Modern sticks offer many advantages over the traditional ‘crosse.’ Thanks to new materials they are lighter, stronger, easier to grip, and provide better ball control. The basic design hasn’t changed, though, and the 17th Century missionaries who first saw the game played would recognize them. Players still grip the stick, using a net to scoop up and hold the ball. What is different here are the materials and manufacturing processes.
The traditional method
Hickory wood was favored for the stick, with rawhide for the net. Hickory is tough, yet not too heavy or difficult to shape. That’s important because the traditional stick is rather like a shepherd’s crook: a single length of wood with a loop formed at one end.
The process begins after the sap has left the tree in Fall. Splitting the trunk along the grain produces straight sticks around 2” wide. The crook is formed first by softening one end in steam then bending it over posts. Wire is looped over the end to hold the crook shape while the wood dries.
After three months it's time to form the back bend just above the crook. That takes more steam, followed by bending and clamping in position to dry. A couple of weeks later it's time to sand the stick smooth and drill holes around the crook. Rubbing linseed oil into the grain stops the wood drying out, and then decals are added. At this point the stick is finished, but it needs a net.
The side wall goes in first, then leather runners are added below the back bend and threaded through the holes at the top of the crook. Nylon string is woven through the runners to create the net. Finally, the net is stretched over a former to make the pocket that holds the ball.
Here's a look at how one father and son duo made traditional lacrosse sticks.
Making the modern stick
Today the Lacrosse stick is made in two parts: the head where nylon strings form the net, and the shaft. Heads are molded from advanced plastics that ‘give’ slightly when they hit the ground, reducing the shock player’s feel and making it easier to scoop up the ball.
The head is fitted to a hollow metal shaft. Aluminum is most often used, although you'll find titanium or scandium in premium sticks. These materials are exceptionally light and strong, so they’re long-lasting and easy to run with. An octagonal cross-section makes the shaft easier to grip.
The traditional way of making Lacrosse sticks served the sport well for centuries, but players are always looking for an ‘edge.’ Today that comes in the form of advanced materials and modern manufacturing methods. Some players don’t like the disappearance of traditional methods, but most agree that modern lacrosse sticks perform better than their hickory predecessors.