Why Buy Canadian?
Understanding Quality Versus Pricing
When making a family entertainment purchase like a Pool Table, it is important to understand what factors determine a quality made product and how it relates to the purchase price. We all want value for our hard earned dollars and with some basic research, you can find the Pool Table that best suits your family’s needs. Differences in materials, stain finishes, construction, and slate are all key factors in finding the best made Pool Table and how it relates to playability and longevity.
Pool Tables are made in many different countries with many types of wood species. Tables made overseas, typically in China or Vietnam, and are mass produced using local wood products like Chinese rubber wood which looks like oak. Consumers typically make the mistake of not realizing that these tables are advertised as “solid wood” tables and in fact, are not made from quality hardwoods. These materials are local and are high fire kiln dried which speeds up the drying process resulting in lower costs. The problem with this process is the moisture content varies greatly with this method as proper time is not given for the materials to dry out. Consequently, these Pool Tables are prone to cracking and warping which is a common problem experienced by people who purchase furniture which was manufactured overseas. So, if it doesn’t say the exact type of wood like “oak” or “maple”, then it isn’t. In Canada, we have access to hardwoods like Red Oak and Hard Rock Maple. These materials are slow kiln dried over many weeks to allow for proper curing of the wood, so that when it is used for building furniture like Pool Tables, the risk of shrinkage and cracking is very low. Of course, this process is more time consuming and therefore, more expensive. North American hardwoods like oak and maple are also much harder and more dense than the other materials, so durability is much better and are able to withstand day to day usage allowing your Pool Table stay a piece of furniture and not get easily marked up or damaged.
Another quality and price issue is with relation to Finishing costs. Many overseas tables do not have a stain into the wood, rather a laminate finish. This eliminates the finishing cost, again lowering the cost of the Pool Table. However, this process is susceptible to having the surface crack while the wood continues to dry out. Other tables do have a spray finish to help hide the wood imperfections, but again the standards are well below furniture quality and begin to rub off over a short period of time. Canadian made tables are typically stained by hand, onto the wood, providing a superior and consistent finish that is protected with a hard lacquer finish eliminating the problems of a damaged finish.
The structural integrity of your Pool Table is very important. Based on the most common size of a 4 x 8 Pool Table, the combined weight is typically around 700 to 900 pounds. Most tables built overseas use a combination of wood or drywall screws and metal braces. The major issue with this type of construction is that screws strip upon re use when your table needs to be taken apart and put back together again. If the weight can’t be sustained, then there is a risk of the table not staying level or even worse, having some structural damage which at best will require extra costs for fixing or replacing. All quality made Pool Tables use a threaded insert and bolt system, which provides for maximum structural integrity and ensures that regardless of how many times your Pool Table may need to be taken apart, it will always go back the same way.
Another common mistake that consumers make is assuming that rock is rock. It is not! Rock or slate as it is referred to for Pool Tables, has different geological properties depending on what part of the world it is from. For Pool Tables, most slate comes from China, Brazil or Italy. Two key factors relate to Pool Table slate, actual geological composition of the slate and how the slate is processed. The slate mined in China and Brazil is very dense and hard with a low moisture content which makes it susceptible to temperature and humidity fluctuations. The end result over time is, this slate will dry out, flake and crack. As well, the hardness makes for a hard playing surface, repelling the vibrations of the ball resulting in a rolling noise while the balls travel across the Pool Table. Levelling a Pool Table with this slate can also be more difficult. The slate is so dense and hard that there is no give in the slate to allow for minor adjustments which are normally required due to unlevel floors and different flooring surfaces. The Italian slate has been known for its quality ever since Pool Tables came into existence. Italian Slate is guaranteed for life not to crack or flake since the composition of the slate has more moisture content and is softer by comparison than slate from China or Brazil. Because of its natural moisture and softness, Italian slate plays much quieter and provides elasticity during installation for adjustments that may be required during the levelling process. All slate is mined resulting in large slabs of slate that need to be hauled from a mountain to a manufacturing plant where each slab goes through a process beginning with diamond bladed gang saws that cut the slabs into workable pieces. Then, by hand and with the assistance of computers, each piece is rough cut and ready to be planed for thickness, trimmed for sizing and processed to be smoothed out with the use of laser guided machinery to make for a finished and smooth playing surface. Then each piece is cut into 3 allowing for the holes to be drilled and the pocket openings to be cut out. The last step is ensure that the 3 pieces are marked and crated for shipping as a unit. The difference in processing is largely due to experience and technology. The Brazilians and Chinese have long used older and more dated equipment than the Italians resulting in an inferior product while the Italians have always been on the leading edge of technology. Even as the Brazilians and Chinese upgrade their equipment and technology, they lack the experience and knowledge that the Italians have. Also, again by nature of the geographical properties, the softer Italian slate is much easier to process than the much harder and dense slate from China and Brazil, again resulting in a better finished product. Because of the differences, the Italian slate does cost more than the other two.
While the Pool Tables that are mass produced overseas have a very good price appeal, there are significant reasons for it. The manufacturing process is designed to use inferior lower cost materials, low grade finishing, inferior slate and poor construction. All of these components result in a Pool Table that will not last the time that should be required for the investment. Good work isn’t cheap and cheap work isn’t good. At Alberta Billiards, we use the best of every component available to us for our hand crafted Pool Tables. Your Canadian made Pool Table will be made to order to your specifications with the best hardwoods, slate, construction and professionally finished to ensure that your family will enjoy it for many years to come. Alberta Billiards would rather explain the pricing, than apologize for the poor quality!