What Are Billiard Balls Made Of? (The Strange Truth)

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If you've been wondering what billiard balls are made of, then you've come to the right place. This guide will cover everything you need to know...

billiard balls of different colors

Billiard balls have gone through many changes in the years since the invention of this game. While in the past they were made from a variety of different materials, these materials wax and wane in popularity, resulting in the high-quality balls that we all know and love today.

Let's dive into all the facts...

What Are Billiard Balls Made Of?

Even though billiard balls used to be made from ivory, and this popular material can still be found in older balls, modern billiard balls now come made from a variety of different materials. These balls are completely solid and are generally made from phenolic resin. This is an incredibly durable and high-quality resin that is designed to last for a long time without showing signs of wear and tear or cracking.

What Were Early Billiard Balls Made Of?

Early billiard balls varied widely in terms of what materials had been used to construct them. They were often made from clay, wood, and even ox bones. Elephant ivory, was, of course, one of the most popular materials for billiard balls to be made from.

Since ivory has become less popular for billiard balls, there have been a number of different substances used in the creation of these balls. One of the first options was Sorel cement, which was designed to be an artificial ivory. Nitrocellulose was also used, as has been Crystallite and Bakelite.

Today, billiard balls are generally made from high-quality plastic that has been designed to resist chipping, cracking, and wearing. Polyester and other similar resins are also common used, as are clear acrylics.

Why Did Celluloid Billiard Balls Explode?

Exploding billiard balls used to be very common after they were no longer made from ivory and were instead made from celluloid. This early plastic was combustible, which meant that when a player made a great shot, it would often cause the ball to explode.

Celluloid was designed to approximate ivory, which some people believed was no longer as readily available. Since celluloid was made with nitrocellulose, which is also commonly known as “gun cotton” or “flash paper,” this highly flammable material would often explode when hit.

What Are Aramith Pool Balls Made Of?

Aramith pool balls are made from 100% phenolic resin. This makes them an incredibly popular option among a lot of pool players. Thanks to the design of the balls and the fact that they are made completely from this specific type of resin, aramith pool balls will last a lot longer than other balls.

In fact, aramith pool balls have been known to last up to 5x longer than different types of pool balls. Phenolic resin is incredibly durable and offers amazing scratch- and chip-resistance. This also means that they hold their polish for long periods of time and that they don’t cause a lot of wear on the table’s cloth.

Why Do Billiard Balls Turn Yellow?

Since most billiard balls are made from hard plastic, they are subject to the same damage that can occur to any other plastic materials. Plastics can easily break down when they are exposed to UV light for long periods of time. This can occur even faster when the balls are also exposed to oxygen and heat, and this is known as photodegradation.

Because the chemical structure of the plastic itself is changed and damaged, the molecules in the billiard balls will change how they absorb and re-emit UV light. This light is re-emitted at a much lower wavelength. Due to this change, these balls appear to be yellow.

Do Billiard Balls Wear Out?

Even though billiard balls may look like they never get damaged, they will, in time begin to show signs of wear and tear. This will happen due to normal play as the balls are moved across the table, hit other balls, and are hit with the cue. Wear on the ball is even worse if the table cloth is allowed to become dirty, as the dirt in the cloth will begin to work like a sandpaper on the ball.

Of course, the cue ball is going to wear down faster, due to being struck by the cue tip and hitting balls on every shot. It also tends to come off of the table more often than other balls, which can cause damage to the ball.

How Much Do Billiard Balls Weigh?

Billiard balls weigh between 156-170 grams. This means that they weigh between 5.5-6 ounces.

When you know more about billiard balls, then you are more likely to appreciate the balls that you have to play with. They have changed a lot since the creation of this game, and modern billiard balls are definitely better for longer and more intense games. They are designed to stand up to regular use without wearing out and also without the complication and unfortunate side effect of exploding.