How are shuttlecocks made?

Of course, a shuttlecock is a lightweight, conical projectile used in badminton and its forerunner, battledore, in the same way as a ball is used in other racquet sports, such as squash or tennis. Also known as a ‘bird’ or ‘birdie’, a shuttlecock consists of two parts, a base, or head, and a skirt. Natural cork, shaped into a hemisphere measuring between 25 and 28mm in diameter, is the material of choice for the base, although inferior versions featuring composite, or agglomerated, cork – that is, cork granules joined together with a binding agent – are also available.

Likewise, the skirt of a superior shuttlecock consists of a maximum of 16 natural goose or duck feathers. To achieve the required flight characteristics in the finished shuttlecock, the feathers are often taken just from the left wing and, much to the constenation of animal activists, plucked from live birds to avoid degradation. The feathers are inserted into corresponding holes punched in the base, overlapped to create the required aerodynamics and glued and sewn in place. At the widest end, the skirt typically measures between 58 and 68mm in diameter and, overall, the shuttlecock is between 85 and 95 mm in length and weighs in at between 4.75 and 5.5g.

Alternatively, for the sake of durability in shuttlecocks used by beginners and recreational players, the individual feathers can be replaced with a single, continuous piece of plastic material, usually nylon, to create the skirt. Aside from longevity, synthetic shuttlecocks are more bird and environment friendly, because feathers are no longer required, so neither is their washing, sterilisation and bleaching. They are permitted by the Badminton World Federation, by fly faster and offer less control than their feathered counterparts.

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