Slate Pool Tables : Frequently Asked Questions 3

Buying a Pool Table, especially a real "slate pool table" is not a simple as you might think.  There are over 1,200 manufacturers of Slate Pool Tables in the world today, and hundreds of other companies that make pool tables with fake slate beds.  Here are some Frequently Asked Questions to get you started:


Q:  "Do I really need a Slate Pool Table or Should I get a "slatron" or Non-Slate Table?"
A:  That depends, do you care if the balls roll straight when you hit them with the pool cue?  Slate is the only play surface material that can be precision leveled to 1/10,000 of an inch so that the pool balls roll in a straight line on every shot.  If you don't care if the balls roll straight, then save yourself some money and buy a "toy" table (non-slate).

Here is about the nicest Non-Slate table you can get.

 Q:  "What is the difference beween one piece slate tables and three piece slate tables?"
A:  There are two general types of slate tables.  One piece slate tables are typically found in bars and clubs and in most cases are coin operated and the balls all roll down to one end.  These tables are meant to be durable, easy to move, and cheap to fix.  They cannot, however, be precision leveled because the slate sits in a sill like a coffee table top and is not totally flat.  Most home and furniture style tables are "three piece slate" pool tables, with anywhere from 3/4" thick to over 2" slate.  Three piece slate tables are the only ones that can be made perfectly level, so that the balls roll dead straight.


Q:  "Is all Three Piece Slate Pretty Much the Same?"
A:  An obvious difference is thickness.  Three piece slate pool tables with less than 1" Thick Slate are much lighter and more likely to go out of level over time.  The biggest difference is how the slate is cut.  Slate is mined out of the ground, cut into 3 pieces, sanded or "honed" flat, then backed with a wood or MDF Frame.  Slate that has too high or too low a moisture content is prone to cracking and chipping.  Many companies improperly "hone" the slate, using small 6" sanding disks instead of th 5 foot wide sanding disks required to properly flatten slate.  You can actually see the sanding marks on improperly honed slate going back an forth over and over again, watch out!  All properly honed slate is also a matched set, three pieces cut from one original.  There is always a simi-circle chalk mark on the slate that should line up perfectly when the table is being assembled.  This is how you can tell you have a "matched set" of pool table slate.  Also, some companies use very cheap material to "Frame" or "Back" their slate.  Good slate backing should be durable and not chip, flake off, or warp, so that the bed cloth (felt) can be replaced over and over again. 

...More to come

  • Patrick McGarity

Pool Table Cloth Buyers Guide Part 1 0

As I previously stated there are many different grades and types of pool table cloth or felt as the jargon goes. Felt is actually a very weak cloth which would last about an hour on a pool table. Quality pool table cloth comes in various density, weights, and materials, not to mention every color under the sun. Poor quality cloth, the type most often installed on non-slate or low end recreational pool tables consists of polyester, or some wool and much nylon woven with very low density or open stitching. Because of the quality of the material and the low density this cloth burns easily and wears out very quickly.

Burn marks most often occur when the ball is hit too hard. They appear as white spots on the cloth. The higher the density of the cloth the better it stands up to up to abuse. Standard pool table cloth is 19 to 21 oz. 75% wool to 25% nylon. Standard wool has a nap or pile which causes the ball to stagger as it slows. The ball will also not travel as far on wool with nap. It plays slower. The better the wool process the less the nap, but there is always some nap or pile to this level of cloth. Worsted wool is a higher quality cloth, usually 85% wool to 15% nylon. Worsted wool has no nap or pile. The process is more expensive than regular wool therefore the cloth costs more. The result is a smoother faster surface. Also because there is no nap. Chalk, lint and dirt will not stick to the cloth. It stays cleaner and cleans better which helps it last longer. This cloth weight is between 24 and 26ozs with around 144 stitches per inch. Due to the density this cloth last much longer than standard cloth.

A relatively new option is teflon treated cloth. Spray ons are available but don't last and are expensive. Teflon treated cloth is better but since the cloth is coated the coating eventually wears off. Finally there is cloth with a process that impregnates the threads with teflon. This cloth is guaranteed to be stain proof to cold liquid as long as the cloth is on the table. It also lasts 2-3 times longer than standard cloth. The pros comment that the teflon may have an impact on english, but for most of us the quality of this cloth makes it worth the extra cost. Quality cloth will range from $150. to $350. not including installation. In our experience the most common reason for a recover is spillage. Beer, wine, soda will cause standard cloth to stiffen and play very inconsistent. There is really no way to clean it so it must be replaced. Of course abuse and misuse can result in tears which cause the ball to roll poorly.

 As I stated every color under the sun is available. Hot Pink and white don't sell well but Clemson orange and Nittany blue do. It is important to consider lighting when choosing a cloth color. The darker the color the better the lighting needs to be. Cleaning the table after each hour of play will help the cloth last longer as will the use of a break cloth. Simply put a remnant of cloth under the cue ball when breaking. This will help lessen burns. Alternate the ends of the pool table for breaking and the cloth will last longer as well.

  • Patrick McGarity

Used Pool Tables Buyers Guide Part 1 9

Used Pool tables are everywhere on Ebay, Craigs List, and Local Classifieds. "Buyer Beware" tags should be posted on each of them. What does it really cost to buy a used pool table? What are the risks? How can a buyer protect themselves from the unscrupulous seller?

Would you buy a used car without a car fax history report? How about without looking under the hood or having a certified mechanic inspect the vehicle? Buying a used pool table presents some similar challenges. Unless the seller will allow you to take the table apart, even a certified table technician can not tell the true condition of the table from a visual inspection.

You must also consider that there are no manufacturers guarantees on a used tables. If you buy a used table from a reputable local dealer they will usually give an installation guarantee or offer to warranty the table through the dealership, like Certified Pre-Owned Warranty at a car dealership.

You must factor in the cost of the tear down, move, and reset of the used table as well. Three piece slate tables are easily damaged when moved in one piece or by untrained individuals. The charge for a reputable local dealer to tear down, move, and reset the table will range from $300 to $600, depending on the make, model, age of the table, and part of the country. If the pool table cloth needs to be replace (which it usually does on a used table), be prepared to spend an additional $200 to $400 on a re-cover. Be careful using contractors who work out of the trunk of their car. They charge less but are not certified or insured, and will not usually guarantee thier work in writing.

You need to research the used table to make sure the manufacturer is still in business and builds quality tables. Particle board tables with 3/4" slate are next to impossible to keep level and don't last long unless they were built by quality engineers (Major Manufacturers like Brunswick, Olhousen, Connelly)

How old is the table? We recently had an inquiry about a used Brunswick. The seller represented that the table was only 3 years old. We identified that the model had been discontinued 10 years earlier and sold new for around $1200.. The seller was asking $1000.. Buyer beware. Even new tables are regularly misrepresented as quality wood when in reality they are a wood product such as MDF. A gentleman proudly stated that he purchased a solid hard rock maple table for $895. delivered. When it arrived I pointed out to him that it was a maple finish and not solid maple. He continued to insist it was solid maple until I pointed out that the box stated solid maple finish not solid maple wood, it was MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard or Particleboard).

Quality used tables range in price from $1,000. to over $100,000 for a true antique. Remember, if the table was truly a good deal, wouldn't the sellers friends, co-workers, or Family buy it before it had to be put in a classified ad? The fact is, 90% of used tables "for sale" are in such bad condition or so out-dated in style, the seller is usually looking to get rid of it before it costs them any more money.

Remember these rules when looking for a used Table:

1: Look for Major Manufacturer Tables less than 5 Years Old. Check the Manufacturers Web Site or email them to confirm that the table was in production during the time frame the seller claims. Avoid E-Tailers Tables Used (pooltablesusa, billiardsdirect, BilliardEX, ec.), you will not be able to get parts and they do not hold up well after the first few years of use.

2: Inspect the Table in Person, Take Digital Pictures, Look under the Table for Damage, Play on the Table a Little, and Look for tables with relativly new billiard cloth (not worn or over 5 years old)

3: Verify that the seller is the original owner, ask them where they bought it, and call that dealer to find out what they really paid for it!

4: Always try to get the original dealer to Tear Down/Move/Reset/Recover the Table if possible, they prefer to work on tables they originally setup and might cut you a break on the price!

5: Finally, Check your total investment against buying a new table from a local dealer, most of the time you will be within a few hundred dollars of getting a new table with a warranty!

Billiard Pool Balls Buyers Guide Part 1 0

 Why does one set of pool balls sell for $29. and another $300.?   The Billiard Congress of America (BCA), standards for balls dictate that they must be of a certain weight and a certain roundness.  Polyester or plastic can't meet those standards.  But more importantly they are very hard on billiard cloth.  Under a microscope you would see that they look like the surface of the moon.  Only phenolic resin balls can be made smooth enough and meet the standards of the BCA.  They also are not painted but made with the colors in the material.  By spending just over $100. on the balls you will save money on the cloth and on your game skills.  Keep shooting!!

  • Patrick McGarity

Game Room Layout Tip #2 0

 Everyone is dealing with high gas prices, high food prices, and high drink prices in bars.  The good news is that those with a well outfitted game room at home are saving on all of the above.  This "nesting" trend has picked up over the last decade with a marked decline in international travel.  Families find that they don't have to drive to the pool room or bar for a game or other entertainment, they have it all at home.  The more seasoned of citizens enjoy time with friends over a game of cards, Table Shuffleboard, or hanging out in comfy home theater recliners.  The x gens, twenners, and teens, enjoy partying hardy with all the X-Box or Merritt games on-line, and of course all enjoy the interactive Wii games. 

Check out the ECI Montecello Home Bar Collection

With new flat screen TV's having wireless capability, the lines are blurring when defining entertainment space in the home.  For example, a wi-fi TV can display movies streamed via Netflix from the Wii right into the living room.  The internet connection, the Wii, even the Blue Ray/DVD player don't have to be in the same room!  Now noisier games like Air Hockey and Foosball can be tucked away into a more private part of the basement while the new "high tech" home entertainment options can be enjoyed anywhere in the house.  This blend of old and new home entertainment makes it easy for young and old alike to entertain at home without conflict.  With a nice home bar outfitted with a kegerator and other beverages, as well as good home "cookin" this lifestyle is not only catching on but growing fast, enjoy!!!

  • Patrick McGarity

Barstool Buyers Guide #1 0

 We use the term "barstool" to refer to a stool whose seat ranges in height from 26" to 44."  They can be made of metal, wood, mdf, particle board, or other more exotic materials.  They can range in price from $20 to over $2000 per stool.   The variance in price is due to the building materials, the swivel mechanism, and the workmanship durring the manufacturing process. 

Check out this good quality mass-produced bar stool.  Simple wood finish, basic fabric, and few options keep this import stool price attractive.  Glued and doweled wood components, steel bearings, and good quality foam set this appart from many cheeply made knock-offs.  Stools like this range from $350 to $600.

Above is a domestic manufactured stool from Darafeev in California.  This type of stool represents the "top tier" as every stool is hand made to order.  Notice the custom leather welting, hand set brass tacks, ornate wood carving, and premium "distressed" oil finish.  Stools like this have Sprung Seats, much like a full size relciner (as opposed to the foam seats on most bar stools).  They also carry "lifetime warranties" against wood spliting and manufacturer's defects.  This is truely investment furniture and prices start around $800 per stool

Because of the height of the legs better quality materials and better manufacturing are necessary for large swivel stools to last.  Emagine a 250 lb person sitting on soft wood or thin aluminum tube high stool.  Next time you are in a good bar feel the weight and sturdiness of the barstools.  That should be your benchmark for quality.  Now determine how much use your stools are going to get and how important the "look" of your room is to you, then start your search!