Open up corner pockets on full size snooker table in Blackburn

Today I have been up to Blackburn to do a variety of improvements on a full size snooker table in a private house.  The main work was to open up the pocket openings which where close to 3.3/8ths at the fall, and to make them 3.5/8th at the fall to template angle.  Here are a few photo’s of how I went about completing this work and other improvements on this table.
Blackburn cloth turned back on each corner
The first thing I did was to remove the cushions and strip back the cloth at each corner pocket, then refit to see the actual size of the openings without cloth over top of the rubber .
Blackburn template too big for pocket opening
As you can see from above photo, the template is not fitting into the pocket openings as they are too tight.  Professionals play on 3.5 inch openings, most clubs play on 3.5/8th to 3.3/4 openings.  These were too small at 3.3/8th opening.
Blackburn pen line on pocket rubber before cut
Pen marking the rubber using the template as a guide, we are ready to start cutting a new angle more suited for a home play table, as the owner was having problems getting a ball to fall on 3.3/8th pocket openings.
Blackburn cutting rubber opening pockets up
Cutting the rubber with a very sharp knife to just inside of the pen line, we then finish off the cut by sanding back so that the pen line just disappears .
Blackburn template in corner fitted snug
Where once the template did not fit, we have opened the pockets up so that the template fits nice and snug.  The pockets are now 3.5/8th at the fall of the slate.
Blackburn Riley bracket with bolt new
This table has adjustable slate supports in the centre of the table, we call these slate supports muntins.
I do not know why ?  but the firm that installed the table had left two brackets off, so our client’s father made two new ones, and the other four brackets had the adjustable bolt missing so the centre muntins did not support the centre of the slate.  It is important that the slates are supported along the middle of the table, if not you get what is known as slate sagging.  This will mean a ball played down each side rolling inwards from each side, and this can only be rectified by lifting and supporting the slate in the centre of the table .  So with two new replacement brackets and 6 new bolts we have rectified this problem.
Blackburn all brackets now working with bolts
A view along the underside of the frame showing three of the adjustable brackets supporting the muntins (centre slate support beams). A simple yet effective way of supporting the slate allowing for adjustment.
Note the leg looks like it is off the floor, this because the firm that fitted the table used round shims under square legs.
Blackburn packed slate with window shims
You may remember I did a write up about this table a few weeks back, showing packing that had been inserted and also a problem with slate falls not being the correct shape (see above photo).  Those packers are double glazing shims for aligning UPVC windows to the outer brick opening!  It was obvious that the client would spot this and ask for a second opinion, and then the other problems became apparent.

The client informed me that the seller of the table had replaced the slate for much better ones with good slate fall shape, and had made good the packing by removing it and getting the table much more level.

I was bought in to finish off the job to a higher standard, and this I achieved, by making it possible for the client to make shots into the corners that he is more confident in potting and not to get frustrated at too tight a pocket to aim for.  Also to make sure the table was level and would stay level by making sure the adjustable muntin brackets worked and the two missing ones replaced.  Finally to remove the round packing shims under the legs that made it look like the leg was off the floor and put square custom, made on site, shims to fit perfect.  This took me 15 minutes with a mitre saw and a piece of scrap plywood. All my client has to do now is to stain the edge of these square shims to match the frame colour mahogany, and finally play on the table  making some good high breaks.
Blackburn finished with templates in
As you can now see the templates including the middles now fit perfect
Blackburn jeremy finished table
The finished table set up ready to play.  I am sure our client and his Father-in-Law who kept me supplied with tea all day will have many a happy hour spent on this table now it is playing correct.

I also took the nets up one loop as the client was complaining of balls getting stuck in  sagging nets.  By taking up one loop the net sag disappeared.  I also wrapped each end of the net around the wire loop screw rather than tacking it!

The pocket plates were also loose and screws had been stuck into the lug holes to try and lift them up and stop them rattling.  A simple thin strip cloth packing inserted into the twin lug holes was all it required to make the two pin pocket plates fit tight and not sag down.

Next month I am opening up another full size snooker table’s pocket openings to 3.3/4 inch.  This is because that client is now a qualified development coach.  He has sought advice from other coaches and they recommend larger pockets for young people who are new to the game. By having 3.3/4 inch pockets they will gain confidence and mature into good players who will then go on to play on tables with tighter pockets with that confidence.  Otherwise they may just give up because they have not gained that confidence and experience of potting balls and making breaks.

This makes sense to me, but some good players frown upon it.  What they do not realise is confidence is the main thing to build on, the skill factor comes next.

I often tell them a story about a young teenager I knew back in the 1980’s playing in a club in Sutton in Ashfield in Nottinghamshire.  He was playing on pockets that were close to 4 inches!  I made a remark to him, “you will not make it as a pro playing on pockets that large”.  That young man was Gary Wilkinson.  He was once ranked 5th in the world!

Replace standard Snooker cushions with steel block cushions on this Oak Riley Square leg in Derby

The majority of Snooker / Billiard tables were made in Mahogany, so finding second hand cushions in oak is not an easy thing to do, finding them with steel cushions is almost impossible.  But I managed to track a set down for my second cousin and old school friend Mick Kirkham.

Last Christmas I installed a snooker table that Mick had bought many years previously from Anthony Hamilton, the snooker player from Nottingham, and had it installed in an outside barn.  This time he was having it put in a new extension basement purposely built for the table. Mick and his Brother totally stripped and renovated all the wood work on the frame and the standard Riley cushions, before I re-rubbered them and erected the table.

Here are a few photo’s of that install last year. Before I show the upgrade to Burroughs and Watts period steel cushions circa 1895.
slate in basement lowering in
Mick used a crane to load the slates into  the basement before he capped a floor over the basement

When first installed Mick had the original set of Riley cushions on.  He had heard of steel block cushions and he said if I ever came across a period set of steel cushions with oak surround he would upgrade to these.
Above photo: the table when finished in December 2013.
Again a photo of his original Riley oak cushions in December 2013 when I put new Northern rubber onto them and cut the pockets for this Riley table .
Kirkham cushion son before recover of steels
11 months later November 2014 , and above you see the same table but this time I have just fitted the steel cushions and had re-rubbered these cushions and re-cut the pocket openings and  angles to Professional template size.
The above photo shows the cushions after this successful operation.  I call this the dry run fitment to make sure everything aligns up.  It is always best to re-rubber on the table the cushions are going on and not to guestimate the pocket openings on a work bench.
You will see we are protecting the bed cloth with sheets of cardboard during this fitting process.
kirkham corner template uncovered steels in position
This next photo shows the replacement second hand steel cushions on the table with the template fitted snug within the jaws of the pocket opening.
Note the thickness of the steel plate, on this early prototype steel set the plate is 1/2 inch thick, on late steels they are 3/8th thick.  Also the end of the steels is angled on early sets and straight on later sets as the next two photos will show.
There are not many early 1/2 inch thick sets of steel cushions around so an even rarer find with this set.
Kirkham early type angle steel ends
In this photo my finger is pointing to the angle of the steel plate where it meets the end tack wood block.   These end blocks are very difficult to make as you have to work to angles and rebates to make them.
As you cans see from this later edition steel cushion the angle is now not here and the steel is longer to almost come to the end before the end tack block is seen.  You can also get other variations of steels with compound angles where the actual steel is also bevelled at the ends, this is how the modern steel block cushion you see on star tables today have evolved.  Burroughs and Watts were experimenting as they went along in production, so it is easy to spot an early type built around the time they first used steels in the year 1895/6.
Early type had thicker steel and angles on the end.
Kirkham shavings with slips on table
I add this photo to show my fitting friends in Canada that you actually shave slips of wood down to trap the cushion cloth into the back routed out slot in the steel cushion and not use spray on glue contact adhesive
Kirkham slip in back of steels
This photo shows the planed down slip inserted by tapping in with a flat thin plate into the rear of the steel cushion, that is what the slot on the rear of steel cushions is for.
Note the Strachan 6811 tournament cloth, this is what we recommend for good quality play and good life span. 100% pure new wool no man made fibre mix with this cloth, as Tina Turner sang, it’s simply the best !
Kirkham corner steels template in
Kirkham centre steels template in
The above two photo’s show the cushions fitted tot he Riley table, and with the templates in position fitting snug.  We also fitted a new set of Peradon leathers and best quality nets.
When mick tried to strip the cushions of the oak Steel surrounds, they would not stain up light oak, this was down to the age of the oak and the stains it had taken before not coming out, so he stained it a honey oak and also re-stained the frame to match.
kirkham riley steels finished spot endkirkham-finished-table-610x457
As you can see the table in 2013 with standard cushions and the table in 2014 with steel cushions fitted
Kirkham old cushions stacked up
This leaves Mick with a problem with what to do with a fantastic condition set of Riley oak cushions that will fit a Riley table with welsh slate and 5 bolt holes on the side cushions.  I have instructed him to put them up for sale on my web site for £350 the set.
They come with new Northern rubber fitted in December 2013 at a cost of £325, all the wood work repaired some with new bottom mouldings, sealed and finished and come complete with the original pocket plates and nets and leathers.
Anyone who has an old oak Riley table with knackered cushions that require a re-rubber and also broken wood work, then look no further. These cushions would be a much better buy than having your old cushions re-rubbered and the wood renovated.
Kirkham set of old riley cushions and pocket plates

They come with all slide in panels and an end Riley name plate period to the table, and the cushion cloth has not had more than 40 games played on it.

I will be advertising this set of cushions for sale in the for sale section of our web site so if you are interested in them please phone Geoff on 07753466064 , it will be cash on collection from Ockbrook near Derby.