The quality of the pool balls you play with impacts your game, and there is a good reason for it. Pool table balls are made of a special plastic called phenolic resin or Bakelite.
80% of the world’s supply comes from a tiny Belgium-based company called Saluc Manufacturers.
The organization has perfected its manufacturing process over the past 20 years and is as yet undefeated when it comes to providing high-quality billiard and pool balls.
Why Are Pool Balls Made From Phenolic Resin?
Phenolic resin is a special plastic that is made by mixing formaldehyde with phenol and there are several steps involved in its manufacturing process.
That is the reason why these balls are so resilient. For example, if you play a strong break short using a sturdy tip, these won’t shatter on impact.
Plus, the balls won’t crack if they collide with each other because of the strong bonding capabilities of the special resin.
Besides these, phenolic resin pool balls retain their perfectly-round shape irrespective of the weather. It does not react to its environment, which ensures the balls that are made from it do not decay or lose their shape or get rough to the touch if they are left uncovered.
Even though it is malleable in its raw form, once it is treated and shaped into balls, it never deforms. The material’s uniform density ensures this.
This means that when you make a shot, the ball you shoot will pass on most of its momentum to the balls it crashes into, irrespective of the contact point. That isn’t possible if the material did not have this characteristic.
A game of pool involves ball movement over a cloth-covered table. Imagine what would happen if there was too much friction between the balls and the cloth.
No matter how great you play, the friction would give incalculable results that will compromise performance. Since phenolic resin balls are smooth as silk to the touch, this is not a concern.
Plus, they look gorgeous! Imagine a clean, untarnished, and glistening set of billiard balls on brand new cloth and you will tear up a little.
That sheen is not difficult to acquire either. Balls that are made from this special resin can be polished to the perfect sheen. All you need to do is to wipe off the dust or chalk from the impact with the tip.
History of Pool Table Balls
The very first billiard or pool balls were made of stone. It wasn’t long before they were replaced with wooden and clay varieties that were lighter in comparison. These were used until the 1600s and then ivory balls were introduced in the market.
A single elephant tusk could produce 3 to 4 balls at most and they were also quite fragile and expensive to make.
Even though they looked amazing, ivory balls were difficult to make. As mentioned before, only a few balls could be made from a single tusk. Plus, they had to be cured for years so that they could be strong enough to withstand stress without chipping or breaking apart.
Several balls would end up in the reject pile due to defects or inconsistent density in the material. Eventually, as the elephant population began to decline, ivory balls went out of commission completely.
In 1907, an alternative was made by Leo Baekeland, a chemist who invented Bakelite. This was a type of phenolic resin that most modern-day pool balls are made of.
Besides being cheap, the material is heat-resistant and can be shaped in perfect spheres. Plus, it could be polished to a nice sheen easily as well – a feature that comes in handy during a game.
When the world transitioned to balls made from resin and plastic, players never look back.
What You Should Look For In Pool Balls
When you are looking for the perfect pool balls for your table, there are some factors you should take into consideration.
The first is the diameter tolerance which determines the round shape and is set when a ball is shaped. High-quality balls are almost 99% round, a feature that may not be apparent at first glance.
Balls that are of lower quality, on the other hand, have a low diameter tolerance in comparison. That’s because they are not machined to be as round as possible. Errors during manufacturing are common to keep the cost low.
Another factor that you need to check for when you are buying pool balls is the consistency of density. A ball that has consistent density rolls straight without wobbling or veering off.
It’s simple physics. The weight of the uniform ball distributes equally as it is struck, no matter where the cue hits it.
Pool balls that are not made to have consistent density roll erratically and don’t bank correctly either.
So if you roll one, it will move haphazardly because its weight is not distributed evenly. Most of the time, the pool table is blamed for a ball’s irregular movement, which is usually not the case.
The third factor you should consider is the elasticity of the ball. This characteristic is responsible for transferring energy from balls as they strike one another during play.
Usually, a ball should transfer all of its energy to the one it strikes during a stop shot.
So, if the ball you strike keeps on moving after hitting another ball, this means that it lacks sufficient elasticity.
Even though low-quality balls are guilty of this, old and well-played high-quality balls can also exhibit this tendency.
Standard vs. Aramith Pool Balls
There are two types of balls that players can choose between.
These include the Standard and Aramith.
Here is what you need to know about these if you can’t decide which set to get:
Standard Pool Table Balls
These balls come with pool tables and are a good set for a basic play or if you are trying the game for the first time. They are mass-produced in China and feature a plastic outer shell that makes them quite cheap and replaceable. However, the play response is not as good as high-quality balls. The cheap plastic that is used generates sufficient friction on the table to damage the cloth and the surface of the balls quickly.
Aramith Pool Table Balls
These pool balls are used by professional players because of their high quality.
Manufactured in Belgium, these are made from the aforementioned phenolic resin inside out which is tougher than the standard plastic. So, if you were to slice open an Aramith ball, you will see that the color goes right to the middle.
The high-quality resin enhances response during play since it reduces friction between the ball and the cloth of the pool table.
Plus, it makes the color of the balls more vibrant which pops on camera and screens during professional games.
These balls also undergo serious testing procedures during the manufacturing process, a step that is notably absent in the methods used to make the Standard variety.
The testing ensures that the balls are perfectly round and uniform in density throughout so that it remains the set of choice among serious and pro players.
If you want to buy a pool table or replace the ball set with improved better one, you should splurge on high-quality ones. These will pay for themselves in the long run anyway provided they are taken care of properly.
Deep clean them using non-corrosive cleaning agents once in a while and make sure they are completely dry before you play with them again.
This will improve their playability and reduce the amount of time you take to clean your table.
All in all, the quality of a pool ball depends on the manufacturer who determines how well it is made.
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