Cricket Manufacturers / Brands > Rob Pack Blue Room

BlueRoom/Robert Pack Cricket Visit - an in depth review

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Chad:
Hi all, as some of you may recall from an earlier topic, I had finally made my trip down south to visit a batmaker - two of them in fact! Robert Pack was one of the stops, and I was accompanied by none other than our own Mr Softpocket @wilkie113 . This will be a more in depth review of the trip, the products offered and the experience. Most of the things I'll mention here, you will be able to dig out on social media - https://www.instagram.com/robpackcricket/ - or on Rob's website - https://www.robertpackcricket.co.uk/.

And yes, this will be a review where I’ll type more first then post pics, as I very rarely visit in person to pick out my bats, never mind visit a batmaker! So pop on the kettle, ready the teabags, milk and sugar, as you're in for an essay!


Bit of Backstory

A little bit of backstory before I go in depth about the trip - I had only ever experienced 2 Rob Pack bats being in my possession prior to deciding he would probably be one of the last batmakers I would visit before packing in the collection - One was a Puma Tribute 5000 back when I was in my late teens, which I returned as £220 was far too much for me to spend on a bat that I was scared to use, and another was a 2nd hand special, which was 2.13, but one of the best bats I'd ever used on the drive. Of course, due to CBF syndrome, I sold it on as I felt it was too heavy.

Fast forward a few years, with @19reading87 telling me about how his RPC was the best bat he ever used, blah blah blah, and also @JTtaylor145 speaking highly of Rob Pack, and @ProWannabe88 mysteriously re-appearing showing some of Rob's work and disappearing again for months at a time, I felt compelled to dig a little more - I held Rob in high esteem - and he was one of the last batmakers (I think THE last?) that I wanted to buy a bat from. (Reviews from CricketBatInfo on Youtube also swayed me to make this purchase/visit sooner than I anticipated) Well, with lockdown happening, and plenty of time to surf Instagram, I started to follow Rob's work, and got a glimpse into what he was like as a person. (Yes, I know, social media will always be used to only show the good side of folk, blah blah, but came across as a genuine chap - a real family man who just loved cricket and loved what he was doing.) I ended up buying 2 LE bats, although not from Rob directly, but from a retailer out in America, who happened to be sending me 2 NBs as well, so I figured, eh, why not. Safe to say I was pretty impressed with what I received, so decided I'd be booking a trip down, spoke to Wilkie about it, and he declared that he would be my partner in crime with the visit. So, messaged Rob about this, and also told him to keep aside one of the bats he showed on Instagram. Wilkie also sent down a bat to be rehandled prior, although he had forgotten until the Thursday before we were visiting, so rushed to get it to Rob for the start of the week, to give him a chance to rehandle it.

Oh, also, I know the production quality isn't quite up to date, and the music is a bit loud, but this has to be one of my favourite bat making videos to watch, alongside the Julian Millichamp ones. (Fantail ones are stunning, but don't quite capture the same feeling of nostalgia for me - as if I've got a secret little gem that I'm happy to enjoy alone, and find little nuances with everytime I revisit it)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=te1f__ov8mo&t=640s&ab_channel=RobertPackCricket


The Visit and Process

Fast forward a few weeks, we set off from Chester at around 8:15am, hoping to reach Rob around 11, and reached there 10 minutes early. We were greeted by Rob and his father (introduced himself as the apprentice), who welcomed us in and guided us to the showroom. Rob’s wife Helen also made an appearance midway through our visit to help out as it was super busy in the workshop, and we had a good chat about cricket, the Euros, Scotland and her involvement in the ECB.

There, most of the bats were unlabelled, and arranged inside large cardboard boxes, which had half sawn bat boxes to arrange them. The grade of each one was written on the handle and stamped on the shoulder. (LE - Limited Edition, H - Heritage/Players, E - Elite, P - Pro, C - County) These bats were all shaped up already, with binding, grip and toe guard, and were oiled on the face and edges. The backs were not oiled, in case the customer wanted some adjustments to the weight of whatever they picked out. But the bats are pretty much 90% done for any customers to walk in and choose their wand.







Immediately, I knew that I was going to pretty much just target the LE, Heritage/Players grade and Elite grades, afterall, I didn't make the journey down to look for a bargain, I wanted to pick out something that suited me and was a fine example of what decades of experience in batmaking and grading had to offer performance wise. I pretty much ended up with about 20-30 bats out after looking through them all, and picking them up and tapping them up. Wilkie then had the headache of going through these and telling me off for wanting to buy too many, and giving me a pep talk about being brutal - the moment I'm unsure on one, I have to cast it back into the box. As we were going through the bats, Rob would pop in regularly to see how we were doing, and spend time talking to us about what RPC/Blueroom was all about, how he started, his process etc. It was refreshing to have a batmaker be transparent with what he does with us, and also despite being really busy, to be so generous with his time. He explained some of the things about willow and bat making, talked about when he first started making bats and also about how the English players he dealt with were always the fussiest, while Aussie and NZ folks were much less so.

Wilkie's choice of blade was a far less drawn out and relatively painless process - I picked out a Butterfly handled cleft, and said to him 'I reckon this would be what you'll fancy, and is pretty light in the current state.'. It was unfortunately a Long Blade, but Wilkie was so set on this because he was in love with the character and a sucker for Butterfly, and could feel it would be a pinger from tapping it up. Rob obliged, gave it a tap up with a mallet and ball for grading, and shaped it up and finished it in front of us. If you ever get a chance to see a true master craftsman at work with his drawknife, spokeshave and planes, definitely take the opportunity. Seeing how Rob shaped up the bat, checking all the time to make sure that the shaping and balance was right was a real treat. (He didn’t have too much to take out of the bat to be fair!) Safe to say Wilkie will cherish the experience, and couldn't stop looking at his bat as if it was his firstborn. :D


So back to my choices, I had the a Players Grade in the Wipeout profile Rob put aside with the blue Wave and white background stickers, and 2 others that I picked out, one of which was the Storm Profile, and the other which I'm not too sure of what profile it is, but I wanted stickered up in the RPC livery. (From inspection, it looks like a blend between a Storm/Wipeout, it may even be their standard Heritage profile.) ‘Finally picked out what you’re going for?’ - Rob asked after he had finished with Wilkie’s bat, and from there, he took the bat, and gave then a good whack with the mallet while laying it down in a ‘cradle/bed’ that was built into one of the workbenches. He then checked out the indentations, tapped a ball up with it, and ran the bat through his final press. During this, he explained how the oil actually hardens up the surface of the bat initially, but if you leave it for a while, it softens up the surface a bit, so he tends to have to run through this final press just to have the bats performing better and ready to go out the packet.


Now, I know that everyone is normally like an excited kid when visiting retail stores, and a lot of bats seem to be better than they really are - I must stress that the bats I picked out were definitely of a high calibre - I had brought 2 extremely responsive bats to gauge against when picking. Yet the difference the final press made was still noticeable - the springiness and responsiveness improved by a noticeable amount - I even spotted Rob scrunch his face a little, kind of like the expression folk will make as they tap up an incredible bat, or the expression many made when Livingston murdered that six. “That’ll do - that’s what Baz would say.” He commented. He then moved onto the next one, which was the Storm profiled bat, and there was much the same result with the final press. (I actually remember watching the video for the first time where he re-presses the bat, initially thinking that it would be hard pressed, so might not perform as good. I’m grateful that I got out of believing that myth quite early on!) He finished off the prep of the bat by popping the handle in a vice and flexing it, just to loosen the glueing on the handle slightly to give the bat a bit more whip, and also to test that the handle and fit were good.

So, a coat of Rob’s special brew of oil on the back of the bat, and it was hung to dry for a bit before labelling up and scuff sheeting. His special linseed brew is actually a rather peculiar point in the previously mentioned video that I always recalled, and I finally had a chance to have that burning question answered - What is so special about this brew?! Rob said it was his own blend, which allowed for a more rapid uptake and drying when oiled, as well as it allowing him to achieve the finish that he desired. (And no, I didn’t ask for the recipe, but I might ask to buy a few bottles if he sells the stuff!)


I finally chose the RPC Labels and also the Gradient Blue with White Wave stickers for my 2 finished up bats, picked up the bats and was over the moon with the feel of them. I also checked out the softs offering, and picked out a pair of the Avalanche pads, which are the top of the range Blueroom Range, as well as the shark tooth design gloves. The Avalanche pads are actually an ambidextrous offering - which is rather odd on a premium pad. Rob mentioned out a lot of old timers love them, but can’t take the fact that they’re ambi, so he swaps out one of the pads with another pair, but then gets left with a left handed pair. Being a Small Mens size and right handed - I opted against asking him do this for me. If I ever get hit on the backleg where the wing would be - I’d regret it, BUT something would have had to go horrendously wrong while batting.


After coin was exchanged, Rob thanked us both, and we exchanged handshakes. He seemed genuinely grateful - probably partly for our custom, but I got the sense that he was happy that we took such interest in his family business and his craft, we asked lots of questions to get to know more about him and his brand, and we spent 5 hours at the workshop as we are such badgers. What a privilege to meet such a gentleman in this trade that I love - a genuine cricket lover and family centric man.



What I left with

So, I ended up with 3 bats, a pair of pads and gloves, and also a day packed full of memories, which I’m still recalling with much delight even today. The bats were of such a high quality - some of the finest pieces of craftsmanship at an affordable price point, and they respond so darn well. I was a big fan of the way Rob balances his bats, and also how the bats come pretty much ready to go, with very rounded edges. The shaping and flow to the profiles coupled with the oiled finish to the willow really do bring out the beauty of the timber - with the oil really bringing out the beauty of the blemishes. (Once Wilkie posts up his butterfly, you’ll see what I mean) The comfortable oval handle (The measurements I did take, around 39-40mm x 34.5-35.5mm) make the bats a real pleasure to hold and pick up.

I’ll maybe update later on with some more in depth specs, but honestly, bats of this calibre don’t need their edges or spines and toes measured. You can just admire the craftsmanship and designs without the distraction of numbers. Here are some pictures of the bats - as always - on top of the piano. Enjoy!













RPC - 2lb 10.2oz

















BlueRoom - Wipeout - 2lb 10.0oz

















BlueRoom - Storm - 2lb 10.7oz










A little lopsided! Figure it’s because of the rounding that Rob does on his edges, and the side that seems more lopped is the heartwood side, which may not have rounded as much!





With a little roll of tape underneath that side…









Brand - What is RPC and BlueRoom?

Chatting to Rob after the visit - he asked me if I had any questions and would also appreciate any feedback I could offer, seeing as I’ve visited other places before.

So I asked him why the 2 different brands, and spoke about what I perceived after getting a closer look at the ranges, and also the sticker designs. The impression I got was that the RPC range was very much more of a traditional styling in terms of pads, gloves and stickers. You had more neutral colours on the pads, and a classical looking sticker set for the RPC range. While with the Blueroom Range, I got the sense that it was a more modern take on bat shapes/stickers and also on pads and glove designs, with more bright colour ways involved, and shark tooth design gloves with a lighter pad with a less traditional looking tophat design.

Apparently, I was spot on with this observation/impression, so that speaks as to how they’ve designed the ranges - IMO some of the best stickers out there.

I think the ‘Wave’ on the RPC brand is actually a willow shaving, while the name ‘BlueRoom’ is based on a surfing term - it’s a term for the space under a wave - when you’re in there, you’re said to be in the blue room. In the stickers, the ball is positioned inside the ‘Blue Room’. Well thought out designs, very much an embodiment of Rob and what he loves, and executed incredibly well IMO. There is something to satisfy the majority of cricketers with the distinction between the traditionalist and the modernist, as well as the numerous colourways on offer. There are some nice touches to the stickers, especially the texturing on the Wipeout - the ‘wave’ texturing on the white background is immaculate and really accentuates the striking blue wave, while the more understated ‘scratching’ on the white wave against the gradient blue background of the Storm give a more calming, elegant look. The other colour ways are just as good with their subtle differences, and the RPC stickers are just pure class - with the wood shaving, the wickets on the back, the Cowslip flower of Northamptonshire (I believe) fusing with the design seamlessly and topped off with the batmaker’s signature. Who would have known that there could be so much personality embedded in a sticker set!



RPC









BlueRoom - Wipeout









BlueRoom - Storm - I’ll try get better pictures to show the brushed finish, but the 2nd & 3rd images illustrate this













Grades and Pricing


LE - Limited Edition - £350
H - Heritage/Players - £315
E - Elite - £285
P - Pro - £250
C - County - £215

Price wise, I felt that there was a pretty transparent pricing and grading system, with a good increase in price between each grade. Rob's grading system is different from most others, and is more akin to what Julian Millichamp did. (Some folks have issues with this, some don’t - personally, I trust Rob’s judgement) The only grade in which he cared about looks on was the LE grade, those had to look good and have top performance. The rest he would judge based on performance and sweetspot size, and grade accordingly. For me, this is a rather fair grading system, and in today's market - not only are you getting incredibly competitive price points - you're getting bats made by someone with 33 years of experience in the industry - who has also made bats for the likes of Stuart Law and Brendon McCullum, and probably many others.



Bat Profiles


Rob has 5 stock profiles for his Blueroom Range, and one for his RPC range, which a kind of a modern take on a more traditional profile with an even spread of wood. This is just taken from the website, although there are some slight inconsistencies with the graphics and the descriptions.

Storm - Low Profile
Wipeout - Mid-Low Profile with slightly smaller edges
Swell - Low - Mid - High swell - Come in weights over 2lb 14oz, so designed to be big bats with BIG hitting zones
Bombora - Mid-High swell
Avalanche - High swell
Heritage - More traditional well balanced profile



Soft Goods


I’ll just post the pictures of mine, and maybe elaborate a bit more on these another day. All I can say is I really like them - the build quality of both gloves and pads are excellent, and the only thing I’d change would be to have the pads in a set dexterity rather than ambidextrous. :)


















Quotes of the Day - paraphrased


Rob to Chad: “Blimey, 3 bats - more money than sense, as we say. So, you're the real deal - I had no idea you liked bats this much. You get so many folk that just message you and look to waste your time, so I wasn't too sure about hanging onto that bat for you!"



Wilkie: "If I'd had known I was going to get a bat this good, I wouldn't have bothered to ask for a rehandle."


Rob tapping up a bat after the final press: “That’ll do - that’s what Baz would say.”
Wilkie: “That bat is unreal, the difference that extra press has made - would this be something that you would give to a pro?”
Rob: “Who’s a pro? As far as I’m concerned - you’re a pro, and so is he.” - Will make each bat with his best care and to the best of his ability, regardless of playing status/ability.


Rob: “Ah, Stuart Law signed this for me, saying that I was to blame if he didn’t get any runs. He called me Racky - as he didn’t want to call me by the other one.”


Wilkie: “Right, so these 8 bats here are what you want me to help you choose from, right?” *turns around*
Wilkie: “Oh, what are these other 15 here for then? Ones you’re putting back?”
Chad: *grimaces* “About that…”
Wilkie: “Oh for duck’s sake Chad….”



Conclusion


I know what you're thinking - how many bats did Rob give Chad for free, or did he offer him a sponsorship to write all this drivel? He didn’t even write that much about the bats such as edge, toe, spine sizes, etc that he usually dos. Has he replaced @ProWannabe88 with Chad as his forum rep due to his knack for reappearing and disappearing again? Has he held Chad's family hostage? Or threatened to expose him as a terrible cricketer, who averages 50 with the ball and 4 with the bat?! Answer to all of these is no - I wasn’t asked by Rob to write up anything - he simply said to post a picture and give a wee shout out on social media if we can.

However I enjoyed the day so much that I just had to write up about it - we had only planned to be there until about 1:30 but left at 4! Even weeks on from the visit, I’m still sitting here, typing away at unsociable hours in the morning about the visit - it really was that enjoyable a trip. It obviously helps if you have good company, but I would strongly recommend dropping in to visit Robert Pack, especially while you can! I think Wilkie and I will probably be visiting again sometime in the near future, probably pre-season. :)

I hope that some of you at least made it down to here - many probably won’t as my writing skills are hardly captivating, I’m overly verbose, slow and repetitive. I’ll no doubt have missed something, but that’ll be more incentive for you to go down and visit. ;)  It was a trip to remember though, and although as far from perfect a write up you could expect - I hope it somewhat gives you an idea of the joy the visit brought to this badger. :) A massive thanks to the Pack family for having us, and being so accommodating - and thanks to Wilkie for the good company. (And partially rescuing my wallet!) :D

Jimbo:
Lovely read, cheers @Chad. Always so interesting to get more of an insight into batmaking and since this kind of trip is well out of budget these threads are the next best thing.

adb club cricketer:
Great post, pictures and thanks for clearing up on the diff between RPC and blueroom, I too always wondered on that. Love the bat shapes and softs look top notch as well.

Chad:

--- Quote from: Jimbo on August 03, 2021, 01:14:33 PM ---Lovely read, cheers @Chad. Always so interesting to get more of an insight into batmaking and since this kind of trip is well out of budget these threads are the next best thing.

--- End quote ---


Glad you got to the end @Jimbo ! I wish I took more pictures of the trip and of the whole process now - maybe next time I'm down I will.

If I ever have space in the car and I'm heading down to a batmaker, will drop you a line and we can hop down together hahaha. :)

AJ2014:
Congratulations with this addition to your already terrific collection!
I've read this post a couple of times and came to the conclusion that this is the correct way/experience of buying bats, with a lot of emotional values.
Thanks for sharing your feelings👍

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