How Billiard Balls Are Made

Billiards has been known as a challenging, relaxing, and competitive sport. As a game, it introduces a new height of analytical thinking.

To play billiards, you need billiard balls.  Knowing how billiard balls are made may seem insignificant, but it can actually say a lot about how the game works.

Billiard balls or pool balls are small-sized balls known for their hardness.

The type, number, diameter, pattern, and color of the balls are dependent on the type of game played.

A particular billiard ball should acquire properties like appropriate friction, hardness, resilience, and coefficient to achieve accuracy.

The First Billiard Balls

Various materials such as clay and wood made up the earliest kind of billiard balls. Years later, balls made of ox-bone became popular in Europe

However, from the year 1627 up to the 20th century, the ivory of the elephant was much favored.

The earliest written records with regards to ivory-made billiard balls stated that that the balls were invented by the Duke of Norfolk in the year of 1588.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, a disturbing rate of elephant slaughter was done in order to sustain the market for billiard balls and other sports equipment.

This resulted to the extinction of elephants, which soon became a notable public concern.

Inventors were then challenged to think of another useful material in making billiard boards.

A New York supplier, Collender and Phelan, used aspirants as substitute materials.

This discovery won them a prize of 10,000 US dollars. However, aspirants were not as flexible as ivory.

Later on, another alternative material was discovered by an American inventor named John Wesley Hyatt.

It was in 1867 when he and his brother,  Isiah Smith Hyatt, introduced the use of nitrocellulose in making billiard balls.

This material was branded commercially as celluloid. Like an elephant’s ivory, it has the ability to be shaped and carved.

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Materials of Billiard Balls

John Wesley Hyatt and his brother had successfully used celluloid in making billiard balls. However, the invention faced several issues. Celluloid, as an early form of plastic, was sadly explosive.

According to Lauren Davies, celluloid and its ancestors are all made from nitrocellulose, which was also known as pyroxylin, gun cotton, and flash paper.

These materials were highly flammable and, when used in a billiard game, could produce some dangerous outcomes.

To preclude any unwanted danger of celluloid explosion, various materials that are synthetic were experimented by the industry.

Soon, there were balls made from of Crystallite, Bakelite, and other compounds that are purely plastic.

At the present time, Arasmith and the Brunswick Centennial were able to manufacture balls made of phenolic resin.

Polyester and acrylic were utilized by opposing companies such as Frenzy sports and the Elephant Balls Ltd.

Phenol resin is considered a chip and is scratch resistant. It is currently the most used material when it comes to billiard balls.

By casting the resins into the desired shape, the final product or output is obtained.

How to Make a Good Ball Out of a Tusk

The manufacturing of billiard balls is very simple. However, it will require great skill. First, you have to measure the ivory block.

Scrivelloes is a term used to refer to the tusk size into which billiard balls are turned.

You will not be able to produce a high-quality ball from a tusk that is bigger or smaller than the required size

If you turn 2 2/6 inches from 2 ¼ inches of tusk, you will have to take out too much of the outer surface of the skin or the hard shell.

Once you have an ivory of the right size, position it in an iron chuck. Turn one-half of the ball, take off the ring, and turn the other half of the ball.

After which, hangthe ball for a couple of months to dry. Artificial heat is not needed in the process.

Once perfectly seasoned, allow skilled men to turn the ball into a perfect sphere. Then, test each of the ball to achieve accuracy.

The last step is the polishing. It is done by watering and greasing the ball.

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Modernized Procedure of Manufacturing Billiard Balls

To achieve the perfect shape of a billiard ball, the liquid is heated and poured into molds of latex compounds.

Other times, the heated latex is injected forcibly to drive away bubbles and to give a quality casted product.

When casting is finished, the molds are broken apart and sometimes peeled off from the ball.

To achieve the smooth surface of the ball, it is taken into a lathe machine.

The resins that are heated and casted into the molds are pre-colored. Pre-coloring is necessary to cover trivial abnormalities that may show upon making the ball.

When you finish the process of polishing and casting, you need to weigh the ball.

Even though the balls are done with uniformed cast type, there may be minor differences in weight.

The weighing process will eliminate the possibility of making faulty balls.

Balls of the same weight are assembled together. Then, they are transferred to the final packaging stage.

This method of making balls is now done with the use of machines. Thus, billiard balls are easily and quickly made.


Billiard balls have an amazing history. It is polished through time. Various materials have been used in its construction as well, from ivory to celluloid and polyester or phenolic resin compounds.

As mentioned above, billiard balls have to undergo different processes to achieve accuracy.

They are heated, measured, and molded intricately. Great care and a high level of skill are necessary in order to make a perfect sphere.

With technology, the process is easier and the production is faster.  

To understand how billiard balls are made is to understand how the game is won.

You must learn how much each ball weighs to calculate the exact amount of force you need to make to move them around the table.

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