What are Pool Balls made of?
Have you ever held a pool ball in hand and just kept wondering, this feels so tough, what's it made of or why is it so hard?
You are not alone because we get asked this question more than often, and in today's article, we’ll be tackling it in the simplest form possible to help you understand what makes the ball and how it gets manufactured.
Before getting into the nitty-gritty details of how the ball gets made and what makes it, let's look at the pool ball’s history and how it has evolved.
History of pool balls
Pool and other related sports have been around since the 16th century; however, the ball itself evolved during the 19th century.
The ball was made of wood or ivory before today’s advancement during the ancient days.
Experts cannot pinpoint when exactly did the game root from but looking at French historical documents on lawn gaming, we can see a similar game, a mixture of croquet and billiards played by our great forefathers during the 13th century.
During the 17th century, the game evolved drastically to an indoor type game played on a table using cue sticks.
Initially, the pool ball got made from wood because it was inexpensive and readily available.
Of course, people back then lacked the kind of technology we enjoy as of today.
At the beginning of the 17th century, most European countries began colonizing African countries. In the process, they discovered that ivory from elephants did a better job at making high-quality pool balls than its predecessor.
These balls were popular among the rich during this time.
Pool balls made from ivory were prone to yellowing with time as cracks would appear if excessive force were applied, and this became a drawback for the lovers of the sport.
In 1869, Phelan and Collender, who were pool table makers, challenged their customers to a $10,000 offer on anyone who could come up with a ball that was not made from ivory now that these animals’ population reduced drastically with the game’s growing popularity.
Poachers enjoyed the lucrative illegal business of killing elephants for their tasks that would later be exported overseas to the European countries to manufacture these pool balls and make other ornaments such as necklaces.
John Wesly Hyatt took the pool table makers, Phelan and Collenderon, to their challenge and combined nitrocellulose, alcohol, and camphor by molding a spherical ball under very high pressures.
Unfortunately, his creations did not win the $10,000 prize offered by the company but get considered among the pioneers of synthetic plastics.
He refined his inventions but failed to meet the standard ivory could offer in making these pool balls since his creations could burst once struck with excessive force.
It was until the 19th century when an American chemist named, Phelan Leo Baekeland came up with a plastic-like substance, namely Bakelite.
The substance was durable and replaced ivory and wood in making high quality and durable pool balls at the time. This is around the 1920s.
What are modern pool balls made of?
Today's pool balls are made of either polyester or phenolic resin.
Balls made from polyester are inexpensive but prone to wear faster and tear; however, the balls made from phenolic resin are much more durable, more robust, and expensive than their counterparts.
Phenolic resin is a mixture of a potent blend of phenol and formaldehyde, a product that’s scratch and chip-resistant, outshining most if not all of the competition.
Saluc is responsible for more than 85% of all the pool balls being produced worldwide as of today, and they are arguably the best in making these phenolic resin pool balls.
Their technology is simply the best option out there that lasts and does not tear easily.
How are pool balls made?
Having Stated that most resistant pool balls of today come from phenolic resin, the materials simply get melted, and once stable, the resulting product cannot get dissolved again.
If you cut right through the center of a pool ball, you’ll notice that the color runs through to the middle of the ball.
Later on, the mixtures, phenol, and formaldehyde get molded under high pressures, creating a potent substance resistant to strong forces and high temperatures.
The ball does not deform when subjected to different temperature conditions or when hit using very high forces from the cue sticks.
Once the manufacturing process is complete, the balls are then tested under unfavorable conditions to see whether they can overcome these pressures before being released to the public once each step gets checked for any impurities.
Aramith makes sure that the chemical bond between each ball material is strong enough to avoid breakage, a problem facing standard pool balls made from synthetic materials that are not as strong as phenolic resin.
The other thing to note is that phenolic resin balls look shinier and vibrant, making us enjoy the game even more.
The reason why more and more people are picking pool balls made of phenolic resin include;
- They can withstand high pressures.
- They are burn-spot resistant.
- They are scratch and chip resistant.
- Last five times longer than polyester made pool balls.
- They are vibrant looking.
Did you know that Saluc takes 23 days to make these balls? That’s mind-boggling!
Well, when you get a phenolic resin ball made by Saluc or Aramith, know that you are getting the best!
Wrapping things up, pool balls made of polyester are cheaper than pool balls made of phenolic resin but will more than often need to be replaced now and then as compared to their counterparts.
While phenolic resin balls are quite expensive, they are the best option for the long term and require little to no maintenance.
Now that we’ve taken you back in time to today's technology, I hope you now understand in detail what pool balls are made of and why they are made from this particular material. All in all, happy gaming!