May 12, 2022


10 mins read

What Are Pool Balls Made Of? History of Billiard Balls

Pool balls are visually appealing objects with a variety of colors and numbers that play a significant role in the game of pool. It’s the perfect shape, hard and spherical enough to strike without cracking or exploding. Have you ever wondered what pool balls are made of? This article will show you some main materials used in the pool ball-making process through the history of billiard balls.

Billiard balls have a long development history from the 1340s,  from a simple material with many limitations to high-end materials today. We will go through all pool ball material by going through the history line of the pool ball to see what are pool balls made of and how it is improved gradually


Billiards is thought to have originated as a combination of croquet and billiards played on a French lawn. This game was played outside using wooden balls. Therefore, wood is considered the earliest pool ball material that people used for making billiard balls which were quite simple and relatively affordable to create. 


Wood pool balls are still used until the 1600s. During that time Europeans colonized Africa and Asia, and they developed a thirst for new materials from other continents. Ivory made from elephant tusks was popular among the higher classes in the 17th century as a way to flaunt one’s wealth, whether in the form of a walking stick, piano keys, or billiard table balls.

Ivories, as they were frequently known, were significantly more attractive and exclusive than wooden pool balls, especially in the 17th century. They weren’t indestructible, though. Ivory pool balls tended to yellow with time and break in humid conditions or when struck with too much power. The demand for tusks began to substantially threaten elephant populations in Africa and Asia as pools became more popular in the early part of the 1800s.


In 1869, pool table manufacturer Phelan and Collender decided to challenge its customers by giving $10,000 to anyone who could invent a non-ivory pool ball. Hyatt blended camphor with alcohol and nitrocellulose, shaping it into a spherical shape under great pressure. Hyatt didn’t win the $10,000 prize for his finished product, but his invention is regarded as one of the first synthetic polymers. He continued to improve celluloid billiard balls over the years, but it was still a poor substitute for ivory due to its lack of durability. However, nitrocellulose wasn’t a particularly stable substance, and pool balls would occasionally explode when struck with power


Bakelite is a new plastic-like material that was created by American chemist Phelan Leo Baekeland in 1907. Bakelite pool balls, unlike Hyatt’s, were sturdy, easy to make, and didn’t risk blowing up the game. The majority of pool balls were constructed of Bakelite by the mid-1920s.

Phenolic Resin

Phenolic resin is the most popular material to make pool balls today. In 1923, phenolic resin was firstly used in the pool ball production process by Saluc, a company that specialized in pool ball manufacture. Phenolic resin is a thermosetting material that utilizes even more intense pressure to produce the balls than Bakelite. The plastic cannot be melted once the balls have been produced and cooled.

Billiard balls made of phenolic resin take 23 days to make to ensure all necessary features and the right center which is very important when you strike or curve the pool balls. Saluc even weighs each ball to guarantee that they are all the same weight. Phenolic resin balls are in high demand as Saluc sells 85 percent of all pool and billiard balls on the market. Furthermore, phenolic resin pool balls can withstand up to 40 years and 400,000 impacts. The balls’ radiance and surface gloss last exactly as long.

Polyester Resin

Pool balls made of polyester resin are an alternative to those made of phenolic resin. They do not retain their luster for as long and wear out considerably more quickly. Polyester resin balls typically survive eight years or 80,000 impacts.

These balls, on the other hand, are ideal for beginners who desire their own set of pool balls. The majority of pool players eventually upgrade to phenolic resin balls.

Epoxy Resin

Epoxy resin is a very new material that is only now being tested. Epoxy offers a wide range of uses in flooring and countertop restoration. It may become a good material for producing pool balls in the near future.


What are billiard balls made out of?

The billiard balls can be made from many different materials such as wood, ivory, cellulose, etc. However, the main material that people use nowadays is Phenolic resin. Phenolic resin is created by combining phenol with formaldehyde. They form a condensation reaction that produces phenolic resin when combined with a catalyst. Of course, this is an exaggeration. The chemical process is, of course, complicated. Phenolic resin balls are so much more durable and high-quality than polyester balls. It cannot be melted after it has been set.

How are pool balls made?

Each manufacturer will have its own secrets in pool ball making. However, billiard balls must achieve seven essential criteria: density, balance, diameter tolerance, roundness, color precision, surface polish, and brilliance after going through a 13-step manufacturing process. Production, casting, curing, grinding, and polishing the balls will take around 23 days. Tight tolerances and requirements are met using cutting-edge technology and human inspection of each ball by a craftsman. The reins are through-hardened and each ball has a consistent density throughout the molding process, which occurs under severe pressure. This also permits the ball’s center of gravity to be in the exact middle, which is crucial for the pool’s precision game, especially for some complicated shots such as draw shots, masse shots, etc.

What is inside a pool ball?

If we cut pool balls in half, we will find that they are filled from the inside. There will be no hollow inside. It will take the shape of a semi-hemisphere, with a filler that is the same at every point and just differs in color. If the maker manufactures hollow balls, the weight and strength to bear any hitting force will be affected. They can use wood, clay, ivory, or polymers to make it. However, nowadays Pool balls are often constructed of polyester or phenolic resin as mentioned above.


In short, knowing “what are pool balls made of” and their development history will provide you with more pool inspiration. Pool ball manufacturing is a complicated process that requires high-quality materials and experiences. Pool balls can be made of various materials depending on your purpose. However, if you are looking for a set of balls to play as a professional, go ahead with Phenolic pool balls which are currently the best material option.

Dave Pearson

Dave Pearson, the world's leading pool entertainer, is renowned globally as the ultimate exhibition player.
Boasting 20 world records endorsed by the prestigious Guinness Book of World Records, Dave established a legendary history in the sport industry.

Dave Pearson

Dave Pearson, the world's leading pool entertainer, is renowned globally as the ultimate exhibition player.
Boasting 20 world records endorsed by the prestigious Guinness Book of World Records, Dave established a legendary history in the sport industry.

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