What Are Bowling Pins Made Of?

Bowling becomes more popular game to the young, however have you ever been curious about which material make those bowling pins to help them can withstands such immense pressure from the thrown balls at a bowling alley?

Many people think that they are made of plastic, stone, metal, however the fact is different and you will find it very interesting then.


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Producing such a resistant bowling pin need to choose the right materials and many other factors into it.

When we throw a heavy bowling ball towards the pins at high speeds and wait for the ball to make them fall, the pins are hold together and durable are not due to metal, infact, it is in fact wood – the hard rock maple wood.

This fact can not be figured out by  many newbies or even experts.

What Are Bowling Pins Made Of

The Bowling Pin Materials History

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In the 1800s, producers use single block of hard rock maple wood to make bowling pins. The wood could be cut precisely and easy to manufacture.

However, using single block of hard rock maple was one weakness.

Because the wood density was inconsistent, the weight of the bowling pins are different, which affected the game.

Moreover, the bowling pinsetters were not available at that time. After each game, the players had to reset the lanes.

To solve these matters, bowling need to be innovated.

In 1946, American Machine and Foundry applied the patent for the technology of automatic pinsetters. These automatic machines helped to work for longer hours and there was no need to reset a lane.

Although this innovation could save the human’s works, there was another problem.

It could be seen that these pinsetters were hard on the bowling pins, which made the pins cracked and splintered, and the splinters return to affect the machines.

Then the final solution was given out and nowadays it is still applied: Vulcanite.

In 1954, Vulcan Manufacturing company manufacture bowling pins by gluing smaller pieces together. With their lightweight and high resistance advantages, it became a good solution and popular choice.

By 1961, there were no longer solid wood pins in the alleys.

To get more extra shine and perfect, the hard plastic sheath was used to laminate and lacquere these pins.

Up to now, this technology hasn’t changed for 60 years.

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What Are Bowling Pins Made Of

By now, you have already known about the material for the bowling pins, however, not all maple woods are suitable for them.

Inside the Pin

To make a good pin you need to use new hard maple wood blocks and pick from specific locations.

Why? The places with high mineral concentration will lead woods have lower density. These woods are good choice to manufacture these pins.

The particle lumber and polypropylene fiberglass were also used to test, but the result was not good. Though it had excellent durability, the scoring was low. The players would not be interested the game that they could not make a point. Therefore this option were rejected.

Outside the Pin

The exterior paint was also the challenging aspect to manufacturer: How to get light weight and together durability for the pins.

Ethylcellulose was choosen to solve two above matters.

The bowling pins were coated with a seven-layered process.

The first layer seals the wood pore. The second makes a better adhesion. The next five layers finish the process.

Nylon and DuPont’s Surlyn are used to coat today.

The Bowling Pin Design

The design plays an important role. If design works, the other things works.

The design of bowling pins include the durability, scoring and sound factor.


The pin durability depends on not only the core wood but also the coating work.

Because the pins are manufactured by pinsetter machines, many materials that failed on this front were not choosen. Then the good ethylcellulose coating process create great results.

The Core’s lifetime was better with the resistance of hard maple.


You can not get any point if the pin does not fall. The scoring is the key aspect and decided by the core used for these bowling pins.

In the past, many other materials such as steel, metals and other heavier woods were ever used. Though the pins got enough resistance, the scoring was poor, so that made the bowling scores unreliable.


One of the interesting things in playing bowling is found out that sound of pins getting hit and falling makes a major satisfaction factor for the players. You could not find any better materials than hard maple wood which generate that exciting sound.

Bowling Pin Quality Check

To have standard bowling pin, it has to pass strict quality supevision. The height, weight, coating thickness, wood moisture, gravity center are all checked carefully.

A standard pin must pass the durability tests. These tests start from the begining step when wood is choosen to be used to finished product.

A pin can last for 6 months without a retouch. After that, it is back for maintenance to get another 6 month durability till they eventually break.

Further Reading:

How to Bowl (with Pictures) – wikiHow

Bowling – Wikipedia

Final Note

Even many manufacturers continue to search and experiment for the better option for materials, until now the hard maple wood has been the best choice.

Maple can assure every aspect of bowling such as weight, durability, resistance, scoring, sound.

That is the reason why bowling pins have been made of maple woods for the past 200 years

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