Anatomy Of The Bowling Pin

There is no denying how durable bowling pins are, considering they stand up to repeated physical contact with bowling balls, rack equipment and other pins. Knowing this, people may wonder what materials manufacturers use to make bowling pins.

Bowling pins are made of rock maple wood. Manufacturers glue small wood blocks and cut them into the shape of a bowling pin. Manufacturers then coat the surface of the pin with either nylon or Surlyn to make it resistant to impact.

If you wonder what materials manufacturers use to make bowling pins, we’re here to help you. We will discuss the bowling pins from 5,000 years ago to the most modern pins, so stick with us until the end.

What Is A Bowling Pin Made Of?

A bowling pin weighs 3.6 lbs, as specified by the United States Bowling Congress. Their weight determines how much force is needed to knock them over, and the force exerted is dependent on ball weight, bowler’s speed and method of delivering the ball. Considering all of these factors, it’s understandable to be curious about what bowling pins are made of.

Unsurprisingly, not a lot of people know the answer to this question. Ask random people at a bowling alley, and they’ll answer you with different materials like metal, plastic, and even stone. To help you find an answer, let us look at the anatomy of a bowling pin.

Materials Used For Making Bowling Pins

Manufacturers use rock maple wood to make bowling pins. This material can endure constant impact, resulting in a durable and long-lasting bowling pin. Manufacturers glue these pieces of maple wood and cut them into the shape of a pin. After forming a rough pattern, each pin undergoes a smoothening process to create the contours before applying a coating to its surface.

Bowling, in various forms, has existed for over 5,000 years. Before modern bowling, people used maple wood block to make pins. However, the wood blocks used had different densities, resulting in differences in the weight of the pins.

Moreover, the process of making bowling pins has changed over the years. Manufacturers are now using small blocks of wood and gluing them together to make bowling pins. This way, they can minimize the variability of bowling pin weight distribution and balance. This is demonstrated in the early portions of the video below.

Gluing smaller pieces of rock maple wood together is more advantageous than using a single wood block. The reason is that gluing small pieces of wood will make it easy to achieve the correct bowling pin weight. On the other hand, large wood blocks have varying densities, preventing manufacturers from achieving a consistent weight. (source)

Traditional maple bowling pin manufacturenote the wood block-matching step

Bowling Pin Coating

Bowling pins need to resist impact. For this reason, manufacturers apply a coating on their surfaces since it is the part that ultimately receives the most impact from bowling balls. There are three types of bowling pin coating used by manufacturers:

  • Nylon
  • Plastic Sheath
  • DuPont’s Surlyn

The primary material used to coat bowling pins is nylon. It easily molds on the bowling pin and is inexpensive, making it ideal as a coating material. Manufacturers seal the bowling pins with latex before coating them with nylon. This way, the coating material adheres excellently, thus preventing cracks and gaps. (source)

Some bowling pins have a hard plastic sheath coating. Such is laminated and coated with lacquer, which makes the bowling pins smooth and shiny. However, the plastic coating is not as popular as nylon as it is less rigid.

DuPont, a bowling equipment manufacturer, uses its special bowling pin coating — Surlyn. This material is more expensive yet more durable than nylon. Surlyn is scratch and puncture-resistant, allowing the bowling pins to last a long time. (source)

Are Bowling Pins Filled With Sand?

The core of a bowling pin has always been a mystery for many people. Some think bowling pins have sand inside so manufacturers can use less wood while still abiding by the United States Bowling Congress’s pin weight specifications. Does this pose the question of whether bowling pins have sand on their cores?

What Is Inside A Bowling Pin?

Modern bowling pins consist entirely of rock maple wood. As mentioned, manufacturers glue small pieces of maple wood and cut them to form a bowling pin. The pin’s core also consists of wood and is not hollow. 

Some people speculate that bowling pins consist of sand with a hole at the bottom. However, the purpose of this hole is not to let sand pass through. 

Manufacturers need to hang the bowling pins upside down during the coating process to let the nylon or Surlyn coating dry. 

The hole allows them to attach the pins to a hanger without touching their body. In addition, drilling a hole under a bowling pin allows manufacturers to reduce its weight to the acceptable league standard. (source)

Some Bowling Pins Consist Of Synthetic Materials

The United States Bowling Congress (USBC) has only one approved synthetic bowling pin manufacturer – Twister.

Twister uses granulated plastic to make the bowling pins. It heats and melts the plastic before injecting it into a bowling pin-shaped mold. After molding and finishing, each bowling pin undergoes analysis to ensure they meet the USBC standards for bowling pins. 

According to the manufacturer, Twister pins are more durable and last longer than the lifespan of maple wood bowling pins I discuss in that post. 

But if the synthetic and wooden bowling pins have something in common, it is that both of them are not hollow. It means that similar to wooden pins, Twister pins do not have sand in their cores. (source)

Synthetic bowling pin manufacture

Summing Things Up

One of the most common questions among bowling enthusiasts is, “what is a bowling pin made of?” From 5,000 years ago to modern times, bowling equipment manufacturers used maple wood to make bowling pins. Even the core of a bowling pin consists of hard maple wood, contrary to the assumption that it contains sand or other materials.

Bowling and bowling equipment have changed over the centuries since people first began the sport. A lot of the progress has been recent compared to the long history behind the game. For this reason, it is no surprise that manufacturers will someday find a more durable bowling pin material than maple wood. But until then, hard maple wood will remain the best material for making bowling pins.

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