Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Why you want the worst(ed) cloth

In my previous post, I discussed the technical differences between pool table felt and cloth. For recreational players, the biggest choice is what color cloth to get while paying as little as possible. Why should you pay for more expensive cloth? Let's go over what makes one cloth better than the next.

First of all, it's important to consider what kind of qualities you want in a cloth. It should be consistent over the entire bed of the table, obviously, but how much do you care about characteristics like durability and stain resistance or more technical features such as speed? Some of the answers will depend on the environment your table is being used (indoor, outdoor, commercial, tournaments), how much use it will get, and what kind of players will be playing on it.

Cheaper cloth will often be made of napped wool. It looks and feels fuzzier. On other hand, more expensive cloth is made of worsted wool, so it feels smoother. You can think of napped wool as what is used for sweaters and worsted wool as what is used for expensive suits. The cloth is rarely pure wool; it's generally blended with 10-30% of nylon helping with strength and durability. The nap can lead to an uneven playing surface as well as wearing out differently over time. Worsted wool, on the other hand, will play more consistently both in terms of across the whole surface as well as over time.

Touching on durability, the fuzziness of the cloth can pill up and pulling these out can damage the fibers. This is more difficult, if not impossible, with worsted wool. But the other thing you have to look for is the weight of the cloth. The greater the weight, the more material there is per unit area. This should make the cloth more durable as well.

The weight can also contribute to the stain resistance of the cloth. The more tightly woven the fibers are, the more difficult it will be for the cloth to absorb liquids. The nap will generally help absorb liquid. You can also get cloth that is coated in Teflon to help repel stains.

As you might imagine by now, napped wool will play slower than worsted wool due to increased friction from the nap. This requires you to put in more effort to play a faster shot and to put the same amount of spin on the cue ball. Also the nap will 'take' the spin faster if you can generate it. On a worsted wool, the cue ball will have a tendency to slide more before the spin grabs the cloth and changes the trajectory of the cue ball. This can affect your cue ball control.

Making an investment in a worsted wool cloth is important if you want to have the highest standard of play. It will generally play faster, more evenly, and last longer than a napped wool. It will be more expensive in the beginning, but it will pay for itself and give you more enjoyment for the game.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pool table felt or cloth?

The fabric that covers the pool table bed is often referred to as felt or cloth. Most people don't care which one you say, but there are those out there that are passionate about it much like a grammar snob. In the latter case, they always prefer cloth. Let's take a look at why.

Felt, in textile terms, is generally defined as fabric that is made from pressing fibers together. What this means is the fibers aren't interwoven and, with enough work, you can pick and tear individual fibers out. Also, if you try to stretch felt, such as needed when covering a pool table, it should fray and separate.

Cloth, on the other hand, is a woven fabric, meaning all of the fibers are intertwined and run from one end to the other. It is difficult to pull individual fibers apart from the weave and you can stretch cloth without tearing since you're pulling on the entire length of a fiber.

One of the more reputable brands of cloth out there is Simonis. You can certainly go cheaper, such as with Mercury Ultra, if you're not that much of an enthusiast. As far as what to call it though, cloth is technically correct. However, you'll see felt used all over the place since it's used more often, especially by people who don't know or don't care about the technical differences.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Myth of the Trick Shot Artist

This may be one of the best kept secrets. When people see me shooting trick shots, they automatically assume I'm a great pool player as well. While I can generally hold my own, I'm generally not a threat to run racks on a consistent basis. Most people would assume that you have to be a great pool player first and then you can become good at trick shots. That's not really accurate. There are other examples of this as well, Florian 'Venom' Kohler and Steve 'Triple C' Markle mastered trick shots well before honing their 8 ball or 9 ball games.

Certainly, being good at pool already will quicken the learning curve for trick shots, but there is more to it than that. Most good pool players will have a decent stroke, good aiming, and can control the cue ball. To be a great trick shot artist, it takes a monster stroke, ability to make fine adjustments, and coordination (think speed shots or one-handed shots). One of the biggest weaknesses in my pool game is the ability to control the cue ball. I tend to overhit it because I'm used to juicing it up so much for trick shots.

So, next time you see a trick shot artist, don't be so quick to assume they're great at pool. There are a fair number that made the crossover from typical pool to trick shots, but there are plenty of others that became trick shot specialists without developing their general game.