I have been over to a country village in Derbyshire to help the owner improve his potting skills on his refurbished Riley Aristocrat Steel Block table. I found a few faults with the table on inspection and recommended the following:
Open up the 3.25 inch pockets to just under 3.5 inch at the fall. These pocket openings were far too tight and reminded me of the old billiard tables size of 3.25 inch pockets of Joe Davis’ era of the early 1930’s.
I also found one cushion bolt snapped into the slate and the level was not good enough.
Also they had fitted Hainsworth Smart cloth and the owner was complaining of very slow table cloth speed. Not surprising it is was a little slow around the spot end as the end cloth was not tacked down for 2 feet.
The cloth looked a bit rough and the owner did iron this on a regular basis. I recommended Strachan 6811 Tournament 30 oz.
So I got to work opening the pockets up on strip down, slicing off a fair amount of rubber in the pocket openings to my template standard fit. These old Templates are not the current type as used by World Snooker but they are as near as you can get. Apparently normal billiard fitters are not allowed to own a set of current templates. So I used the old ones as a guide and found them to be just under 3.5 inch when covered in cloth at the fall.
A painted silver riley Aristocrat with cloth off. Note just one bolt in corner leg. I think this is a licensed copy of a UK made Aristocrat which I have noted have two bolts in the frame at the corner legs.
1 and 3/4 inch Italian slate
I always like to show my clients that I use the best Strachan 6811 grade Tournament 30 oz cloth , the embroidered writing with blue lines confirms this and also the transfer every 10ft on the underside of the cloth also confirms type of cloth and the weight standard . Club 6811 has two red lines this higher grade tournament has two blue lines .
This cloth replaced the lower grade Hainsworth smart which was a bit too thick and the nap was not as fine as this 6811 T .
the templates used and the size of the pocket opening at the slate fall is a shade under 3.5 inch , with the cushions being steel block the rubber starts to open back up after the slate fall , normal older table cushions like the old Riley imperials have a tendency to close up to by a 1/4 of an inch as the rubber bends round into into the pocket fall . some thing that Snooker players cannot understand and ask for the pockets to be opened up on normal cushions and I have to explain why they cannot do this , unless they opt for replacement modern cushions or steel block .
any way the owner is delighted with all his corner pockets being at Match standard of a shade under 3.5 inch and that the middle pockets where also to template , these where slightly tight too before I started the work.
if the middle pocket openings had been correct and both side cushions pushed apart by a further 1/8th then the corner pockets would have been even tighter at around 3.1/8th at the drop , I always start from the middle pockets when looking at the correct pocket openings in the corner , get the middles wrong and you also get the corners wrong on steel cushions, so the first thing to check if corner pockets are tight or too generous on steel cushions is the pocket opening at the centre pockets which should be 3.3/8ths if cut correct .
once the centre pockets are correct then you can adjust the corners to template or just below 3.5 inch for Match sized pocket openings. you do this by cutting excess rubber off and then hand rasp and sanding rubber to form the correct angle using templates as a guide.
If you want club sized 3.5/8th or above sized pockets you just take more off but keep the same profile as the template curve .
the side cushions being positioned so that the centre pockets are correct with the centre templates fitted into the opening , the Cushion bolt photo is showing that I rub candle wax over each cushion bolt , the main culprit for snapped cushions bolts is grit into the bolt hole and also thread binding , a little candle wax rubbed onto the thread makes for a lubricated thread , you may ask why not use WD 40 or oil , well the oil and WD40 will leach into the slate and you will get stains in the cloth around each bolt stud insert inside the slate .
Never be tempted to use any oil based lubricant on bolts on a snooker table , once inside the slate the oil will be there forever and your table will be ruined especially if you have under slate heating as the heat will force the oil upwards .
and I have seen it done a few times. Use Candle wax it is much better suited for the job.
I have still to get the snapped cushion bolt out of the end slate , this will be done in 6 to 12 months time at Re-stretch , I will order a slate insert and new bolt for this .
This will be a tricky job as the end slate will have to be turned upside down and the old lug drilled out , the hole to be cleaned of all debris and new insert threaded lug put in and car body filled over to keep inside the slate , I put melted wax in the thread and on the bolt when putting the car body filler in to keep threads from getting fouled with the filler .
A photo showing that the corner pockets although not the official templates they are not far out as the two balls show they are not generous pocket openings
a white ball on it’s own for comparison
The finished table. My client will add a few words about the work at a later date. He has yet to play on the table and he is installing three tube heaters under the table around 10 inches below the slate bed on a trip out thermostat set at 25 degrees Celsius. When this work is done the table will be even faster. He did comment that it was already faster than the Hainsworth smart cloth that was used when he bought the table from a firm in Leeds.
I was really shocked that they had left him with centre and corner pockets so tight. I did not have my camera with me for the first part of the work otherwise I would have taken photos of the pocket openings. As for the snapped cushion bolt, they also chiselled some of the frieze bolt hole away resulting in a missing frieze bolt too. We will sort all this out on the re-stretch and make the frieze a much better fitting to steel cushions.