Consumer Guide To Buying A Pool Table

Preferred Components
Rails: A two-piece cross-laminated hardwood oversized rail design will give you a component that will resist warping, cupping or cracking. The 5 ½" oversize top rail adds to the beauty of the table while also making it easier to play on, allowing the player more room to hand bridge shots close to the rail.

Another important part of the top rail is the hardware used to fasten the rail to the slate-playing surface. The preferred fastening method is a rectangular floating nut plate embedded inside the rail. These nut plates, along with a 3/8" hex bolt and dome toothed washer, provide the ultimate downward torque and tensile strength, eliminating vibration.

Cushions: A K-66 profile gum rubber cushion will provide years of accurate, consistent and lively table play. A quality cushion will float in water, while a rubber cushion with high amounts of fillers will sink; fillers are another way for a manufacturer to cut cost.

Cloth: A high quality cloth will be a blended 75% wool and 25% nylon 22 oz. fabric. This will give you excellent playability and lasting wear.

Blind Rail: The blind rail gives a finished look to the top portion of the pool table. The blind rail receives a lot of abuse during table play. Players lean in to make a shot and constantly bump the blind rail. The blind rails should be securely fastened to the side of the top rail. Some blind rails are attached with unsightly hardware, which takes away from the beauty of the table. Inspect how the blind rail is attached and what type of material is used. Hardwood is the preferred material because of its beauty and strength.

Slate: A slate-playing surface has been recognized and approved by the BCA as the only playing surface suitable for tournament play. Genuine Slate is a deep mined metamorphic rock, millions of years old, extremely stable and durable. It can resist temperature and humidity changes, and is precisely honed and surfaced. Once the slate has been leveled to your table, it will be a dead flat playing surface. The preferred . . . it will give you an excellent playing area for your table. The preferred slate playing surface is a three-piece design slab cut and diamond surfaced. A three-piece slate allows more areas for adjustment when leveling and is easier to handle. You will hear many sales pitches about the origin of the slate and the thickness of the slate. What is important to remember is that slate is a natural substance. It has no exclusive origin. If it is properly mined and processed, it will give you an excellent playing area for your table.

Slate thickness does affect the manufacturing cost of a table, but not the playability of your table if it is properly supported and installed. It is recommended that a minimum of ¾" thick slate be used. Any thinner may be susceptible to cracking or breakage.

If both slate thickness are equally and properly supported, you will not be able to tell the difference between ¾" and 1".

Slate Support: For maintaining an accurate playing area, the slate must be fully supported. Many manufacturers will glue wood liners to the slate, which can cause inconsistency between the slate and the wood liner. In addition, wood liners are made of several pieces of wood; the more seams, the greater chance of movement. Movement will cause the slate top to pop or shift out of level. The most desirable slate support is a one-piece design with no seams made from manufactured materials that resist climate change and have excellent fastener retention values.

Frame Cabinet: When examining the frame cabinet of the table, it is important to look at how the table fits together. Do the parts interlock to fuse the components as "one"? The more rigid the frame cabinet, the less chance the slate will pop or shift out of level.

If the frame support system is designed and engineering properly, the frame wall thickness is not critical. The only reason for a thicker frame wall is to insure that the table panel will not spread or sag under stress.

A properly designed frame construction should have interlocking cross bracing and center bracing anchored directly to the frame cabinet wall. Many manufacturers will support their interior bracing with scrap wood blocks. Although more costly to manufacture, a combination of steel-timber connectors and European insert hardware anchored directly into the frame and bracing will give superior strength. This method unitizes the frame cabinet. Steel will maintain its original shape and strength characteristics indefinitely. The combination of wood and steel are easily verified by looking at construction methods for decking, floor joices, or roof trusses; all three have much more than 500 lbs. of slate resting on them.

Legs: Examine the method used to mount the legs to the frame cabinet. Quality pool tables will utilize a large heavy gauge 3/8" lag bolt or machine bolt with a heavy gauge fender washer. This combination allows greater torque strength. Once again, rigidity is important between the frame and the legs to eliminate movement. The larger the foot plant, the more balanced the table becomes and will evenly distribute the weight from the playing surface to the floor. Several different style legs are available including: pedestals, hollow box, hollow tapered, solid turned and solid carved legs. Depending on the materials, size and amount of routing or carving on the leg, the price range will fluctuate.

Finish: When examining the finish on the pool table, it is important to look at and feel the final product. Quality finishes do not happen by accident. The finish should be consistent in color and smooth to the touch.

Quality finishes require multiple steps to achieve. The final finish coat should be a catalyzed materials this will insure you a hard, mar-resistant, durable finish. Most quality manufacturers will utilize a name brand product. This is important for you to know in case future materials are needed for touch up or if you ever want furniture to be finished to match.

The Retailer: Another important part of your purchasing decision is whom you buy the pool table from. They should be an experienced and reliable billiard retailer. Is their primary business game room furniture or something else? Do they do their own installations or contract to an independent installer? Are they an authorized dealer for the brand you have selected? Take time to browse through their store and get a feel for who they are and what they do.

When making an investment as expensive as a pool table, it should be a comfortable, fun decision that you will enjoy for many years to come.


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