Pool Table Construction

Is it practical to build a custom pool table if you've never built one before? April 20, 2011

I have a client that would like a pool table built. I've looked online, and see that there are sources for the slate, felt, bumpers, etc. Other than that, it seems to be just a big piece of furniture. Any suggestions on suppliers? What do I need to look out for? It seems doable, but I don't want to get into something I'll regret later.

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor G:
I looked into making one for myself a few years ago, but lacked space. Table needs levelers and slate needs to be shimmed to a plane surface. Certain regulation dimensions and proportions will be expected. (Should be online.) People sit on edges and lay over them to make shots, so it needs solid, heavy construction. One off delivery of slates was expensive.

From contributor R:
You might look in your local yellow pages for a billiard mechanic, or other billiard supply place. And then consider a kind of joint venture to get the job done, where you built the carcass to his specs, and he does the slate, cushion, felt, and pocket work. It's one thing to get this built, it's another to have it perform as a top notch billiard table. An experienced billiard mechanic would make a valuable contribution to a successful project.

From contributor S:
In my experience, barroom tables have a one-piece slate, about 3/4" thick. A one-piece slate can be lifted fairly easily to clear the ball runways when things get jammed. Typically, the cushions and felt on bar tables are very high quality - built to take a lot of use/abuse. The better (pool hall type) tables are a three-piece slate design and very heavy. The slates I've seen are 1 1/2" thick. These tables require a lot of setup - shimming, block sanding, etc. - then you install the felt. They are not easily/cheaply moved.

You might be time/money ahead to purchase a used, high quality table and use it as a guide to build your own.

From contributor X:
There's good pool tables and then there's excellent pool tables. All depends on price, quality, size, type, materials.

If it were me, I'd buy a good used heavy slate (I prefer snooker) pool table and refurbish it to the quality the customer desires. Once assembled in the customer's home, it's not going to move. Truing it up takes plenty of time and the weight of slate takes manpower, at least four guys to handle each piece of slate regardless if it's 3 or 4 slabs for the table. Knowing the tricks of the trade helps, but it still falls back on what the customer can afford, and is willing to pay. Quality costs; don't give it away. Expect a yearly inspection on being true.

From contributor Z:
I am curious as to why the customer is asking you to build a pool table? Is he looking for a specific design that he cannot find anywhere else? Or does he, for some reason, think that it will be cheaper than purchasing a quality table from a reputable manufacturer? Have you talked price yet? I know that I couldn't compete on price with the well known manufacturers of pool tables. I do like the idea of giving the customer the option of refurbishing an older table. If it is price that he is shopping for, that could be the way to land the job.

From contributor O:
Fine Woodworking did an article in the March/April 1989 issue about building a pool table. Join the Fine Woodworking website and you can download a PDF of the article. I bought some slate 6 years ago to build a table but haven't got started yet. I did get some nice carved cherry legs off EBay for $60 total. Cheaper than lumber would cost to make my own. The Billiard Congress of America has a book with general specs, etc.