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Home Table Review and Critique

Posted 06-25-2020 at 07:03 PM by zcrash
Updated 06-25-2020 at 07:07 PM by zcrash

This is my home table, it's an 8-foot Olhausen Breckenridge. There's a whole long, boring story of my history and how this particular table and the room came to be, which I'll save for another time (and, in consideration for the current audience, probably another place). What I'll say for now is that I was able to get it installed in late January, and it has been a blessing to have for my mental and emotional health during the past several months. I'll also write something about the decor in the room (which I've put a reasonable amount of effort into--there's more of it that you can't see in the picture) at some later time, as well as about the various room factors that can affect playing, such as size and lighting, etc.

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The facts/stats

This was a floor model at my local billiard supply store. I hadn't picked it out before going in there, but liked it well enough when I saw it. Importantly,I could get it delivered and installed within the week, which ended up making it an incredibly fortuitous choice (over ordering a new table) given the disruption to everything that ensued shortly thereafter.

Corner pocket specs, for all you table geeks out there:
- Nominally 4-3/4 inches at the mouth--that is, it would be 4-3/4 if the points of the rail/facing were crisp; with the slight rounding, it measures more like 4-13/16
- Facing angle is 143 degrees (or perhaps a tad more)
- Shelf depth is 1-7/8 inches

Side pockets are nominally 5-1/4 inches (or 5-5/16, counting the rounding on the points), with a 1/4 inch shelf

As far as I can tell from AZB discussions, the pocket specs are all pretty typical for Olhausen. The cloth is Championship Invitational (non-worsted), in Academy Blue. Yes, I'm using Triangle chalk.

How it plays (at least, to me)

In a word: awesomely! It gives me 100% of what I need in a home table, even though it clearly doesn't have the same level of solidity/precision that you find in a professional/tournament table--you can hear and feel the difference (as reference, my local pool hall has a stable of Gold Crowns, an Anniversary, and a couple of Connelly Ultimates). I'll also talk about some of the shortcomings in the pockets and rails below.

After 5 months of daily play, as well as living in earthquake territory, it's still completely level and true--no roll-off anywhere.

The shelf on the corner pockets is deep enough that slow-roll slop (which I can't stand as a habitual playing style) generally does not go.

Balls definitely rattle out of the corner pockets periodically (generally, when shooting at an angle--i.e. off the rail facing--with decent speed), whether due to the infamous "Olhausen death rattle" geometry, or the lip of the leather drop pockets not being flush with the facing (see picture below). Note that the two cases often make a different sound, and also that it could be a combination of the two factors (I'm not obsessing about the particulars).

Between the size of the pockets and the facing angle factor, I would say that 97-98% (or whatever) of the shots that should go in, do go it; and perhaps 90% of the shots that shouldn't go in (i.e. for the pocket size), don't go in--there is some generosity that isn't deserved, for sure.

The rails seem fine to me, but I don't really rely on precision rail performance or consistency for any part of my game right now--that is to say, I don't have the capability to do so. I do have one-rail banks in my shotmaking arsenal, and do use 2- or 3-rails for position, but "better" rails will probably not change things much for my current level of ability.

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Other imperfections

[Note that I am not really complaining here, since overall, I can more than live with any of this--I'm just being critical, in an objective/constructive way]

The two cushions along one of the long rails are not completely aligned (see picture below)--they both come in about 1/8 inch running from the corner pockets to the side pocket (same amount for both cushions).
- This has probably affected me once or twice for long shots down the rail, but I haven't really noticed, and knowing that the problem exists doesn't bother me (doesn't come to mind at all) when I am at the table.
- I don't know if this is a problem with the frame, the cushions themselves, or the installation.
- The long rail on the other side is perfectly straight.

There is one spot on the table (just over the head string, about 3/4 diamond from the side rail) where there is a little lump under the felt. It's about 1/8 inch in size, and is probably just a little bit of slate seam filler that wasn't cleaned off.
- I can't see it, but can feel it if running my finger on the felt in the right place.
- Once a week or so, I will see a ball veer off if slowing to a stop around there. It happens rarely, so again, I never really think about it when I'm at the table.

A couple of the leather drop pockets are not installed perfectly evenly, in terms of where the ends overlap the cushion facings on the two sides. The difference is not much, and is only really perceptible to OCD nitpickers like myself. It may affect the death rattle behavior described above in a minuscule way, but overall this is a very small deal.

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Netting it all out

As I said before, the table is working great for me, I am thankful every day to have it. I am absolutely in no hurry to get any of the imperfections corrected, none of them comes close to having me consider any kind of maintenance/repair or table upgrade. That being said, having brought a critical eye to evaluating the table, there are several things I will keep in mind if/when things change on me.

The one thing that I can think of right now that would cause me to take action is if the table started showing signs of getting out of level. If fixing that turned out to require tuning at the slate level (as opposed to just the legs), then I would probably get the pocket installation adjusted to a nitpicky level, do something about the cushion facings (the authoritative suggestion I've seen is a change to 3/16 inch neoprene) and alignment on the long rails, and certainly insist that the slate surface be absolutely clean before the felt is laid. Speaking of felt, I think I would also go to a faster (worsted) cloth, probably Simonis 860 (which the former/long-time owner of the billiard supply shop refused to install back in the day, because he said it was trouser material).

Sometime, ways away in the future, I might actually want to tighten up the pockets--but only if I truly thought my game had gotten good enough that it wouldn't then be an exercise in frustration, and be above my ability to continue learning and enjoying and appreciating all of my time at the table. As things are now, with the more forgiving pockets, I still know the difference between nailing and not nailing a shot. If/when a ball happens to go in but didn't actually deserve to (the ~10% generosity alluded to above), I mentally chalk it up as an intrinsic miss, and take note of the specifics as a failure to be learned from. So I don't really need to spend any time speculating (or dreaming) about what I might do in terms of a table replacement or mechanical adjustment if/when I ever get to the point of wanting to upgrade the table performance. Things are just too excellent right now for that.
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