There are many differences between a $500 pool table and a $5000 pool table. Some of these differences are impossible to tell from the naked eye. I am writing this guide to make your purchase of a pool table a little easier. Armed with a little knowledge, your next pool table purchase will be a little easier.
1. Slate vs. Slate Core vs. Wood Slate
These materials are referring to the surface of the table that is just underneath the cloth or felt. Slate is solid rock. Slate core is usually wood mixed with concrete. Wood slate is just basically plywood or particle board.
Slate weighs roughly 500lbs for an 8' table. It is solid rock and does not typically warp. Most manufacturers will provide a lifetime warranty for a slate pool table. If you have a professional installer, a sturdy floor, and a few more dollars, slate is the way to go. An enjoyable game of pool requires an extremely level playing surface. Slate is usually in 1 or 3 pieces. A 1 piece slate table is easier to keep level over time, but extremely difficult to move. A 3 piece slate table is the most common type of table and a good installer can make the slate nearly as perfect as a 1 piece slate table. About 95% of the tables we sell are slate pool tables.
Slate Core is basically a concrete and wood mixture. The mixture provides a sturdier surface than wood, but much less sturdy when compared with wood. The main issue with slate core is usually found after about a year due to the weight of the the rails. Over time, the weight of the rails on the outsides of the tables cause the slate core to warp and the balls will roll to the rails all across the table.
Wood is often used on inexpensive tables for the play surface. For a guy who loves to play pool, this is absolutely miserable for me. The tables are usually light weight - only 200-300lbs. The table is usually warped before it is even unpackaged. These are great tables to buy for children who will not notice that their pool table does not roll straight.
2. Rails, Legs, Pockets, and Cabinets
Rails are usually made out of either Solid wood or pressed wood. The solid wood type provide a better bounce for the ball and have more grain beauty. Pressed wood rails can be okay. After the table has been refelted a few times, pressed wood rails will deteriorate dramatically.
Legs on a quality table are solid wood. Try to stay away from pressed wood legs. The entire weight of the table is directly on the four legs. Pressed wood or plastic legs will not support a table nearly as well as solid wood. One exception to this rule are commercial tables. Most commercial tables have high density plastic molded legs with cast aluminum leg levelers. These are very sturdy.
Pockets on high end tables are real leather. The less expensive option is a vinyl pocket. Neither of these options are a big deal until the table is over 20 years old.
The cabinet of the pool table is the square box that the slate sits on. Most are made of either wood or pressed wood. The pressed wood provides a very solid surface, but the hardwood is a better option. Many good quality tables have veneers of hardwood on top of the pressed wood to provide the look of a hardwood on a less expensive table.
There are many types of cloth. At the top, there are worsted cloths made by Brunswick and Simonis. The Brunswick Centennial and all of the types of cloth made by Simonis are great playing cloths. There are many lower grades of cloth that get the job done and are still good quality. I like Imperial, Mali, Brunswick Contender, Championship, and Valley cloths. For most uses, these do just fine.
Final words of wisdom - 1. Buy a slate table if it is possible. You will be happier in the long run. Be careful of liars. Ask if the slate is solid stone if the deal appears too good to be true. 2. Have a professional install your table. Unless you have done many tables before, it is best to have a professional install the table. 3. If you want the best table available, ask if the entire table is made of Hardwood. High end brands such as Brunswick have their top tables made out of hardwoods entirely.
I hope this has answered any questions you might have about buying a pool table. If you have any questions, even on our competitors' tables, feel free to ask on ebay.
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