Sunday, 14 February 2010

The Bowls Manufacturing Process

Step 1. Black Bowls are made from a Phenol Formaldehyde grey powder, with a dye added to make them black. Some coloured bowls are made from Melamine, which starts life as crystals, the crystal being the colour of the bowl, so the colour is right through the bowl, this is extremely strong, and offer very good non-fade characteristics. Others are made by adding a dye to their powder.

Step 2. The raw materials are then weighed very carefully for the various models and sizes. using a high frequency pre heater, the granules are then melted down to form a putty like substance, which is then poured into a mould, which resembles the shape of the bowl. Different moulds are used for various models.

Step 3. A 150 ton press then compresses the material, which squeeze out excess gases & liquids from the mould. Some of this excess remains around the bowl, which is then trimmed off with a hot knife later in the process, this is the ring that can sometimes be seen around the running surface of the bowl. Bowls are moulded in one piece, lugs still remain on the bowl for the next part of tooling process, however the moulding must first cure, and this can take up to 10 days. Once cured the bowl is ultrasonically tested to check for air bubbles (trapped gases) which if found means the bowl is completely discarded as waste.

Step 4. After this important process the bowls goes to the diamond bit lathe, once mounted a specific computer programme for the bias of this particular bowl is punched in, and the bias of this particular bowl is cut to shape in seconds with extreme precision.

Step 5. Now the bowls will ave either dimple or rings cut in. A cutting/drilling machine holds the bowl by suction, so the rings or dimples can be cut or drilled in with the utmost accuracy. The bowl is now begining to resembe a bowl, but is un polished. An experienced highly trained person now matches 4 bowls for weight, there is a tolerance of only 3gms between the 4 bowls permitted, the bowls are then marked with a code, and travel around the factory as a set.

Step 6. At this point the first table test occures, to make sure the bowls conform to the World Bowls Master Bowl test. The bowls are then adjusted on the lathe, if found to be under or over biased, but this is very rare occurance, due to the accuracy of the compuerised lathes that are now used.
Step 7. After this important test the bowls are then placed in a big drum filled with silocone chips, the drum gently rotates, gently polishing the bowls to a high gloss finish.

Step 8. Then comes the engraving, a lazer machine then engrave all 4 bowls at the same time according to a pre-loaded programme, the bowls are sent to the paintshop for painting. A further table test is then carried out to check against the World Bowls Master Bowl, after which the bowls are then packaged and ready for sale.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Learning to Bowl & Improving your Game (Lesson 1)

You will no doubt be bombarded with advice when you are new to the game. Well wishing experienced bowlers are always eager to pass on their own methods of doing something, some things will be very helpful, some may not, but they all mean well, but they forget that there is a lot to take in on your first few games, and getting too much advice can confuse, as no doubt you have already found. Of course you can enrol on a organized coaching scheme, if there is one being held locally, but if not you will be left to pick up the game as you go along from our bowling friends. We will not go into the many laws and rules of the game here, as they can be found on the various governing bodies sites, instead we will look at arming you with the basics to get started, and improving your game.
It has been said in the past, I think it was the Great man himself David Bryant that 'Bowls is 10% skill and 90% intangibles', this may sound like it is a game of luck, but this could not be further from the truth. What is meant is that, we can all be taught to bowl a bowl along a desired path, but no one can teach you to make that ball stop at a desired length, this is solely down to your touch, feel, co-ordination, and most importantly your sub- consciouses thoughts, which will work out the weight of the object you are holding, and how far it has got to travel, the type of surface it is rolling on, etc. and then signal to your arm how much back swing you will need to propel the bowl to where you want it to go, (intangibles). You will often hear bowlers say, they don't know why sometimes they can play brilliantly, and the next night have a poor game, (intangibles), we can never quite understand why this is, but we can learn ways, to help make us more consistent, which is all we can strive for, consistency is fundamental to the sport, and probably any sport. We will look at the mental side of the game in later posts, but for now, we will concentrate on what can be taught, which is a consistent delivery, which will enable you to bowl a consistent line, which is half the game.
We will assume that you have already been told what side of the bowl is the bias side, which side is your forehand and backhand, that you will be using the athletic style delivery, and that you are practising on your own.
It is important that you try and keep everything in line when you step on to the delivery mat to play, so begin by standing behind the mat, make a point of always starting from the same position, don't walk on from the side, remember we are trying to make your delivery stance a 'habit', so you don't have to think about it, 'just do it' to coin a Fraze. Walk onto the mat looking in the direction you plan to bowl, stand with your feet a small distance apart, so as to give you a stable base to start your delivery from. position yourself so you are pointing in the direction you intend to bowl, ie. forehand, or backhand. For now all we will be doing is delivering the bowl, not at any target, so take a comfortable step forward with your left foot if right handed, or your right foot if left handed, while at the same time bringing your bowling arm back to create a back swing, your non bowling arm should be used to steady yourself, and keep balance,bending down as you go forward, you should just about be able scrape the grass with your finger tips as your arm comes through. Release the bowl, as close to the ground as possible, and continue to follow through with your arm on the projected path. This is very important, so as not to 'pull' the bowl on release. A good practise is too imagine that your photo is being taken each time you deliver, and you need to hold the pose after delivering the bowl, this will make sure you do not get up to early, or snatch at the bowl as it is released, everything must be smooth, slow, and deliberate. practise this for several ends on your forehand, and again on your backhand, you can never practise your delivery style too much, it is going to be one of the most important aspects of your game, you must develop a smooth consistent delivery, which we don't need to think about, it is just part of you, the simpler you keep it the better, the less there is to go wrong with it over the years to come, just make it your own, and stick to it.
now you have mastered your delivery technique, it is time to learn how to bowl a 'perfect line'. You will need 2 extra delivery mats for this excercise if possible, if not anything of a similar size which the bowl will roll over. Take 1 mat and place it aprox 5 metres in front of the delivery mat, and aprox 1 metre out from the centre line of the rink, do the same both sides of the centre line. Now using your new super smooth delivery action, make this mat your aiming point, and with enought weight to reach half way down the green, try and roll your bowl directly over the mat, when you are able to do this with all 4 bowls on your forehand and backhand, move the mat froward to 10 metres and 1.5 metres out, and then 15 metres and 2 metres out. When you have learnt to do this consistently, you know that you can 'pick a line' and bowl it, now you just need to learn which line to bowl.
There are several different methods employed to determine line, some players will use a marker on the bank, some will use a marker on the green, whichever you choose make sure it is a permanent marker, not one which may be moved during the game, there have been stories of somebody having a brilliant game, using a bowls bag at the other end of the green, as a marker, only for the bag to be moved, or a leaf on the green only for it to be moved by the wind. The only problem with markers is that you will need to adjust in or out from your chosen marker, depending on the length of the Jack. Another method is to 'bowl to an imaginary arc', the arc of your chosen bowls will differ, but you will learn this with experience. On visualizing your chosen path to the jack, you will be able to determine the shoulder of the are, the point where the bowl will start to draw in, this is your aiming point, normally about 2/3 of the way along the draw line. If you can learn to visualize the path you are taking to the jack, before you bowl, it will be advantageous to your game in years to come, and as you start to improve, it will mean you can not only visualize the draw line required, but also the line you need to pick, when 'Driving' at the head, playing 'controlled weight', or the 'yard on' shot. Concentrating and picturing (visualizing) the line you are about to take, while standing on the mat waiting to bowl, will also help your sub consciouses mind feed in valuable data on how much weight you will need to bowl, but that is getting back into the intangibles of the game, and that is another lesson for another day.