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Small Pool Table PictureIn 1998 I was looking around for a pool table.  After seeing prices and quality I decided to purchase a used Golden West table from a private owner.It was a 7 foot table with a honey oak finish, gray felt, and purple pocket fringe. I only have a small picture of the old table (located further down the page). It is a single frame from some old video camera footage so it is pretty grainy. I always considered it the 1970's harvest gold refridgerator of pool tables.  Golden West still makes a similar version and I believe they call it the Virginian.  At the time, I really didn't know what I wanted in a table other than price and size. And it also had to be from someone local because I didn't want to drive a rental truck all over the state to pick it up. I also didn't know what constituted a quality table, or how to determine what maintenance was required to restore a used table to a decent level of playability.

There were three main things that I disliked more and more about the table as the years passed.

  • The table was a dud to play on.  You really had to crush the cue ball to get it to travel the length of the table and back.  It had a nice slate surface, but those cushions had zero bounce going for them.  When they did bounce, it wasn't always in the exact direction you expected.
  • The finish on the table was a very light honey oak.  We mostly have furniture with dark walnut or dark cabernet cherry finishes.  Remodeling the basement further instilled displeasure with the finish.  I wanted an Irish pub look in the game room so I sprayed dark green flat latex above dark walnut wainscoting.  "Red is more durable" you might say (obscure Quiet Man reference).  I broke down the table and put it in a storage room while remodling.  After the remodling was finished, I just couldn't bring myself to put a honey oak game table with gray felt back together in that room.  It would look too out of place.
  • The only real solid hardwood parts on the table were the oak rails.  The base and legs were constructed of heavy plywood joined to fiberboard with simulated wood grain finish contact paper.  The apron pieces were fiberboard with simulated wood grain finish.  Note:  I don't know if the finish material is really classified as contact paper, but that is the closest thing I can think of that resembles it.  If you have ever owned Sauder furniture, you know what I am talking about.
Rather than putting the table back together, I decided to sell it and go look for a new table that met my needs.  After a few weeks of looking, I determined the following:
  • Nobody had the exact finish I wanted.  I was looking for something very dark with a slight red tinge that would have a glow in the wood.  All the dark tables had a dull appearance to them with no character in the grain.  Almost as if they had a flat coat of paint instead of a stained finish.
  • New tables are expensive.  The ones I would settle with were in the 6K - 8K price range.
  • I was afraid of having a major case of buyer's remorse after getting hoodwinked.  You hear alot of talk about country x slate, and the finest felt, and the master craftsmen that reputedly hand make the tables using only their teeth and spittle etc...  But in the end you're dealing with a substantial outlay brokered through a person that is most likely driven by commission.  I didn't feel comfortable about choosing a table, even after I had drudged up as much information as I could about purchasing.

Old Pool Table PictureFor me the best route was restoring the old table to the way I wanted it.  I decided to veneer the non-oak parts with real oak veneer, finish it the way I wanted, and replace the cushions and felt.  I figured I would save some money, learn alot about pool table maintenance, and have something to yak about when/if it was ever finished. 

Interesting point:  After I was finished with the restoration project, I went back out to a few of the billiard stores around town and really gave their showroom tables a once-over this time.  Since I had been through a full life-cycle on redoing a pool table I was looking at these tables from a completely different perspective.  As pretty as some of them were, they didn't hold up to my expectations.  Even corner pockets had little areas of exposed slate and some of the side pockets were horrible, the cloth at the corners was rumpled and the rails didn't pass the eyeball test.  I can understand why the felt didn't have 100% coverage on the pocket areas.  After all, these are showroom tables and were probably hastily assembled.  But what bothered me was the cushion gluing job.  Looking down the nose of the cushion you could see it waving up and down throughout its length.  I thought maybe it was due to them pulling the cloth too tight in spots but it wasn't.  If anything the cloth was excessively loose.  Running my finger under the cushion at the point in which it met the rail was like a mini rollercoaster ride for my digits.  Sometimes the cushion was sticking past the wood of the rail an 1/8 of an inch to being countersunk.  When they get the rails from their manufacturer are the cushions already glued?  Or do they put them on after the table is delivered?  I don't know but I would bet the cushions are already attached.

The following details my experience, including the screw-ups. 

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