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V. Bowling balls

A. Two Piece Vs Three Piece

This crops up every few months... folks want to know what is meant by 2 piece or 3 piece when describing a bowling ball. I answered the posting of the question, and then (despite the bad ascii art), thought to add it to the FAQ. --bill

                _/------\_                           _/------\_
               /**********\                         /    **    \
              /            \                       /    ****    \
             (              )                     (    ******   )
             (              )                     (    ******   )
              \            /                       \    ****    /
               \          /                         \          /
                ---____---                           ---____---

                 3 piece                              2 piece

Ooooh... bad ascii art but perhaps it will illustrate what i mean.

The 3 piece ball construction would be explained like this... take a round mold, with a diameter 2" or so less than a ball, pour in about 1" of heavy stuff to make a puddle in the bottom of the mold. fill teh mold with a lighter substance, then remove from the mold and cover with a 1" thick shell. When people refer to a 3 piece ball, they usually are referring to the puddle weight block construction. The label would go above the center of the puddle as the center of the heavy chunk inside the ball.

A 2 piece ball would be explained like this... take a dense (heavy) chunk of stuff (grenade shaped=hammer, inverted light bulb= nitro, turbo, rhino-pro [purple, teal, black], and shark) and place it in the boling ball-sized mold, then place a pencil through the weight block to hold it. Light bulb shapes go narrow-side up, with the bulb almost centered. Grenade styles go near the surface, with the bottom of the grenade around the center of the mold. Pour in your urethane compound, and allow to harden. Then remove the pencil, and fill the hole with some other color (plastic).

The pencil-hole is the pin mark. If you tilted the pencil, instead of holding it vertical, the weight block is tilted through the ball, this would be pin out. If you held it vertical, the pin would be in. The label goes where the top of the mold was, above the actual center of gravity of the heavy chunk (and therefore the ball itself).

Some ball manufacturers have combined the two construction methods, creating end-heavy lightbulbs (Nitro, Shark), and "2 piece" looking balls which then have a cover added over the ball (blue RP, blue crush).

Some of the ebonite balls a few years back were three piece with a split-T chaped weight block. Heavy points were under drilling points to keep "true balance". Exotic weight blocks have been around for years, including the 4 piece weight block in the Xcaliber (original anyway), the weight band in the brown brunswick max-10, the wierd stuff that carmen salvino talks ebonite into making every few years, etc., but they never seem to "revolutionize" bowling for very long... they tend to die a quick death (ultra angle, ebonite t-bolt-DB, soon-to-be magnum)...

B. What does "Pin placement" mean, and what does it do for/against the ball reaction?

This part of the A.S.B. FAQ is still under construction.

C. How (and why) to Polish a Bowling Ball

Steve Lawson ( wrote some nice instructions on ball polishing in response to the most recent flood of "how do i clean my bowling balls" thread. The following is quoted from his post...

With regards to maintenance on your RR ball I can offer the following:

General cleaning can be best accomplished with Windex or something similar. There is some alcohol in Windex, although not quite as bad as straight rubbing alcohol.

RR balls seem to resurface quite well. Since I have a ball spinner (as well as a complete pro shop) I can accomplish this task quite quickly. I have successfully resurfaced both Rhino's with great success both for myself and many others. Everyone has been pleased that the balls react much the same as out of the box. Depending on the wear before starting I wet sand in the spinner with 240, then 320, then 400, then 600 then some stuff a body shop buddy game me called EXTRA FINE, which I believe is around 1200 grit. Anyway, after this I use white and orange 3M rubbing and polishing compound followed by the 3M Finesse-it II Finishing Material. At this point I use a clean dry soft old washcloth and use the finnesse liberally. In the spinner the ball will get warm. Keep going until the finesse dries from this heat generated and then use another clean dry soft cotton rag or towel to "buff" the haze from the ball. If you've been diligent, your ball will shine like a mirror and react the same as out of the box (or at least out of the box and polished with Finesse for the teal).

The down side of this is that the Finesse-it does not seem to work well at speeds generated by hand and a spinner is a must in my opinion. This stuff is designed to remove swirls from the final 1500 grit sandout. That it really does. It is also not cheap (around $25.00 at professional autobody supply centers) or a rip off at around $30.00 from bowling supply houses that buy it from the auto supply centers and then mark it up to us, just like any of the other stuff that you can obtain locally if you look hard enough, such as the wet or dry sandpaper, sandscreen, scotchbrite pads and the like. The good side is that a bottle seems to go quite a way as I have had mine for a little over a year (1 qt) and it is only about 2/3 gone.

The way I see it is that if kept up (that is resurfacing every 75 games or so) most of the RR balls will continue to react pretty much just like out of the box.

E. What is "Legal" for Cleaning Bowling Balls

Steve then scribed the following in regards to teh ongoing debate about ball cleaning substance abuse... -bill

Chris Cooper at Bowling Headquarters told me today that their tests have shown that denatured alcohol DOES tend to soften up some bowling balls, thus is not permissible for use as a bowling ball cleaner. He was kind enough to fax me a copy of the official bowling ball cleaners acceptable and unacceptable list. It is below. While not on the list, he indicated that Finesse-it by 3M is an acceptable agent as it does not chemically attack the ball, but just polishes it. In fact he said that for the most part it is their cleaner of choice at the testing center at Bowling Headquarters for most any equipment. Again, everything that follows between the double lines is verbatim from the fax from ABC/WIBC Equipment Specs department, courtesy Chris Cooper. Thanks Chris!

Bowling Ball Cleaners

Commercial Ball Cleaners
Clean Shot - Earth Clean Systems
Maz's Ball Klean - David Mahaz
Oil B Gone - Pro-Tech Ind. Chem.
Perfect Grip - Bowling Concepts
Pro Grip - DBA Products
Protrac 19 - Richardson International Corp.
Reacta Clean - High Score Products
Reese Brothers Ball Clean
Strike It Clean - Bowl Products, Inc.
U-Clean U-Score - High Score Products
Clean Shot Reactive Ball Cleaner - Earth Clean Systems
Pro-Grip Reactive Ball Cleaner - DBA Products
Squeeky Clean - The Wax Shop
Bowling Ball Cleaner - Forrest Enterprises, Inc.
Not Acceptable
Strike Power - Veterans Products
Dull It - INX Corp.
General Solvents and Other Chemicals
Rubbing Alcohol (Isopropyl)
"Simple Green"
"Windex" window cleaner
Not Acceptable
Other Alcohols (i.e. Denatured Ethyl Alcohol, etc.)
Acetone (nail polish remover)
Kerosene, Gasoline, other fuels
Ethers, Esters and Ketone (MEK)
Most commercial solvents (Xylol, lacquer thinner, mineral spirits, chloroform, Methyl Hydrate)
"Cutex" non-acetone (nail polish remover)

As a practical matter, we recommend using rubbing alcohol to clean a ball. Our tests have shown that, even under prolonged use, it will not change the hardness of a ball. Also, it evaporates quickly, is inexpensive, readily available and cleans the ball well of oil and dirt.

Ball polishing machines are also acceptable as they merely bring the ball back to it's original condition.

If you encounter any products that are on this list as unacceptable, a warning should be issued to the bowler using the product. If a product is not on the list, obtain a sample and send it to the Equipment Specifica- tions Department for testing.

F. What is "Ball Baking?"

One of the inherent problems with the reactive resin (tm) bowling ball (and all it's various manufacturer specific variations) is the characteristic of the shell soaking up so much oil and dirt that the reactive characteristics seem to "fade away". Because reactives soak up oil so efficiently, there comes a point where even surface cleaning and even sanding doesn't affect the ball. The oil has soaked into the shell so deeply that none of the traditional cleaning methods have any effect (or the effect is short lived).

One controversial method is to "bake" the bowling ball. Although this method has been proved to be very effective, the long lasting effects of baking a ball is still unknown. However, given the shorter average lifespan of a reactive ball (over urethanes and plastics), it can be argued that baking may actually prolong the life of the ball since the "perceived" lifespan may be shorter only because the ball contains so much oil that the bowler thinks the ball has "worn out".

Baking simply involves placing the bowling ball in an oven on low heat (a detailed outline of this procedure follows), and wiping the oil off the ball as it "oozes" to the surface. Be warned that this procedure can be time consuming depending on the amount of oil that's in the ball and have plenty of clean towels and rubbing alcohol handy!

Opinions abound on the long term effects of baking, however a.s.b'ers who have tried this method agree that it returns the ball to it's original reactive characteristics with no apparent effect on hardness, damage to inserts or reducing the lifespan of the ball. I have used this method many times on reactives with very good results. However urethane bowling balls have varying results (none of them damaging however).

Some urethanes will bleed oil, and other won't. You'll need to experiment on your own to determine if any of your urethane bowling balls work well under this procedure. WARNING!! DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES BAKE A PLASTIC OR POLYESTER BOWLING BALL. Plastics can warp under relatively low heat and ruin your bowling NOT bake your plastic bowling ball! Plastic and polyester bowling balls do not regularly soak up any oil due to their hard composition anyway so baking, even if possible, will have no effect.

Procedure to bake a bowling ball:

I. Recommended materials:

        1. Clean terry cloth towels (lots of them, at least half a dozen is
        2. Rubbing alcohol or your favorite RR cleaning solution.
        3. An oven thermometer (about $2 at your local grocery store).
        4. A roll of tin foil or an aluminum pie pan.
        5. And (of course) an oven.

II.  Procedure:

        1. Preheat the oven to 200F (warm setting)..use your thermometer
           to ensure the oven temp is no more than plus or minus 5 degrees
           from this temp.  Adjust accordingly.
        2. Once the oven has reached the proper temperature, use tin
           foil to form a "cup" to set the bowling ball on while it's
           in the oven or use a a pie pan to set the ball on.  This
           prevents the ball from rolling around in the oven and the hot
           metal rails from contacting the surface of the ball.
        3. Place the ball in the pan or tin foil "cup" in the oven (making
           sure that the ball doesn't contact the heating elements on the
           top of the stove), and close the door.  Wait about one minute
           and open the door.  Observe the ball and if the ball becomes
           "shiny" or gets a "wet" look, the oil is starting to bleed.
        4. Take a couple of dry towels and remove the ball from the oven
           and, working quickly, wipe the surface of the ball off with
       	   the alcohol or RR cleaning solution.  You must work quickly
           because the oil will quickly be absorbed back into the ball
           as the ball cools.
        5. Return the ball to the oven and repeat step 4 until the ball
           no longer bleeds oil.  Be warned that depending on the condition
           of the ball, you may have to repeat this procedure 7 or 8 times
           before all of the oil is removed.

G. What is Dishwashing Your Bowling Ball?

Another method that has been discussed is to clean your bowling ball by using your dishwasher. William H. Rollins (, who originally recommended this procedure says that it accomplishes the same thing as baking the ball without the mess and time involved. I'm have not personally used this procedure, however some a.s.b.'ers have and have had good results. Basically, remove all your clean/dirty dishes, place the ball on the lower rack and run it through a cleaning cycle. The hot water and heat draws the oil off the ball, and the water rinses the oil away. Further details on dishwashing can be directed via email (or a.s.b. post) to Mr. Rollins.