Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bowling Pins!

10-Pin Bowling...
Candlepin Bowling....
Duckpin Bowling....
Anyone who knows me knows that I love Bowling.
I have bowled the normal 10-Pin bowling hundreds of times.

Once I played Duckpin Bowling and had a blast....
...but I have never played Candlepin Bowling before.
Both my older brothers went to college in Boston and told me about Candlepin Bowling, but I never got to go.  I have watched many old televised videos of Candlepin Bowling and always wanted to play.

So, I decided to make my own Candlepins and Duckpins.  Once the first of each pin is done, I want to make molds of it, and make 10 castings - my first Candlepin and Duckpin sets!

I first started with the Candlepin.
To start off, I needed the dimensions of a Candlepin.
I found this on http://www.bowlcandlepin.com.

Getting the right weight will be an issue, but I will worry about that later.  Using the specs from the website, I redrew the pin at it's correct size in Adobe Illustrator.
 I printed out a few pin illustrations at the correct size and mounted them to 1/16 inch cardboard.
First I cut out the shape of the pin intact.  Next I cut out all the pieces...
..and glued them perpendicular to the intact pin.  Then I glued in the circular areas to the top/bottom and to the middle.  

Now each section of the pin had a space which I filled with styrofoam.  I glued them in and using a hot wire cutter I shaped the foam to look like a pin.  I used sandpaper to give the surface a smooth appearance and to smooth out the hard angles left by the hot wire.  When I was finished it looked something like this:
Sorry  - I forgot to take pictures of this step.

My next step was to add some layers of wood filler to really smooth out the surface of the pin. The filler will also seal in the strofoam so that when I apply some spray-on primer, the chemicals won't melt the styrofoam. 

While the filler was drying, I started on the duckpin.  It was very hard finding the dimensions of a duckpin, but I found many pictures of a Duckpin next to a standard Bowling Pin.  Since I know the size of a standard pin, it was then easy to get the size of a Duckpin.

Like the candlepin, I drew the duckpin in illustrator.
And then printed it - mounted it to cardboard and cut out.

Then I started gluing the pieces together.  

All the quartered-pieces glued on were perpendicular to the main piece.  I tried to center the quarters as best I could.

Next I took a piece of styrofoam and fit it in one of the cavities.  I marked the shape with a marker and cut it out with a hot wire.

And then glued it in place.

I repeated this process until all the cavities were filled.  And using the hot wire, I shaped it to the shape of  a duckpin, using the cardboard as guides.

Next I sanded the styrofoam to smooth out the shape better. I also then glued on the bottom circle so that the pin will stand up straight on it's own.

I sanded this at the Walmart parking lot since sanding styrofoam is quite messy.  But I am quite happy with the results.  Next I applied some wood filler.

And here we see the 2 pins drying.

After they dried I began to sand them.  This proved difficult since underneath the filler was soft, flexible styrofoam.  So in order to seal and stiffen up the pins, I first added some white acrylic paint.

Unfortunately the pins are still quite springy even after the paint.  This is making the paint and wood filler crack.  I should have used some dense insulation foam instead of regular styrofoam.  So, back to the beginning!  

This time I decided to make a standard Bowling Pin as well.  Like the Candlepin & Duckpin, I drew it in Adobe Illustrator and printed it at the correct size.  The dimensions of a standard 10-pin are easily found on the internet. I made the Regular Pin the same way I made the others.  Mounted to cardboard, cut out...
...and assembled. 
Then I remade the other 2 pins. 
Next I used the dense Insulation foam to fill in the gaps instead of styrofoam.

I only had left over foam around, so a lot of the edges are not straight.  This is why you can see some large gaps between pieces.  They don't look pretty now, but once they get a good sanding....

...they look pretty good now.  Once again I sanded these in the Walmart parking lot.  Insulation foam isn't as messy as styrofoam - but it is still messy.  You might want to use goggles and a breathing mask as the dust from insulation foam is small and can get everywhere, including your eyes, nose and mouth.

Here are all 3, freshly sanded.

Next step is to apply some wood filler.  Since the insulation foam is much more dense than styrofoam, coating it with wood filler should be fine.  Insulation foam is about as dense as balsa wood, so I should hopefully not run into problems when sanding.
First coat of filler is applied.

While that was drying I contacted my friend Fritz at Silicone & Epoxy Technology (www.SET-mfg.com) who is an expert when it comes to molding and casting things.  I told him of my plans to mold and cast these pins.  He told me that the best and most inexpensive way to do this was to mold the pins, then slushcast them in plastic and then finally fill the castings with dense foam.  To mold and cast a set of 10 duckpins would run over $200!  Not interested in spending so much, I decided to look for 10-pins, Candlepins and Duckpins on ebay....and I found them! They actually were not as expensive as I thought they would be.  Definitely not near $200. 
Despite having all these real pins now (and no where to play with them),  I still want to work on these foam pins.  So what I am thinking now is to make a cool wall display showcasing these pins!
Something similar to the image above.  The pins, ball and letters will all be 3 dimensional.
The wood plaque in the back will be painted red and the burst will be yellow - probably made out of cardboard, foamcore or styrene that I have hanging around.  The pins will be mounted to the plaque with dowels since the pins themselves are not very heavy.  The bowling ball will be made out of styrofoam.  You can buy styrofoam balls at Michael's for less than $10.  But all this will be a small project for another day (and perhaps a different blog posting).

As for real pins...
A few years ago I made a small bowling lane on my back deck.  I called it "Deck Bowling".
For anyone interested, the rules to Deck Bowling is pretty much an amalgamation of regular 10-pin bowling and candlepin bowling.  You throw 3 bocce balls towards the pins to knock them all down.  But after each throw the felled pins stay down - which can be an advantage or disadvantage to the bowler.
And of course, it's played on a deck - not an actual lane.  I eventually bought some Duckpin balls and replaced my plastic bocce balls.

Here is a short video of me playing deck bowling.

I bought 10 used bowling pins from ebay for about $25 and I made the rest out of plywood.  The rug behind the pins was supposed to stop flying pins from destroying the deck walls.  At this time I wanted to also get some Candlepins and Duckpins and finally get to play the game I've wanted to for many, many years.

Unfortunately, Candlepins are a bit hard to come by.  10-Pin Bowling is played throughout the world so pins are easy to come by inexpensively, but Candlepin Bowling is played only in 3 or 4 states.  The same goes for Duckpins - hard to come by and somewhat expensive.  Thankfully I found both on ebay!

Below is an image of my candle pins on my very uneven kitchen floor.
There are only 9 showing (I'm still waiting for my 10th to arrive!)
They are in pretty good conditions, so I do not plan on doing anything to them.

Once my 10th Candle Pin arrived, I removed all the old red tape around the centers of the pins and gave them fresh, bright new tape.

Next up are my Duckpins.

 I won 6 vintage 1940's Wood Duckpins on ebay, but they are in serious need of restoration.  In the image about you can see how dirty they are.  I used some apoxy clay to fill in a lot of the holes, scrapes and dents and when it dried I sanded the whole pin down.

Above we see a dirty duck pin on the left, and to the right is a freshly sanded duck pin.

Above are my 6 sanded pins. Definitely looks better now.

Here is a video of me playing with these pins at work (when my bosses weren't there)

Below is an image of my Duck Pins and 10-Pins awaiting some primer.
Both sets of pins received epoxie, filler and sanding.

A few weeks later I bought the remaining 4 Duckpins.

The 4 new pins are actually plastic - which is what they started making Duckpins out of in the 1960's (I believe).  They still need a priming and paint job, but the whole set is looking good!

Above and below are images of initial priming.

Below are all 20 10-pins and Duckpins drying.

Unfortunately the plastic duck pins still had some severe gashes even after applying filler primer.  So I used some Apoxie clay to fill them.

Once the clay dries I will sand them and give them a new coat of primer.

In the meantime I gave the 10 pins their first coat of white paint.

Followed by the Duck Pins.

After the paint dried I applied another coat of white paint to the pins.

Another coat or two of white paint and these bad boys will be ready for some polyurethane.

After the polyurethane was dried I took some red electrical tape and gave them the signature red stripes.  Above are my finished Duck Pins and below are the finished 10 Pins.  It was hard getting the tape to be perfectly straight, and it's evident in the photos, but these pins aren't going to be trophies.  Once I have a deck to go bowling on again, these pins will get all scuffed up - so the unevenness isn't driving me too crazy.  And besides, I can easily remove the tape and reapply it.

So, 10 Pins, Duck Pins and Candle pins are done.

Above is a photo of my Mini Pins.  These you can buy at Linds website (http://www.linds.com/).
These pins are 1/2 the size of real pins and are made the same way normal pins are made.  They were great fun to play with.  There are some great videos on youtube of people who made half-scale bowling lanes and used these pins.  If you go on youtube look up:
...they are some of my favorites to watch.

Right now the only pin I am missing from my collection is...
...the Canadian 5-Pin.

I like 5-Pin bowling for a few reasons.  The most interesting being that each pin has a different point value (5 points for the head pin, 3 points for the 2&3 pins and 2 points for the 4&5 pins).  The size of a 5-Pin is somewhere in between a Duck Pin and a standard 10-Pin.  These Pins also have a large Rubber Band around them.  Unfortunately I can not find anyone selling used 5-pins.  After much searching I found a 5-pin supply center in Canada, but a brand new set of 5-pins are very very expensive.  I can't find them on ebay, and 5-pin bowling alleys (or centres) have not returned my calls as of yet.  So for now I plan on making myself a set of these pins using store-bough toy pins.

Below is an image of a 5-pin schematic.
The height of a 5-pin is a little over 12 inches.  The height of the toy pins are a little over 11 inches.  I ordered the actual rubberbands from the Canadian 5-pin supply which have a height of 1 inch. So I plan on filling the toy pins, cutting them in half (where the rubber band goes) and then assembling them once I get the rubberbands in the mail.  Then my toy pins should be about the same height as a regulation 5-pin.

 Once I got my toy pins in the mail, I drilled a hole on the bottom so that I can add expanding foam on the inside.

And then proceeded to fill it with foam.

...even the balls.

Because the expanding foam expands so quickly, it filled up the space in the 'neck' of the pin before any foam could get inside.  This left the top of the pins hollow.  I had to drill holes on the top of the pins and add foam from the top.

Sadly, the foam did not work very well.  Since there is so little air inside the pin once the foam starts working, a lot of the innards remain uncured.  This plus whatever gasses may be inside made the foam expand impartially and unevenly. But the good news is that expanding foam does not stick to plastic.  So in theory, I could cut the pins in half, and the foam will simply peel off the insides of the pin.

I made a circular line 2 inches from the bottom of the pin.  This is where I will cut.

Once It was halved I discovered that I was right.  The lack of air kept the foam from curing and expanding.  Right now it's just a sudsy, sticky mess!

So I cut all my pins and let the goo seep out and harden. 

Still having 5 extra toy pins handy, I drew lines for cutting.

The vertical lines and letters you see on the pins are simply reference for me.  Once they have all been cut and filled, I will know which top belongs to which bottom.  When they were all cut I added the foam.

At first I thought it worked this time.  The foam expanded correctly and completely.

But after I trimmed the foam it continued to expand and eventually started to misshape the pins.
So unfortunately I removed the foam from the pins.  I think my next attempt will make use of either plaster or some Durhan's Rock Hard Putty.

My rubber bands finally arrived from the Canadian Bowling supply and I fitted it around a pin.
It looks perfect!

But in order to fill the pins with the filler I need to reassemble them.

So, I taped 5 pins back together using duct tape.  I don't have plaster in my inventory at the moment but I do have a lot of Durham's Putty.  But before I whip up some Durham's, I think I will test it on something other than these pins.

I actually thought of many ways to fill these pins.  I thought of fiberglass and resin, mortar, concrete, casting resin, clay, sand and other foams.  Unfortunately, all of these materials will be expensive.  The resins are definitely expensive and I currently have no where to work with such chemicals.  Mortar and concrete will make the pin too heavy.  Clay will be both too heavy and too expensive.  Since both Durham's Rock hard putty and plaster of paris are easily available and not too expensive, this seemed to be the best thing for me.

The only problem now is that plaster may be too brittle and will easily break on impact - especially since the pins have been cut in half....so I decided to start off with Durham's and try it out in a Perrier Water bottle.
I've always thought that Perrier bottles looked close to bowling pins.  

Above is what I think my test pins should look like when done.
Maybe I'll call them Timbo Pins, or American 5-Pins.

Anyway, to start I bought a Perrier bottle of water and emptied it.
I then began to make prepare the Durham's putty using a mixing bucket.
I made a funnel out of a pink sheet of styrene I had laying around.

I made my mixture on the watery side and poured it into the bottle. 

Less than an hour later the bottle and it's contents were quite hard.  So far it's working.

2 hours later and the bottle is quite hard.  The putty on the top is still a bit moist, but I think it's safe to say that I can proceed with the taped-up pins.

Since I need the pins to be level while I am pouring the putty through the pin bottoms, I took a sturdy shoe box and cut holes for the pins to fit inside.

Then I made my mixes and filled the pins.  Below we see them drying.

An hour later they were quite hard.

I took off the tape and they're holding up quite well.

After several hours they were holding up well, so I decided to use some Apoxy Clay and seal up the bottom and the area where the pins were cut.

Once the clay hardened, I sanded them down using my mouse sander.

When I was sanding the pins I discovered that some of the remaining foam that I forgot to remove from the tops of the pins had kept the Durham's putty from completely filling the pins.  It's not really a big amount, but it will make the weight distribution of the pins unequal.

So I re-drilled the holes that were on the top so that I can pour the small amount of filler to completely fill the pins.

This part was kind of messy.  But once it hardened, I cleaned it up and worked on sealing the hole I drilled on the top.  Like the bottom of the pins, the tops were sealed using Apoxie Clay.

Once that hardened I sanded the tops down.  I also gave the whole pins a sanding with fine grit snadpaper, so that primer can easily grip onto it.  Next step, primer.

Above we see our pins drying after a few coats of gray primer.  White white pins shown are some duck pins drying from white paint.

Next I decided to paint these pins red.  Later I will give them white stripes.  The first coat of red pins looks rather dark since the primer was a dark gray.

But a few more coats give the pins a nice candy-apple red color.

Once the spray paint dried, I applied some polyurethane.  And once that dried I applied some white electrical tape to the pins to give them stripes.  I put 2 strips of white around the neck of the pin and one towards the base where I had cut the pin in half.

Not too shabby!

So, even though I put a lot of work on these "American 5-Pins" I was able to find 5 actual pins thanks to Carol at University lanes in Dundas, Ontario Canada.

She was kind enough to give them to me for free (I just paid for shipping), and she also gave me some free shirts, so I have no problem giving her a free plug here:

Go to University Lanes if you happen to be near Dundas Ontario!  Carol and the staff are great people and you'll have a great time!  Check out their website by clicking here!

So, those are all my bowling pins!

But I think my favorite pin is seen below
My self portrait pin!

Thanks for viewing!


  1. As always, amazing. I wish you lived closer, Timbo - you could use the wood lathe in my shed as much as you wanted! Just wondering what a few layers of 'rondo' - 50/50 mix of auto bondo and polyester resin would be like on the inside of the hollow pins? Phil

  2. Hey Phil, thanks for the offer! I wish that I also lived closer to take advantage of your tools and experience making things. I've never used rondo before....I will have to look into it! :)

  3. Hey timbo i saw there is a candlepin alley at boston but i not remember the location

  4. Thanks Favian. The next time I'm in Boston I will look for it!

  5. oh and yeah how did you get the linds pin and ball?

  6. I found their phone number on the website and called them to order

  7. hey timbo how much money to buy it?

  8. Favian,

    You can see the mini pins at http://www.linds.com/minipins.html. I bought these many years ago and I think I paid about $60 for the 10 pins. I do not know how much they go for now.

    1. I don't think they sell them anymore :(

    2. You're right - it looks like the linds website is no more. But a quick google search shows other people now making half scale bowling pins.

  9. Thank you for your comments.
    I'm not sure what other information you're looking for, but feel free to ask.