Laundry Bats


Feeling the need to do your laundry old-school? One piece of kit you will need is a washing bat, or laundry paddle. It’s basically a stout club for beating dirt into submission. While there are a range of lengths and widths, the basic design doesn’t seem to have changed much in the past 500 years (and you can still order plastic ones on the net).

Like brooms and spoons, laundry bats are part of that historical ephemera that were rarely documented and fewer survive. Like spoons, they appear to have been regarded as a medium for displaying affection, with some survivors ornately carved and inscribed with love verses. (I’m sure it would be as well received as an anniversary dish pan today.)

Elm would be an ideal wood for one of these, with tight interlocked grain. Unfortunately Elm is mostly gone from North America due to Dutch Elm disease, so I’ll make due with straight-grained red oak. Hickory would also do, but I’m not killing a hickory for laundry tools.

Washing paddle #1 with the bevels planed down. I’m guessing that the bevels provide a reduced surface for impact, thus providing a more focused kinetic energy per strike. I’ve also seen illustrated a knife-edge bevel.

Laundry bat #2: I’m liking the shape and balance, very handy for driving off Powhatan warriors and English louts. Oh, and doing laundry I hope.

Roughout for battledore #3, the long, thin type.

Laundry bat in use at Jamestown Settlement.