Guide #13 - Last updated May 2021

Advanced Understanding of an Oil Pattern Sheet

In the Overhead Chart on the right side of an oil pattern sheet, the Buff Area color varies in shading to give an idea of the amount of oil at various locations in that area (darker shade = more oil). That might lead you to think that, since the Forward, Reverse, and Combined colors do not vary in shading, there must be the same amount of oil everywhere within each of those colors. Not true! There usually are areas of lighter and heavier oil within each solid color.

Also, the Heading of an oil pattern sheet tells you when two different oils (conditioners) are used in the pattern. Generally the first is used in the forward pass and the second is used in the reverse pass. But trickier patterns will use both oils in the same pass!

You can uncover these details, and other interesting ones, by understanding the Machine Settings section of this pattern, which is the two boxes of numbers on the left side of an oil pattern sheet. For our explanation we use the Machine Settings section of this pattern.

The top box contains the coordinates for the machine's forward pass (heading toward the pins) and the second box contains the coordinates for the reverse pass.

Remember that a Kegel oiling machine functions like an ink jet printer. Each row within these two boxes, therefore, describes left to right the activity of the oiling jet in a particular zone of the lane.

The Start and End columns define the zone for each row. In the forward box, the first row shows the zone is from 0.0 to 4.2 feet. The second row shows the zone is 4.2 to 14.1 feet. And so on.

The Start and Stop columns define the left and right outer limits of the oiling jet. In the first row, it starts applying oil at the 5 board on the left andcontinues until the 5 board on the right. For the second row, it oils from the 2 board on the left to the 2 board on the right. And so on.

The T. Oil (Total Oil) column shows the volume in microliters deposited in that zone. Adding all of the numbers in the Total Oil column of the forward box will equal the Forward Oil Total amount in the Heading of the oil pattern sheet, and similarly the total of the Total Oil numbers in the reverse box will equal the Reverse Oil Total in the Heading.

1. The effect of the buffing brush.

You can see that row 6 of the forward box has Total Oil shown as 0 from 35.8 to 40.0 feet. Why is this row here, then? Because, even though the oiling jet stopped applying oil in the prior zone, the oiling machine's rolling brush will be on the lane until the end of the pattern at 40 feet. In fact, the brush has been rolling on the lane from the oiling machine's start at the foul line, causing some of the oil deposited to be "buffed" forward as it goes, blending the oil volume from one zone to the next. This blending makes each transition less abrupt to give you more room for error. In this pattern, the brush blends a little bit of oil forward into that last zone before the end of the pattern. That's why some might describe this pattern's distance as "36 feet buffed to 40."

2. The brush drop on the reverse pass.

Row 1 of the reverse box also shows a zone of 0 Total Oil from 40 to 22 feet. Does this mean the brush drops back down to the lanes at 40 feet? Trick question! Although that is often the case, and it is the case in this pattern, you must also check the Reverse Brush Drop in the Heading of the oil pattern sheet, because sometimes the actual drop is different.

Why would that be important? Because when the brush drop distance is shorter than the pattern length, bowling balls will respond more quickly (will "pick up" and turn sooner) in the area beyond the brush drop than in the nearer area where the brush continued depositing leftover forward pass oil in its way back to the foul line.

Plus, from the point at which new oil starts being added on the reverse pass, the brush buffed that toward the foul line, too. The more reverse oil there is, the bigger the "hold area" where your ball is more likely to continue directly forward.

3. The volume of 2 to 2 oil.

You already know from the Overhead Chart on the right side of the oil pattern sheet that this pattern has outside oil (oil outside of the 10 boards), but just how much is there? To find out, start by looking at the row or rows showing 2L to 2R. Ignore any 2L to 2R rows where the Total Oil is 0. We can see that row 2 of the forward box shows a Total Oil value of 9250. That's 38% of the pattern's total oil of 24,190 microliters (24.19 milliliters) deposited from 4 to 14 feet!

Any amount of 2 to 2 oil is critical information for bowlers with high rev rates who like to "swing" the ball, or launch it from the center of the lane out to a breakpoint on the right and then have it hook back to the pocket at an advantageous entry angle. That's because the machine's rolling brush brushes any oil deposited all the way to the end of the pattern. With a small amount of 2 to 2 oil your ball will likely hook less. The larger the amount of 2 to 2 oil, the greater the risk that your ball will not hook at all and continue straight into the gutter. Even direct players will find patterns with significant 2 to 2 oil to be "touchy," with a ball just one or two boards right of target going straight into the "out of bounds."

While you are at it, it's also worth looking at the other rows where oil is deposited outside of the 10 boards, although oil outside of the 5 boards will have the largest impact on your play.

4. What type of oil is where?

This pattern uses Kegel's Fire oil (the Tank A Conditioner) and Kegel's Ice oil (the Tank B Conditioner). Fire breaks down more quickly than Ice but is more predictable. You can tell which oil is used where by looking at the Tank column of each row. Usually you will find only A in the forward box and only B in reverse.

But this pattern has an additional challenge. The forward oil from 4 feet to 14 feet (2 to 2 oil) and from 26 feet to 35 feet, is A (Fire), while the forward oil from the foul line to 4 feet and from 14 feet to 26 feet, as well as all of the reverse oil, is B (Ice). Knowing this could be critical to understanding  your ball's reaction and what adjustments to make.

A word of caution...

Now that you have this detailed understanding of the pattern, it might be tempting to pack your bowling bags with bowling balls specifically suited for it. But there are many reasons why the pattern may not play exactly as you expect, as we covered in our previous guide. The most successful competitors pack their bags to be ready for anything!

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