Every day of summer, there will be fastpitch, slow pitch and baseball players slipping ball gloves onto their hands. But how many of them will ponder the origin of that glove when they pull it out of their bag? We bet that very few will be thinking about how Wilson, Mizuno, or Nokona actually built what they are wearing on the diamond.
The process of building a glove is quite fascinating and for those that have competed on a softball or baseball field, we think you’ll enjoy learning about the process that goes into building arguably the most iconic symbol of America’s Pastime: a ball glove.
To educate you as simply as possible on the building process, we’ve broken it down into the following 8 steps:
- Selecting the Leather
- Cutting the Leather with Dies
- Stamping & Embroidering the Leather
- Stitching & Welting
- Shaping the Glove’s Shell
- Shell & Hand Liner Are Put Together
- Lacing the Glove
- Factory Break-In
Now let’s take a more detailed look at each step!
1- Selecting the Leather
The importance of this step cannot be understated as the quality of leather will be the defining characteristic of a glove as seasons pass (i.e. whether it holds up or not). Manufacturers will use their highest quality leather hides for crafting their top-quality gloves (this is typically stiffer leather). If they are building a lesser-quality glove, they will look for leather from a hide that is not quite as high quality (this is usually a softer-feeling leather). If the manufacturer is building a glove with a unique colorway, this is the step where they will select leather that has already been dyed in a certain color.
[Nokona’s factory has shelves of leather that they use for their gloves.]
2 - Cutting the Leather with Dies
Manufacturers will take the hide (or hides) they will be using to create a certain glove and use cutting dies to create the specific shapes that will be needed to create the glove. There will typically be 20+ pieces of leather that need to be cut to make a single glove.
[Nokona has trays & trays of these cutting dies for each type of glove.]
3 - Stamping & Embroidering the Leather
Once the pieces of leather have been cut with the dies, manufacturers will heat stamp their logos and glove information on the palm leather piece. As well, if there is any embroidery that needs to be done, it will occur during this same step. If you buy a Wilson Custom Glove, Mizuno Custom Glove, or Rawlings Custom Glove and choose to embroider your name on the glove, this is when that embroidery is added!
[Above you’ll see a Wilson A2K Palm Stamp & a Nokona glove being embroidered.]
4 - Stitching & Welting
The outer shell of the glove and the inner hand lining are actually going to be made separately. Within this step, the Back Shell and Palm Shell of the glove will be stitched together inside-out to create one outer-shell piece. Then the outer shell will be flipped to the correct, inside-in orientation. Also during this step, the shell’s stitching will get welting added so that the stitching is protected from the wear and tear that occurs while playing a baseball game.
[In the above, you’ll see a back shell & palm shell being stitched together inside out.]
5 - Shaping the Glove’s Shell
After the outer shell of the glove has been flipped to the correct, inside-in orientation, the shell’s fingers and thumb are placed on a heated mold (the mold looks similar to a human hand). Along with the assistance of manual work, the mold helps give the glove more of its finished look.]
[The top image shows Nokona’s heat mold. In the bottom image, you’ll see a Wilson worker shaping a glove’s shell on their glove mold.]
6 - Shell & Hand Liner Are Put Together
Simply put, the manufacturer will slip the outer shell of the glove over the inner-hand lining during this step. In many cases, the manufacturer will add adhesive to the inner-hand lining so that it is glued securely to the shell. During this stage, binding will also be added to the unfinished edges of the shell and inner-hand lining.
[In the top image, a Wilson employee is inserting the inner hand lining into the outer shell. The bottom image shows a Wilson employee inspecting the glove’s binding.]
7 - Lacing the Glove
During this step, leather lace will be used to securely fasten the shell and inner-hand lining together. As well, the lace will be used to attach the web to the glove.
[A Mizuno employee works to lace together a ball glove.]
8 - Factory Break-In
Newly built ball gloves will be extra stiff, especially if the glove being built is made from high-quality leather. Manufacturers will implement different methods to make sure that the leather is softened up a bit so that the break-in is shorter for a customer. Some of these methods will also remove “bubbling” of the leather (especially in the palm area). Many manufacturers will even add a conditioning product to the glove at this stage to help moisturize the leather before it gets delivered to a customer.
[Nokona’s “Pounding” Machine helps soften the leather of their gloves before they are shipped to customers.]
Those are the 8 basic steps that manufacturers use to build a ball glove. It really is an incredible process and one could dive even deeper into these 8 stages listed above.Let us know if there is anything about the steps of building a glove that you want to know more about! Or, if you have any other baseball glove or softball glove-related questions, our Glove Experts are always available to help via phone at 866-321-4568, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or live chat. Don’t forget, we’re here for you from Click To Catch!