Bowling Ball Resurfacing
Polish 'em or rough 'em up a bit - it's your choice!
This page is for the intermediate to advanced bowler - someone who bowls enough to understand lane and equipment conditions. It will benefit the bowler who has been buying at least one new, high-performance bowling ball per year and has several dead and semi-dead balls stacked away in his or her garage.
You probably make regular visits to your local pro shop for refinishing. My hope is that some of the following information will give you enough confidence and motivation to start doing some of this work yourself. Lets begin:
Cleaning Vs. Resurfacing
Let's start by defining terms. This page is NOT about cleaning your bowling balls. While that is a very important part of ball maintenance, and something you should do during and after each session, I consider cleaning the simple removal of lane oil and grime using non-abrasive products that do not affect your ball's surface condition.
For more information about bowling ball cleaning, including recommended products and a list of products to avoid, click here.
Why should I resurface my bowling ball?
Really, there are two questions here: why should YOU resurface your ball instead of having your pro shop operator do the job, and why resurface your ball at all.
To answer the first question: I like being able to refinish my ball how I want, when I want and without making an appointment. The cost of materials is insignificant, so it can be a money saver as well.
I don't begrudge a pro shop operator for charging for his time and knowledge to do the task. In my opinion, they don't make nearly enough money for doing what they do in the first place. But I'm also a big fan of self-sufficiency.
The reason you want to resurface your ball is to keep your equipment performing at its best and to maximize its lifespan. With premium performance bowling balls going for $200 plus, I'd like to get the most out of them I possibly can.
I'm convinced that proper maintenance, coupled with regular resurfacing, can add years to the life of your favorite bowling balls.
An advantage of doing the work yourself is that you can experiment week to week to find the surface that matches perfectly to your bowling style, house oil condition and equipment.
So what kind of finish should I put on my bowling ball?
A simple question that has a simple answer: it depends. If you are looking to recreate the factory finish that was on the ball when you purchased it, the easiest thing to do is to visit the manufacturer's website to find out what that finish was. If you're lucky, they will list the grit finish and you can use the resurfacing products necessary to get there. Often the ball manufacturer will even recommend product(s) to be used. If you're not so lucky, you'll have to experiment.
You may, however, be trying to get a different kind of reaction from the ball than what the factory finish can deliver: more traction on heavy oil, a more even reaction on dry conditions, etc. The fun in being able to resurface your own equipment is in the experimentation. You can try a variety of products and finishes to find precisely the reaction you're looking for. With time and practice, you'll begin to learn what products, materials and processes can deliver what kind of surface. Then your resurfacing work becomes less experimentation and more results-oriented.
Acceptable resurfacing products - to be used before or after competition, according to the USBC 6/22/10
These products contain solids or abrasives that make them not acceptable for use during competition, as that would violate USBC rule 18.
- Citrus Base Cleaner
Delayed Reaction Ball Polish
Ballshield Base Cut & Shine
Brunswick Ball Polish
Factory Finish High Gloss Polish
Captain Bob's X-12 Bowling Ball Wipes
#1 Low % of Abrasives Don Carter
#2 Course Don Carter
#3 Medium Don Carter
#4 Fine Don Carter
Fast Work Don Carter
Go Long Don Carter
Performance Polish Elite
Clean Shot .
Sure-Shot Polish .
Ball Cleaner & Wax No.III
2001 Pro Roll Bowling Ball Polish .
Repel Ball Polish
Repel Ball Polish (High Gloss)
Repel Ball Polish (Matte Finish)
Repel Ball Polish (Medium Gloss)
Naturoll Finish Ball Polish
Cream Ball Cleaner, Ball Polish
PJ's Tacky Snap
Ball Cleaner & Polish
Scotch Brite Scouring Pad
Orange Power Spray & Wipe
Pro Finish Step 1
Pro Finish Step 2
Pro Finish Step 3
Bowling Ball Cream Cleaner
Power Gel Polish
Power Gel Scuff
1-Step Reactive Resin Ball Cleaner
2-Step Reactive Resin Ball Cleaner
Clean N' Dull
Factory Finish Polish
Reaction Control System Cleaner
Reactive Resin Finish Polish
Black Magic Particle Coverstock Resin Ball Polish
Black Magic XL Cleaner & Polisher for Particle and Resin Balls
Ultimate Plus Polish Cleaner
XXX Rated Cleaner & Polisher
Doc's Magic Bowling Ball Elixir
The Scotch-Brite Solution
or - how I avoid using liquid resurfacing products
I've used many of the above products. Many bowlers and pro shop operators I know have too. The thing that I don't like about the liquid products is that they don't give as consistent of a finish as I'd like. And they can be a bit messy.
My favorite method of resurfacing uses various grades of Scotch-Brite pads. You didn't know there was more than the standard green variety? They come in a selection of grades that can be approximately matched to sandpaper grit equivalents.
I try to keep it simple, so I primarily use two grades of Scotch-Brite pads:
#7447 Maroon: 360 - 400 grit equivalent
#7448 Gray: 800 - 1000 grit equivalent
For step one, I typically "cut" the surface (making the ball dull and removing most surface imperfections like scratches, etc.) with the maroon pad.
Step two, I go over the ball again with the gray pad for the final finish.
For very heavy oil, I might go with the maroon as the only pad / finish.
For a much smoother surface, I would do step one and two above, but then put a final finish on the ball with Scotch-Brite #7445 white: 1200 - 1500 grit equivalent.
The typical source for these grades of Scotch-Brite is an auto body supply store. Auto body shops use these pads like you are - as sandpaper replacements.
You'll notice some 3M polishes in the above products list; they are also made for auto body finishes.
You'll notice I didn't get into sandpapers. I just don't care for them. Like body shops, I find that the Scotch-Brite pads conform to the surface better, rinse out clean easily in the sink and last a VERY long time. Sandpaper breaks down more rapidly and is harder to hold on to and work with.
But what about a high polish for my plastic spare ball?
OK, you got me. I DO like to use a liquid product here to keep my plastic spare ball running clean and straight. Occasionally I apply Ebonite's Factory Finish Polish with a smooth rag. It leaves my Columbia 300 white dot looking like a new billiard ball and the light reflection blinds anyone who looks directly at the ball on the return.
Be a hero by putting a shine on your kid's Scooby Doo ball. Or the envy of your league by putting a high polish on that skull ball you use for your spares.
I've heard that the Finesse-it II polish by 3M gives a similar finish. It comes in a pretty big bottle at my local auto parts store. I couldn't possibly use that much, so I haven't tried it yet.
How do I apply these products to my bowling ball?
Excellent question. A ball has six sides: top, bottom, side, side, front, back. You need to apply whichever product you choose equally on all sides to get an even finish and to retain that "round" aspect of the ball we've come to enjoy.
Now, you could do this with a lot of elbow grease - and I mean a LOT. Or you could do it like your pro shop operator does it by using a spinner. It's a piece of equipment that will pay for itself many times over and is great for cleaning as well as resurfacing balls.
Click here for more information on bowling ball spinners.
Abralon sanding pads use silicon carbide particles that are precision sifted to a consistent grain size, then bonded evenly to a six-inch round fabric face for the most even scratch pattern available. Much better than sandpaper and made specifically to refinish bowling balls.