The North American Hurley Care Manual
Compiled by J. O’ Coigligh and Sons
© American Hurling Company
This text is a working draft and will be revised and augmented.
American hurlers have found that when it comes to maintaining a hurl, what works in Ireland does not always work in America. We have seen many a hurl from Ireland snap in the first day or within the first week that it was brought over. Ireland is of course an island, which happens to sit in the Gulf Stream which makes the weather generally temperate and as we all know, rather damp—damp and cool, makes perfect conditions for maintaining a hurl. America’s climate varies as we have large numbers of Americans living in disparate climates around the US, from mid-latitude desserts and steppes to subtropical and coastal climates. Depending on your region, extra care will be needed to ensure your hurl endures. Sadly, a hurl endures dramatic changes in climactic conditions on a daily basis when we store a hurl in a car or its trunk, or when we take our hurls in and out of climate controlled houses. What is the effect? Hurls snap, hurls crack, hurls shatter.
That is not to say that even a hurl that is maintained with love and devotion won’t snap at any moment in time. Hurls are consumables. Fix them if you can. But in the end, may they be saved from the fire by retiring on the mantle above.
Like fat buzzards, composite hurls have been circling on the horizon for years now, while protectionist groups like the Irish Guild of Ash Hurley Makers has fought to maintain their trade. The composite manufactures argue that the traditional hurleymakers have had their day, that composite hurls will push hurling to a higher plateau, never before seen in the 3,000 year annals of the game. Tennis and hockey have gone to composite, why not hurling?
Our argument is simple. It is a question of microeconomics and artistry. Hurley making is a micro industry. It supports the tradesman and his family. It supports the sawer and the timberman. It supports the forestry industry. In addition, it is a 3,000 year-old art performed by a local tradesman, while composite hurls can be manufactured by CNC’s in China.
I want to thank the people who taught me how to make hurls as well as the many people who have and probably will forward additional information to augment this text.
A note about our hurls
A hurl, or camán, consist of a handle, or shaft, and the business end of the stick, the bas. The bas is used to strike the sliotar, and has a heel for sideline cuts and a toe for lifting the sliotar. It may or may not be banded.
We sell our hurls naked because a hurl needs to be treated before it is played. It doesn’t make sense for us to tape up a hurl only to have a buyer unwrap the tape to treat it. Same goes for a grip. Regarding bands, yes we can band if someone request it, but we offer this caveat: putting a nail through wood weakens the wood. Often times, when a hurl cracks, it splits right along the grain in which a nail has been driven. In addition, a band alters its shape less than wood while wood is always moving, shrinking and expanding. The means that a band mated to a piece of wood can cause destruction as wood movement is prevented. A band may fit more tightly in one season or crimp the next. For this reason, we make our hurls in the Wexford tradition. Wexford hurls are not banded, but carry more weight in the heel to add strength. This county tradition is in direct contrast to some of the hurls being made in Ireland at present. Some of these hurls are extremely thin bas which aids in flicking the hurl, but is a disadvantage in a sideline cut and a clash.
Some say hurl is measures properly when it runs from the floor at your side up the leg to the Greater Trochanter, a bone that extends at the top of the femur just below the hip. We follow this method on the site as the next method it difficult without an experienced hand. This latter method involves standing feet shoulder-width apart holding the hurl straight out at 90 degrees, the hand choked-down on the handle to the knob. Keeping good posture with shoulders straight, let the straightened arm and hurl swing from the shoulder to the ground. Don't drop that shoulder. A properly fitted hurl should land an inch or so in front the toe.
However, the size is really up to the player. Many players go a size down, or a full-forward might use a hurl that is even shorter as they have more speed and accuracy when a hurl is choked-up, and a shorter hurl is harder to hook.
Just when we think that we have heard everything regarding hurley care…well that’s the way it is in this business. Americans are a tinkering, inventive people and have created their own specific techniques depending on their regional climates and general needs; however, there are a few guiding principles regarding care that one should know before treating a piece of wood.
Wood is hygroscopic, that is, it loses or gains water. The more water a hurl possesses, the more pliable it is, but when it loses moisture it hardens and becomes less supple. Generally in North American climates, wood becomes stable around 12% moisture content, thus losing its tendency to warp. A hurl should therefore be kept at around 12% humidity. If you place your dry hurl in a bath or in your shower and it surpasses 12% it will warp and damage the balance and cell structure. If it gets too dry because you store your hurl in the house, it will also break. There are also many other variables that can cause a hurl to meet a premature death that are beyond the scope of general care.
What can I do?
1. Treat your hurl with linseed oil (J. O’ Coigligh’s Slow-Drying Brand is quite handy). This locks in the moisture content of the wood. Let dry, then treat again. Repeat as regularly as needed.
2. Store your hurley in a temperate place like a garage or a basement away from central heating and cooling units. Don’t keep your hurley in a car as this will bake it bone dry.
3. Apply a grip for safety and comfort.
4. Apply PVC tape to the neck of the bas as this may prevent a compound fracture (see below).
If you insist on bringing a hurl to the bath or shower with you to raise the moisture value, or if you are going to wrap it up in a damp towel, be careful. If the wood’s moisture value rises too high (above 12%) it will warp. The weight will also increase.
In particularly arid regions, hurlers have begun fiber glassing the bas. Dave "Sarge" Wisniewski of Denver, Colorado began glassing hurls as shortages were common.
3. fiberglass tape
4. a hardner and resin kit available at any hardware store (we use the West Marine System available at a boatbuilding store)
1. using pliers, remove the band and all nails.
2. mix a small portion of hardner and resin.
3. apply a thin coat of mix so that the tape can adhere
4. apply fiberglass tape to the bas.
5. paint on the hardner until the tape is covered.
Note: Another lad from Denver said that he made a hurley humidor. Take a plastic container and place stone pavers to act as piers on which a hurley can lay. Fill the container with water. A simpler method is to invest in a humidor such as those sold in guitar shops to maintain wood instruments. These are small enough so that they may be placed in a hurley bag. These techniques might be desirable for someone who lives in an arid region or even in an apartment complex.
Mending a Hurl
(Please support your local hardware store)
Wrap the neck of the bas as this prevents compound fractures. Compound fractures are harder to fix as the hurley is in two. If you have such a break and the hurl can be spliced, contact us and we can do the work for you; it is quite tricky. To repair a simple fracture you will need some specialized tools. Note that there is always more than one way to accomplish a task.
A list of Tools
1. 6” Bench Vice
2. Metal Punch
3. Ball peen hammer
5. Straight tin snips
6. Nub Snips
9. Drill and a small bit
10. Pneumatic trim nailer or a patient helper.
(Notes: *We keep 16 Gauge .75, 1, 1.25. nails on hand for banding work, but usually resort to staples. Often times we try to sink a screw into the bas to secure the fracture. To do so, we use ceramic deck screws and countersink them. **In terms of glue, we have heard from many sources that H.P.Fuller's ICEMA R 145/44 is the best, but we have been unable to find an answer as to getting a supply. We currently use 3M Windshield Adhesive.)
1. Remove the band (if there is a band.)
2. Pry the split apart and run glue between it.
4. At this point, sometimes we drill a countersink and run a small deck screw to mate the wood.
5. Once the glue has set, place the hurl on a wedge atop the vice.
6. Slide a mending band over the top of the bas along the toe and secure firmly in the vice.
7. Use your weight and pull back on the handle using it as a lever to crimp the band down tightly across the toe.
8. If you have a pneumatic finish nailer, secure the hurl at the lowest possible point. The nail needs to drive through the strap, the bas, and come out the other side of the strapping. If you do not have pneumatics, we recommend predrilling your straps at a low point, have a friend lever the hurl while you gently, yet adroitly drive a ½" nail through both sides of the strapping.
9. With the band secured, remove the hurl from the vice placing it on a bench with the pneumatic nail sticking up. Punch three holes along that side of the band. Make sure one of your punches comes near the pneumatic nail. If your nails are strong enough, drive them straight into the hurl and out the other side into the workbench. If not, you will have to pre drill (the punch will make this task quick). Use your nub snips to clip the pneumatic nail leaving 1/8" or so. Place on the anvil of the vice and use the ball peen hammer to form a head, thus creating a rivet. Flip the hurl an snip the nails on the other side. Place on the anvil and use your ball peen hammer to again form rivets.
10. Now you are ready to snip off excess band the band will be bent around the bas, so make sure you leave enough room so that the two straps overlap. Round the sharp corners using the snips. Now place the hurl in the vice securing the bands with the vice. Use your hammer to shape the band around the bas thus overlapping the two side.
11. Punch a hole at the center of the overlap and drive a nail or pre-drill through the band giving your nail nice start.
12. Now your hurl should be secured.
13. A second band is sometimes used to secure the shaft. Use the same technique. We have also placed small bands at the top of the bas to support a fissure.
© American Hurling Company