Let’s Make a Table

A billiards table is much more than just the most fun piece of furniture you’ll ever have in your house (though that’s a big part of it!) There’s a lot that goes into a table to make it what it is. In this case, the table really is greater than the sum of its parts.

The main parts:

  • Rails: The rails of a table are its sides. The head rail is the theoretical front of the table and is one of the short rails/sides where the cue ball is sent away from, toward the rack of balls at the other end.
  • Cushions: Also known as rail cushions, cushion rubber and sometimes “bumpers”. These are located on the inner sides of the table’s rails. They enable the billiard balls to bounce off the sides while minimizing the loss of energy. Standard angle in relation to the table for a cushion is defined by the Billiards Congress of America as 1 3/17 inches and a nose height of 1 inch.
  • The Bed: The cloth covered horizontal playing surface, which is made from finely ground slabs of slate. Tables may either have one or two pieces of slate.
  • Cloth: Just don’t call it felt. This covers the rails and slate beds. The type of cloth can affect the swerve and deflection of the balls. Generally, a 21-24 ounce billiards cloth is used, but in bars – where tables get a lot of play – thicker, slower cloth is used to better withstand the heavy traffic.
  • Markings — Sights and Spots:
    • Also called diamonds (for the traditional shape), sights are inlaid and evenly spaced along the rails to help players aim in bank or kick shots. There are seven sights along each long rail and three along the shorter rails. The sights divide the playing surface into equal squares. This is where geometry and math come in!
    • Spots are often used to mark the head and foot spots of the cloth to help players know where to rack the balls.

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