Introduction: The Crackerjack Stash
Third Prize in the
Hiding Places Contest 2017
Aluminum bats are cheap and common. They can be purchased for a couple bucks at thrift stores and are excellent for hiding secrets in plain sight. You've probably got an old kid's bat lying around just waiting to be useful so let's get started. Here are 4 different ways to make a baseball bat into a super secret hiding spot.
Step 1: Things You'll Need
Depending on which method you chose you'll need some of the following:
An aluminum bat or two
A saw - my preference is a miter saw. You could also use a band saw, scroll saw, or hack saw.
Hot glue gun
An old plastic bottle & top
Chunk of wood & a lathe
Hand grinder & sanding disk
Drill and small rod
Safety equipment - safety glasses, hearing protection, mask
Step 2: Your Safety, Your Responsibility!
Miter saws make smooth straight cuts which are ideal for hiding cut lines. Cutting round tubular objects, however, is inherently dangerous on a miter saw.
A square piece of wood rests completely on the saw table and against the saw fence. The action of the saw pulls the wood toward the fence and the square shape prevents rotation. Round tubes lack a square corner and tend to lift & turn which can bind the blade and endanger you.
Before making a cut secure the bat so it cannot lift and spin while being cut. Bats are hard to clamp so one option is to temporarily hot glue it to a sacrificial board. Make sure the bat is immobile by clamping the wooden piece in place.
Make these cuts slowly. If you attempt to quickly force the blade through the aluminum bat you are guaranteed trouble. Cut very slowly and use a wood cutting blade with a higher tooth count to minimize the blade pulling aggressively. Aluminum is a soft metal and cuts easily but take your time. When you have completed the cut, allow the blade to completely stop while holding the saw in the down position. Only after the saw blade has stopped do you allow the saw to return to it's original start position.
If you are uncomfortable making this cut, don't do it. Use a hack saw, bandsaw or other method.
Step 3: Sacrificial Board
Anytime the cutoff piece is small you should have a sacrificial board behind the piece, i.e. against the saw fence. Small pieces can be pulled into the saw and exit as a projectile towards you. This is even more dangerous when it's the metal end of a bat.
I also like to hot glue the end of the bat, whether plastic or metal, to a block of wood. This prevents the short cutoff piece from vibrating and potentially moving into the blade. Once you've made the cut, the cap end will easily pull off the block and you can then peel the glue off too.
Step 4: Bat #1 - Plastic Ended Bat
This stash is by far the easiest to make and the sneakiest. Of the 4 techniques, this bat is the hardest to detect. This type of bat has a plastic plug that is pressed into the hollow end of the bat. There's a protruding rim inside which captures the plug and prevents it from coming out. Cut the bat 1/8-3/16" from the edge of the aluminum.
There will be part of the plastic plug remaining inside which you can wrestle out with a pair of pliers (sorry I tore it out before taking a pic). You should be left with a plug possessing a shoulder approximately 1/8-3/16" in length. Pop it in and your work is done.
Step 5: Bat #2 - PVC Spring Bat
For bats which are all aluminum without a plastic plug this is the easiest & fastest method. Frankly I think it is also the best method which means it was the last technique I discovered. All you need is a bat and 1" of PVC slightly bigger than the bat's inside diameter.
Step 6: PVC Spring Closure
This is a 2" (outside diameter) T-ball bat and a piece of 1 1/2" PVC pipe which has an outside diameter of slightly under 2" (PVC pipe is sold by it's inside diameter. In this case you would buy 1 1/2" PVC). As you can see this 1" long piece of PVC is slightly too big to fit inside the bat which means it's perfect. Cut multiple slices out of the side of the pipe until it will fit inside the bat. You will have to compress the PVC to get it inside the bat. The PVC then springs open in an attempt to return to it's original diameter which holds the pieces together. You can swing this bat hard and the end will not come off. There is no need to fasten the PVC in place with epoxy or another glue. Because the PVC is removable, you can place items the full width of the hollow bat and then insert & remove the PVC as needed.
Step 7: Bat #3 - Bottle Bat
This is an overly complicated way of making a bat stash, but it is another way to do it. Find a plastic bottle with a lid as close to the inside diameter of your bat as possible. Insert the capped end of the bottle into the bat and mark a line for cutting on the bottle. Cut the threaded portion off the bottle and trim it to fit inside the end of the bat.
Step 8: Epoxy Your Pieces
Next trim out the inside of the cap using a scroll saw or utility knife. Use a 2-part epoxy putty or another adhesive to secure your pieces in place.
Step 9: #3 Is Finished.
Since the cap is wider than the bottle neck, I chose to maximize the opening by placing the cap portion inside the longer section. Alternatively, reversing the pieces so the bottle cap is in the end of the bat would be possible. This would essentially make a large bottle capable of hold liquids. You know ... T-ball practice and such.
Step 10: Bat #4 - Billy the Bat
Billy the Bat was the first bat I made and I still think the coolest. It's a bit more of a container than a hiding place however, since the cut line is easily visible and it doesn't look like a normal bat. But it's cool so that's enough for me.
Step 11: Chop, Chop
Depending on the size of your bat you want to cut out the center handle portion so that it fits over the 1"+ stub on the base. If you have a pair of calipers you can get close simply by measuring diameters. Once you've successfully fit the 2 ends together drill a hole and insert a tight fitting pin. If it's still loose you can add additional pins. The ends of the pin are simply ground off.
Step 12: Bye Bye Paint
There are a lot of options for this step but I chose to sand off the paint using a 120 grit flap pad. Sanding is fast and easy with a flap pad. If you prefer a smoother finish then continue sanding by hand with higher and higher grits of paper. Another option would be to scratch sand the paint and repaint it.
Step 13: Chop, Chop the Sequel
Shorten your bat to the length you want by cutting out some of the midsection. Measure and make sure the portion you remove is the same diameter at each end so the cap will fit correctly. I removed around 4".
Step 14: Wooden Plug
This step is easiest if you have a lathe but you could potentially do it another way. Personally I would opt for the PVC spring if you don't have a lathe since I think that would be better anyway. Here's why. Wood swells and shrinks more than metal so this closure is a bit finicky. Too big and it's hard to open when it's warm. Too small and it's loose when it's cold. I've fine tuned mine to where it's just right but the PVC spring is much easier.
If you have a lathe and still want to make a wooden plug then you probably know what to do. Attach a wooden block to the headstock using one of several techniques such as a glue block and get to turning. Periodically check plug diameter using the bat until you have the perfect fit. Epoxy the block into the end piece. I rubbed wax into the exposed wood using a candle to facilitate smooth opening and closing.
Step 15: Handle Wrap
This step is optional, but it nice to have a wrap which covers up the pins and base. This is a super simple wrap that has a nice appearance. Here's a video on making it:
Step 16: No More Bats -- "The End"
Whichever method you chose you now have an excellent place to stash your cache.
Thanks for reading. I hope you found it helpful and you'll make your own soon! I look for to your comments and questions!
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