1. Sports
Send to a Friend via Email
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

All About Pool Table Slate And Chalk

Get Your Pieces Right


slate, chalk, pool tables, billiards tables

Great slate equals great, consistent playing conditions

Photo (c) Matt Sherman, licensed to About.com, Inc.
The year is 1892, and William Spinks, a professional billiardist from Chicago, Illinois began work with chemists on a new substance to help cue stick tips adhere to cue balls. On a visit to Paris, France he'd come across a unique chalk that was able to grip the tip snugly even on extreme english strokes.

The new chemical work had produced an even finer chalk. Spinks patented the find in 1897 for "billiard chalk" which actually did not contain any chalk at all, being composed of axolite and silica, crushed to a fine, fine powder and then sifted with air to create still more fineness.

Pool "chalk" changed the game, allowing the cue tip to linger along the cue ball for a precious thousandth of a second longer to impart all types of skid and spin at will. The former blackboard chalk that was used not only discolored the cloth but rotted the table fabric. Spinks's chalk was green but over time was produced in many different colors.


Use chalk properly. Place it chalk side up along the tops of the rails so powder stays off the table. Over time, the chalk powder left on the cloth mars shots by adding unexpected throw to cut angles. Brushing and/or vacuuming a table can help.

Choosing The Size Of Your Pool Table

And need I go on about folks who use talc on their hands? Talcum powder is lovely in a fancy men's restroom but can make an absolute mess of your otherwise favorite poolroom. I judge a room in part by how clean the cloth and balls are. Room owners, take note. Players, wash your hands before you get to the tables or in the middle of a long session.

Two Dozen Factors That Make A Billiards Parlor Shine, Or Stink


Think about the real "bedrock" of great pool and you'll have come to the conclusion that the best billiards is played on a great slate. It's been said that no good table has ever been built with a single slate or a slate shallower than 7/8 of an inch thick. And there must be quality slate liners attached to the back of the slate. (Not to mention a competent table installer to both level a table after purchase and then revisit the site some months later to adjust for any carpet or floor settling.)

Qualities of great slate:

  • The thickness of the slate provides weight (which requires strong and durable table framing) to keep vibrations returned to play to an absolute minimum
  • Vibration feels and/or looks funny to the pool shooter and is one things that wrecks the speed, distance and cut angles of a spinning (bouncing) ball
  • so consider a three-piece slate that's thick, well maintained and installed, and with decent slate liners beneath it inside the table

Why not a one-piece monster? A one-piece slate with at least 7/8 inch of thickness (as opposed to three distinct pieces brought together at the actual table installation) could easily weight 600 pounds or more. And a one-piece slate is a challenge to maintain a level as it warps beneath its own sheer weight, called "slagging" the slate. Your only opportunity with a huge one-piece warped slate is to flip it over (good luck, Mr. or Mrs. Schwarzenegger) and hope you can enjoy it flat for a while as it slags in the opposite direction and moves from a convex to a concave slate under the table!

Obviously, since slate pool tables ensure a level playing surface, never purchase any table on which the slate has been broken then "repaired", unless you want shots to wobble far afield from where you try to send them with your cue.

Three Key Factors For A Good Pool Table

Slate pool tables are more expensive than wood tables and with good reason, again, due to heaviness and lack of unwanted warpage and vibration. Non-slate pool tables could be an economy choice for gentle at-home use but purists will prefer slate table. A decent synthetic top is not wood that warps but something "slatron" or "perma-slate". Even some type of medium-density fiberboard can be employed, too, but let's not go there. If there's a slate table I can drive my car to visit I'll take it over a non-slate table at home or my office.

Again, non-slate surfaces are subject to warping easily so take care in gentle play and keep the room low in humidity. Check the flooring too, after the table has settled into its new home for a few months, for a level surface to hold your table.

With quality care a good slate table should last a century or more.

Pool Tables 101: A Great Book For Any Home Or Business Table Owner

  1. About.com
  2. Sports
  3. Billiards
  4. Equipment
  5. Buying Your Pool Table
  6. All About Pool Table Slate And Chalk

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.