What's Inside a Pool Ball? A Brief History of Billiard Ball Materials
The first instances of billiards took place outdoors in games with wooden balls. In the 14th and 15th centuries, billiards resembled a version of tabletop croquet. As the game moved indoors and was refined over time, it became a symbol of nobility and aristocracy.
Intricately carved billiard tables embossed with gold were accompanied by ornate pool cue balls. Wooden billiard balls were replaced with ones made from more exotic materials, including ivory, which would become the most popular pool ball material for a long time.
Wooden balls would continue to be used alongside ivory well into the 20th century. Due to advances in science and technology — and a decreased desire to use ivory — alternative billiard ball materials were sought.
Bakelite became the industry standard for pool ball materials for a few years before two separate concoctions took over the marketplace.
Polyester Resin and Phenolic Resin Pool Balls: The Modern Materials
When we talk about modern billiard ball materials, we're really only talking about two types of resin. Polyester and phenolic resin are thermoplastics that undergo a highly technical process to create billiard balls that are balanced, polished and durable. It turns out what's inside of a pool ball is what's on the outside of it as well: it's all resin all the way down.
Only one company however uses 100% phenolic resin — Saluc, manufacturer of Aramith, the most popular pool ball sets in the world. Other pool ball manufacturers use polyester resin.
Phenolic Resin Pool Balls
Used to produce Aramith, the most popular brand of pool balls in the world, phenolic resin has been in use for nearly a century. Phenolic resin is a thermosetting plastic derivative of Bakelite, the previous industry standard. Once the plastic is cooled and cured, it cannot be melted again.
Polyester Resin Billiard Balls
While producing a pool ball of similar feel and density, polyester resin billiard balls do not maintain their sheen nearly as long as phenolic resin pool balls. They generally last about eight years before starting to yellow.
How Are Pool Balls Made? The Pool Ball Manufacturing Process
How pool balls are made is similar no matter which resin you use. The thermoset plastic is melted and poured into a spherical mold roughly the size of a billiard ball. The molds are then set under extremely high pressure, which causes the resin to become very dense as it hardens.
The resin cools and solidifies before the latex mold is removed. Excess resin is removed and the spherical shape that remains is placed upon a lathe to be smoothed and polished. At this point, the numbers and any designs are etched onto the billiard ball, and resin is added to fill in the numbers, then polished to create a smooth surface again.
Each billiard ball is meticulously measured and weighted to meet regulatory standards. The World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) mandates the diameter and weight of all pool balls for regulation play. Most pool ball sets you find will stick to these regulations as an industry standard for billiard ball specifications.
Find Billiard Balls and More at FCI Billiards
Now that you know how pool balls are made, you can find a selection of high-quality and premium billiard balls online at FCI Billiards. FCI carries all the pool balls, materials and accessories you need to play the game you love. Whether you are a beginner just getting started or a seasoned hustler, you'll find billiard balls, professional cues and pool chalk from the industry's leading brands and manufacturers. Shop online at FCI Billiards today.
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