The first thing to determine when shopping for a pool table is the size of table you would like to buy. Most T.C. Naz Tables are available in 6’, 7’, 8’, 8’+, or 9’.
1. How big is the room in which I wish to place the table?
This is the most important question you can answer prior to shopping for a pool table. Many people think they have plenty of room for a pool table, only to find, after delivery, that they actually do not have enough room to play around the table.
2. What size table do I have room for?
Refer to the room size chart to make this determination. Dimensions shown are the ideal dimensions where you would have no short shots anywhere around the table using that particular size cue. Keep in mind that because of how homes are built most people have some kind of short shot.
3. What size table do I wish to own?
Now that you have determined what size table your room will handle, you must decide if you wish to go with the largest possible table. The most common size table found in a home is a 44”x88” or 4x8 table. All professional pool tournaments are held on a 50”x100” or 4-1/2x9 table.
Style / Wood Type
There are several factors to consider when deciding what style of table you wish to purchase. Ask yourself the following questions.
Am I buying this table:
1. For the kids to use?
If you are buying the table mainly to entertain the kids, then the styling may not be as important as the quality.
2. For the adults to use?
If mainly the adults will use the table, then you may want to take into account both the styling and quality of the table.
3. As a piece of furniture for the home?
If you are buying the table as a piece of furniture for your home, then obviously, you will want to get the most attractive table that your budget will allow.
Your answer may actually be a combination of all three. That is OK; tailor your table to your own desires.
The next question to ask yourself is,
"What wood type and /or wood stain would be best in my room?"
Tables are generally produced from three different types of materials. These include, but are not limited to:
1. Mica laminate or vinyl melamine coating
These types of tables generally make up your least expensive price range of slate top tables. They usually have particle board underneath the surface material. Mica or vinyl tables cannot be stained and therefore come only in certain colors. T.C. Naz Ultrafoil Series tables use a press wood with melamine on the body and blind rail of the table but are made with a solid Poplar top rail. This makes our economy table a higher quality than most other tables found in this price range. Keep in mind that the top rail is one of the most important parts of the table since this is where all future work on the table will take place (re-felting table, replacing cushions).
2. Veneer laminates
This type of table will have a veneer laminate over another type of wood. This underlying wood may be made of particle board, MDF board, or laminated layers of solid wood. If the table has solid wood laminates under the veneer, then you should not have to worry about the veneers peeling or bubbling. All T.C. Naz Plywood tables use a solid wood laminate under an Oak or Maple veneer. Since veneer can be stained, these tables are available in all of the different T.C. Naz stain colors. The rails on T.C. Naz Plywood Tables are made the same way as on our solid wood tables. This gives the customer a two piece top rail and allows us to use several different species of woods, edges, and rail sights.
3. Solid wood
The best-built tables on the market will use solid wood for ALL of the wood components. They range in style from simple to very fancy and are made in a wide range of wood types. Some of the more common types of wood are Oak, Maple, Cherry, Ash, Poplar, Walnut, and Mahogany. In addition to many wood types, there are also many finishes available on each of these woods. The slate on these tables will vary from 3/4" with some manufacturers to 1" with others. Most imported tables and/or internet tables are made from a solid wood called rubber wood. While rubber wood can often look like an American hardwood do not get mistaken. If someone says a table is 100% solid hardwood without giving a species of wood, this table is most likely imported from China and made from rubber wood. All T.C. Naz solid wood tables come with 1” slate and are available in many different species of wood and stain colors. We use solid wood throughout the entire construction of the pool table.
BUYER BEWARE: As a consumer you should be aware that many times when a salesperson refers to a table as a "cherry" or "mahogany" table, they are simply referring to the finish. This is often the case with internet retailers.
Quality of Construction
Now that you have decided what size table and what wood type you prefer, it is time to investigate how good the table that you are about to purchase is. There are many factors involved with the quality of a pool table. How well your pool table is built will have a direct impact on how well your table will play. The areas that you need to look hard at include; slate, rail construction, cushions, frame construction, pockets, and aprons.
A. How many pieces- slate can come in either a 1-piece section or a 3-piece set
i. 1-piece slateis very cumbersome and difficult to level because it covers such a large expanse of space. It is generally only 1/2" in thickness and does not have any guarantees concerning the level. The most common place that 1 piece slate can be found is on coin-operated, or very inexpensive tables.
ii. 3-piece slateis the best type of slate because it allows for more precise leveling. With three different sections of slate, each can be leveled individually to achieve a perfect level. This, of course, will allow your table to play better. 3 piece slate is available in several different thickness including, 3/4", 7/8", and 1". All T.C. Naz tables come with 1” three piece slate.
B. How thick is the slate?- This is one of the most important questions to ask about slate. The Billiard Congress of America (BCA) requires that the slate on tournament tables be 1" thick and 3 pieces.
i. 3/4" slate,when in the 3 pc. configuration, is generally used to give the convenience of leveling and handling while keeping the cost of the table as low as possible. This slate is usually, but not always, used on less expensive tables.
ii. 7/8" slateis often used as a substitute for true 1" slate. It comes only in three pieces and it is hard for the untrained eye to tell the difference between 7/8" and 1". A table with this slate should be a little less expensive than a table with 1" slate. This can also be a good indicator that a manufacturer is trying to save money on the construction of the table. Commonly found with Chinese slate.
iii. 1" thick slateis the only slate approved by the BCA for tournament use. It comes only in 3 pieces. It will provide the truest and most accurate play of any of the three slate thicknesses. It is the very best slate, as it is the only slate guaranteed by the slate mines not to warp. Although it is only slightly more expensive than 7/8", it is 12.5% heavier in total weight. It is important to note that the weight of the table will have direct impact on how true a ball rolls and rebounds. All T.C. Naz tables use 1” slate.
2. Rail Construction
The rail construction is the "heartbeat" of your pool table. There are two different types of rails, one piece rails and two piece rails. A two piece rail consists of a sub-rail, preferably made of good construction solid wood like poplar, and a top rail made of the same species of wood as the rest of the table. The blind rail is the part of the rail that extends vertically towards the floor from the top rail.
A. Type of Cushions
The cushions are the most critical aspect of the rail system. In order for a pool table to be tournament approved, the Billiard Congress of America requires that "Rubber cushions should be triangular in shape and molded with the minimum standard K-66 profile with a base height of 1 3/16" and a nose height of 1", with control fabric molded to the top and base area of the cushion.” Look for all of the following features to be sure you are buying the best table on the market.
i. K-66 Style Cushionsare the minimum size cushion profile that can be used for tournaments.
ii. K-55 Style Cushionsare livelier and will last longer because it has more rubber to the profile. The K-55 surpasses the minimum standard for cushions set by the BCA. All T.C. Naz tables are built with K-55 style cushions.
iii. U-23 Style Cushionsare slightly smaller version of the K-66 that is used on many coin operated tables. Does not meet the minimum standard set by the BCA.
Live Gum Rubber Cushions.Be sure that the table you are buying has "live gum rubber" cushions. These will provide the very best play of any in the industry. The higher the % of live gum rubber, the more consistent the rebound will remain. Control fabricshould be molded into the top of the rubber with approx. 3/16" of nose cushion exposed. This allows the ball to rebound with the same accurate and uniform speed, no matter where the ball strikes the cushion. Not all tables have control fabric on the top of the cushion, so be sure to ask about this.
Live air spaceis a space that exists on the back of the cushion where it is glued to the sub rail. It assists the cushion in its ability to control the speed and accuracy of the ball. It also allows the cushion to breath from the front to back, maintaining rubber consistency. Without this live air space, the cushion will harden due to its inability to breath.
B. Sub Rail
The rail liner or "sub rail" is the part of the rail that you cannot see once your table is assembled. It is what the rubber is actually attached to and it is the part of the rail that comes in contact with the slate and allows the rails to be fastened to the slate.
i. Solid wood sub rail: this will allow for the most accurate rebound available. Some manufacturers may use particle board for their sub rail, so be sure to check closely before buying a table. All T.C. Naz two piece rails are made with solid Poplar sub rails.
C. Rail Cap
This is the wood section of the rail that is visible and affects the looks of your pool table. It should be made of a hardwood due to the scraT.C.hing which can occur from cues being scraped across the rail. It is also the part of the rail that can add to the beauty of your table.
i. What type of material are the caps made of?
The rail caps on a pool table can be made of solid wood, mica laminate, or vinyl melamine covering.
1. Vinyl laminate will only be used by the very least expensive tables on the market. If torn or scraT.C.hed, they are not repairable.
2. While mica is the most durable, it will only be used on inexpensive furniture style tables, or very expensive, commercially designed tables.
3. The solid wood rail cap will combine durability with the most beautiful look to enhance the furniture appeal of your pool table. One benefit of solid wood is that it can be refinished if scarring does develop over a period of many years. T.C. Naz two pieces rail use a solid wood rail cap.
The sights are the markers on top of the rails. Sights are used for reference points on the table for aiming. They will either be round or diamond shaped. Even though they do not structurally impact the table, they do affect the overall furniture appeal of your pool table. The sights can either be placed in
the rails before the rails are sanded and stained or after the finishing process is complete.
A. Round sights or diamond shaped sights. Most pool tables will come with a round sight as the standard style. These manufacturers will then offer the diamond sight as an option, for an additional charge. Most tables manufactured in China will come standard with diamond sights. These are usually post-finished sights made of plastic that tend to raise over time (see below).
B. Pre-finished sights versus post-finished sights. Pre-finished sights are ones that are placed in the rails prior to the wood having any finish applied. Post-finish sights are sights that are placed in the rails after the rails have passed through the finish process. Once again, even though neither process creates any structural advantage, the pre-finish sights are a much more difficult step. If the sights are already in place when the rails are stained, then that sight is going to absorb the color of the stain. Once this happens, each sight must then be cleaned individually, while in the rail, to remove the stain. The reason that a manufacturer would go through this trouble is to create that furniture look and feel. You can tell which process was used on a table simply by running your finger over the sight. A pre-finished sight will feel so smooth that you might not even be able to tell it is there, with your eyes closed. A post-finished sight will have very defined edges to the fingers. The reason that this is so obvious is that a pre-finished sight is sanded smooth as part of the rail system. All T.C. Naz sights are placed into the rail pre-finished.
4. Frame Construction
There are two types of frames most commonly used in the pool table industry, tapered and straight. Each style is unique in the way that it is built, but both are of equal strength and stability.
A. Tapered Frames
Tapered frame tables are defined as those tables which have a frame which tapers from top to bottom. The legs are then attached to the underside of the frame. There are many variations in the way
manufacturers will produce this type of frame so it is very important that you investigate each table very carefully.
i. How is the corner bracing constructed?
1. Solid wood corner bracing is the least common, but most effective way to build a tapered frame table. By using all wood bracing in the corners, the table becomes extremely stable and structurally sound for supporting the weight of the slate. The legs are attached to wood leg blocks, which are built into the corner of the table. The frame is factory assembled and usually pre-checked for level. The table will not wobble when bumped strongly with the hip. All T.C. Naz solid wood tables are built using solid wood corner bracing.
2. Metal, angle iron bracing is the most common form of corner bracing used in tapered cabinets. This is the quickest and least expensive way to produce a pool table. It is not, however, the most effective. When the frame is compressed between the weight of the slate and the legs, it creates an extreme amount of stress on the corner. Usually the angle iron is of a very light weight material and is attached to the frame using wood screws. This corner brace then flattens at the bottom to allow the leg to be attached to the metal bracket. If you plan to move your table this can cause problems because each time you remove the screws the integrity of that corner is weakened. Most Internet tables manufactured in China are made with metal angle iron bracing.
ii. Does this table have corner caps on the corners?
While you have to crawl under the table to see what kind of bracing is used in the frame, an indication can be found on the outside of each corner, which covers the gap between the side frame and the end frame. A cabinet made with solid wood bracing will likely have mitered corners. The mitered corners give a finished furniture quality look to the table.
iii. What type of material are the beams made of?
Since the beam construction is an extremely important part of the construction, only the best materials should be used. You will find tables that have plywood beams and tables that have solid wood beams. Solid wood is the most stable material and is what you should require in your table.
iv. How thick are the beams?
The thickness of the beams can vary from only 1/2" thick up to 2" thick. The thicker the beam, the stronger the support. One of the best combinations of size is 2" x 6" made of solid wood.
v. Does the table have a beam running the length of the table?
Center beams have become common since the onslaught of tables from China. Only larger tables require center support beams. T.C. Naz has been building pool tables for over 20 years and only recently ever used a center beam on 7’ and 8’ tables. These center beams can be added free of charge to any customer that would like them.
B. Straight Frame Style Tables
Straight frame style tables are identified by the frame being mostly vertical as opposed to tapered. The legs will actually extend all the way to the top of the frame and will have the slate resting directly on the legs. The frame section will then bolt directly into the sides of the legs. Many of the questions that should be asked about the frame construction for this type of frame are the same as the ones asked concerning the tapered frame.
Pockets can come in several varieties. They can be plastic or leather, enclosed or exposed, and they can affect the way your table will play. You need to investigate which type of pockets a table has as part of the buying process. The pockets on all T.C. Naz tables are supplied by Hood Leather Goods.
A. What style of pocket is used?
There are basically three types of pockets used in the industry today. Each is unique in the way it mounts to the table.
i. #6 and #3 Pockets both have the pocket cover wrapped around a metal iron that forms the shape of the pocket. The #6 has pins that insert into the end of each rail. A bolt is then inserted from the underside of the rail to secure the pocket. The #3 has pins which usually flush mount to the top of the rail. Many antique tables have #3 pockets. Both of these style pockets are exposed to the eye when looking at the table. They actually form a joint, which connects the rails. Because of the shape of the iron, they will play better than other style pockets.
ii. Enclosed pockets are the third type of pocket. It is totally enclosed within the rail system. The pocket is actually inserted within a cutout inside the rail. It is usually used on very inexpensive style tables, commercial style tables, or modern style tables. These pockets are generally made of plastic or rubber, but may be leather on more expensive tables.
iii. Does the color of the pocket coordinate with the finish of the table?
Today, pool tables are considered a piece of furniture. Along those lines, everything on the table should. This includes the pockets. Many table manufacturers will use one standard color of pocket (usually black) for all of their finishes. Other manufacturers will color coordinate the pocket color with the
finish. T.C. Naz offers a variety of pocket colors to choose from.
iv. Do the pockets have a decorative fringe or a solid shield on the outside of the pocket?
The purpose of the fringe or shield is to cover part of the webbing in the pocket and to give the pocket a more finished look. Whether you prefer fringe on your pocket or a shield, is up to your personal preference. T.C. Naz offers both fringe and shield pockets in a variety of colors.
You are about to make a major purchase. You should assume that if the table you purchase will last the rest of your life. Take the time to compare tables from several different manufacturers and be sure that you are getting the best quality table that your budget will allow. Armed with a little knowledge, you should be able to ask the right questions and make the best choice yourself.