What I’ve learned about pool tables in my 35+ years in the industry.
Once upon a time a well-known cue manufacturer (now retired) was quoted in a well-known billiard magazine (now defunct) that the way to insure that your pool table was level was to pour boiling water on the legs and carpet at the time of installation.
Is ALL the information that is published that crazy? Nope, but the high preponderance of Internet blogs and forums has greatly diluted the quality of billiard information available. We suggest that if you don’t already have a dealer you trust, that you get information from several sources for the best results. You will be able to determine who knows what they are talking about and who just thinks they do. The best bet is to visit your local billiard dealer or their site before proceeding with your plans. Never purchase from a company or individual who sells out of a temporary warehouse or one who only sells online if you want a quality product. Here are some of the phrases you might hear with explanations of what to look for:
Premium Quality: Compared to what? Anyone can name anything premium, premier, tournament, accucool, or super duper. Don’t get fooled by rhetoric.
Assembled in the USA: Warning. This means that the table is not MADE in the USA. While there are both good and bad pool tables being made in the USA, there are also good and bad tables being imported. One key to finding a good pool table is to find one that is backed up by a dealer network. If the table is sold via the Internet only, chances are, that reputable dealers don’t support it. Also, many Internet companies are here today and gone tomorrow. Our most frustrating installations are those we perform for people who have purchased Internet tables. Rarely are they shipped correctly and often have sub-standard components. Most American manufacturers purchase the wood and cut the parts themselves. However, one of the oldest companies in our industry as well as some smaller importer’s table parts are jobbed out to different factories in different countries. This means that not only will the wood species not match, but sometimes the stain won’t either. Make sure all of the wood parts of your pool table are manufactured in the same plant.
Lifetime Warranty: Take this statement for what it is worth. If the company that sold you the table is no longer in business, you no longer have a warranty. Pool Tables are a very simple item in which to offer a lifetime warranty. There are no moving parts or electronics. As long as you don’t try to move your table yourself or have a knife fight on top of it there really isn’t anything other than normal wear and tear that will happen to it.
All wood: Not to be confused with solid wood. Look at the bottom edge of the frame or any router cut details in the side of frame – if you can see grain, it is solid. If you don’t, it could be plywood or MDF, both of which are acceptable products in the billiard and furniture industry. There are varying qualities of solid wood, so make sure the table you purchase isn’t one of the softer African woods that are easily scratched and dented. Also, stay away from anything with particleboard (chipboard) in the structural parts of a pool table. Tables made with particleboard will rarely have decorative router cuts. You can usually feel the chipped wood at the edge of the frame or blinds. Unfortunately, some top rails are made with particleboard and covered with vinyl or laminate so you can’t tell while the table is assembled on the showroom floor. Don’t be afraid to ask your dealer if you can see a rail straight from the box. The only time that particleboard is acceptable is in the blind. You will usually find it in contemporary style tables where the blind is hiding the frame as part of its design. There are no parts on any table that rely on the blinds for strength or cloth attachment.
Preassembled Wood Joints vs. Bracketed Joints: This is a “6 of one, half dozen of the other” scenario. Depending on the design of the table, one joint will look better than another. For the most part, pool tables are shipped KD (Knocked down) for ease of packaging and shipping. When you have a table that is shipped with the frame assembled, it is usually for the furniture design of the table. If the manufacturer or dealer suggests the frame NOT be disassembled after the initial installation, it’s best to look at other brands.
Metal Brackets: Some good, some bad. There is nothing wrong with using a metal bracket unless the metal is flimsy or the installers aren’t trained. Metal brackets are a common method of billiard manufacturing; however we love Legacy Billiards’ Perfect Corner. It’s a preassembled wooden corner which saves valuable assembly time as well as insures a perfectly “squared up” installation should you choose to install it yourself.
Single, Double, Triple Center beams: Center beams became popular in the late 80’s and early 90’s when many cheaply built imported tables started being manufactured. During this time, in many instances, a center beam was necessary because the frame was not sturdy enough to support the weight of the slate and remain true. While you might occasionally find a 50 to 100 year old table with a center beam, it’s unlikely that it needed it. Because of the heavy propaganda being pushed to unknowledgeable customers, other manufacturers chose to follow suit; regardless of the quality of their frames. Consequently, today – it’s best that you consider the way the frame is made and ignore how many beams there are.
Slate backing: this is an item that often gets overlooked. Since the bed cloth is stapled to the backing, it’s necessary that it hold up over time. Any sturdy MDF or Plywood is fine for the slate backing or slate cradle. The main thing to stay away from is particleboard. Several imports and one American manufacturer use particleboard for their slate backing. So every time you recover or move your pool table, you are reducing its time on this earth.
Slate: Most manufacturers are using a 1”, 3-pc, slate. Slate that is 7/8” thick used to be the norm for a 7′ table and some 8′ tables, but it meant that dealers might have to carry both thicknesses. For ease of inventory, not for durability, the industry has moved to 1” slate. Tables with a ¾” slate, usually will not have a frame strong enough to carry the heavier slate. If you hear or see the words slatene or slatite, run away. This is NOT slate.
Solid Carved legs: You might find a beautiful table with solid carved legs… does that mean that the table is worth more? Sometimes, yes. But often in your cheaper imports, these legs are made of a type of “rubberwood” while the rest of the table will be different materials. Rarely will this wood match the grain or stain of the rest of the table.
Rail Rubber: A rail rubber by any other name is still as bouncy for the most part. A distributor once told me that much of the rail rubber used on pool tables is made in the same factory in China. Whoever contracts it will usually choose the dye color, make up some fancy name and give it fancy credentials. Almost all rubber will perform satisfactorily for the amount of time that you own your table. Therefore, many manufacturers give it a lifetime warranty although there are very few instances where replacing rubber falls under the strict guidelines of its warranty. Keep in mind that rubber is still rubber. If your table is not in an air-conditioned setting or if you do not use your table, the rubber will start to go bad. I like to compare this to dropping a pencil behind your desk and not finding it until a couple of years later. Is the eraser as good as it was when you bought it?
Number of years of experience: Did you know that a common practice in the billiard industry is to add the number of years of experience per person working there? Sometimes, a company with 5 employees who have all been in the industry for 5 years each will say that they have 25 years experience. Check the company’s background. If they are in a warehouse without a storefront or only sell online, chances are the business is very young.
The moral of this story is that everyone has a story… or a “spiel”. Every large purchase should be researched thoroughly. Purchasing a pool table over the Internet is risky so find a dealer who will crawl under the table with you to show you how it’s built. Find a place that specializes in pool tables and gameroom furniture and has a long-standing, excellent reputation in the community. If you don’t know about pool tables, know about the store you are buying it from.
International Billiards currently carries Legacy, Golden West, Fusion, Bailey, Connely and Imperial. We are confident that any table we sell you has the potential of being handed down to your children and grandchildren. Come into our store at 2311 Washington Avenue in Houston, Texas and let us show you what we (and our tables) are made of!
International Billiards is a 4th generation family business that was established by Bill Morrison in 1940. Since that time, we have made customer service and satisfaction our primary foundation for doing business.