What Makes a Good Quality Pool Table Good?

We are asked the question of what makes this brand of pool table better than that brand of pool table pretty much every day. The complete answer to this question is quite long so please be prepared to take more than juts a few minutes (depending on how fast you read I suppose) to study what we have to say about these things. So the first thing you need to realize is that when you ask this question to most sales people then they will try and sell you on whatever particular table they think you are interested in or they will try and up-sell you to a more expensive table by telling you whatever they think will do the trick. We want you to be completely satisfied with whatever decision you decide to make. We tell you the actual answer to this question and then let you make an informed decision on what’s best for you. We won’t push you one direction or the other. It’s your game room and you should feel completely comfortable with whatever choices you decide to make on your own. So there are several things that can make a difference to you like the quality of the pool tables design and construction, the quality of the pool tables cushion rubber, it’s slate thickness, pockets, and fabric style.

Frame / cabinet construction:

MDF and Presswood Style Construction;

The construction of a pool tables base frame / cabinet will make a difference on the tables overall sturdiness. The thickness of the external cabinet on what we describe as a slope sided or a straight sided cabinet and the materials utilized to manufacture these does make a difference for sure. A slope sided cabinet / frame is one that has a slope or angle to the large side and end panel parts of the cabinet which you can see from the outside of the pool table. Straight sided cabinets are those in which the larger end and side panels are oriented in a completely vertical position. The larger panels on either of these design styles can be made of many different types of materials like presswood (sometimes referred to as pressedwood) or MDF (medium density fiberboard), cheap plywood, high quality plywood with a real wood veneer on the outside or solid wood. All of these come in different thicknesses. Obviously the thicker the material the better but the particular material used will make a difference as well. The worst performing and weakest of these materials is the presswood. However if a cabinet made of presswood or MDF has some high quality 3/4″ thick plywood properly attached to the inside of the cabinet then these can still be very sturdy and less expensive at the same time. I wouldn’t necessarily rule out a pool table with these types of side panels as long as they are properly lined internally, but I would strongly suggest staying away from any billiard table that has unlined exterior frame panels made of presswood, MDF or cheap plywood. Presswood and MDF frame panels will usually have a plastic laminate like Formica attached to the outside surface for it’s visual effects. These laminates can look like real wood, stone or metal due to an image being printed on the laminated material. Some folks are fooled by the image and actually believe it’s real wood or whatever it looks like. MDF is slightly sturdier than the presswood material but it still does not have enough strength to support anything other than a non slate type playing field. Again if the MDF or presswood frame panels are internally lined with good quality 3/4′ thick plywood then they can still make for a sturdy pool table as long as the construction of the cabinets corners, legs and other things are hefty enough to do their jobs as well. You should know that there are plenty of presswood and MDF panels which are lined but they are many times lined with a really cheap version of a so called plywood. Personally I have a hard time calling this stuff plywood at all. Anyway panels lined with this type of plywood are better than having no liner at all but that’s all I can say for it. MDF panels can and do sometimes have thin layers of real wood attached to their exterior surfaces and it’s pretty much impossible to tell the difference unless you look closely at the cross section edges of the material. Many time these edges are covered with some sort of trim in order to hide it’s true nature. The trim usually does add the the aesthetics of the pool table as well. There are possible issues of extreme swelling of either of these materials if exposed to liquids. This is usually not a problem unless there is a flood, or water line breakage or a tornado that rips your roof off. However constant exposure to a pet that marks its territory can be a problem for sure. We have seen all these things happen many times.The pet problem is probably the one that’s most commonly experienced. This is something you really need to watch for when your looking at used pool tables. 

Plywood with Real Wood Veneer Cabinet/Frame Panel Construction;

High quality plywood with any number of real woods veneered to them make for very good quality pool tables . They should also be lined with extra plywood internally around the top portion of the frame panels in order to fully support the weight of a slate playing field. Any under supported cabinet will sag substantially in the center from end to end. Most extra sturdy frames sag slightly anyway. This is completely normal and is made up for by shimming under the slates as is described in the leveling section. Plywood on it’s edge is probably even stronger than solid wood so there are no concern with the strength of a pool table cabinet made from this type of material. Unless one looks at the cross section edges of the plywood then it’s impossible to tell if it’s solid wood or not by just looking at its exterior. This material is less expensive than solid wood and there is also no fear of it splitting from extreme changes in the environmental conditions it’s exposed to. It also holds up well to liquid exposures as long as it’s not a long term or repeated type of exposure. At least it doesn’t swell up and fall apart like those materials listed above. It can eventually rot but this takes a very long time and lots of exposure to liquids.

Solid Wood Cabinets;

Solid wood is the most expensive type of cabinet panel material used in pool table construction except for panels made with inlaid decorations. Solid wood cabinet panels come in different thicknesses. Some have thinner 1/2″ thick real woods backed with plywood and this is fine really and less expensive but don’t be fooled by a salesman that might tell you a plywood cabinet is solid wood or all wood they say many times. Plywood is all wood sort of. This is if you don’t count the glue and sawdust involved in it’s construction. Plywood does also have an actual solid piece of real wood veneered to it’s exterior but it is a very thin piece of solid wood. I supposed this is a way of circumventing the truth without actually lying but in our opinion it’s just completely unethical. Most solid wood cabinets are at least 1′ thick but the better ones are 1.5″ thick and some are even up to  2″ thick. As long as the 1′ thick solids wood cabinets are also backed with some additional solid wood (usually Poplar) or plywood around the upper interior area of the external panels and also has a frame cap attached to the top of the frame/cabinet which also have sufficient corner and slate support construction then this style of pool table frame also makes for a very sturdy cabinet. When the solid woods used are even thicker than 1″ then the strength of the frame only get stronger. Well it does get more expensive as well. 2″ thick solid hardwood cabinets are in my opinion just over the top and a waste of money. Very few tables are made this way. There are antique tables out there that have even thicker solid wood cabinets than that but the are usually made with a solid Poplar core and then have more decorative woods veneered on the outside of those Poplar cores.

Cabinet Corner Construction:

 

 

Internal Slate Support Beams:

All pool tables come with internal slate support beams that help support the weight of the slates. These slate support beams can be made of press wood, MDF board, the really cheap version of plywood, high quality plywood or solid wood. The strength of these materials vary just as I described above in the cabinet construction section, However no thickness of presswood will do the job period. MDF isn’t much better in this area either. Cheap versions of so called plywood don’t cut it either. Real high quality plywood in at least a 3/4″ thickness will do. !.5″ plywood beams are twice as strong. Truthfully the beams made of plywood on edge are the strongest of all but it just doesn’t look as reliable or expensive as solid wood and that’s exactly why sold wood beams are used instead of plywood here on upper end price ranged pool tables. When solid poplar wood is used for internal slate support beams then it is very substantial as long as it’s at least 1.5″ thick. Even pine is sufficient here as long as it’s 2.5″ thick. The way these beams are attached to the side and end cabinet walls makes a difference as well. Not many low end price ranged pool tables attach these support beams with thinner metal brackets which aren’t really as strong as they should or even could be. They do do the trick as long as the materials they are connecting are sufficient enough to make up for the difference. However sales personal will many times brag about their so and so thickness but they are just making it sound better than it actually is. Pretty much none describes a part of any item they are trying to sell in a negative way. Sure steel brackets are better than plastic but nobody uses plastic when the job calls for steel. If they actually did then they would call it a  heavy duty space age plastic super polymer just to make it sound good whether or not it was only going to last just a few weeks before it breaks. In reality there probably are some plastics out there these days that are stronger than some of the cheap steel brackets used on pool tables these days.

Internal Cabinets:

Cushion Rubber

Top Rails

Legs

Slate

Fabric

Pockets

Accessories

The Company you buy it from

The Installation

Leveling

 

Hardware

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