Pool tables are traditionally made with a large slab of slate plus wood.
While some manufacturers today may use plastic honeycomb or synthetic slate, the preferred playing surface for playing pool is natural slate.
Natural slate is best because it’s dense enough to keep the table in place during play.
Are you curious to know how exactly pool tables are made? Below, we’re going over everything from how the raw materials are sourced to the entire manufacturing process.
How Raw Materials Are Sourced for Pool Tables
Slate for pool tables is sourced from the quarry. Here, computer-controlled saws with diamond blades cut the slate into flat sheets. These sheets are about one inch thick.
Then, the slate sheets get shipped in sets of three. They come with a certification that all three sets were cut from the same slab.
Using these three sections to create the table surface is preferred. Why? Because they are easier to lift and transport, less prone to breaking, and easier to level.
Properly-sized holes are pre-drilled into the slate for pocket, bolts, and screws that will later be added on. The bolts and screws attach the slate to the rails and the rest of the table.
The other important raw material is wood. Two types of wood are usually used. This includes poplar, a hardwood with self-healing properties.
Poplar recovers well when staples are taken out and holds screws tightly. These properties make it great for pool tables.
The other woods used will provide an attractive finish and resist scratches and nicks on the outer surface. Some popular wood types include mahogany, maple, and oak.
The cloth used on pool tables is made specifically for this purpose. It is created from a blend of wool and nylon, usually in a ratio between 100%:0% and 60%:40%.
Contrary to popular belief, the material is not felt.
Other small components of the pool table are made from various materials, such as cast iron, aluminum, zinc alloy, rubber, leather, heavy-gauge wire, and slate-sealing wax.
The Manufacturing Process
While construction techniques will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, there’s a general process that most will follow loosely.
Keep in mind that this is not necessarily the exact process they use.
Preparing the Components
First, manufacturers must prepare the components for the pool table. Here’s what they will get ready:
- An edge liner made of lumber gets glued to the bottom of the slate close to the edges. The liners are clamped securely in place until the glue dries.
- Pockets are then sawed through the liner to allow for pocket cutouts in the slate. Then, they will drill bolt and screw holes to attach the rails and table body. They will match the pre-cut holes in the slate.
- Next, sides for the frame of the body are cut from lumber. All edges and corners must be carefully cut to allow for a slope of 15° from top to bottom. The frame is specifically made to be smaller than the slate so it overlaps it just a bit on each side. Then, sides are glued and nailed together.
- Now the legs will be prepared. To do this, the manufacturer will cut solid wood pieces in a decorative pattern. Alternatively, they may create hollow legs by assembling small sheets of wood into a box shape.
- Step five is building a slate frame on top of the body frame. To do this, they will take strips of wood and attach them so they overhang just a bit from the body frame. You can expect about one inch of overhang on each side.
Then, two cross-members made from lumber will get glued between the longer sides of the frame. They may also be screwed in. The purpose of this is to support the seams on the slate.
- Then, a longitudinal support beam can be added across the center of the frame in-between the pockets on the short sides.
- Pocket holes get cut in the corners.
- The lower and upper components of the rails will be sawed from the wood of choice and then glued together. This should create six laminated sections that can fit between each pair of pockets.
The rail’s face angles are cut very carefully to ensure proper rubber cushion positioning. Then, a groove gets cut on the top edge. The groove allows for an anchor strip to keep the cloth in place and cover the rail later on.
- Diamond or circular-shaped sights are placed at three different locations on each section of the rail.
- A blind (or apron) is cut and then placed to match the length of each section of the railing. When assembled, this piece will cover the ends of the slate, slate frame, and body frame.
- Each piece then gets stained, sanded several times, and finished with a lacquer or wax. Finally, each rail section will get rubber cushions glued on.
Assembling the Components
Pool tables are usually shipped in several different pieces so they can be assembled in place.
This is much easier than trying to figure out how to move such a large piece of furniture through most standard-sized doors.
The purchaser may choose to assemble the pool table themselves, or they may opt to have it professionally assembled.
Either way, the assembly process is as follows:
- First, place the table body upside down on the floor. You can then bolt the legs to the underside. After that, check the structure for an even level and insert shims if necessary.
- Next, you’ll flip the table and legs over so it is standing right-side up. You will then take the three separate sections of slate and screw them into their correct places on top of the table body. Again, you may place shims under the slate liners as needed.
- Now it’s time to seal the three sections of slate with hot wax. After this, you must be very careful to remove all excess wax from the surface. The goal is a clean, smooth surface.
- Once the slate has been sealed, it’s time to add the cloth. The cloth must be stretched incredibly tightly across the slate with uniformity throughout. The edges should wrap over the slate liner a bit. There, you can staple the edges down. You will also cover the rail faces with cloth.
- Join the rail sections by adding pocket iron pins into the holes that have been previously drilled into the ends. Next, insert bolts up through the slate to secure the rail on top. You must be very careful at this point to ensure each section is installed as tight and straight as possible.
- Finally, blinds will get screwed into the rail bottoms and the edges of the liner to hold it all together.
How Pool Tables Are Made: Quality Control
You may be wondering how large manufacturers can guarantee quality and consistency across all of their products.
Thankfully, several computer-based technologies can ensure precision every time.
Major manufacturers rely on these computer programs to control the equipment that creates the components.
Then, they rely on human expertise to assemble the pieces at the factory to assure the correct fit.
Once they know the pieces come together as they should, they disassemble them for distribution.
When it arrives at the purchaser’s home, an installer (usually employed by the dealer) reassembles the components.
To get the best quality pool table, each product relies on the manufacturer and installer to get the job done right.
You should expect full use and proper form from any pool table. However, know that an inexpensive table is likely made with lower-quality materials to cut costs.
It may use particle boards, for example. This would look great, but the table may not hold screws as well.
Some less expensive alternatives for the main component of a pool table other than slate include:
- Slatron or Permaslate – essentially sheets of plastic layered on top of particle board to create tough synthetic materials
- Honeycomb – stiff plastic structure with honeycomb-appearance between two plastic sheets
- Medium-Density Fiberboard – flat material made from compressing wood pieces together, also known as particleboard
A casual player can find a well-made pool table for about $600. A professional-grade pool table usually costs between $1,500-3,000.
We’ve covered the manufacturing process for standard pool tables, but what about custom tables?
Custom tables can get as crazy as the purchaser wants and can afford. Some unique examples of custom pool tables include:
- Contemporary table made with a white lacquer base with a high-gloss black lacquer rail
- Cantilever-style pool table with grey lacquer top rail and oak veneer
- “Hamptons” style pool table with Russian Birch base and apron and Walnut top – features neutral color palette inspired by the sea
- Contemporary twice on the traditional pool table – incorporates chemetal in bases and apron for a fresh look
- Industrial pool table with tempered glass, LED lights, and stainless steel components
There’s a lot that goes into making a pool table, whether you realize it or not.
First, they must source the raw materials from wood and slate quarries.
Then, they must prepare the raw materials and create the components of the table.
After that, they must assemble the table by hand to ensure proper fit.
Finally, it gets shipped and installed once and for all.
Other articles you may also like:
- Can a Pool Table Slate Warp?
- Can You Paint a Pool Table?
- Can You Put a Pool Table on a Carpet?
- How to Tell If Pool Table Is Slate?
- Billiard Table vs. Pool Table
- What are pool balls made of?