Story of a novice Hand Floating billiard slate …plus a Gillows Table Photo’s .

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 .

We are going to start supplying with delivery and fitting Blackball Dining pool tables

We are going to start supplying Blackball tables and will include a full bespoke delivery and fitting of the table
to any Ground floor location .
One particular model which is selling very well is the Silver Oak Pool dining table 7 x 4 size but also available in 6 x 3 if you do not have the room .

As you can see this ultra modern table will blend into most Homes
and in the neutral colour of grey silver oak very appealing to the eye .

a very generous span for seating , with plenty of leg room from the ultra slim depth of cabinet .

choice of cloth colour , but this much desired powder blue Hainsworth match cloth is very popular .

The top dining sections are very well made and pin together on central dowel joint .
Price will depend on miles  , and includes a professional billiard fitter to position and level the table to Ground floor locations .
this is not a drop off and leave you to struggle  , it is a bespoke fully fitted service using  professional billiard fitters .
Who takes his time to level the table on site , and is not just a van driver who is rushing for his next drop off point and just leaves it on the driveway or pavement outside your house .
We have professional trolleys for wheeling the heavy slate bed and main body of the table into position .
Please contact Geoff at GCL billiards for a quote for this full Bespoke service .

NHS owned POOL TABLE FOR SALE you must collect from London £200 to £250 ?

We have a charitable cause to try and find a buyer for the 7×4 pool table
this belongs to part of the NHS organisation .
any funds raised will be used to improve their  service for other use or equipment needed .
I have valued it at around £200 to £250 . but they are open to offers and best offer will secure .

please contact

Denise Dulniak

Team Administrator


Recovery East Team

Avenue House

43/47 Avenue Road

Acton, London W3 8NJ

Tel: 020 8483 1720


**** it looks like it needs 4 new adjustable feet to level the table and the plates  , these can be sourced via EBAY or from any UK pool table manufacturer
or from another  table that is being broken for spares .
but they may have them on site or they may be inside the table .
I would hope that a valuation of around £200 to £250 is about correct for this type of slate bed table and is realistic and  achievable .

OLD adverts ..tables may be sold please look how old advert is . more than 6 months ?

We advertise many second hand snooker tables on our site
these are Private sales and I have the sellers contact details
these sales are direct sales from the private sale and not from GCL billiards
a lot of people phone up and ask about a table they think is in stock , this is not the case
we do not buy tables to sell we are a maintenance company and we also do logistical work relocating tables .

This table for instance was advertised for sale yet the owner also advertised it for sale on Ebay .
this table sold on Ebay so we would not have known unless the seller had contacted us and explained it was sold , as this owner did in Lincoln and we now know it is now not for sale .
we get a lot of people who also sell their tables by other means , while it is advertised on our web site still for sale and they do not let us know .
So to avoid confusion any advert more than 6 months old is going to be removed off site when I get around to it .
If any seller wishes to re advertise then please get in touch , if you see your table has been deleted from the sale page , or you are closing in on 6 months and you wish to renew .
by doing this we can keep a fresh for sale stock on our Tables for sale page
PLEASE NOTE it is FREE to list a  table on our site , we only take a very small commission if we find a buyer for you . just £25 for admin use .
NO SALE NO FEE . Buyers there is no commission fee , but we are now starting to charging £25 to broker a deal with the seller . thus we will make £50 per deal from buyer and seller at £25 each .
this we think is Fair for our sales and buyers page .
We do have to make a profit in our business and the buyer is free to choose any billiards firm to move the table , so without these small charges of £25 each we would be operating a service which is unsustainable .
We have to make our small profit it all adds up into a wage and profit for the firm going on .
Remember as a BUYER you get a professional Billiard fitters expert opinion of each table sold , certain makes and models to look for , problems or expense going forward if you buy a certain table
and you only pay the £25 if you buy a table from our advert and our referral to the seller .
I especially have very useful information when it comes to 8ft tables as there are a lot of 8ft tables you should avoid buying .
and yes a lot of full size tables too you should avoid .

Also please note any BUYERS , the cost of relocating a table or any work it may require is not included in the for sale price , you are just buying the table direct with no middle men fees
( only the admin £25 fee ).
once bought you can then ask GCL billiards for a quote for any upgrade of cloth nets leathers , Rubbers , and the cost of dismantle load and unload and erect on site .

We always take care loading and unloading , but please inform if any stairs are involved as we have stopped doing the stairs work now we are in our later years of fitting .
we just do Ground floor to Ground floor delivery of table work .
this is due to over 40 years of lifting and back and joint trouble , if we carried on lifting slates up and down stairs we would not last much longer in the fitting of tables .
or even Maintenance of them , I intend to carry on working into my 70’s so the less strain on those week points will mean i can last a few more years yet maybe even 10 more years at fitting and re-clothing tables .
Lets just say it is like footballers playing for a top premiership team and slowing down in his old age , and then finds himself playing in Division 1 or 2 of the football league for a few more years.
Lets say like that footballer who likes to play , I like my work at fitting tables and re-clothing them and need to drop down a division or two to carry on .
A few less days and no stairs so to speak .
The less of these stairs  involved will make sure I reach my goal of working well into my 70’s

Do not all rush at once . but we are starting back to work but only under guidelines .

We had to cancel 6 weeks of booked in clients work when the Government shut everyone down .
I have to give those people first option on our start back to work program .
I am doing a few local ones at the moment mainly quick in and out pool table re-cloths

Some cloth colours are harder to get in than others , I had the foresight to order many green cloths in before the lock down
I do have a couple of oddment colours in stock including purple / Grey and black .
We have the normal 6811 pool in Green , Burgundy , and Royal blue .

if we can get it in we can accommodate most colours and grades and makes of cloth , but we are limited as to what the suppliers have got in stock too .
as for Snooker tables we are also taking some of these job’s in , but we are not allowed to stay out if your work involves a stay over we are informed this is not allowed .
unless we can get strict separate room  accommodation that has been cleaned and sterilised  .

but we are putting stop over work to much later on , we just wish to get no mixing of people in rooms work , where one fitter can come in do the work and leave without contact with other persons .

We hope you understand that some people will still have to wait for less restrictions for some types of work .


Geoff Large
NBSA approved billiards fitter
GCL billiards