What Are Pool Balls Made Of? A Look Into Pool Production.

Christian Mba
Oct 06, 2023 By Christian Mba
Originally Published on Oct 12, 2021
Billiard or Pool balls with cue and rack on green table.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.1 Min

Billiards, snooker, and pool are popular parlor games for a long time now but have you ever wondered what pool balls are made of?

Many pool players and enthusiasts always wonder what are pool balls made of. Earlier high quality ivory balls were used in the tournaments but they have now been replaced by balls made of different material like phenolic resin balls and acrylic balls.

In a similar way, a billiard ball has also evolved over the last few decades. Well, the best quality pool balls are made from phenolic resin, like billiard balls.

Phenolic resin balls are prepared from synthetic materials and are a good substitute for ivory balls. Like billiard balls, phenolic resin balls are used in various tournaments because they roll true and compensate for ball roll caused by uneven shape or diameter. Did you know that the first billiard balls were made from ivory as well?

The reason being that heat-treated phenolic resin balls from quality manufacturers generate minimum friction on the pool table at the time of playing. This allows the players to make true shots while playing without worrying about the friction of the solid ball with the cloth on the table.

The cheaper acrylic or polyester pool balls are made from plastics and are more commonly used by home players.

The cheaper cost is the reason behind their popularity but their shape can be damaged easily.

In this article, we will have a look into the manufacturing process of pool balls followed by quality manufacturers as well as the history of billiards, snooker, and pool balls. After reading all about what are pool balls made of, do check our other articles on what are plates made of and what are packing peanuts made of.

How to tell if my pool balls are made of ivory?

Probably the easiest would be to see if it is the same color all over. The tusks of an elephant are similar in one way to our teeth; they have a layer of enamel on the surface, which is a smoother, harder substance than the inner dentin.

This is one way to help answer the question, what are pool balls made of?

This outer layer is nowhere near as thick as a cue ball and leaving it on would give a round dot somewhere on the ball, so the pool balls were made entirely of the ivory that lays under the enamel and above the nerve that runs the length of the tusk.

That makes it easy to identify because ivory grows around the nerve in a distinct pattern that can be seen in good lighting with the naked eye (or a jeweler’s loupe or magnifying glass if you’re not familiar with ivory).

What were original pool balls made of?

Did you know that the billiard balls were made from wood and clay till the 1600s. As we have discussed earlier the celluloid is highly combustible, and billiards and snooker balls were made out of the same materials.

This caused the pool balls to explode while the player takes the perfect shot, making the pool balls lethal to be played with. Initially, these balls were even made of stone but got discarded for clay balls because the stone was simply too heavy.

How to tell what pool balls are made of?

You can get the pool balls tested one or both these methods mentioned below.

The Blacklight Test Method: This method is used to test ivory balls by keeping them underneath a long wave of black light and observing the colors. If the material is plastic it will turn to fluoresce blue or whitish blue under the lights.

This can help you sort out the fake ivory ball of old resin material. An ivory ball will show a bit of yellow color, but if pool balls are made with a mixture of bone or ivory dust then it will show yellow.

So will a celluloid pool ball. You must send it for the further examination then.

Identifying the Schreger Lines: As discussed earlier ivory has an ingredient called dentin as it is taken from an animal. This gives rise to unique marks and patterns on the ball which can not be duplicated.

These marks look like tiny cross-hatched lines which are visible only under a magnifying glass. While observing them, check the angle, if the angle is more than 115 degrees then it is elephant ivory and it is 90 degrees it is much older than that which means it is mammoth ivory.

Remember to check for the following things too.

Uneven coloration, dark Gray or black veining, not a pure white color but more of a yellowish or brownish color. If the numbers are engraved on the ball then it may be pure ivory. Similarly, you can conduct tests for bakelite pools like, the Rub and Sniff Test, the Simichrome Polish Test, T'e Hot Wate' Test, the 409 Test.

However, there are no concrete tests for checking the authenticity of Aramith Pool Balls as 'knock-offs' can be made very cleverly for them.

When were pool balls made of clay?

Technically, the best snooker ball of the old days was made out of ivory.

Ordinary people would just use a ball made of clay or wood. But in reality, the best balls of snooker are made of ivory as it allowed for better transfer of energy from the strike ball to the object ball. The best billiard balls are made by Saluc in Belgium from phenolic resin.

Snooker balls on the snooker table.

What are the best pool balls made of?

Good old fashion Bakelite like the plastic handles on really old kettles. It was used for almost everything in the past as it was tough and heat resistant.

From the handles on irons to chess pieces. If it is treated really well to avoid inclusions it makes for long-lasting pool balls. If you do a carbon chemistry course, you can make Bakelite very simply in a practical experiment.

A great step to protect our animals like whales or elephants; only millions of baby acrylics die to give us billidon'talls. The company that makes most of them tells the world market that it is the most difficult thing in the world but don't let them fool you, the material is plastic.

People today have extremely short attention spans. Nine-ball and eight-ball employ safety play in their strategies. There was no ball in hand rule initially.

If your opponent scratched, you received a cue ball in hand behind the head string line. Scratches were defined as cue balls being pocketed or leaving the table. If you missed object ball, the opponent got up and did his best to make a shot or legal contact. This was called best effort.

The quickness of nine ball vs eight ball is significant. That fits today’s audience. League play prefers the 'slower game' eight ball as per expert opinion.

Having rambled on- here is the bottom line money. When billiards started to be shown on Television, Sponsors determined that it took too long to watch the tube.

How are pool balls made today?

In today’s time, billard, pool, and snooker balls are manufactured with phenolic resin. Phenolic resin is known for its thermosetting, which means it sets or solidifies when heated and can't be melted once it is set. Once hardened, pool balls are properly polished.

Billiard balls have not been made of ivory since the turn of the 21st century. But throughout the 20th-century ivory pool balls were only available to the very rich.

There have been several 'plastic' materials replacing ivory since the mid-19th century. The first replacement material was celluloid, an early plastic that was actually combustible.

It was patented in 1869 by the manufacturing company. A few years before that we had Parkesine, which is the first human-made plastic or polyester material.

We know that celluloid was used in movies too, where its combustibility was also an issue. Like many other early plastics, it originated as part of an attempt to solve the ivory problem which was made from elephant tusks through an intricate process.

Generally speaking, if you are looking at a set of pool balls - usually they are made from exactly the same materials throughout. Therefore the density and composition of the cue ball would also be the same.

That being said, if you use novelty balls, training pool balls, or mix and match your ball sets (e.g. you bought a cheap ball set but decided to purchase the dotted Aramith cue ball for the set) then both the density and the composition and the materials used will vary.

Also, some players buy the aforementioned Aramith cue ball to use in local pool halls, when they practice.

For some unknown manufacturers that are trying to cut the costs, it wouldn’t be surprising if they use different materials for the cue ball or if the quality of the material is so poor that all of the balls are slightly different in density or composition.

The best quality phenolic resin is used to create Aramith Premium billiards balls. They are the best as they are manufactured to be scratch and impact-resistant. Phenolic resin can last longer than balls made of polyester or polymers, almost five times longer.

All of these make doing whatever it is you're trying to do more difficult. Additionally (depending on the variety of pool you're playing) you're not benefiting in any way from the other player potting balls in snooker but you are in the pool.

In the pool this means that the pool table cloth becomes clearer leaving you without choice of shot, making the game somewhat self-balancing. In snooker, when the other person pots a ball it just means you're further behind.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for what are pool balls made of then why not take a look at what are toilets made of, or what are sponges made of?

Image credit: https://i.imgur.com/r8oPAId.jpg

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Written by Christian Mba

Bachelor of Science specializing in Computer Science

Christian Mba picture

Christian MbaBachelor of Science specializing in Computer Science

Christian Mba is an experienced blogger and content writer with over a decade of experience. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Nigeria and has a keen interest in Python programming. Along with his writing and blogging expertise, he is also an SEO specialist with more than six years of experience. Chris, as he is commonly known, has a passion for music and enjoys playing the piano.

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