Understanding Bowling Ball Finishes

Bowling Ball Finish: A Deep Dive

In the world of bowling, the finish on your ball isn't just a detail—it's a main factor in performance on the lanes. And each manufacturer has their own process to bring that final grit to life before the ball hits the market. It's a world of matte versus shine, a microcosm where the little things aren't so little after all.  

What Is Finish All About?

Now, let's chew on this: “surface is 70% of ball reaction.” That's the gospel in the alleys, but what’s behind these numbers? Why does that cover demand such respect? Because, that layer of polish, or the lack thereof, isn't just for looks—it's determining the friction created on the lane, producing ball motion and determining the shape your ball will make on the lanes. 

It's not just about whether your ball sports a glossy sheen or matte look.  It's about how these textures react to oil and friction.  In the MOTIV product line, we have a range of finishes that vary from 1000 grit sanded up to 5500 grit polished.  We also offer a Factory Finish Guide that provides the exact steps we use in the MOTIV factory to create each of the ball finishes in our bowling ball product line.  You can find all of our bowling products here.

Dull VS Polished

A sanded matte finish, rough and ready, grips onto the lane, drawing in oil. On the other hand, a polished ball, creates a layer where the oil cannot be absorbed through, creating a barrier between the ball and the lane.  This helps keep its energy coiled like a spring, ready to unleash at the breakpoint.  When looking at ball motion and deciding between a dull or polished ball, we must look at ball motion both side to side as well as front to back.

A sanded ball is your steady companion, providing more traction in the oil and smoothing out ball reaction.  However, this traction will affect the ball motion not in the oil as well.  A dull ball is best to blend out the variation from oil to dry on the lanes and “blend” the pattern.  The duller the finish on the ball, the earlier and slower the ball will use energy, unlike a polished ball that will store its energy for the dry friction.  A sanded finish is designed to give you a predictable, a smooth arc.

“Typically, I am looking to use surface or make a ball dull to give me a smoother reaction down lane, especially if the pattern is very erratic at the end of the pattern”, says MOTIV’s Nick Pahr.

Meanwhile, the polished ball is a bundle of energy—saving that energy to be released in a flash. Polish is best used when there is friction in the front of the lane and you need your ball to get through this friction to still have energy down lane at the end of the pattern, or when you need a more pronounced motion at the end of the pattern as the ball transfers from oil to friction when exiting the pattern.

How Often Should I Refinish My Ball?

Maintaining surface on your equipment will play a huge role in seeing consistent ball motion.  Especially if your ball is more matte than mirror, you'll need to give it some regular love—think every 2-3 weeks to keep its texture just right, to keep those microscopic peaks and valleys sharp.  Generally, the lower the grit, the more diligent you will have to stay to maintain the finish. 

With polished equipment and higher finishes, this is less of a factor.  However, even with the higher finishes, we must be aware that regular use will dull down the finish, causing the ball to lose motion down lane over time.  

Understanding and adjusting your ball's finish is crucial to maintaining consistent bowling ball reaction. This is also an aspect of your game that you, as the bowler, can control and manipulate to match up with what the lanes are giving you.  

It is a good idea for any competitive bowlers to always have an array of sanding pads in their bags. Most pro shops or online bowling stores will carry sanding pads along with other bowling supplies.  Keep those sanding pads handy and remember, in this game, how you finish is everything.

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