Do Bowling Pins Break?

do bowling pins break

Yes, in fact it’s quite common for bowling pins to break. They regularly do, especially at popular bowling alleys. Bowling pins are made of plastic and wood, and although the balls hitting them do not have sharp sides, they are hit regularly, and on a consistent basis. 

The inside of a bowling pin is made of maple wood, while the outside is made of hard plastic. Even though overall bowling pins are quite sturdy, the wood inside will split after being hit too many times along the grain. 

Bowling pins aren’t indestructible, though you wouldn’t be able to tell from looking at them if they are broken or not.

Do Bowling Pins Wear Out?

If you look at a well-used bowling pin up close, you will notice many scuffs on it. These scuffs do not affect the overall quality of the game, and will not affect your abilities to get a strike, so you can’t blame it on a scuffed pin. 

What actually wears out in the bowling pin is the wood inside. When put under pressure, wood will crack. When the wood underneath cracks too much, the pin won’t be able to move in the way it is supposed to. 

The average bowler won’t be able to know when a pin is broken just by looking at it, the difference will be in the sound and the way it works. A regular sounding pin has a sort of “ping” when a bowling ball hits it, a worn-out pin will have a cracked sound, almost dull. 

How Do Bowling Pins Wear Out?

Bowling pins wear out from two things; the ball hitting them frequently, and while being reset into proper formation. 

During a game of bowling, the pins could be hit many times, a bowling pin can take quite a few hits during a professional league game, or very few times, like during a child’s birthday party. It makes sense then that a league would cause the pins to wear out faster than a couple of birthday parties would, as a league’s score would be higher. 

Other times, the pins land in strange positions, and get caught up together while being reset into proper formation. The strings on the top of the pin can get tangled, and while being lifted into position, a pin could swing out and hit another. 

How Often Should Bowling Pins Be Replaced?

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Bowling pins should be replaced when the wood inside cracks. It no longer works the same as an undamaged pin does, and though you may not know if you go bowling at your local alley, a professional bowler will be able to tell right away

But how often does the wood inside crack? On average, bowling pins get replaced every one to two years. While there is a big difference between 1 and 2 years, the frequency in which they get replaced comes down to how popular of an alley it is, how many league bowlers the alley has, and how often they play.

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What Happens to Broken Bowling Pins? 

As you can imagine, having to replace all their pins every year or every other year would mean that bowling alleys have an excess of broken bowling pins. This Redditor working at a bowling alley said they actually sold bowling pins frequently, with other commenters agreeing the same. 

This may lead you to ask, what would someone do with a broken bowling pin, if it can’t be used for bowling anymore? In order to reduce waste, people re-purpose them. 

Target Practice

Due to the fact that they are made of wood, bowling pins are great for target practice. They can be re-used as targets many times and, despite the cracks in the wood, are very durable unlike other targets, like bottles and cans. 

They are also thinner than some traditional targets which are shaped to resemble humans, and so are good for people to be able to practice their precision. Hunters also sometimes target small to medium-sized animals, which resemble a bowling pin more than a circular or humanoid target.


People also get creative with their purchased bowling pins, painting them and using them as decorations in their homes. It’s a great gift for any bowling enthusiast, and once painted might no longer be recognizable as pins at all. 

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Because of their durability, bowling pins can be used in building furniture. Sometimes used as chair or table legs, bowling pins will hold up your furniture well. Though the wood is split, maple is quite durable and can be used in various types of furniture, so long as the cracks in the wood are mended. 

Bowling practice

While professionals will not use broken bowling pins, some parents will buy them for their kids, to be able to teach them how to play the game from home. Used pins can teach kids the fundamentals of the game, without needing to topple perfectly. 

Real bowling pins are also more durable and cheaper than the plastic bowling sets sold in toy stores, so parents don’t have to replace them if their child gets too rough with the game.

Campfire Wood

If all else fails, once the thick plastic is removed from bowling pins, they can be used as wood in your campfire. Maple wood is amazing for campfires, as it burns for a long time, and can produce powerful flames

Final Thoughts

While quite durable, bowling pins are not indestructible. Though you wouldn’t be able to tell from the outside, being hit too often by a speeding ball does take its toll. The cracked insides may make them no longer viable for professional bowling, but the bowling pin does have many other uses.

Though we are often encouraged to reduce, reuse, recycle, many of us don’t think about bowling pins, though they are one of the most versatile re-usable items you can buy.

They are much more than just items that are part of a fun night out, and with a little ingenuity, can have quite impressive second lives.  

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