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Sunday, 13 December 2020

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We're lucky in Melbourne Oz to have several longstanding local billiards table manufacturers - e.g. Alcocks and Harry Evans & Sons - with no shortage of expertise and advice, if you can afford it. Melbourne has also retained several of the world's great 19th Century billiard's rooms - see https://alcocks.com.au/great-australian-billiard-rooms for some pics (plus some of how the other half live). How anyone plays on the full-size tables is beyond me - I can hardly see to the other side of them, let alone place a ball accurately over that distance.

Wow. It is always fascinating to see an "insider's" view of a specialized world. I recently became interested, for instance, in watch repair and when you scratch the surface, there is as much arcane specialization in the world of, say, American mid-century automatic dress watches, as there is in any other field. Your article begins to peel back the cover on another world. I suspect there will be some who write in with the criticism that this sort of cross-pollination between photography and [other] is inherently uninteresting. In response, I would say that many of the same mental/emotional "muscles" are being used regardless of the subject matter, be it photography or something else (stereos, billiards, etc.). It calls to mind, without the originally disparaging connotations, the Japanese term "otaku" as that term applies to anime and manga. There is an appreciation in the term for, or at least an acknowledgement of, the fractal nature of specialized knowledge.

And I can say, without more than the most casual interest in billiards, that those 19th century pool tables on one of the sites to which you linked leave me gob-smacked with the artistry of their manufacture. In fact, I can't think of a single object in our home (other than maybe a Leica or two) that has been put together which a similar level of care.

It might be equally useful to write an essay titled, "How to SELL a Pool Table".

TOP doesn't need a new Logo (or re-initial)
T he O nline P ooltabler blog............... ;-)

Got a nice (erm, not ring) 'clack' to it.

I bought my table, brand new in 1980. It is an Olhausen on the lower end of the price range. A 7 foot job because of space limitations. Fair construction materials. Still "runs" fine 40 years later. I have moved it 3 times by myself and it takes me about 3 days to get everything smooth, level and flat and the cloth just right in tension. I learned by experience but it really isn't that hard. Being an engineer helps and there are some good videos.

Thanks I sure do enjoy these off topic threads.

I inherited a cheapo table from a neighbor. I knew it wasn't slate, but I was amazed what I found when I scrapped it. The playing surface was a 1 and 1/4 inch thick wood composite. But the fargin bastiges at the factory had applied a slate-appearing sticker to the bottom side of the composite. I'm guessing it was to fool any poor sucker or rube who crawled under the table to give it a gander.

Mike,
I greatly enjoyed this tutorial which brought back pleasant (but painful) memories. When I was little my grandparents (former farmers and Midwestern tavern owners, which seems an odd combination in retrospect) had a "bar box" style pool table in their basement. Probably a leftover from before they sold the tavern and retired. When we were still far too short to properly use pool cues, my brother and I invented a game that resembled air hockey, but on the pool table. We would face off, each with a ball in our hand, and smash another ball back and forth. If you hit a corner pocket you scored. If you hit a finger, or pinched some skin, you got very, very sad.

Note: I do not recommend that you attempt this game on your new pool table if you value your friends or your fingers!

I'm with the other posters: I don't care a lick about pool (I'm terrible at it and will never buy a table), but I loved this article. Good writers can write interesting articles about topics that I don't find particularly interesting, and you are a good writer.

I know slate can be tricky to work with so I was going to ask you if glass is ever used instead. Then I thought “don’t be a lazy bar steward, Google for it” so I did and found may references to the benefits of glass versus slate ... nearly all of them related to Turkey calls for hunting, who knew :).

Are space age carbon fibre composites making any inroads or is it slate all the way?

Referencing bear’s comment on full size tables, in the late 60’s at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, the student union had 3 full sized tables, one with no pockets for English Billiards, the other two for Snooker (pool was pretty much unknown in Australia at the time, outside of pub bars). The tables were vast, and a real skill was the management of the cue support extensions, “spiders” and the likes, which were so long that the vibration as they flexed was a determining factor in the accuracy of the stroke!

In the 90’s, I bought a collapsible (!!!) pool-sized table, levelled with beer coasters under the legs, lots of family fun, but sold that house, and “downsizing” apartments are not scaled for this sort of fun 😢

The March/April 1989 issue of Fine Woodworking had a nice article on building your own pool table.
If you could live without carved lions and the like it appears a quality table would not be beyond the reach of a moderately skilled woodworker with a bench, chop saw, a table saw and a basic selection of small tools.
You could put up a temporary shop in your new building, build a table in place and then sell off the tools.
How's that for a bad suggestion?
Actually the FW piece did have a really nice discussion on the anatomy of a proper table. I learned a lot from the article but was not inspired to go shopping for big chunks of slate.
Years later FW also did a nice piece on turning your own cue.


American thing is funny. Do not doubt you that American pool tables are better, but I have owned rather too many examples of another traditionally-American-made object: electric guitars (mostly archtop guitars). American guitar makers have declined because of competition from far eastern makers (also guitars are less fashionable than they once were). Many far eastern instruments were not good (but much much cheaper than American ones), but terrible truth that some were very good indeed: probably from the late 1970s to the late 1980s or later than that the best not-bespoke guitars in the world were made in Japan. Americans carried on making instruments with terrible quality control at silly prices, but in 1980 if you wanted a Les Paul and did not mind that it said 'Yamaha' on the headstock you should buy an SG2000 not whatever terrible thing Gibson would sell you at three times the price.

Well, since then things have got better for American makers: still very expensive but their products are better now as they finally learned about quality control from the Japanese. As example I have 1980s (same age as me nearly) Gibson ES 175 which is a horrible guitar though I love her dearly and 2006 Heritage H575 which is made in the factory in Kalamazoo where all the good Gibsons were made and is incomparably better guitar than the Gibson.

Pool table probably are different because shipping a pool table is probably very dear.

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