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Pocket Finish Styles

Very occasionally, customers comment upon the pocket finish after a table installation. I'll start by saying that our installer, Lance Nelson, has been installing pool tables for 35 years. In that time, he has seen every possible manner and way of installing cloth on a pool table.

The reason that people question the pocket installation is that in order to fit a square piece of cloth into an arched hole, the cloth in question must be stretched below the hole, cut carefully to fit, and then pulled underneath to be stapled. You won't find a picture of cloth with the triangles showing because when professional photographers take images, the cloth is not generally installed to play on. They can make it look however they would like. This creates false expectations for those who are looking at the pocket finish.

Although many cloth types can be stretched sufficiently and cut properly to fit under the pocket without wrinkling the top cloth, Simonis cloth does not stretch in that way. So, if you pull the triangles below the pocket, the top cloth will wrinkle. There are three choices then for finishing the pocket: Cloth-covered Plastic Strips, a French seam, or placing a piece of cloth around the edge of the pocket and pulling the triangles over it. Although this is not the cleanest look of the three, it is the one that Lance prefers and there are good reasons for this.

Plastic straps degrade over time, and can change shape and warp with temperature changes in a home. For people who don't play often, using a table only when there for a short visit, this can cause more problems than it solves. This method also places another surface inside the pocket and most players prefer the pocket free from any obstruction. This method does not work well with Simonis cloth because it almost always pulls away from the plastic piece, again, causing more problems than it solves.

The French Cleat method, though it looks very nice, places an almost ridiculous amount of staples inside the pocket. The staples are covered with cloth, but, especially with Simonis, the cloth will not protect a hard hit ball if it makes contact with a staple. In our experience, it is not worth the effort to place no less than twenty staples per pocket to make it visually pleasing when there is a chance that it will damage a ball. It also requires that those twenty staples be pulled when the cloth is replaced. Have you looked at MDF when a staple is pulled out of it? It leaves a hole, and that hole doesn't heal. If you want another French cleat in the pocket, it will not likely be even, and there will be more chance of ball damage. There is no circumstance that this method would be recommended in our view.

This picture came from a table we disassembled for the owner. Although the cloth below is pulled over a strip mounted correctly to the slate, the staple is placed inside the pocket which is not acceptable. A matching strip to the cloth used should be adhered to the interior of the pocket, the triangles stretched as much as possible below the pocket and the the staple placed on the underside of the pocket. Simonis cloth is "stringy," so trimming is done at the time the table is installed, but if other strings develop, the homeowner is welcome to trim the strings as time progresses.

Installers can usually get the corner pockets completely covered with Simonis, but the side pockets are problematic because the stretch does not allow for the triangles to be pulled beneath the pocket. In that case, it is important that the staple be placed on the underside of the pocket to avoid contact with what can be an expensive set of balls.

The picture Left (with thanks to J Szytel) is the correct way, in our view, to finish a pocket on a table covered with Simonis cloth. The next time you are out and about, and run across a pool table, take a look at the pockets and see what the finish looks like. If it is a table with a high nylon content, it will likely be fully covered. If it is a table with a high wool content, it will likely show the triangles at the side pockets. Though the threads should be snipped, we would have no other complaints with this pocket installation. That's 30 years talking, and we've seen many poorly done installations over the year. This isn't one of them.

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