What Are Bowling Balls Made Of?

Larry Schroeder
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The History Of Bowling Ball Material

Did you know that in ancient Egypt a rock was used to knock down objects? Well, this clearly shows that bowling or the fascination with this form of sport has existed from the earliest of times.

Today bowling balls are made using polyester, polyurethane and reactive resin coverstocks. However, in the earlier days the bowling ball coverstocks were made from different materials altogether. History states that some of the earlier bowling ball's coverstocks were made of hardwood also known as lignum vitae. Another interesting fact is that earlier bowling balls had no coverstocks. It was only later in 1905 that the very first rubber ball was made. Rubber remained manufacturers desired choice for bowling ball coverstocks for a long while until it was eventually phased out. When assessing some of the newer bowling balls it becomes clear that manufacturers tend to use urethane, polyester, and reactive resin to manufacture balls. In all honesty polyester plastic coverstocks are cheaper to use, however, not all of the balls produced today are suitable for all lane conditions.

In terms of plastic coverstocks, the smooth surface means far less friction and therefore less hook potential. The urethane coverstock is preferred and more desirable as it offers friction between the lane and the ball. The reactive resin coverstock is one that offers hook and friction. In terms of durablity, the reactive resin coverstock is far less durable than the other coverstock alternatives.

When considering buying a bowling ball also consider buying a bowling ball shoe cover as well.

Nowadays, wood cores are used to provide strength and a little more control. Wooden bowling ball cores are made of a composite of resin, powdered mineral pigment, and paper pulp to create a good balance between strength and weight. The resin coverings are super-fine and smooth and have a harder surface than the previous ball cores.

Modern Day Bowling Ball Material

Remember those old plastic bowling balls from your childhood? Those were made of the same durable material they make computer mouse balls out of! in fact, you will find that the during your childhood you will mostly interact with plastic bowling balls.

The olden days of plastic balls eventually came to an end as the science behind ball creation advanced. To understand what bowling balls are made of today, you first have to understand a few terms in order to know what the professional players are talking about.

Like with most sports, professional bowlers speak of Coefficient of Restitution (COR): This is a measure of a bowling ball’s effect upon striking a bowling pin. The higher the COR rating, the greater the energy of the ball.

Different manufacturers have different COR ratings in mind for different styles of bowling. Thus, they manufacture the balls with different levels of stiffness and hardness.

The COR rating is expressed in the same unit of measurement as the spin rate. Thus, a ball with a high COR actually has a high spin rate, and the two factors go hand-in-hand in determining how well a bowler performs.

Although some of the older plastic balls had a high COR, the modern polyester and urethane cover balls allow for higher bouncing off the pins.

Bowling Balls For Different Types Of Bowling

The ball in a game of bowling (known as jack, quoit, rounders, skittles, bagatelle, pinskee, or kegelwurfball) is commonly called a "bowling ball".

Typically, majority of the traditional balls are made of a hard dense material such as hardwood, stone, plastic, ceramic or metal.

Typically, a bowling ball has five holes in it: an entrance hole, in which a finger can be inserted to guide the ball as it moves down the lane, and four holes around the center of the ball. These holes are used by the pinsetter to remove the ball from the playing field after a frame has been completed.

Bowling balls differ in weight and brand name. You also get balls meant for ten pin bowling, five pin bowling or even duckpin bowling.

Ten Pin Bowling

The ten pin bowling balls are made with a type of reactive resin coverstock. Most of these balls are made from polyester and small amounts of additives. The coverstock materials determine how the ball will react on the lane.

Most of the balls are hand-polished to a perfect spherical finish.

Five Pin Bowling

The balls used in the five-pin bowling game are made with a special urethane coverstock, which is designed to reduce skid on the lane, and a solid polyester core. The coverstock is a type of either rubber or plastic. The plastic coverstock forms a textured ball when the ball is compressed and then left to sit for a while. This texturing gives the ball the super slick surface that the game requires.

The five-pin bowling ball needs to be very smooth as the lane on which the five-pin bowling game is played is very slippery. The ball’s coverstock is designed to make the ball slide as little as possible as it travels along the lane.

With a solid polyester core, five-pin bowling balls manage to obtain balance. The core is very important because when bowlers make a ball toss, it sends a kind of shock to the ball.

That shock is what throws the ball down the lane. With a solid core, five-pin bowling balls manage to keep their balance after the shock, which gives the ball a better chance of staying on the lane and traveling the ideal distance.

The core needs to be solid when it comes to five-pin bowling balls, because it is the core that is subjected to the most shock. The lubed core, plus the material of the cover stock, makes the ball very smooth.

Duckpin Bowling

The average duckpin bowling ball is slightly larger than the average pocket-sized bowling ball. However, you need to use a smaller bowling ball for duckpin bowling because of the tight similarity between the lane and the pinsetters. You must be precise when hitting the pins in duckpin bowling. The pinsetters are set at a shorter distance and angle than the traditional pinsetters, so you must punch the ball through the pinsetters.

A duckpin ball is a bit smaller than a ten-pin ball. The duckpin ball is no more than 5 pounds in weight. That is important because it allows the pin boy to pick up the ball with ease when it’s his turn to repair the pinsetters or open the ball for a spare.

The pin boy lowers the ball into the pit through a hole in the lane to prepare the pin for its next strike. At times, the hole is filled in for an easier delivery.

The difference with the duckpin ball is that it weighs a bit more. It is heavy enough for it to roll through the pinsetter as needed to make it to the pins.

Bowling pins are made of wood, but are polished and coated with a sealant. They can be easily spotted in a dark lane because of the reflections they make.

Candlepin Bowling

Candlepin Bowling balls are made out of hand-turned wooden balls that look fairly similar to the pins they will knock down.

The only difference is that the pins have no finger holes. They also weigh the same as official bowling balls, so that the gear used for 10-pin bowling can also be used for candlepin bowling.

The candlepin ball itself is made out of wood. This is because candlepin balls actually have 8 holes, not just 4 as in tenpin bowling.

The ball’s weight is distributed, so that it will roll smoothly along the lane and be able to knock down the pins in a single throw. Candlepin bowling, as the name suggests, is derived from the sport of candlepin bowling.

The candlepin bowling game is similar to ten pin bowling. However, there are a few key differences between the two.

For one, candlepin bowling is much more time-consuming because the players have to do a lot more footwork to be able to reach the heavy pins.

Candlepin bowling is played on a much smaller lane as well. The balls used in candlepin bowling are also considered to be thinner than those used in tenpin bowling.

What’s Inside Of The Bowling Ball?

We know that the outside shell of the bowling ball is made of durable urethane coverstock, typically manufactured by manufacturers such as Ebonite or Brunswick. Urethane helps give an incredible amount of control and accuracy.

This type of material that is used to create bowling balls is quite dense. It allows you to keep your ball in motion for much longer than a less dense material.

But what would happen if you attempted to bring your bowling ball into the kitchen and ask grandma to bake it? I think that would be a fun and interesting experiment. However, it is never advisable to actually try this experiment at home.

You must remember that a bowling ball consists of an inner core, outer filler core and a shell. We often look at the outside shell but rarely ever consider the inner shell. The inner layer is heavier than the outer core. It can be spherical like the outer core but it is also rather assymetrical to ensure that players can hit the pins better.

What Does A Bowling Ball Cover Stock Do?

If you want consistent ball reactions, you have to find a coverstock that complements the lane conditions and the ball’s core shape.

Pebble or plastic ball covers are more towards the end of the reaction spectrum, rarely hooking more than a tenth of the lane. Plastic tends to move at a medium speed and is useful in dry lane conditions. Howver, of late people have moved away from the previously common plastic cover stock.

Urethane covers are at the other end of the spectrum. They move a lot on the lane and can be responsible for hooking the lane as much as three-quarters of the lane. They are most commonly used in oily lane conditions.

The bigger the holes that the ball coverstock has, the more the surface area is exposed to the lane oil. Hence, they create more friction which results in a hook. Consequently, you get higher scores when you use such a coverstock.

In 2000, the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) started rolling back the coverstock standards for a variety of reasons, including rules violations, and due to bowlers were ticked off.

Do Bowling Balls Float?

Many people assume that bowling balls are made of lead. Yes they were, but those were the days when wood and heavy metal were primary materials for bowling balls, but technology’s been developing for several decades and now bowling balls arestill even made out of plastic.

Lead was a primary material till the early 1970s when it was replaced by polyester resin. The resin material is strong enough to balance the ball and durable enough to last from a single roll to a single game.

However, one downside to using bowling ball resin is that it is feels quite hard. The bowling ball is designed with tiny microscopes that allow it to absorb just the right amount of energy and return to its original position after hitting the pins.

The resin is actually designed to work with the coverstock finish but their combination also makes the ball more durable compared to the lead materials.

But the materials used in making current-day bowling balls are not only a barrel of fun but also a nightmare when it comes to answering questions like, “Do bowling balls float?”

Since resin bowling balls are made out of plastic, they do indeed float on the water. Resin bowling balls will only submerge in water when they have a lot of oil on them.

Do Bowling Balls Go Bad?

Bowling balls are designed, and constructed, for a variety of purposes, including being constructed according to each bowler’s own unique style of play and personal fit.

As a result bowling balls of diverse designs, construction, and materials can be found on the market today.

The modern-day ball usually consists of a hard core being made of a material such as polyester, surroundeded by a layer of harder urethane plastic resin.

A cushioning layer of polyester fibers is used to surround the polyurethane core.

A thin layer of plastic resin is then molded around the polyester fibers and the core to protect the ball from outside conditions.

Closing Thoughts

Bearing this in mind, getting to know as much as possible about bowling balls and what they are made of is highly important.

It is vital to note that bowling balls are made with different materials and can be given very personal touches for the player’s sense of comfort and unique look.

The use of advanced technologies means that balls are made using top grade materials and this is what makes them more durable, energy-efficient and highly functional. What is more is that the set standards of performance have also increased.

Due to the economic influence behind the bowling industry, safety is part and parcel of the design that is considered very carefully. The technology used for the design and development of the balls, however, is controlled by the manufacturing standards provided by the official association.

Every manufacturer begins with a core. The core acts as the seed from which the ball slowly begins to take shape. Critical components are then added to the core to create a body that will be able to carry the weight of the core as well as other components.

The outer shell is also placed on carefully to ensure that it will cover all the areas that it should. After this, the ball is given the right markings, markers and serial numbers. Thereafter the ball is ready for the professional game.