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What Should I Look for When I Buy Billiard Balls?

How Can You Find the Perfect Billiard Balls?

Posted by Ray Neset on Tue, Mar 19, 2013 @ 18:03 PM

photo resized 600According to Billiard Congress of America (BCA):


Molded and finished in a perfect sphere in the following weight and diameter:

Pocket Billiard Balls Weight: 5 ½ to 6 oz.

*Diameter: 2 ¼”         

*Diameter tolerance: ± 005”

For the purposes of selecting and buying the right balls, a bit more information is required.  Generally speaking, billiard balls are small, hard balls used in cue sports.  However, several of the games in which these balls are used aren’t widely popular in the United States, such as carom, billiards and snooker.

Billiard sports are games of skill generally played with a cue stick used to strike billiard balls, moving them around a cloth-covered table bounded by rubber cushions.

Billiards is a generic label for all such games.  The word's usage has different meanings in various parts of the world.  In Britain and Australia, "billiards" usually refers to English billiards.  In the U.S. and Canada, it usually refers to a class of games.

Carom billiards, refers to games played on tables without pockets, typically 10’ long.

Snooker and English billiards are played on six pocket billiard tables called a snooker table.  These tables measure slightly less than 12’ by 6’ and are classified separately from pool because historically, they developed differently.

The number, type, diameter, color, and pattern of the balls differ depending upon the specific game being played.  American-style pool balls measure 2 14“ in diameter.  They also used in many pool games throughout the world.  A set comes in two suits, seven solids and seven stripes, an 8 ball and a cue ball.

Hardness, friction coefficient and resilience are very important ball properties to the finer points of game play.

Billiard balls have been made of wood, clay, ox-bone and ivory.  Ivory was the preferred raw material from the early 1600’s until the early 20th century.  By the mid-19th century, elephant slaughter for their ivory inspired a change to a more sustainable material, since no more than eight balls could be made from a single elephant tusk.

New York supplier, Phelan and Collender challenged Inventors to come up with an alternative material that could be manufactured rather than harvested.

Eventually balls cast from plastic materials that are strongly resistant to cracking and chipping were developed.

 Phenol formaldehyde resins are synthetic polymers obtained by the reaction of phenol or substituted phenol with formaldehyde.

Phenol, also known as carbolic acid, is an organic compound.  The volatile white crystalline solid is mildly acidic, and requires careful handling due to its propensity to cause burns.  Phenol was originally extracted from coal tar, but today is produced from petroleum.

Phenolic resins are mainly used in the production of circuit boards, but are better known for the production of molded pool balls.  In the form of Bakelite, it was the earliest commercial synthetic resin.

Currently Saluc, under the brand names Aramith and Brunswick Centennial, manufactures phenolic resin balls.

Saluc S.A. is a Belgian specialty manufacturing company, founded in 1923.  They are best known for their Aramith brand billiard, pool and snooker balls, and are the manufacturer under license of the Brunswick Centennial pool ball line.  The company also manufactures other sorts of balls and bearings with high tolerancesfor a wide variety of industrial and consumer-product applications.

According to their website:

Used by almost 80% of players worldwide, they are recognised as the reference of the industry.

Saluc was established in 1923, manufacturing synthetic tannins for about forty tanneries in the area around Callenelle, Belgium.  After WW II, the industry in the region nearly disappeared and tough competition from chemical giants forced the company to look for alternatives.

Through continuous fine-tuning in quality and production, Saluc took the competitive lead.  Today, Saluc is the only company worldwide producing phenolic billiard balls, exporting over 99% of its production to more than 60 countries.

Unlike polyester, the Saluc’s phenolic resin was specifically engineered for the billiard application in its own chemical plant.  The technology led to a material especially suitable, with unmatched chip- and scratch-resistance.  According to Yves Bilquin, Sales & Marketing Manager for North America and previously the Research & Development manager:

“The Aramith phenolic balls last up to five times longer than other balls made of polyester. Their unique structure, more than one hundred times finer than mineral-filled polyester, gives the Aramith balls their specific reactivity and allows them to hold their high-gloss polish over time, resulting in minimal ball and table cloth wear.”

Phenolic resin balls are extra-hard and dense, with a translucent vitrification layer that gives the exceptional characteristics to the products, giving value to the player.  According to Aramith, the lowest yearly cost is achieved on lower table and cloth maintenance because Aramith balls greatly reduce the damage done by non-phenolic resin balls.

A 13-step upstream integration process controls the raw material.  The process lasts up to 23 days and includes casting and curing processes, combined with unique grinding and a state-of-the-art polishing technology.  Throughout the process, computerized technology continuously interfaces with and assists craftsmanship to guarantee the tightest tolerances and specifications.  Each ball is still checked manually before leaving the factory to provide reliable output.

As for effect on the environment, Saluc maintains a full water treatment facility which incorporates environment-friendly processes with sophisticated technology.

Within the Aramith regular product lines are Super Aramith Pro sets, Aramith Premium sets and Aramith Premier sets.  Aramith also produce “Fun” sets; Glow in the Dark kit, Aramith Stone Collection & Aramith Camouflage set, as well as a variety of cue balls and training balls, and a Crazy 8-Ball, Golden 8, American Eagle, Leopard 9 and a Snake 9-Ball.

Aramith also produces Snooker, Carom, Yotsudama, Bocetta, Poker, Russian Pyramid, Bumper and Casino balls.

Other plastics and resins such as polyester (under various trade names) and clear acrylic are also used in, by competing billiard ball manufacturers.  Elephant Balls are top quality billiards balls made from premium grade materials with a high-gloss finish to avoid pool table cloth wear. 

According to the McDermott website, their U.S. distributor, Elephant Billiard Balls & Pool Training Accessories include:

Elephant Lunar Rocks Billiard Balls, engineered for the Hollywood motion picture “Pluto Nash,” starring Eddie Murphy.  The silvery moon rock textured balls have stylized oversized numbers.  Elephant Lunar Rocks are precision crafted for perfect size (2.25”), balance, roundness (within .001”) and weight (4.25oz). The high-gloss finish and premium grade materials reduce table cloth wear.  MSRP is $150.

Elephant Beautiful Ball Billiard set are stunning.  Molded and finished in a perfect sphere, with both dynamic and static balance, each ball is precisely crafted to meet every specification for professional quality billiard balls, including roundness (within 0.001"), size (2.25"), weight (6oz.), and balance (perfectly balanced).  The unique marbleized design, combined with vibrant colors, make each ball a one-of-a-kind work of art that cannot be replicated even though many have tried.  Their trademarked stripe on the 9-15 balls, make the set easy to use.  MSRP is $180.

Elephant Marble Rack Billiard Ball are professional grade billiard balls have a marbleized pattern in vibrant colors with numbers in "Rack" Shape.  The collection is of official size and weight.  MSRP is $85.

Elephant Traditional Balls is their least expensive line; the most durable set in its price range. It’s comparable to sets at twice the price.  Vibrant colors combined with high-gloss finish make this set one of the most attractive on the market.  Consistency is the name of the game, which means each ball must be weighted and sized properly, perfectly balanced, and uniformly round.  MSRP is $70.

Elephant also makes Elephant Practice Ball and Elephant EZ Shot Cue Ball.

EPCO Industrial balls are manufactured in sizes range from 1 1/4" to 8 1/2" and available in a ground, matte, or ultra high gloss finish.  They manufacture balls in commercial grade & close tolerance specifications that are easy to machine, drill, tap, polish, & cement. 

Some applications for EPCO industrial balls include trackball devices, check valves, novelties and displays, video games, juggling, sphere play, trophies and awards, decorative uses, and yes, billiard balls.

EPCO's Industrial Balls manufacture balls in the U. S. using a proprietary formulation of Partek resin.  EPCO Clear Rocco Style Pool/Billiard Ball sets are regulation 2.25" in diameter and 4.5 oz in weight.  EPCO Clear Rocco Style Pool/Billiard Ball Set is manufactured of high quality "Partek" resin for precise roundness, balance and weight control.  The colorful center markings make this pool table accessory a great addition to a home recreation room.

EPCO’s billiard balls come in Marbleized, Sparkle, Pearlescent, Clear, Tournament, Professional, Marbleized Stripe, Glo and customized with photo image of name, logo or photo, electronically sublimated into the ball surface, engraved, inlaid or clear.

Topics: Buying Tips, Frequently Asked Questions, Pool Tables, Billiards, Fun, All American Recreation