Chris Kippax from Kippax Willows Bats, Methley, tests one of his Cricket bats. Picture By Simon Hulme

Chris Kippax from Kippax Willows Bats, Methley, tests one of his Cricket bats. Picture By Simon Hulme

  • by Alison Bellamy
 

A FAMILY firm are bowled over by success, after their bats have being given the seal of approval from Yorkshire and England cricket stars.

Their hand-made cricket bats, sourced from locally grown willow trees, are produced at a factory in Methley, Leeds.

Kippax Willows, the bat-makers, now sponsor cricket stars, including Rich Pyrah, Elliot Callis and Josh Shaw, an England and Yorkshire Under 19 player.

Peter Kippax founded the firm in 1976, and was a talented cricketer himself, playing for Yorkshire and Durham. He is now suffering from Alzheimer’s, and son Chris Kippax, 44, is running the firm.

Chris plays for Carlton Cricket Club in Rothwell, along with his son Alex Kippax, 16 and colleague Peter Leaf.

Kippax Willow have two arms to the business, bespoke cricket bat making and selling top grade willow and clefts on to other cricket bat manufacturers.

They grow their own willow trees, on several sites in the Leeds area with around 4,000 trees growing at any one time.

Chris said: “We are one of only a couple of buinesses in the UK who grow our own willows and hand-make products on site. We provide clefts of wood, or roughly shaped bats, for other firms, who produce equipment from our wood.

Chris said they are trying to increase their bat making business and have started to use ambassadors to help promote the brand, including three Yorkshire county cricket Club players and were in negotiation with an England star.

He said: “People can see the willows growing before being felled and a bat made.

Chris, who previously worked in the petrochemical industry gave it up to learn the art of bat making once his father fell ill. He added: “We plant, nurture grow, fell our own willows and have around 4,000 growing at any one time on numerous sites.”

Chris added that his son Alex may not be forced into the family business to continue the tradition of bat-making. Instead he plans to go to university to study sports management degree.

“There are very few firms mationally growing willow.

KIPPAX Willows sell up to 12,000 bats each year and can cost up to several hundred pounds each.

They nurture and fell the willow trees when they are around 15 or 20 years old, cutting down 40 at a time using a chainsaw.

They use the trunk to cut a cleft, the clefts are piled up and stored in the rough shape of a bat. They are air dried for three months before being kiln dried before being graded into different quality of appearance.

The perfect ones are grade 1 and more expensive. Some of the rough sawn clefts are sold on to other manufacturers.

 

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