Selecting Your Table

by Jim Meador

I have received a number of requests for plans from those who want to construct their own pool table. Well, it is one order I would not fill, even if I could. I was recently advised by a table mechanic that Popular Mechanics magazine featured plans a few years ago. But, the fact that plans are available does not mean the table would be playable after it was constructed.

A pool table is not just a piece of furniture. It is a finely tuned instrument that requires precise assembly and leveling. And the cost of building your own would probably be as much as a new table built by professionals. The slate alone could exceed $500.00.

The best tables use at least 7/8" slate, which comes in three pieces (see above illustration). The rails, cloth, pockets and other elements are of the best quality, and everything is assembled on a solid frame. The final results can weigh up to a thousand pounds (or so I've been told).

The slate is leveled by driving thin wedges between the slate and support beams. The tools used to assure the most accurate leveling possible will respond to the thickness of a piece of paper, and leveling should be performed by a professional.

Most major table manufactures offer high quality tables. But if you want the best for the money, find a way to talk to a table mechanic: the guy who puts it all together in your home. I have been advised by a mechanic, that the best tables are those that are built with the responsibilities of the mechanics in mind, since the mechanics are the final link in the production chain. Expect to pay $2,000.00 and up for a good, new table.

I prefer a dark table with wide, flat rails and white diamonds. I can't see the diamonds when I shoot on a table with curved rails and metallic diamonds. I prefer leather pockets to the noisy ball returns where balls can get jammed up. But, these are personal choices.

If you plan on buying a table for you home, you will need at least 5 feet of space between the edge of the table and the walls on all sides, regardless of the size of the table (see diagram below). But keep in mind, this is the absolute minimum. It leaves no space for seating or other furniture.

If the table is for your home, you will want something attractive. But I advise against red cloth, or other bright colors that you think will match your decor. Stick medium shades of greens, grays or blues that will not show the "chalk marks" so badly. More on tables later.


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