One Piece Slate vs. Three Piece Slate

Jul 30, 2013

1 piece vs. 3 piece slate pool table

It’s an age-old question: What’s better a three-piece slate pool table or a one-piece slate? Well, that all depends on who you’re asking.

If you ask a bar or pub owner, they’ll tell you that they often have to move their coin-operated pool tables around for special events. These coin-ops have a 3/4 inch one-piece slate for this reason. Moving a pool table in one piece can really mess up the seams where the three pieces meet on a three-piece slate. But, these commercial pool tables are constructed differently. The cabinet holding the slate wraps and hugs the slate, so that even when the table is tilted on its side (experience required), it remains locked into place. When the pool table is put back into position final leveling is dialed in by commercial-grade leg levelers.

If you ask an Aramith Fusion Pool Table owner, they’ll tell you they love having a 3/4 inch one-piece slate because it allows their pool table to lower to dining height, then raise again to playing height with a single click. These Fusion Tables, like the coin-operated ones, have a special frame that holds the slate snug. These Fusions don’t really move around the room, but the up and down motion of the legs necessitate the one-piece slate.

If you ask an owner of a one-piece slate furniture-style pool table, they will likely give you a different reason. When they purchased the table (around 35 years ago), they were told that a one-piece slate was far superior. A one-piece slate has no seams to affect the playing field. It is a perfectly smooth surface all the way across. This is true, but remember that smooth doesn’t always equal level.

IMG_8459If you’re asking me, a billiard mechanic with 24 years of experience moving all types of pool tables, I’ll tell you it is a pain in the behind to struggle with a one-piece slate. One-piece slates weigh approximately 450 pounds. They are difficult to maneuver when refelting your pool table. They are more difficult to move through hallways, narrow doorways, and corners. When there are stairs involved while moving a one-piece slate, it is not just tricky, but downright dangerous carrying all of that weight. This is why it costs more to move or service these types of tables.

I can also tell you that there is a performance downside to owning a one-piece slate pool table. There is the issue of leveling the playing surface. Not all slate is perfect. There can be natural low or high spots in the stone. Especially on the bigger 8′ slate pieces. No amount of shimming or tweaking can remove these.

Three-piece slates tend to be at least 1/4″ thicker than their one-piece cousins. Thicker slates have fewer imperfections and are usually permanently framed with pieces of wood to further support them when atop the pool table cabinet. Three and four-piece slates start out as one piece but are cut during the milling process. They are a matched set left to the billiard mechanic to level properly. Experienced mechanics must take great caution when leveling multiple pieces of slate. They must take into consideration the type of flooring and construction of the cabinet that will support all of the weight.

A three-piece slate, leveled properly, will without a doubt give you superior play. This is why the pros prefer to shoot on a three-piece slate pool table as opposed to a one-piece. I’d recommend a three-piece slate over one solid slate if given the choice. But, remember, no matter the value, number of slates, or style of table, proper professional setup is key to getting the best possible roll.