English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Billiard Monthly : March, 1911

The Billiard Monthly : March, 1911

Essential Billiard Components

II. THE BALLS

Of extreme importance in the game of billiards are the
balls. Time was when billiard balls were only made from
ivory. Now there are composition balls, but there are many
players who still think that there is “nothing like ivory,”
especially if it be of the right kind and if the sphericity of
the balls be perfect and their density as equally balanced
as possible.

A billiard ball that is of unequal density can never run
true, whilst a set that is not identical in weight and size
cannot yield uniform results. When ivory balls are purchased
from the best houses and a reasonable price is paid
for them, thoroughly tested and seasoned balls are supplied
and their owner rarely finds reason to repent of his investment.

There is nothing quite like good ivory for billiard balls.
It has qualities that are all its own, coupled with an appearance
as regards its grain and colour and a restraint
mellowness in its click which no substitute, however excellent
in its way, has yet been able to rival for the more
refined developments of the game.

In common with the ash wood of the billiard cue, the
ivory of the billiard ball carries the mind to places where
the trees of the field wave and where the forests stand.

Ivory is obtainable from the tusks of animals other than
the elephant, but it is from the African equatorial elephant
that the ivory used in the manufacture of the best billiard
balls comes. This ivory is closer in the grain and has less
tendency to become yellow by exposure than the so-called
Indian ivory. During the drying and seasoning process the
tusks shrink, especially in their width, and for this reason
the best billiard balls are turned from tusks which do not
greatly exceed two inches in diameter when ready for the
turner. By the selection of such tusks the ivory on the
opposite sides of the ball is found to correspond in density
and form, and the shrinkage about the centre is uniform.

After being roughly turned to shape the balls are further
seasoned by being kept in a warm room, and the additional
precaution is sometimes adopted of sending them out in
their finished state up to full size, so that, after the
lapse of some time, they may be subjected to micrometrical
test and, if necessary, fractionally reduced to perfect
sphericity once more. In the case of ivory balls for the
warmer climates precautions of this kind are, of course,
especially needed, and sometimes the plan is adopted of
giving the balls a preliminary seasoning in the rough in the
actual room in which they are intended to be ultimately
used.

Even in the temperate climate of Great Britain the fortunate
possessor of a set of good ivory balls should take at
least as much care of such set as he does of his special cues,
or of his table. To leave valuable ivory balls in the pockets
of a table or to place them in a box over the fireplace is
sufficient to disorganize any set, however judiciously they
may have been originally selected. A method to be recommended
for the storage of balls when not in use is to place
them in a box filled with sawdust and put them away in
a cupboard or drawer. If this be done they will suffer
neither injury nor deterioration.

As regards the treatment of the balls when on the table
and in actual play, some few words may, perhaps, be added.

To begin with, an expert billiard player comparatively rarely
strikes a ball with any degree of force, and when he does
so he has a definite intention in his mind. It may occasionally
be necessary to use force in order to make the cue
ball take a wider angle or the object ball travel in and out
of baulk and resume position. But for the most part the
competent cueist adopts the method of the wise pedagogue
in dealing with the child and “never takes the harsher way
when ‘ gentleness ‘ will do the deed.”

Sometimes, when ordinary amateurs are playing, a ball
is struck with so much force and so unwisely that it leaps
from the table, rattles along the floor, and is finally
brought to with a shock against an iron fender. A ball that
is struck violently, especially with “top,” and which reaches
a cushion obliquely at short range, will always leave the
table, and a disagreeable eventuality of this kind should be
foreseen and guarded against.

The three golden rules in ball treatment and control on
the billiard table are: (1) Use them gently; (2) allocate the
line of direction to be taken both by object and cue ball;
and (3) estimate and adapt “strength” to the required
length of travel. Probably the two greatest secrets to be
learnt in connection with break-making are the playing of a
losing hazard in such a way as to guide the object ball to a
desirable location and the potting of the object ball in such
a manner as to leave the cue ball favourably situated. Each
of these processes is much less difficult than is generally
imagined and is sometimes as easy as simply making the
immediate stroke.


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