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Heated Billiard Table Slate

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Posted 22 December 2010 - 05:48 PM

Heated Billiard Table Slate

My home 9’ gold crown has a heated slate, this table was used for the premier of the Ripleys Belive it or not prime time show, and part of my deal was, I got the table free.

This article about heated billiard tables is for informational purposes only. Do not attempt to heat your own table. Consult professionals. Billiards Forum takes no responsibility for any harm caused from attempts to heat your own billiard or pool table.
Many readers have asked where they can get a heated billiard table. Just as many have asked how they can convert their existing table to a heated one. We gathered a bunch of information on heated pool and billiard tables and compiled this article from the best of it.
To begin, please read this warning. Creating your own heating system for a billiard table is not a good idea, as there are many concerns with starting a fire. It has been suggested that one can install roof de-icing wires, radiant heat, or other methods, but because of their propensity to create fire, they should be considered with extreme care. Also, these methods, when not professionally installed, do not usually heat the slate in a uniform manner creating an inconsistent roll through the playing surface.

The benefits of heating a billiard table are undeniable. Keeping the slate just a few degrees warmer than room temperature can greatly affect playing conditions. The heat helps keep moisture out of the cloth, which makes it much faster. It also keeps the slate dry and warm, and the cushions from getting too hard and cold. Many major billiard tournaments have heated tables to reduce moisture that is created from humidity. Large audiences can generate high humidity levels from their breath alone. Even players add to the humidity levels. Sweaty hands on the table adds moisture to the cloth, which severely affects speed. In fact, many who have played on heated tables have reported that "laying your hand or forearm on that warm cloth is so nice." It becomes addictive when you have it on your home table and when you go out the other tables feel like a cold slab at the morge. A properly heated slate will also let the cue ball roll another 4 diamonds further so 860 cloth would then increase in speed to 760 or a tad faster than it. You would not want to heat any slate unless it was a 9 foot, heating an 8 foot would make it too fast to play on.

The earliest well known story of anyone heating their billiard table actually comes from England, where Queen Victoria (1819-1901) played billiards on a table that was heated. This particular pool table was heated using zinc tubes, with the goal of preventing the pure ivory billiard balls from losing their shape due to warping. The first known use of electricity to heat a billiard table was in 1927. It was used in a table played in a tournament match between Jacob Schaefer, Jr. and Welker Cochran in 18.2 balkline. This use of electric heat was praised in an article by the New York Times. It read "For the first time in the history of world's championship balkline billiards a heated table will be used..."

Billiard table heating systems are available at a price, and generally start at about $6500 USD that comes with the table. Most commercial heated billiard tables are very well constructed, well insulated, and have a top wattage peaking out at 500 watts. These tables are available from manufacturers like Verhoven, and are priced at around $10,000 USD on average. There are no common designs available commercially for pool tables but some make their own and include the use of plywood and special resistance heating wire. The wires are mounted on insulators under the plywood, which is attached several inches below the slate. The temperature is controlled by a thermostat.

Commercially heated billiard tables work by heating the slate to about 5 degrees Celsius above room temperature. As mentioned earlier, this helps make the table faster, and the ball roll and rebound in a consent manner throughout the table. This type of heated billiard table is actually required in certain billiard tournaments, like three-cushion and artistic billiards competitions in Europe.

If you can not afford a commercially available heated billiard table you are not alone. One billiard enthusiast who used to play carambole games in the Philippines claims that they used to burn charcoal under the tables to increase slate temperature. Other common home-built billiard table heating systems make use of either putting 2 space heaters under the table to heat the room from under the table. This has it’s problems as well. Most of the heat ends up coming up under the rails and can kill the rubber by drying it out. It will also melt the wax sealing the slate and now the balls will go thump when they roll over the slate cracks. You will have to seal the slates using Bondo from Pep boys automotive stores. Some use radiant heat from either heated water flowing through piping or from radiant wires designed for the far north to melt snow off of roofs. There have been a few examples of people attaching radiant wire to the bottoms of their slate, and running it off of standard 115 VAC, at 60hz. Some attaché 3 water bed heating pads to each slate. These cords going to the outlets have to be covered and sealed so you don’t trip on them. Again, there is a real hazard here if you are not experienced. Always consult a professional. The bottom line here is don’t do it, it will probably work and you may later burn your house down. It takes hours to warm up a slate and then it holds its heat like a rock in a camp fire. The temptation is to just keep it on and that is where the danger comes from. There is no quick start up to this system.

That about sums up heated billiard tables. If there is one thing you take out of this article, it should be that you must consult professionals to install a heating system in your pool table. Actually, I'll end with a story. A professional trick shooter, Fast Larry, who appeared on a season premiere of Ripley's Believe It Or Not, says that the show's crew almost burned down the set because they didn't follow his exact instructions for properly heating the two billiard tables he was to play on. The set builders bought the wrong supplies, and one of the tables caught fire. Let this be a lesson.

Best Wishes,

Fast Larry Guninger

"Fast Larry" Guninger
The Power Source Traveling Pool School. To see my web page come alive click here: www.fastlarrypool.comicon_smile.gificon_biggrin.gificon_surprised.gificon_surprised.gificon_razz.gif

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