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What Are Pool Balls Made Of?

Pool balls are a common sight in many establishments. Not to mention any home with its own Pool table will likely have its own set of Pools balls. But what are these colorful balls made of? Have you ever wondered?

It likely won’t surprise you to learn that Pool balls can be made of many different materials. Throughout history, their construction has changed numerous times. But nowadays, Pool balls are usually made with either Phenolic Resin or Polyester.

Before we look at these different materials, let’s take a more historical look at Pool/ Billiard balls. That way, we can learn all about their construction and examine how they have changed throughout history.

A Historical Look At Pool Balls

Pool and Billiard balls were once commonly made with Ivory. But these balls were costly, not to mention relatively weak. It wasn’t uncommon to see Ivory balls get chipped or damaged after just a few games.

The Billiard table company Phelan and Collender sought to solve this problem and even offered a reward for anyone who could come up with an alternative material for ball manufacture.

During the 1800s, several alternative materials were proposed, including Parkesine and Celluloid. But both these materials proved to be unsuitable; Celluloid Pool balls actually had the potential to explode upon contact in some cases!

It wasn’t till the early 1900s that Bakelite was considered as an alternative. By the 1920s, this material was considered the best choice for Pool/ Billiard balls. In fact, Bakelite is very closely related to the Phenolic Resin used today! So, now you know a bit of history, let’s look at the two materials we use today.

Phenolic Resin

Phenolic Resin is made using a similar process to the older plastic Bakelite. The big difference being that greater pressure is used in the creation of Phenolic Resin. The plastic is surprisingly robust and fully thermosetting.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term thermosetting means that once the plastic has melted into place, it can’t be melted again! This means that the colored segments on the Pool balls are solid. With only the numbering being etched on.

This means the striped Pool balls need to be melded together during their manufacturing process. The vast majority of Pool balls are made using Phenolic Resin, and it is generally considered to be the preferred material amongst manufacturers.

Balls made from Phenolic Resin offer an excellent overall package! They are usually very high-quality, available from numerous manufacturers, and come in an assortment of designs. They are usually very strong and long-lasting, although they can be quite expensive.


The main alternative to Phenolic Resin Pool balls is Polyester. These balls aren’t quite as common but still not that difficult to find. Polyester balls may not look as shiny or eye-catching as balls made from Phenolic Resin either.

However, they are still available in a wide array of different colors and designs! Polyester balls are usually cheaper than their Phenolic Resin alternatives as well. However, they are also generally weaker. So, they likely won’t last as long.

So, that’s everything you need to know about what Pool balls are made of! Now you’ll be able to make a more informed decision when it comes to deciding which ball set to buy for your next game of 8-Ball.

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