From Topeka to Laguna with Love

Aug 26, 2012

This job was a doozie. My client just received his father’s 5×10 foot, three-piece slate snooker table that he grew up playing on. Originally from Topeka, KS this Brunswick-Balke-Collender circa 1917 was a humbling experience for me. I’ve been tinkering around with pool and billiards tables for over 20 years now. Every once in a while I get to experience what a pocket billiard table, or for that matter a snooker table was like in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century. A time when cordless drills and electric staple guns didn’t exist. A period billiard mechanic would have used hand tools such as a brace and fork bit, a tack hammer, and tacks to re-cloth this snooker table.

I remember my first antique pocket billiard table was an eye-opening experience. Just removing the rails was a feat I wasn’t prepared for. Most true antique billiard tables use round-headed rail bolts that don’t have hexagonal sides for easy removal with a socket or a wrench. Instead, there are two small holes drilled side by side into the head of the rail bolt. At that time, being a newbie billiard mechanic, I didn’t know about the fork bit tool that makes removing antique rail bolts a breeze. Instead, it took me three pairs of needle-nose pliers to remove those darn rail bolts. I kept breaking the tips off every time one of the bolts was really, really tight. The salesman at Sears kept asking me, “what are you using these things for?”. I finally found the correct tool for the job, a fork bit tool and a brace just like in the old days.

Luckily for my assistant and me, the client had his movers place all of the snooker table parts into his upstairs game room. For us, just moving one of the three 350-pound pieces of slate on top of the snooker cabinet was tough. I can only imagine the arduous task the moving company men had in lugging each of the three pieces of slate up the two flights of stairs to the client’s game room. It was time to retire the old Standard Green cloth that had been previously covering the rails and slate bed. My client chose one of our high-end worsted wool billiard cloths. We stock 12 of the most popular colors of worsted wool cloth, he chose Wine.