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Snooker table assembly


I bought a table in the summer of 2008 from Aura Billiards in Turku. It is a full-size 12x6 foot BCE Westbury steel block table built in 1982. The guys at the parlour were kind enough to carry the parts to my rented trailer. Even the slates could be moved just fine by four men. At the destination the construction workers carried the parts of the table to the basement to wait for the house to be finished, as I thought then. The house is still not ready but the heart of a house, the snooker table is already fighting fit.

<pic I took at Aura Billiards goes here>

Transportation of the table

Washing the table after it had spent a year in the basement of the house, in the summer of 2009. The picture clearly demonstrates how a snooker table takes precedence over many other steps of building a house.




Two fellows from a relocation company carried the slates from the basement to the attic. They mumbled something about rather carrying pianos than the slates, but after some grief and morning the slates were on the attic. The guys estimated that the stones weighed close to 200kg a piece. I had assembled the frame of the table and balanced it in advance to make the  slates settle as close to straight as possible. Under each leg of the table I put flaps cut out of a rubber mat I bought from the local industrial rubber store. The idea was to secure that the table stays in place on the slippery floor, to protect the floor and perhaps to dampen the rather cozy clacking of the snooker balls that is carried through the structures of the house downstairs.

< pic of guys carrying a stone with straps >

And eventually the actual assembly could start. And oh yes, install the lights above the table first. It would have been easier at this stage since I would not have had to worry about damaging the assembled table (more about assembling the light canopy below).

Required attitude, tools and materials

If I can find the inspiration I will document how a big enough space for a snooker table can be secured throughout architectural planning and what kinds of space requirements for less important living functions can threaten the snooker table, and especially what measures to resort to in order to secure the original noble purpose of the space. Actually it is really a snooker table paradox that a table can fit in a puny space of 5x7 meters, but rarely even into a house of 200 square meters.

The table assembly requires mostly time and common sense. You won't be able to earn a reasonable salary for the hours spent on assembling a table for the first time, but on the other hand the ratio between feelings of success and disappointments is better than when playing snooker. Actually, the biggest threat for a successful assembly is that your wife fails to fully appreciate the sacrifices you make during table assembly and insists on interrupting the assembly peace with miscellaneous lesser tasks. It is good practice to ensure the wife's motivation by sentimentally explaining well in advance how important snooker is for you.

For assembly the following gadgets suffice: normal size cross-head screwdriver, small cross-head screwdriver, huge straight screw-driver (preferably larger than the largest one you can find in a hardware store), socket wrench, a wide scrape, beeswax, staple gun, long spirit level (for balancing the frame), car jack or simple leverage set-up (see pics below), black felt pen, incompressible flaps to put under the legs of the table and between slates and frame of table.

Preparation of the slates

The seams between the slates are evened out using beeswax. Any remaining beeswax from a previous assembly should be scraped away before pushing the slates together. This is especially important for wax in the seam between the slates because it will prevent the slates from fitting together as tightly as possible which will make it more difficult to deal with the seam later on.


When the old wax is removed the slates are pushed firmly together which should produce a nice clacking sound. (If there is some wax residue or other stuff a rather disappointing thump is heard instead.) I tied the slates together with strong straps, probably a totally unnecessary procedure, just to make sure that the slates do not drift apart even a slightest bit when balancing the table.

Balancing the table

The next thing to do is to balance the table as accurately as possible now with the slates in place. In the pictures a wooden baulk is used for gently levering the legs up just a bit for pushing adjustment flaps under them. I cut the flaps out of approximately 1 mm thick covers that originally were used as lids on the ends of air-conditioning tubes. My more than 2 meter long spirit level was pretty useless at this stage. It was in practice much more practical and faster to just roll a snooker ball on the table.



The seams of the table proved to be the hardest part to get in place. Even though all five slates were in balance the seams could still be felt in some places. The only option seemed to be to put some adjustment flaps in appropriate places between the slates and the wooden frame of the table. The picture shows the required gentle leverage arrangement and the spirit level that I kept on the table just to make sure that I am not doing something really stupid. But an ordinary snooker ball is much more accurate for really understanding the balance of the individual slates.


Finishing of the slate seams with beeswax

When the seams between the slates are so even that you can hardly feel them, they can be finished with beeswax. Beeswax proved to be an old pharmacy article that can no longer be found in pharmacies. Anyhow it makes sense to use beeswax since it is next to impossible to do any damage to the table with it and because beeswax is really easy to work with.

Melt the beeswax down by warming it to about 70 centigrades in one of the hundreds of glass-pots your wife already has ruined by using them as candelabras. This can be achieved e.g. with boiling water. Pour molten beeswax in the seam some tens of centimetres at a time and even the wax out with a scrape. Don't worry if you leave some lumps behind, it is far more important to make sure that all possible cracks and gaps get some wax in them. Let the wax cool dawn for a few minutes and then scrape all excess wax away using a wide scrape. After the procedure the seam cannot any longer be felt at all. Below a picture of a finished seam that actually doesn't show anything useful. The only things of essence are that the crack between the slates is filled with wax and that all excess wax is scraped away.


After finishing the seams I cleaned the table with a damp cloth and checked the balance of the table with some slow shots
1) from each corner diagonally across the table to the opposite corner
2) sideways straight over the centre of each slate in both directions
2) sideways straight over each seam between slates in both directions

The table is in perfect balance if all above shots when executed at a very slow pace travel straight. In practice, both the slates and the wooden parts of the table are unique, so there are probably not many tables in the world that would not curve slightly on some of these shots. My table passed 1 and 3 whereas on the centre slate 2 disappointingly curved a bit. The cloth will reduce the curving and in my case even removed it completely. A snooker ball on the clean slate is increadibly sensitive.

Finally, I tightened the wooden baulk to support the centre line of the table. The support of the centre line probably not needed for playing purposes, but it may have been introduced to prevent the slates from breaking in half if someone decides to assemble a light canopy using a ladder standing on the table.

Attaching of the cloth attachment lathes

Pieces of wood that resemble the arches cut for the pockets in the slates are attached to the corners of the table and at the centre pockets. These fine pieces of wood are for some reason a bit thicker than the lathes along the sides of the table. Consequently, if you use the wrong screws for attaching them you will have to start over again at a later phase, because the longer screws will puncture the lathes resulting in sharp screw tips sticking out below the lathes which increases the risk of ripping the cloth. Thanks to the centuries long tradition of fine British craftsmanship the longer version of the screw is exactly tall enough to cause this problem without being easy to spot immediately.


The pieces of wood that are attached to the slate at the pockets.


Installation of the cloth

A new cloth was included in the deal and I received it per mail after a small delay. I cannot recall what the brand and model this cloth exactly is, which is embarrassing, so if you can recognize the cloth, please email me.


One of the most laborious phases of the assembly was removing the old staples from the lathes at the edges of the table. Thanks to this experience, I adjusted the staple gun to so that the staples do not travel fully into the wood making them easy to remove when changing the cloth a next time. This was useful also during cloth assembly since a number of the very first staples shot into the lathes will eventually need to be removed as the cloth is tightened further and assumes the correct form around the pockets.

I installed the cloth like this: all attachments using a staple gun. Attach the centre of cloth to the centre pockets. Attach the cloth to the four corners of the table. Stretch the cloth at the centre pockets so that the cloth becomes almost even and attach it. Now you can tighten the cloth towards all corner pockets a bit further and add some staples around the corner pockets. Stretch and attach the cloth at the centre of each rail. Finally, add staples evenly around the table.

The cloth on the cushions was in mint condition so I did not bother change them. I replaced the cushion cloths on a similar snooker table at the Otaniemi campus billiard club SBO sometime in the mid nineties, so it can be done too just by applying common sense. I seem to remember that the trickiest part was to stretch the cloth around the cushion rubbers so that all the wrinkles of the cloth ended up under the cushion.

Assembly of the cushions and the steel rails

Next the steel rails with cushions can be lifted in place taking into account the rounder cut of the centre pockets. Leave the bolts loose to begin with and two bolts suffice so that it is easy to adjust the rails' positions by tapping on them. First adjust the centre pockets by comparing them with the back of the centre pocket so that you get a feeling for how wide the centre pocket will become and additionally adjust the cushions so that the centre pockets are exactly in the centre of the table.

Next, attach the top and bottom cushions to the slates. It makes sense make sure that you put these cushions dead centre in the first place because there is really nothing to adjust in that. If the balls, when hit hard against the cushion, don't jump you can tighten the bolts. The cushion is too low down when laying against the table if the ball jumps. In this case the cushion needs to be elevated slightly before re-tightening the bolts.

The official measurements and profiles of the pockets seem to be some kind of a secret. If you can find the official measurements and pictures of the profiles please email them to me and I will put them on display here. If you make the corner pockets too big, the back of the centre pocket will not fit in place and if you make the corner pockets too small breaks will remain modest. I would recommend to make the corner pockets as big as the back of the centre pocket allows. This way the corner pocket backs fit comfortably in place and the corner pockets are at least not too tight. This approach resulted in corner pockets that look symmetric, when looked at from straight above, with respect to the underlying arch of the pocket opening, which is quite desirable. The picture shows one steel rail with the wooden rail attached just to get a feeling for how the back of the centre pocket eventually will fit.


On pocket sizes. Legend has it that on a competition table it should be possible to put three balls on the table as follows: two balls against the baulk cushion and the third ball in line with the two and touching the side cushion. In other words, the third ball does not drop into the corner pocket when touching the side cushion and when being on a straight line with the two balls against the baulk cushion. As I understand it this will not succeed if the so called undercut of the table is not of competition design. I did not bother to go into this issue any further.



Assembly of the wood rails

The wood rails are attached to the steel rails with bolts. Leave the bolts loose. First attach the top and bottom rails. Then attach the backs of the corner pockets to the side rails and attach the side rails so that the corner pocket becomes complete. Remember to put the back of the centre pocket in place before attaching the second side rail on each side of the table. When the wood rails are in place it makes sense to centre them behind the steel rails so that they look good.

The backs of the pockets are attached to the wood rails with long bolts through holes on on the bottom of the wood rails. The bolts cannot be put in place after tightening the bolts of the wood rails.

Next, tighten the bolts of the wood rails so that the cloth of the cushion is a bit higher than the wooden rail so that the cue will slide on the cloth not on the wood rail when cueing. The bolts of the wood rails are hidden with flaps that are pushed into rails on each rail. The name sign of the table to the baulk end. If the flap wont slide, remove the tip of a broken screw hidden in the tight rail. The flap can probably be installed with the broken screw left in the rail but the procedure is nerve wrecking.


Finally trimming flaps are attached on the side of each leg of the table to hide the bolts. The flaps are attached with wooden pegs so they can be bolted into place with the fist. The pegs are asymmetrically positioned making it necessary to attach all the flaps the same way around. As a tribute to the long tradition of British craftsmanship the asymmetry is totally unnecessary but it makes it possible to assemble the latches so that they are not in a straight line amongst themselves. This type of assembly is widely used at snooker parlours all around the world.

Lighting

The assembly requires good lighting so it would have made sense to install the light canopy before the table. Furthermore, the light assembly requires much more caution when the assembled table is in place under the lights. I chose a canopy with six sockets for traditional light bulbs and installed 33W energy saving lamps with a warm coloured lights into it. The amount of light from one such bulb should correspond to a the light generated by a traditional 100W bulb. This arrangement seems to generate enough light and the room is not burdened with unnecessary heat. Actually the first case ever where I have found energy saving lamps useful..


Table measures, ball spots and other markings

This information applies only to a full size 12x6 foot snooker table. The playing surface inside the cushions 3569x1778mm. Table hight from floor to top of cushion 851-876mm. Official pocket profiles and measures known only by WPBSA (if you can find them mail them to me and I will put them on display).

Table markings:
  • The baulk line is a straight line in parallel with the bottom cushion, at a distance of 737mm from the bottom cushion
  • The snooker half circle is a half circle below the baulk line, radius 292mm centred at the centre of the bulk line
  • black, 324mm from the top cushion and on the centre line of the table
  • pink, in the middle of the centre of the table and the top cushion
  • blue, at the centre of the table
  • brown, in the middle of the baulk line
  • green, left intersection of the baulk line and the half circle
  • yellow, right intersection of the baulk line and the half circle
The baulk line and the half circle are draw with a felt pen on the cloth. The spots are for some reason often marked with spots that are glued onto the cloth, but small spots marked with a felt pen work as well.