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What Are Bowling Pins Made Of?


Bowling is a fun and exciting sport enjoyed by millions of players around the globe. At the heart of every game lies an essential piece of equipment: bowling pins. Understanding the materials and craftsmanship that go into making bowling pins can enhance one’s appreciation for the game and provide insight into their performance.

Traditionally, bowling pins have been made from hard maple wood, known for its strength and durability. However, in recent years, the use of synthetic materials, such as plastic or a combination of wood and plastic, has gained popularity. These materials aim to improve modern bowling pin’ performance and longevity while reducing the environmental impact of manufacturing.

The process of making a bowling pin is quite intricate, involving turning, shaping, and coating the materials to create the iconic shape and ensure uniformity and balance. The choice of materials and construction techniques play a crucial role in the pin’s performance, affecting factors like sound, bounce, and how the pins react when struck by a bowling ball. As one delves deeper into the fascinating world of how bowling pins are made, the knowledge enriches the overall bowling experience.

Materials Used in Bowling Pins


Bowling pins are traditionally made from hard rock maple wood, a strong and durable material derived from maple trees.

wooden bowling pins - bowlingview

Hard rock maple is known for its stiffness, density, and ability to withstand substantial impact. It is widely accepted as the industry standard for wooden bowling pins. These solid wood pins are typically constructed from solid pieces of maple, ensuring consistency in weight and balance.

Plastic and Metal Components

In addition to solid wood, bowling pins may also contain various plastic and metal components. For example, some pins feature a nylon or hard plastic sheath encasing the wooden core. This sheath serves to protect the pin from wear and tear, extending its life on the lanes. Similarly, metal components like steel may be incorporated to provide additional support and durability.


Bowling pins are often coated with different materials to enhance their surface appearance and longevity. Common options include ethylcellulose and latex coatings, which give the pin a smooth, glossy finish. These coatings help to repel dirt and grime, maintaining the pin’s pristine appearance over time. Plastic-coated pins, on the other hand, have a gloss coat applied to the plastic sheath.

Core Materials

While the majority of bowling pins have a wooden core, some may feature alternative core materials. For instance, pins with a polypropylene-fiberglass core are popular for their lightweight design and resistance to warping. These pins still possess a hard plastic sheath and protective coating to ensure longevity.

In conclusion, bowling pins are carefully crafted using a combination of materials such as hard rock maple wood, plastic, metal, and various coatings. Each element contributes to the bowling pin shape it’s overall durability, weight distribution, and performance on the lanes.

Manufacturing Process


The design of bowling pins is crucial for ensuring proper function in league bowling. Manufacturers, such as Vulcan Manufacturing, follow specific guidelines for creating the pin’s shape, which includes a narrow top, a rounded belly, and a pin skirt at the bottom. This shape provides a suitable target for bowlers and contributes to the pin’s stability on the lane.


During the construction process, wooden pieces are glued together to create the body of the pin. The gluing helps in maintaining the structure of solid pins and bonding various segments of the pin. It also plays a role in maintaining the pin’s balance throughout its usage.

Coating Material

After the gluing process, wooden pins are covered with an ethylcellulose coating, which serves as a protective layer. Synthetic material is also used for coating plastic coated pin. The coating material enhances the pin’s durability and safeguards it from impacts, scuffs, and scratches that occur during gameplay.

Construction Regulation

Construction regulations for bowling pins are set by organizations like the Women’s International Bowling Congress (WIBC) and the American Bowling Congress (ABC). These guidelines ensure that all pins used in league bowling meet specific standards for design, size, and weight. Compliance with these regulations is crucial, as it guarantees consistency and fairness in the sport.

Durability and Maintenance

Bowling pins are designed to withstand repeated impacts during gameplay. To maintain their durability, modern bowling pins must undergo regular maintenance procedures, such as cleaning and thorough inspections. These practices ensure that any wear or damage to the pin can be addressed promptly to maintain its optimal performance and liveliness on the lanes.


Technological advancements have contributed to the evolution of the manufacturing process for bowling pins. New materials and manufacturing techniques have been developed to produce pins with improved durability, performance, and consistency. These innovations play a crucial role in enhancing the overall bowling experience and maintaining the sport’s popularity.

Types of Bowling Pins


Candlepins are a type of bowling pin used primarily in the New England region of the United States and in Canada’s Maritime provinces. Made out of wood, these unique pins are tall and thin, measuring approximately 15.75 inches in height and 2.968 inches in diameter. Unlike other types of bowling pins, candlepins do not have a tapered shape, giving them a distinct look. Each pin weighs between 2.4 and 2.7 pounds.

Duckpin Bowling

Duckpin bowling uses smaller, squat pins that are approximately 9.4 inches tall and 4.8 inches wide. These pins are typically made of hard maple wood, with a slightly tapered shape that is much stockier than the narrow candlepins. Each duckpin weighs between 3 and 3.75 pounds. Duckpin bowling is primarily played in the United States, with a concentrated popularity on the East Coast.

Nine-Pin Bowling

Nine-pin bowling is a variation of bowling that is most popular in Europe. As the name suggests, this version of the game uses nine pins instead of ten. These pins are wider at the base and narrower at the top, standing at approximately 19.3 inches tall and weighing around six pounds each. Nine-pin bowling pins are typically made of hard maple wood or synthetic materials, such as plastic or composite materials.

Tenpin Bowling

Tenpin bowling is the most widespread and well-known form of bowling, played worldwide. The pins used in tenpin bowling are made of hard maple wood or synthetic materials.

With a sleek, tapered shape, these pins are 15 inches tall and weigh between 3.5 and 3.85 pounds.

The base diameter is 2.25 inches, expanding to the widest point of 4.763 inches, before narrowing back down towards the top. Tenpin bowling pins are coated with a thin layer of plastic or a specially designed enamel to enhance their durability and appearance.

Regulations and Measurements

Bowling pins are regulated by various organizations to ensure consistency and fairness in the sport. The United States Bowling Congress (USBC), World Bowling, and the World Tenpin Bowling Association (WTBA) all have specific rules and guidelines for the materials, dimensions, and specifications of bowling pins.

The USBC, for example, has strict regulations in place for the size, weight, and material composition of bowling pins. Some of these regulations include:

  • Minimum Height: 15 inches
  • Maximum Height: 15.25 inches
  • Minimum Base Diameter: 2.25 inches
  • Maximum Base Diameter: 2.3 inches
  • Minimum Maximum Diameter (widest part): 4.766 inches
  • Maximum Maximum Diameter (widest part): 4.9 inches
  • Minimum Weight: 3 pounds, 6 ounces
  • Maximum Weight: 3 pounds, 10 ounces

World Bowling, which is the global governing body for bowling, aligns with the WTBA and USBC to maintain a uniform standard for bowling pins. This organization ensures the sport has consistent rules internationally.

Bowling pins are usually made from hard maple wood, coated with a durable plastic material, and finished with a glossy coat. This ensures that the pins can withstand the force of the bowling ball and maintain their shape, size, and weight through repeated use. In some cases, synthetic materials may be used as an alternative to wood for constructing bowling pins.

By adhering to these strict regulations, bowling organizations ensure a fair and consistent playing experience worldwide. These standardized measurements and materials contribute to the sport’s integrity and allow for accurate comparisons between bowlers and competitions across different countries and organizations.

Pin Setters and Scoring

Pin setters, also known as automatic pin setter, spotters or automatic pinsetters, are an essential part of any bowling alley. They are responsible for resetting the pins after each ball and returning the ball to the player. Modern pin setters are automatic machines with multiple moving parts that work together to quickly and accurately replace the pins.

Before automatic pinsetters, people known as pin boys would manually reset the pins and return the balls. They would often work in groups, taking turns to ensure a continuous flow of gameplay. In 1936, the first automatic pinsetter was invented by Gottfried Schmidt, revolutionizing the sport and making it more accessible for players.

Scoring in bowling is based on the number of pins knocked down with each ball and any additional points earned from strikes or spares. A game consists of 10 frames, with each player getting two chances to roll the ball per frame. The pins are numbered 1-10 and are arranged in a triangular shape at the end of the lane. The maximum score for a single game is 300 points, which is achieved by getting 12 consecutive strikes.

The automatic pinsetter plays a crucial role in providing an accurate score for each player. Once the pins have been knocked down, the pinsetter uses a series of sensors and cameras to detect which pins remain standing or have been knocked down. This information is then sent to the scoring system, which automatically calculates and displays the player’s score on the scoreboard.

Overall, pin setters and scoring systems greatly contribute to a seamless and enjoyable bowling experience. The rapid advancement of pin setter and technology has transformed the sport, providing better accuracy and smoother gameplay for players. Some modern bowling alleys even offer entertainment features such as customizable animated scoreboards and unique sound effects to enhance the experience.

Other Applications and Variations

Bowling pins have several other applications and variations, apart from their primary use in bowling alleys. One such application is in the sport of bowling pin shooting. In this competitive shooting event, participants aim to knock over target bowling pins lined up on a flat surface using a firearm. The goal is to knock down all the other bowling pins as quickly as possible.

Another variation of the bowling pin design is the use of rubber bands and multi-piece cores in its construction. These types of pins can feature a center-of-gravity shift, giving them an enhanced ability to self-right after being hit. This design is particularly popular in environments where bowling pins are subjected to frequent, high-impact collisions, such as in bars and recreational facilities.

In some cases, creative uses of bowling pins lead to unique decorative items or even functional equipment. The versatile shape of the bowling pin material today often enables artists and craftsmen to transform it into an array of products, ranging from lamps and furniture to musical instruments and sports equipment.

To summarize, bowling pins have several applications and variations beyond their traditional use in bowling alleys. Whether serving as targets for shooting sports or being repurposed into innovative art installations, these iconic items continue to captivate our imagination.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are you wondering about the specifications of bowling pins or how often they should be replaced? Look no further! Here are some frequently asked questions to help answer all your queries.

Bowling pins are typically made from hard maple wood or a synthetic material known as Surlyn. The manufacturing process involves kiln drying the wood, turning it on a lathe, and then coating it with a durable plastic material.

The standard weight of a bowling pin can vary slightly, but they typically weigh between 3 pounds, 6 ounces to 3 pounds, 10 ounces (1.5 to 1.7 kg). Each pin must also meet strict specifications set by the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) or similar governing bodies in other countries.

Bowling pins usually measure about 15 inches (38 cm) in height. They also have specific width measurements at various points, with the maximum width being approximately 4.75 inches (12 cm) near the base of entire pin.

Bowling pins are arranged in a triangular formation known as a “rackbar.” The rackbar consists of ten pins, set up in four rows, with the first row containing one pin, the second row of ten pin bowling containing two pins, the third row containing three pins, and the fourth row containing four pins.

Bowling centers typically replace their entire set of bowling pins every 1-2 years, depending on the usage of the pins and the level of wear they experience. Once a pin becomes visibly damaged or no longer meets the weight and size requirements set by the governing body, it is replaced with a new one.

Yes, bowling pins can be repurposed when they are no longer suitable for play. They can be used as decorations, turned into lamps, or even used in various craft projects.