M. Couble, MD of La Boule Intégrale, has very kindly agreed to do a second interview with Ray Ager of A Lot of Gaul, this time addressing some of the more technical aspects of boules and their manufacture.
RA: The boule “AS de Carreau” is one of the specialities of La Boule Intégrale, perhaps the best known.
What are it’s characteristics?
For players, and especially shooters, how does this boule improve the chances of a carreau?
Does it offer any advantage to pointers?
M.C: The Intégrale boule AC isn’t perhaps the best known, but it is exclusive amongst pétanque boules being the only boule made of bronze.
Characteristics: it’s made using a bronze-aluminium alloy and is cast using a single-piece mould (there is no welding). It’s a very soft boule, softer than steel and has a ‘warm’ feel in the hand.
It’s particularly suitable for hard terrains, e.g. tarmac, bitumen, but not recommended on stony terrains.
There’s an advantage for pointers who lob.
RA: The AC boule was always your “top-of-the-range” boule.
Why did you decide to create a new boule, the ITR3?
Does the ITR3 boule offer a better performance compared to the AC boule or is it more a question of longevity?
Could you explain the process by which you create a new boule? Is it simply a question of saying, “We’re going to create a new low-rebound, semi-soft boule” and just manufacture it or does it require more research, a lot of testing – is it a more complicated process?
M. C: The ITR3 is a semi-soft boule, therefore it’s a little harder than the AC – this greatly increases the longevity of the boule, the surface marks from impacts are less pronounced, while at the same time retaining a low-rebound.
A new boule isn’t just created either by luck or by a passing whim; the process requires prototypes to trial, controls and tests to verify the boule’s performance and advantages. The options are fixed when the desired characteristic has been attained, sometimes to the detriment of other secondary criteria.
RA: Turning to the CZN [the black, soft steel boule, a long established Intégrale favourite]: how does it perform now compared with the newer boules?
In the book “Pétanque” by Marco Foyot, we read that Intégrale adapted the CZN specially for Marco’s requirements. What other boules existed at this time and what did you have to change?
M. C: The CZ Noire is an excellent boule, combining the softness of the metal with a remarkably good grip in the hand, due to the reduced percentage of nickel and chrome used in the alloy.
Soft boules have always been sought after, within the limits imposed by the rules for fabrication laid down by the French Federation. Of course, certain players have helped in it’s evolution. Firstly, it’s always useful to have their name associated with a boule, afterwards they are particularly capable of judging the performance of the boules they demanded.
RA: Some general points about manufacturing boules: there is an enormous number of combinations of different boules, weight, size, diameter and stripe pattern. Can you machine each boule from a basic model or do you have to start from scratch for each boule? Can you take a smooth boule and simply machine different stripe patterns?
M. C: It’s not possible to “transform” a basic boule into just any size or weight: each manufacture is specific in diameter, weight, stripe pattern and markings and requires a different “ébauche” [boule before machining]. You cannot take a smooth boule and machine different stripe patterns, unless the boule was manufactured for the desired stripe pattern.
RA: When you engrave a player’s name on a boule, does this affect the balance?
M. C: Engraving does not alter the balance, no metal is removed when engraving.
RA: Finally, is there anything new we can look forward to in the future from La Boule Intégrale?
M. C: The next thing from La Boule Intégrale might be coloured boules, we’ve been working for years on a way of colouring boules that will remain permanent.
RA: Thank you very much indeed, M. Couble, for your valuable time in replying to these questions. I hope other players will find the answers interesting.
The first part of this interview on petanque.org
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