How To Assemble A Billiard Table
From "The Badminton Library: Billiards" by Major W. Broadfoot, pub. 1896
Having fixed upon a suitable foundation (and for this a competent architect should be consulted), stand the legs up in the places they will occupy; fit the frames (which are all numbered) into the mortices, and screw the frames to the legs with the long bolts provided for the purpose.
At this stage it will be well to set about levelling, before the weight of the slates comes upon the bed, and if you get your wedges in now, you can more readily knock them a little further when the table is completely put together than if you had left them to be inserted last of all.
Having thus got the bed level, lift the slates on carefully, and lay them on the bed an inch or two apart. Place the centre slate accurately in position, slide the next one up against it, and enter the dowels of the one into the corresponding holes of the other fairly and squarely; proceed in like manner with the other slates till they are all joined. If there be any cracks in the upper edges of any of the slates, fill them in with plaster of Paris.
Lay on the cloth, taking care that the right side is uppermost, that the nap runs from what is to be the bottom of the table towards the top, and that the cloth is square to the table. Go to the top of the table, drive in a couple of tacks,* and then go to the bottom of the table, pull the cloth tight, and drive in two more tacks on the middle line. Then stand at one of the middle pockets, pull the cloth a little towards you, and tack it lightly on each side of the pocket; next go over to the opposite middle pocket, pull the cloth tight and tack it as before. Then at each of the middle pockets in succession take a good handful of cloth and a good pull and tack what you get underneath the pocket. Smooth out the cloth over the fall of these pockets, but do not at present trouble about a wrinkle or two, as they will be smoothed out later. Get somebody to hold the cloth firmly at the middle pocket, and go yourself to the corner pocket and pull along the side of the table, using considerable strength; proceed in like manner with the other corner pockets. If all this has been done carefully, neatly, and firmly, the cloth ought to be well stretched the length and breadth of the table. The amateur will find the greatest difficulty in getting the cloth to lie smooth along the sides and ends of the table, and especially at the fall of the pockets, for the cloth must be humoured so as to come fair over the pockets without creasing. This is a work of time, trouble, and neat-handedness; you must not hurry; take plenty of time, plenty of tacks, and by degrees success may be obtained.
Covering the cushions with cloth is such an exceedingly difficult and delicate operation that it should not be attempted by an amateur; very few workmen can cover a cushion as it should be covered, and, therefore, it is useless to describe the operation. It will be found prudent to order the makers to cover the cushions before sending them out; indeed, some clubs abroad have two sets of cushions, so that while one set is in use the other may be in England for repairs.
And now to put the cushions on the table. Take care that you have each one in its proper place (the cushions will all be numbered); fit them all firmly on so that the holes in the woodwork exactly coincide with the holes in the slates; push in the bolts and screw them all up hand tight. Don't screw one as tight as you can at first, or you will strain the cushion and the nut, but when you have got them all fairly tight, set them up with the brace as tight as your strength will allow, taking care that each is similarly treated. With modern steel cushions it must be remembered that slots have to be dealt with instead of holes, and therefore the position of the cushions must be carefully measured, or one pocket will be larger than another.
Having screwed up the cushions quite tight, fit in the pocket plates and pass the long thin screws up from below through the woodwork of the cushions and screw all tight. (Some modern cushions are fixed with what are called invisible pocket plates; these have to be put into the cushions before the latter are fixed). Modern pockets are made with holes at the side closed by an india-rubber ring, so that the balls can be taken out without putting the hand into the pockets. These are an improvement on the old pattern, for the shoulders of the cushions will last longer and will not be pulled out of shape.
It now only remains to get the table quite level. Work the level about and correct any slight errors by slightly jacking up the low part, and by pushing the wedges under the nearest legs further home. Rather under-compensate at first, because if you overdo the thing at all, you will find yourself obliged to go on overdoing it till your table is eventually raised appreciably above the regulation height, which should be 2ft. 8in. from the floor to the cloth, not to the top of the cushions.
If obliged to put up or superintend the erection of the lighting apparatus, remember that the flame is generally three feet from the cloth.
One more word of advice. If you can secure an expert to erect your table, never do the work yourself; but if you cannot command such aid, the foregoing hints may be of service.
Pipeclay, white chalk, black chalk, or a lead pencil can be used for marking the baulk line; and, whichever you select, remember to mark the lines lightly or the cloth will soon become grooved and damaged. Pipeclay, which is the least likely to damage the table, has the drawback that it very easily rubs out, and, in consequence, involves constant ruling, so that, on the whole, a lead pencil carefully and lightly used can be recommended.
* Battens are screwed to the slates in order to take the tacks which fasten down the cloth.