“Nemesis” Head & Hickory Wood Shaft

Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.
That’s the sound of my head banging repeatedly on the tabletop. WHY didn’t I have a stick like this when I was playing?

A new hickory shaft attached to my Warrior “Nemesis” head, I threw around with the guys at the Emerald Lax camp at Montlake. With the stock net job and no pocket to speak of, the head threw with real zip. I haven’t tested how far I can throw with this, but even with the shorter shaft I prefer, I have no doubts that I could accurately hit a guy past midfield from the crease. There is no way I could ever have hoped to make an outlet pass like that with either of my old sticks.

So how did a guy who hasn’t been around lacrosse for years choose the Nemesis over other heads on the market? Easy, just the way most people probably do. I read a lot of reviews online. I liked what folks said about the stiffness of the head in terms of scooping of the remains of stopped shots. What was said about the sloping sidewalls funneling shots into the pocket was also an influence. I ordered it online from ———–. Anything over $100 shipped for free, so getting them to string it and put in the shooting strings moved the head into that range. All told, the net difference plus the stringing, minus the shipping, was $11 — I can live with that.

As I said in my last installment, the Nemesis is lighter by half than any goalie stick I’d ever played with. Once mounted on a shaft, it proved to be marvelously well balanced, so that cradling (even without a developed pocket) and throwing felt as though I was using an attack stick. (I’ll retract that when I get myself one of the new attack sticks.) I look forward to trying some of the other heads, but it would be hard to beat the Nemesis.

About that hickory wood shaft: I decided that the new style head was a large enough step to take. I wanted some comforting link to the past. So I got a hickory board from my local Rockler and made myself a shaft. Hickory for a lacrosse stick is best from a small, close-grained tree, but the stick I cut down from the board is good enough for now. I didn’t have a spoke-shave as they would have used traditionally, or a 45-degree router bit, which would have worked very well, so I just used a belt sander to cut the elongated-octagon shape. As a result, a job that might have taken me an hour or two took a lot more. Shaping the top of the shaft to fit the Nemesis’ socket was a royal pain in the ass.

To add a tactile clue to where the stick ends, I notched the shaft and pegged on another chunk of hickory with walnut dowelling (shown in the 2nd photo). When you’re flailing away at a pig pile at the top of the crease, you can lose track of the butt end of your stick. Also, the added meat at the butt allowed for a nice rounded shape, making the stick much less likely to snag in a jersey or in the net (shown in the last photo). I used a light coating of Tung oil to seal the wood. The finished stick is 41” in length and weighs 1.5 pounds.

The shaft excited a good deal of interest from the guys at the camp, so I may try some more. The general worry was that they’d break, but I only saw one hickory stick that broke at the shaft in all the time I was playing. Now breaking at the head was pretty common, and guys got good at making repairs using fiberglass.

Why might you prefer a wooden shaft? Well, for the slight hit in weight over the other materials, you get a shaft that should absorb a pounding. Logically — and yet to be tested — the same stiffness and light weight of modern shafts that transfer your arm energy easily to the head of the stick should also easily transfer the energy of a slap check right to your hands. It should be a tradeoff of a certain amount of head speed for a certain amount of added stability. You could infer that a power-type attackman that’s planning to muscle his way to the crease might well do better, then, with a wood shaft, whereas a finesse attackman is better off with his aluminum or composite shaft. Also, I’ve noticed that the occasional shooter lets his top hand slide down the shaft as he comes to the top of his shot’s’ arc, increasing leverage and head speed; a wood shaft would feel very good for this maneuver. For the D, the weight differential would be greater and the head speed of the long stick slowed, but the added mass could add some nasty punch to checks.

And, no, I’m still not on Warrior’s payroll.

Frozen in a freak accident called life, Mark Bocek was only recently thawed. Upon his resuscitation, he discovered that the game of lacrosse had changed in a multitude of ways. Back when men were men and sticks were wood, Bocek was a four-year starter in goal for Bishop Dagwell Hall, now Oregon Episcopal School, in Portland Oregon. Mark came around enough to help coach the 7-8s for North Seattle Lacrosse and to initiate a column called “The Gut Wall” for Emerald Lax. In the big picture, Bocek is a partner at Dreamhand Design Studios, a firm specializing in Web and print design and implementation. While frozen, he served for many years on the faculty of the Art Institute of Seattle, earned a bachelor’s degree from Reed College and an M.A. from the University of California at Berkeley.

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