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How are bowling balls made? Utah factory gives inside look

How are bowling balls made? Utah factory gives inside look

(Natalie Crofts/KSL)


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This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

BRIGHAM CITY — When you go bowling, do you take time to appreciate how the ball you use was made?

As many as 3,000 premium bowling balls are forged each day at Storm in Brigham City. As one of the most respected manufacturers of high-performance bowling balls in the world, the company has come a long way since its start in 1985.

Now, the company owns the Storm, Rotogrip and Master bowling brands.

When you first walk into Storm’s Brigham City building, you are greeted by rows of bowling balls in a floor-to-ceiling glass case. Storm's owner is passionate about bowling history — framed bowling cards and other historic memorabilia can be found throughout the company's office.

The Storm building was significantly expanded three years ago. The company does everything in house in Brigham City, including marketing and logo design, with about 125 people working at the facility.

Just down the stairs from the office portion of the building, the bowling balls are born. It takes about three days for a bowling ball to go through the whole creation process.

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To start, all of the raw materials necessary to create the bowling balls are brought into a containment area within the building. The special area was designed to keep any fumes out of the main area and protect workers.

Some of the materials are thrown into “batchers,” which mix the ingredients to make the liquid resin that forms weight blocks and cores. Corbett Austin, Storm’s vice president of production, described the process as being almost like making a cake. The company uses different mixes of lighter and heavier materials to change the weight.

The materials for the weight blocks and cores reach about 260 degrees and can be poured into numerous dynamic shapes, each of which provide different motions for the finished ball — similar to the design of a 9-iron for golf. The designs for the cores have greatly evolved over the years.

After cooling for about six minutes, the weight blocks and cores can be removed from their molds. The weight blocks and cores, with filler materials around them to make the units round, are then ready to be put into another mold and receive a coverstock.

The bowling balls’ coverstock is made of urethane and can include up to three colors on one ball. The pattern on each Storm bowling ball is unique and random because of how the mix fills the mold.

Storm holds a patent for scented bowling balls and that feature can be added as part of the coverstock mix. The company is capable of making over 11,000 different fragrances, ranging from bacon or pepperoni to baked goods and fruits.

When the chemicals mix, it makes the ball feel warm to the touch. It only takes about two minutes for the coverstock to harden. The mold can be cracked off like an egg, after which the bowling balls are sent to a drying rack to cool overnight. Employees plug a hole in the ball with different colors so they know which core and weight block is inside.

The coverstock is cut down with the help of a machine. After, the bowling balls are sanded or polished depending on the desired finish. Bowling balls perform differently based on whether they have a matte or shine finish.

A fully automated machine engraves the bowling balls. It rotates the ball, which has up to five engraving points for details like the company's name and logo.

Workers fill in the engraved portions of the ball with paint to make the designs stand out.

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Storm has a bowling ball testing facility right inside the same building where the bowling balls are made in Brigham City. It is equipped with a system that can measure various information, like where and when a bowling ball hooks. The company tests its own balls, in addition to studying competitor products.

Professional bowlers and coaches also stop by to use the facility. Storm has a team of professional athletes who promote the brand.

Storm's bowling balls ship all over the world. In March, the company had bowling balls ready to ship out to shops in places as varied as Japan, Taiwan, China and Ohio.

Storm also has apparel and accessory lines, which include lightweight travel bags for bowlers. Proceeds from many of the company’s products are used to give back to the community, according to Matt Martin, Storm’s advertising manager.

With initiatives like Paint the Lanes Pink, the company reported donating $70,000 to breast cancer research, $50,000 of which went to the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Storm started with Bill Chrisman, who lived in the Brigham City area when he launched High Score Products in 1985 to sell his special cleaner for urethane bowling balls. In 1991, he teamed up with Keith Orton, the owner of the bowling lanes in Morgan, to start manufacturing their own bowling balls under the name Storm.

They started small — making about 10 one-off bowling balls each day — but quickly gained national attention.

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Natalie Crofts

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