Care of your balls!

Modern balls can become dirty with use – chalk dust, oils from the hands and general use can all lead to them losing their shine.

For most modern balls, you can use a very mild soap and warm water to clean them. Definitely do not use a dish washer unless you prefer all your snooker balls white or faded, hot water should be avoided too. The best way to clean them is to use a proprietary snooker ball cleaner, this puts the shine back in them. You can also use car T-Cut followed by car wax polish. Solvents or glass cleaners should never be used.

Lastly, it’s advised you replace a set of balls every 10 years if in regular use, as it may surprise you to know they wear at different rates. The white and black end up slightly smaller (and I do mean very slightly) as they get more use than the other balls – well the white certainly does , the black depends how good you are at snooker !!! However as most of the club’s I visit seem to think the balls last forever I wouldn’t let it worry you too much :)!



Early billiards balls where made of Elephant ivory, huge numbers of these magnificent animals were killed just for their tusks. Shockingly, only a few billiard balls, maybe two or three at most could be made from a single tusk.

Billiards was played with two whites, one with a black dot at each pole of the ball – this was actually the nerve running though the tusk ! The one red ball was coloured with red vegetable dye. Estimates vary from 250,000 up to 2 million Elephants slaughtered just to keep the empire playing billiards.

No one in the world needs an elephant tusk but an elephant.
Thomas Schmidt

With the advent of snooker needing 22 balls the hunt was on for a composite material to meet the demand for this increasingly popular game. Early balls were bonzolne and crystalate based on a cellulose nitrite composition – not far removed from nitro glycerin!!! This led to early rumours of exploding balls!! – never proven – perhaps just a myth?

What is in no doubt, the search for a replacement for ivory led to the direct development of better high explosives, so maybe the Elephants had their karma when you consider the impact these explosives have had on the human race.

The other irony is the modern phenolic resin based ball plays very similar to the original ivory ball both in weight and response. Though the temperature does not affect the modern ball to the same extent and you don’t need to send a man out to true your balls up!!! – yep that’s true – Ivory Ball Trimmers and Turner’s was a highly skilled job.

If you ever come across a set of very rare ivory balls they are worth a lot of money, never be tempted to wash them in water as the vegetable dyes used will simply run away, which explains why most of them end up white.


Never mind the width – feel the undercut!

There’s a lot of nonsense talked about pocket sizes. Players often use their fist to check the actual size which is somewhat pointless as its the undercut [the angle the pocket rubber is cut underneath] as this is what forces the ball downwards into the pocket. You can have a wide pocket with no undercut and balls will just rattle across the pocket jaws and won’t go in even on a slow shot along the cushion. Conversely, a tight pocket with lots of undercut will be much easier to pot balls even played at speed along the cushion.

One question we are often asked is: “are the tables used in televised matches easy as balls seem to go in on shots that wouldn’t go in on our local club tables?” The truth is somewhat in the middle, don’t forget that on TV you are seeing the shots from angles and closeups you don’t normally see, even worse in slow motion. However sponsors and TV producers want to see big breaks and that does mean they don’t want very tight pockets. If your table is an old one it’s very likely it has tighter pockets than modern match tables. On many older tables you certainly can’t pot balls at speed from oblique angles, in fact even straight shots may be thrown back off the pocket plate.

In years past pockets were tighter and there often was not sufficient rubber to put much of an undercut on. Joe Davis made his 147 on a very tight table with much heavier and less responsive balls!


Snooker Boom Years

The 1980s were the boom years for Snooker. Ever since the introduction of the first colour TV’s and the advent of Pot Black in 1969 Snooker had been increasing in popularity – somewhat ironic as TV and Cinema were the main reasons why Snooker had been in decline for the previous decade. Initially Snooker was only televised to show off the newly introduced colour TV.

Promoter Barry Hearn along with Steve Davis really got Snooker going. Barry has returned to promoting Snooker after it appeared it was on the verge of decline once again. Now the game has gone from strength to strength both in the UK and, perhaps more importantly, internationally particularly in China and its only a matter of time before we crown a Chinese World Champion.