Posted by Phil Aguglia on 12/11/2015 to
One of the most frequently asked questions is what the difference between natural wood, white wood, carbon fiber, and fiberglass shafts.
Here's my take:
Most natural and white wood sticks are made from maple or birch wood. The white shafts are usually coated with a paint or stain. From my experience, the stain holds up better which is why in July of 2014 PaGu Batons switched to stain.
Conventional wisdom would argue that the white shafts are more visible to the performers. Our tests have shown that the difference is negligible save for theatrical lighting which tends to favor the natural shafts when the wood is sanded to 400 grit or higher. The sanding grit is important as it closes the wood grain which creates a higher luster or light reflection.
Either way, wood products will tend to behave similarly by warping and breaking. The life of a wood shaft will be greatly decreased by tapping, bending, or by not using a good quality case. For these reasons PaGu Batons issues a one year replacement warranty on all of their Batons to grant the client maximum assurance that we stand by our products and will take care of our conductors long after the sale. We want you to love our batons and use them.
Carbon fiber and fiberglass are often used for batons as well. Each has its pros and cons. Fiberglass is sturdy and white (more of an off white). They are relatively light and stay straight. However the down side is that if they are tapped enough times the fibers split and can give the conductor terrible slivers just by rubbing the shaft. These are often painful and hard to remove because they are very small. This is why PaGu Batons does not sell fiberglass shafts.
Carbon fiber shafts are also sturdy and will not break. There are hollow and solid rods used interchangeably because of their weight to diameter ratio. They are available only in black, so they must be painted and there really is no perfect paint that will resist chipping off the carbon fiber.
Carbon fiber is heavier than wood, so a 1/8" cf rod weighs about the same as a 3/16" wood shaft. This is why the majority of cf Batons are so slim.
My experience is that the cf shafts are most often used by college wind band directors and hardly ever by orchestral conductors.
Without a doubt, it is tougher to see the thin cf shaft when compared to the 3/16" wood shaft. Which is why PaGu Batons recommends wood.
The bottom line is that each conductor needs to feel confident in their baton. The way it feels, looks, and hold up. It may take some experimenting to find what you like, but compared to finding the right instrument, mouthpiece or bow, it's a pretty mild investment in ones career.