How Did Bowling Pins Get Their Shape?

how did bowling pins get their shape

Surprisingly, bowling isn’t a modern sport. It is a game that has been played all over the world for centuries. In fact, there is strong evidence that some variant of the game was played in Ancient Egypt. Of course, bowling pins haven’t always been the shape that we know today. So, how do they get their shape?

The thing is that there seems to be no recorded history about how bowling pins ended up with their shape. Remember, even today, bowling games will have pins of different shapes and sizes. The shape that most of us are likely familiar with is the heavy base leading into a thin neck. It is likely that this shape evolved so that bowling pins do not tip over easily.

After all, with a thin neck and a heavy base, a bowling ball isn’t just going to fall over without a decent amount of force in the shot. 

What Is the Shape of a Bowling Pin?

In ten-pin and nine-pin bowling, the bowling pin will always be the same shape.

You can think of a bowling pin as being split into two parts. You have a top half and a bottom half. The top half of the bowling pin will be nice and slim. The bottom part of the bowling ball is chunky.

The bottom half is meant to offer a solid base to ensure that the bowling ball doesn’t topple over easily. In fact, the weight of the bowling pin is heavily regulated to ensure that this does not happen. 

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Do Bowling Pins Have to Meet Any Specifications?

They do. In the United States, the specifications of bowling pins are carefully regulated by the United States Bowling Congress. The rules that they came up with have actually been adopted worldwide for bowling.

This means that if you enter an officially sanctioned competition anywhere in the world then, in theory, the bowling pins should always be the same shape and size.


Bowling pins are designed to ensure that they will not tip over until they have been tilted to at least 10-degrees. This is why you will often see a bowling pin bounce around slightly before falling down. Unless a lightly hit bowling pin is able to reach 10-degrees, then it will not fall over at all.

Bowling Pin Weight

Bowling pins will need to weigh between 1.53 and 1.64kg. There is a reason why this weight was chosen. In the past, this size would represent a quarter of the weight of the minimum weight bowling ball that you could throw.

This would encourage people to throw a bowling ball a little bit harder rather than rolling it to the end of the bowling alley. This means that if players never threw the balling ball with much force, the chances of them knocking a bowling pin over would be quite low. 

Bowling Pin Height

In terms of height, bowling pins will always have to be 38.1com tall. The bottom of the bowling pin should be 5.7cm wide. The middle of the bowling pin, or the thickest part of the bowling pin, will need to be 12cm. 

These rules are very strict, but they are strict for a reason. If there wasn’t uniformity in the size and weight of bowling pins, then every bowling game would be different.

Since bowling is a game where you are meant to be repeating your shots as much as possible, the last thing you want is to have bowling pins that react differently from lane to lane.

There is already enough going on to impact a bowling shot that the pins shouldn’t be thrown into the equation too. At least this is one thing that can be controlled.

How Are Bowling Pins Made?

This depends on the bowling pin.

If we ignore ancient history where bowling pins were made of shaped stone, bowling pins a few decades back would always have been made of maple wood. This is because maple wood had the exact qualities that people wanted in bowling pins.

It was weighty, which meant it could conform to the various specifications, but it was also easy to shape. This meant that you wouldn’t end up with an overly tall bowling pin.

Maple bowling pins would often be made from two pieces of wood. You had a larger piece with a thin piece of wood stuck on top of that. They would be glued other securely. Both parts would then be shaped by hand or, in most cases, a machine.

They were then tested to ensure that they conform to the size and shape of bowling balls. If they did, then they would be painted, laminated, and sold as bowling pins.

In recent years, most bowling pins haven’t been made from maple. Instead, companies are now starting to use various plastics to shape their bowling pins. This is because the process is a little bit easier to control. There is far less wastage. Once you have the molds needed to shape the plastic, then pretty much every bowling pin is guaranteed to be of a uniform size.

Plastic bowling pins are made of plastic that has been melted down and then shaped to size.

In official bowling competition rules, both maple bowling pins and plastic bowling pins are allowed to be used. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any limitation on the type of material that can be used.

As long as the bowling pin conforms to the strict specifications in every single way, then it doesn’t matter which material is used. In theory, we would even go back to the days when stone was used commonly for bowling pins. It probably wouldn’t work all that well, but it is possible!

Final Thoughts

We do not know how bowling pins gained their traditional ‘pin’ shape. It is likely something that happened a good few centuries ago now.

The main design concept of the bowling pin is thick at the bottom and thin at the top. This allows the pins to stack nice and close together while also allowing them to be knocked over. This has most likely evolved over time to what we see today.

However, the shape of bowling pins nowadays is heavily regulated to ensure that pins react the same from bowling alley to bowling alley. 

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