How to Test for Quality When Looking for Pool Tables
Like fine furniture, grand pianos, and other heirloom-quality products worthy of being handed down from one generation to the next, pool and billiard tables can be major investments.
Most quality tables cost thousands of dollars and offer several variations of wood, slate, cloth, felt, and more.
To make sure your investment is a sound one and provide you with not just years but decades of enjoyment, you’ll need to learn a little about pool tables and how to spot a quality pool table in a sea of cheap knock-offs.
What to Look for in a Quality Pool Table
When shopping for a premium, high-quality pool table, there are six specific aspects to consider:
- Cushions and rails
- Cloth or felt
- Equipment and accessories
1. A Pool Table Is Only as Good as Its Frame
Since a poor frame and improper support can cause a pool table’s slate to sag, become uneven, and crack, investing in a table with a quality wood frame is a must.
A high-quality billiards table should frame its slate in premium hardwoods across the bottom and cross beams for added support.
While there are a variety of frames, the type of wooden beams needed depends a lot on the slate and its size. Larger slate one-inch and up should be housed in a quad-beam frame featuring two long beams and two cross beams.
As a general rule of thumb, the larger the slate, the more framing it will need. By checking the support beams and structural integrity of the frame, you’ll be able to pick out a table that’s built to last and stand evenly over time.
2. The Legs Take the Weight
The legs of a pool table do much more than add to the table’s overall style and appeal. They’re also responsible for taking its weight and holding it up. Therefore, a quality pool table should be supported by strong, sturdy legs. A pool table can weigh hundreds of pounds. Moreover, when players lean against it or take shots, even more stress is added.
To take the weight and handle the stress of being constantly leaned and sat on, a quality table should have either single-piece post-style legs or two-piece legs.
Aside from designer tables with their unique table support and leg designs, post legs are ideal. Made of a single piece of milled hardwood, these types of legs look great and can easily support thousands of pounds.
Two-piece legs, which have become industry standard, attach to the cabinet via bolt anchors. Typically, the more anchors there are, the more secure the leg will remain over the years.
3. There’s No Substitute for Slate
Slate is the end all be all when it comes to pool table quality. While substitutes like plywood, slates, and fibreboard are common, none deliver the accuracy and smooth playing experience of slate.
The simple fact is, smooth flat sheets of slate are ideal surfaces for billiards and other cue sports. Pool table slate varies by a thickness ranging from two to three centimetres.
However, according to the Billiards Congress of America, one-inch slate (2.5 centimetres) is the most accurate. That’s why most tournaments require tables with at least 2.5cm slate to be used.
In most cases, the thicker the slate, the better the table.
4. Quality Cushions and Rails Provide Predictable Results
Since the cushions and rails of a pool table receive the most cue contact, they must feature the same high-quality engineering as the rest of the table.
A pool table’s cushions or rails can either be made of natural gum, gum blends, or synthetic materials. Cheaper pool tables often go the synthetic route and feature rails and cushions formed with clay filler. Over time, the clay dries out and no longer provides the right bounce, resulting in a “dead rail.”
For this reason, most quality pool tables featuring the standard K-66 profile utilise natural gum materials for a predictable, long-lasting bounce.
5. Premium Wool Cloth or Felt Delivers Premium Performance
Modern pool table felt or billiard cloth is usually made of a wool and nylon blend coated in Teflon. However, the best pool table felt is made of premium wool from the UK and Ireland.
In terms of durability, the thicker the felt or cloth, the better. From a performance standpoint, however, there are other things to look for, like worst.
The worsted wool cloth features fibres that have been combed before being spun, which helps ball speed and shot accuracy. If you’re on the hunt for a quality pool table, the worsted wool cloth is a definite must.
6. Don’t Overlook the Equipment
Although the pool or billiard table itself will have the greatest effect on your playing experience, the equipment you use is equally important. The better the equipment you use, the less damage and wear and tear will occur to your table as well.
Here’s a quick look at billiard equipment and what to consider to further boost the longevity of your pool table and your enjoyment of the sport:
- Pool or Billiard Cues
Traditionally, cues were little more than smooth, cylindrical, tapered pieces of maple wood. Modern versions, however, are made of natural maple as well as graphite, fibreglass, carbon fibre, and other synthetic materials.
- Billiard Balls
These are the balls used to play billiards, pool, and other cue sports. Billiard balls were initially made of clay, ivory, and bone, but today’s balls are made of phenolic resins, acrylics, plastics, and polyester blends.
- Bridge Sticks
Bridge sticks allow players to rest their cues on the bridge and accurately take a shot without having to stretch across the table or lift their feet off of the floor. Quality bridge sticks typically feature tapered wood shafts and bridgeheads made of brass.
- Ball Racks
Billiard ball racks are pieces of wood glued in a triangle or diamond pattern to set the balls for play. If you’re spending thousands on a quality pool table, you should accompany it with a quality ball rack made of premium hardwoods just like the table itself.
- Table and Rail Brushes
To keep your pool table looking and performing its best, you should invest in a quality table brush and rail brush. Doing so and regularly using each will keep your pool table felt in tip-top shape.
Beware of an Assembly Nightmare
Purchasing a cheap, poorly made pool table may save you a few dollars, but it won’t perform nearly as well or last nearly as long as a solid, well-made pool table. Chances are it may come in a flat box and require assembly as well. If you fail to heed our advice and go this route, be prepared for a lot of time and headaches trying to put it together, especially if the slate is shipped in pieces.
An Australian manufacturer, on the other hand, can design, build, install, and level the table right in your home. That’s right; you can just rack ‘em and play.
At Quedos, we believe in producing nothing but the finest quality pool tables and never compromise on this belief. Our premium tables are made of the finest exotic timbers and Australian hardwoods, and best of all, we handle the install and setup too. While you may only be just beginning your pool table search, rest assured we’re in the constant pursuit of creating perfect playing surfaces.
Save yourself some time and hassle by checking out our diverse line of premium pool tables today!