A question of billiards.

How are billiard (pool) balls manufactured to be perfectly round? Or are they perfectly round? Also, what are most billiard balls made out of, and are they hollow, or totally solid? What is used to color them without affecting their shape and the way they play off of one another? Thanks for the time.

I can’t speak about American billiard balls, but over here they are generally made from cast phenolic resin compounds i.e. a tough plastic. They are solid, as perfectly spherical as the manufacturers can make them and self-coloured (the dye is built into the material of the outermost surface layer).

When billiard games were first played, the balls were made of wood, and ivory was used from the early C17[sup]th[/sup] until the late C19[sup]th[/sup]. At the peak, as many as 12,000 elephants were reputedly killed each year to supply the ivory trade for billiard balls. Other materials such as celluloid and various plastic resins have been used, but until modern materials were developed there were always problems of moisture absorption, deformation and expense. Celluloid balls were even found to explode on impact.

I don’t have a cite, but I believe they are made by moulding and are finished with a high gloss by polishing.

Not perfectly, but pretty close. Interestingly, the earth itself is about as perfect a sphere. This is from Cecil’s Mailbag:

Okay, you didn’t ask about the planet earth. But the info on billiard ball tolerance is appropriate, right? And who knew that there was such a thing as the Billiard Congress of America?

I’m gonna hitch a ride on this thread with another billiards question:

I have seen billiard tables without holes. WTF?

Those would be billiard tables, as opposed to * pocket * billiard tables. It’s a different game altogether, involving much more skill in reading caroms and so on. (I’ve never played it myself.)

Yes, so have I Mr. Blue Sky: A couple of years ago in a pool hall in the Turkish occupied area I saw just such table. By watching the games and a very rudimentary knowledge of Turkish I worked out the basic rules. You have three balls on the table (white, yellow and red), the object of each shot is to hit one ball with your cue so that it hit’s one of the other balls and then, bouncing off that ball, hits the other ball (I hope that makes sense to read).

Obviously there was some sort of point-scoring system too, but I couldn’t work that one out.

Mr. Blue Sky:

Those tables are for the various carom games. Three-cushion is one of my favorites.

Pocket pool includes such games as Eight Ball, Nine Ball, Seven Ball, Straight Pool, Snooker, and English Billiards.

Billiards tables without holes are used to play other games than what is usually thought of as “pool,” such as balkline. Many of these games involve using chalk to draw lines on the felt of the table, which are used for different purposes based on the game. Not suprisingly, most of these games are considered more highbrow and sophisticated, in part because they are harder to play with more complex rules in general, and also because most people don’t know about them. It’s like underground music I guess, the less people know about it, the cooler it is to some people.

Our Elks Lodge has 5 billiards tables - yes, the ones with no pockets. It’s a very challenging game and we have two former world champions among our members.

Scroll to the bottom for the rules of Three Cushion Billiards

A very fun and challenging game.


In Korea, I was introduced to a very interesting variant of Billiards. There are four balls on the table:
[ol][li]White Cue Ball[/li][li]Spot White Cue Ball[/li][li]2 Red Object Balls[/ol][/li]The rules are the same as Carom Billiards with just a couple of exceptions:
[ul][li]One player uses the white cue ball and the other player ueses the spot white cue ball.[/li][li]To score a carom, a player must strike his cue ball into both red object balls.[/li][li]The carom does not count if his cue ball strikes the other player’s cue ball.[/li]Failing to score a carom (including, obviously, striking the other player’s cue ball with one’s cue ball) brings a player’s turn to an end.[/ul]