It’s not a long way from home, going to the Metrodome. Relax and a short train ride to Barnsley station and walk up a hill to a sports centre well known in bowling.
For many years it was the venue for the Trans-Atlantic Weber Cup and will be again in September. The venue has had a few changes over the years and is a popular and busy place.
Back in 2007 there was an indoor lawn bowls rink which was replaced with a 8 lane QubicaAMF installation in 2011.
Today though it would host a QubicaAMF after sales seminar and our compere was not the Weber Cup’s John McDonald but QubicaAMF’s Worldwide after market director Cliff Adair.
The seminar was held in the same room the Weber players and media use, all nicely laid out with tables, projection screen and a host of QubicaAMF parts or goodies as we would later learn.
Around thirty attended from all over the UK including as far as Wales and near Aberdeen in Scotland, a mix of managers, technicians and proprietors. We were welcomed by QubicaAMF UK’s John Emmett who opened the show and introduced us to Cliff Adair.
Cliff started bowling at seven years old and has been in the sport ever since having worked for AMF Bowling Products, Century International, Bowling & Billiard Supplies and even managing a bowling centre for seven years. If that was not enough he also works on the Bowling World Cup and has worked extensively on the companies lane machines.
Customized lane care
What’s that some bowlers may ask, especially those unfortunate enough to bowl in a centre that the words lane care would be alien. QubicaAMF have always provided plenty of ways to keep the lanes in tip top condition. I know this through many hours cleaning and maintaining lanes in my youth. Customized lane care though sounded interesting.
Pinspotter upgrades on a budget
Let’s face it, we are all on a budget sometimes if not all the time. We all want things cheaper but want to keep quality. Seems QubicaAMF listen to this and provide upgrades bowling centres can manage.
Genuine AMF Parts – OEM. Original Equipment Manufacturer. When it comes to getting parts for your AMF pinspotters, from front to back end assemblies and everything in between, QubicaAMF makes and stocks more parts for more generations of pinspotters than all other manufacturers combined. Plus, they join skilled engineers with the latest design and manufacturing technology to ensure components always exceed expectations.
Cliff talked us through some of the latest innovations and changes which included a shuttle rod with improved spring and retainers. After explaining the item Cliff asked the guests “Does anyone need one of these then adding does anyone want one” Up went the hands and one lucky person got the item. This was not the last time items were given out and the guests were ready for more.
Next up was a new cam upgrade kits for a distributor (feeds the pins for spotting). Traditionally the cams where white and were designed in very old school ways, this new one was state of the art computer generated stuff and everyone wanted it when cliff said would anyone like the item. Again a lucky smiling guest.
Ball returns next and in particular gripper kits for the uprails that help return the ball to a gravity return. These things were like translucent floppy rubber snakes worth a cool £400 as a kit. Super sticky it was reported one centre has had them since 1993 and never changed them. It was not going to be a simple give away for this one though. Each centre would fill in a survey form and one would be drawn as the winner at lunchtime.
We were all shown a host of other cool items including the PBL Kits (Positive Ball Lift) the Durabin which replaces around 170 parts and upgrades for XLi and Edge machines.
Introduction to new products including Center Punch – the new deck lighting system
Glow bowling is so 1990’s now, Lights off and back-lighting pin decks and if you were lucky some disco lights from the local DJ shop. Center Punch takes lighting to a new level and is the latest product by the company.
The Centre punch lighting can do many things, not least the cool ability to isolate a particular pin combination. So imagine a player in your league has just left a 5-7-10 Lilly, you can now change the colour of the pindeck so the whole league knows about it. A certain colour for a strike can be done or just program them the change in a smooth arc of colours. As this is a new concept we are still to see how proprietors make it work for them.
The LED’s are not your cheap stuff either, most if not all LED lighting is RGB (Red-Green-Blue), these are RGBW so have a white light and not one made up by the three colours, this means better brightness. The System also uses Infrared for reading pin combinations meaning no matter how dark the red or Blue nothing is missed in the scoring. Well worth a look if you are considering your lighting options on your lanes.
Genuine AMF parts
Sometimes an item is much cheaper because it is a copy of another item that is much more expensive. People want a deal, they want to save money and sometimes the chosen item serves it’s purpose well. In other cases you are just buying a cheap low quality rip off of a patented item. Cliff explained to us just how much testing goes into genuine AMF parts. It’s a lot.
One of the best jobs in the company says Cliff is the place you get to break things or at least try to. They have a machine with bowling balls in 24 hrs a day seven days a week for months on end just trying to stretch their Red Carpet Belt. They will throw an item on the floor numerous times in a vain attempt to do some damage. You can almost imagine the warped happiness a tech might get from finally finding a flaw to report. Batch testing is done 24/7 to make sure very little if nothing gets out.
Cliff went on to tell us how QubicaAMF do source some items from outside of the USA and the testing for these items is as close as you can get to total checking of all outside source materials and parts. They even have a big yellow machine that just touches any item placed in it. The touching builds up an accurate digital picture of an item that is instantly crossed checked to the exact specifications that were required. Fail this test and a whole batch of items could be refused.
We were then shown parts the Red Carpet belt, improved pin holders, two part bumber rails, A solenoid kit, Yoke Bearing Tools, O Pan Wipe, Flat Belt Pulley/ball lift kit and 82/90 XL, XL, XLi motor coupline.
Pins – an inside look
Now this I had seen before and by Cliff himself at another seminar. On the table at the front was a selection of pins ‘cut in half’. These included various internal designs from different manufacturers from wood pieces to the outer plastic coating.
Made in America from the finest hard maple, and 100% kiln-dried, these are the most durable, highest-scoring pins on the market or so QAMF say, shattering one tournament record after another. Look for:
A Patented Lock-In Nylon Base, Stays in place for the life of the pin., A Larger Core For better scoring and fewer neck fractures.
Exclusive Compression-Molded Construction – We’re the only manufacturer that molds with Surlyn, resulting in a larger wooden core that extends pin life, and boosts scoring.
A Custom Topcoat For A longer life, an improved appearance and better performance in all machines.
That’s the company text on the product but Cliff explained the process from sourcing the wood to drying it and production. How some pins have a void inside to the thickness of the plastic coating.
Cliff continued by showing us the various pin options from normal through glow to coloured and logo pins, also explaining pin shrinkage and a cool little product to put an anti skid dot on the base of the pins. Another important aspect to this section was pin cleaning, the do’s and do not’s. We were to see pins cleaned with machines to pins that had been re-coated and the state they can eventually end up in.
We did at this point start a Facebook live video so you could see a little about what Cliff spoke about during the pins section of the seminar. You can view this here https://www.facebook.com/TalkTenpin/videos/10154857132004864/
Houseballs and Rental shoes
When deciding on house balls, centers are looking for an efficient selection and durable product that will last over time. QubicaAMF developed the original Smart Ball™ System, which is proven to increase bowler satisfaction. With features like the Comfort Fit Grip™, quicker lane turnover and guaranteed performance.
Broken nails. Blisters. Hand fatigue. More than minor complaints, they’re among the biggest reasons why bowlers stop playing. Smart Ball System—a one-of-a-kind house ball system proven to improve bowler satisfaction. Fast, simple selection. That is the QubicaAMF text on the product, Its basically a ball with different size holes in and a chart that shows you where how to select the right grip for you.
Where QAMF are on a winner here though is the amount of bevel they put on the balls, 50% more than others do. You cannot cut your fingers or thumb on these ones and the balls will be less prone to any chipping around the finger holes. Cliff showed us all the range of houseballs including Pool balls for the VIP experience.
Bowling shoes, How many times have we heard, “I’m not wearing those” or “Do I have to wear shoes”. Well in some centres you can now wear your own shoes which is pretty stupid but they do. For the rest of us, we want a shoe that is comfortable or at the very least not falling apart.
We can say what we like about the state of some old bowling shoes we see in bowling centres but the fact you can get a lot longer out of a pair of shoes than you really should says a lot about the quality of QAMF bowling shoes, they get destroyed but boy do they take a hammering from the customers. You could never be critical as what is in reality an iconic retro item. Some people may moan about wearing house shoes but how many do you see then wearing them in the retro clubs having lifted them from a local centre?
Did you know not all bowling shoes are made from Cowhide? Some are made with pig skin. Again we had a chance to do some Facebook life so you can see Cliff talking about these items. https://www.facebook.com/TalkTenpin/videos/10154857192329864/
Most of the square feet of your venue is lanes, it’s a big area that dust will settle on. If you do not keep up with cleaning, your customers will get their clothes dirty. That’s a fact and not me trying to be dramatic. It is not of course the only reason you clean of course. Dust needs removing yes but so does the conditioner you have put on the lane. Most people do not even know the lanes have oil on them. That is until they go over the foul line that warned them not to and end up on a youtube video.
Why is the lane dressed though? Cliff explained the need for a ball to skid and roll before hitting pins and that for a ball to keep its power down lane it needed to skid first. No oil on the headers and the ball wants to work right away and will grip the surface it is rolling on, this will cause friction and heat and will scratch and burn a lane. The oil helps the ball skid in the headers before rolling down lane to the dry end and working later. It thus protects the lane from friction and damage.
If that was it then the world would be an easy place, you put some oil on a lane and it protects the surface. Job done. Wait though, bowlers want a condition they can bowl on and that means oil patterns that enable higher performance balls to work. That all means using special conditioners and special machines to apply the conditioner. Cliff told of the types of machines (Wick and Wickless) and the types of conditioners that were available for the current lane machines.
Viscosity is a big word in the World of lane oils, The viscosity of a fluid is a measure of its resistance to gradual deformation by shear stress or tensile stress. For liquids, it corresponds to the informal concept of “thickness”; for example, honey has a much higher viscosity than water.
Some oils are thicker than others and only certain machines can use some of them. The Wickless machines like the Kegel ones use thicker oil that would just not work in the wick machines.
With that covered we were shown the conditioners the company has for machines. In a nutshell, here is QubicaAMF’s advice on selecting a conditioner
1. What type of lane machine do you use?
• Pad machines such as Century 100, Ultralite, and Kegel: Use low viscosity Visflo 12.7 or 19.5
• Silver Bullet, Magnum, or Summit: Visflo 12.7 – 39 or any of the Reactors
• Lane machines equipped with tank heaters: Use high viscosity Visflo 48.5 or Utopia
• All our products may be used in Brunswick or Kegel wickless machines
2. What type of bowlers do you have?
• Recreation bowlers: Visflo
• Combination of recreation, league and a few tournaments: Reactor LL, ML, or HL
• Classic leagues and frequent tournaments or high lineage: Utopia
3. What type of lane surface do you have?
• Harder surface, like synthetic: less lubricity Reactor LL or Visflo
• Most surfaces: medium lubricity Reactor ML or Visflo
• Softer surface, like older wood or Guardian: higher lubricity Reactor HL or Utopia
4. What is the condition of your lane surface?
If it has been more than two years since your last resurfacing, or your non-QubicaAMF synthetic lanes are in need of polishing, then you need a higher viscosity, higher lubricity conditioner like Reactor HL or Utopia.
5. How much lineage do you have?
More bowling requires more oil. Today’s conditions use a high volume of lane conditioner to protect the lane surface, requiring higher lubricities to reduce the drag on the bowling ball as it passes through the oil. High lineage centers require a high viscosity, high lubricity oil such as Reactor HL or Utopia.
EZ Touch lane machine – the easiest lane machine to operate at a fraction of the cost including machine demonstration
The last part of the seminar was a look at the EZ Touch lane machine. Machines these days can cost around $40,000, the machines used for the elite players do everything except make a cup of tea. Not everyone needs an expensive machine and their needs are less sport orientated so to have a machine that comes in nearly two thirds cheaper is a smart move. The other thing with the more expensive machine is the need for a crane to lift them. This cute little thing can be lifted by pretty much anyone.
It is also back to basics with control and as the name says easy touch screen operation.
What do the company say about the machine?
Easiest machine to learn and operate
EZ Touch is super easy to learn and run. So you won’t have to spend money on a dedicated lane maintenance technician or head mechanic.
A NEW touch interface makes the machine incredibly simple to operate—for any skill level.
Pre-programming eliminates the time and trouble of changing lane oil patterns. You just push a button.
A lightweight design. EZ Touch is the lightest machine on the market today. Anyone can lift and maneuver it.
Attendees all stepped out onto the 10 lane Metrodome installation and up to lane one where QubicaAMF UK’s Gerald Barrett took them through the features of the machine and its easy use.
That was it for the day, a very interesting look at some of the things available in today’s bowling industry. If you have not been to a seminar and have QubicaAMF equipment or looking to purchase I certainly recommend you attend one of these when they next come up. Having been to a few you might think they could get boring or it is stuff you already know. I have been to two now with Cliff and while some of the subjects were the same the delivery by Cliff was not and I found I learned more from the same subjects. All in all a good day out if you are into bowling and work in a centre. Thanks to QubicaAMF’s Tina Quirke and the team for inviting us to attend.
Finally – Who won the draw for the Uprails competition worth £400, Well, I was asked to select a sheet from the ones laid out on a table,
The winner, Kevin Stevenson from Skegness Bowl is all smiles with Cliff Adair.