In a game like pool, you might think that all of the balls stick to the same standards. This is true to an extent.
Whether you’re a pro pool player or a beginner just learning the ropes, you might be unsure about the balls you see on the table.
Not all pools balls are the same. Some might be made of different materials and some might even be of a different size.
Are All Pool Balls the Same?
If you think that some pool balls are different from what you’re used to, you might be right.
When you play at a coin-operated table or a bar, you can play with a set that uses orphaned balls.
Pool balls crack over time, so owners cobble together what they can for a complete set.
You could use pool balls of various sizes and weights on one table. This might throw off your game.
Even if you’re not playing with a mixed set, it’s important to know the differences between types and brands. Not all pool balls are the same.
What Are Pool Balls Made Of?
Back in the 17th century, people made pool balls out of ivory. Over time, ivory became harder to acquire, and then poaching elephants for ivory became illegal.
In the late 1860s, John Wesley Hyatt invented celluloid as a substitute for ivory. He marketed it as synthetic plastic but was dangerous when used in billiard balls.
Celluloid contained nitrocellulose, also called guncotton. This made the balls explode when they hit each other.
The explosion was small and didn’t produce fire, but it still hindered gameplay.
In the 1920s, a Belgian company called Saluc created billiard balls made of phenolic resin. You’ll learn more about their Aramith pool balls in the next section.
Manufacturers fire this dense plastic so it retains its shape regardless of external temperature.
Once set, the manufacturer sands and polishes the balls to reduce friction on the pool table.
Phenolic resin makes pool balls more durable. This is a strong material that lasts five times longer than acrylic balls. Because of the quality, they’re more expensive.
But you indeed get what you pay for. Phenolic resin balls are resistant to scratches and damage from impact.
They can withstand high friction and decades of use.
Acrylic and Polyester
Pool balls made of acrylic or polyester are more affordable.
If you’re a beginner or are rough on your pool balls, you might want to try a cheaper set for practice.
Just because manufacturers made these pool balls from a different material doesn’t make them less effective. You can still play a good game with acrylic or polyester balls.
They’re the same size as phenolic resin balls. You don’t have to worry about getting used to one type of ball at home and then play with another type when you’re out.
Most manufacturers take pride in their pool balls and weigh them carefully to ensure you’re getting an equal set.
What Are the Sizes and Weights of Pool Balls?
The size and weight of a pool ball depend on many things, like brand, the purpose of play, and what size of the game table it’s meant to play on.
You might use different balls for home practice than you’d play with in a billiards tournament. The pool balls you find in a bar or arcade are also of different quality.
- Phenolic resin pool balls have a diameter of 2.25 inches.
- Acrylic and polyester sets can vary in size and might have a larger diameter of 2.375 inches.
Though the standard size of pool balls is 2.25 inches, that’s not as important as the weight.
The right weight for a pool ball influences how it rolls across the table and hits other balls.
Most phenolic resin pool balls weigh about six ounces.
Sets made of acrylic or polyester might weigh more. But the weight doesn’t matter much, as long as every ball in the set is the same.
If you have a set where some balls are heavier than others, it can throw off your game. Each ball on the table must be uniform.
Are There Different Types of Pool Balls?
There are different types of pool balls available, such as standard and Aramith.
Various brands produce standard balls using acrylic or polyester. Aramith balls are all phenolic resin.
Many brands manufacture standard pool balls using acrylic or polyester. Some have a plastic coating, though this is for design or color more than durability.
If you want a unique set of balls, then buying a standard set is the way to go. Aramith balls all have a classic look, so you won’t find new styles.
Acrylic and polyester balls are more colorful.
Keep in mind that standard and novelty balls might not match the regulation size of 2.25 inches. They’re a little larger and weigh more. As long as your set is even, they’ll play fine.
Because these balls aren’t regulation size, they’ll feel different when you use them.
If you get used to this type of ball, you’ll have to adjust when you play on other tables or in tournaments.
These balls are more likely to scratch and crack as you play with them. Over time, they could break or lose their shape.
Cue balls are especially prone to damage since you use them all of the time and hit them with force.
You’ll need to replace cue balls more often than the others in your set.
Aramith balls are the brand that the previously mentioned Saluc company produces.
They rose to popularity in the 1920s and have been one of the most widely-used billiard brands ever since.
The company produces over 80% of the world’s pool balls. It takes Saluc 23 days to make each ball, so you’re getting top quality.
While other manufacturers might use different materials for the core compared to the coating, Saluc makes their balls from pure phenolic resin. These balls last five times longer than other brands.
The company designs the balls for optimal rebound without the risk of kicks. Saluc also ensures the phenolic resin is homogeneous so the balls hit evenly and roll accurately.
While the balls themselves last for years, they’re also smooth enough to keep your table in good shape. They don’t wear out the cloth on the table or cause friction marks.
What to Look For in Pool Balls
Regardless of what brand of pool balls you’re going to purchase, there are some factors to look for.
Finding the right pool ball ensures you won’t throw off your game. Consider things like:
High-quality phenolic resin balls will last a lot longer than acrylic options. Even though acrylic balls are cheaper, you’ll end up paying more in the long run.
They’re not as sturdy, so you’ll have to replace them more often than phenolic balls.
They can also damage your table, so you’ll pay a lot to repair the felt.
Because not all pool balls are the same, you want to consider your options when buying a set.
Aramith is the best on the market, with more than 85% of players using these balls.
There’s nothing wrong with buying more affordable sets made of acrylic or polyester. As long as the sets are even, you’ll play a great game with them.
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