All credit to Peter Ainsworth for this story
But an insight to some of my clients on what skills are required just for one part of the production of a billiards / snooker table .
the Early slate beds of circa 1830 onward .
I am a member of a Vintage billiards Group on Facebook , and came across this piece by Peter Ainsworth recently , that I found fascinating , as hand floating slates is not an easy job even when you have some idea how to do it , but this guy was a complete novice .
All credit of story to Peter for this , and I hope he does not mind me pasting it on my face book page for you all to read .
it really does give you an insight on what is required to hand float and cut slates to be used on a billiard table.
Taken from a message by Peter Ainsworth
From what I read, the wooden beds had a lot of problems with warping, which caused them to go out of true quite readily. It’s little wonder that slate was adopted as soon as the machinery became available to extract and transport it from the Welsh quarries. There is a wonderful story told by John Brown in his memoirs (published 1858) which describes his efforts to convert a wooden bed table at the University Billiard Rooms in Cambridge, which I have told previously, but this is a good excuse to relate it again:
John Brown took over the billiard rooms at Ram Yard, Cambridge, in 1837, his residence being across the road. These are his own words from his book: “Possessing some knowledge of billiards, I bought an old wooden table, and taught the game among my fellow townsmen, which was a source of considerable profit to me. Thus things went on for about two years, when I prevailed upon my landlord to build me a second billiard-room. This being done, I purchased another wooden table; but as slate was now beginning to supersede wood, the thought occurred to me that I would buy some slates in the rough, and make a bed for the table I had last purchased. I accordingly went to a merchant’s yard, and bought four slabs of various sizes and unequal substance. I then commenced one of the most tedious and uphill tasks that ever man attempted. I first chiselled down the surface as nearly as I could to a level face; and next sawed each slab to its proper size with a common hand saw; a job that would break the heart of any lazy man. Having proceeded thus far, I next secured a square piece of Yorkshire stone, and fixed it in a wooden frame, with a long pole running across the top, this was the style of machine that we used to holystone decks with on board ships. With the aid of this rude engine, I set two men to grind down the surface of the slate. This was accomplished by gathering a quantity of dirt from the roadside, and putting it through a sieve, whereby the soft portion was washed away, leaving the sharp gritty substance behind. This stuff, when ground between two hard surfaces, will cut like small diamonds; but as slate is in its nature remarkably tough, the progress we made was slow in proportion. Whilst the two men drew the machine backwards and forwards, I fed the work by keeping up a constant supply of grit and water. Thus in about three weeks we so far prepared the slabs as to be able to lay them on the frame of the billiard table, in order to render the joining’s perfect, and to justify the bed by a spirit level. As I was compelled to do this work at home (having no other available place), it was a source of great annoyance to my wife; the slate slush running downstairs, and constantly inundating the lower part of the house. During the accomplishment of the arduous performance I was constantly assailed by the impertinent remarks of passers-by, many of whom fancied that I had undertaken an impossibility, and had altogether overrated my capabilities. However, the event solved all doubts. Having succeeded in levelling the bed and fitting the joints, I mortised the slate for the reception of the nuts, which, after their insertion, I secured by filling the interstices with molten lead. The bed was now perfect, and ready to receive the cushions; and these being screwed on to the aforesaid nuts, my task was completed. I sat down and viewed the result with triumphant satisfaction.”
The above un-refurbished Gillows table with old slate three section bed was a table I worked on in the past until sold
It has had its wood bed replaced sometime after 1840′ to 1870’s , it was originally manufactured by Gillows around 1820 / 30
well sometime pre 1830’s anyway .
the table was Bought and renovated by Paul Mckeiver to this fine table below .
and what a fantastic job he made of it .