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Parts of a Pool Table

An article all about the parts of a pool table and the terminology used to identify them. This was originally posted on the Fast Eddie's pool hall blog with the title "What the Hell's a Foot Spot? – The Parts of a Pool Table", which is no longer online.

Parts of a Pool Table

Can you name all of the parts of a pool table? Can you? Here are the sometimes strange and always impressive-to-know parts of the pool table broken down.

The Cushion and the Rails

Let's start our journey of the table at the outside rims, which are actually two separate and distinct parts: the cushion, and the rails.

"Rails" simply refer to those bits of wood stuck along the outside of the cloth-covered parts. They basically just hold the cushions to the table and give them some support.

Rails are given names depending on their length and where the cue ball is shot from on a break. The longer rails on the side are appropriately named "long rails," while the rail and cushion on the side of the table from which the cue ball is shot are called the "head rail" and "head cushion" in America and the "top cushion" and "top rail" in Britain. Conversely, the opposite short rail and cushion are called the "foot" and "bottom" in each country respectively. Further, the "head" in general refers to the entire half of the table where the cue ball is shot, while the "foot" is where the balls are racked.

The cushions, on the other hand, are the cloth-covered somewhat squishy parts right inside the rails that sit on the "bed" of the table. They're what you bounce the balls off of, and they're actually a bit more complex than you might think. Depending on where you are in the world and what type of billiards game you're playing, these can have slightly different angles from one table to the next. The angle of the cushion compared to the bed is called the "profile," and the standard one for American pool tables is called the "K-66 profile," while carom tables use a "K-55" and snooker uses an "L" profile.

The Bed of a Pool Table

This be where your balls go, if you couldn't figure that out from the name (No dirty jokes about balls in the bed, please. Well, okay, maybe just a few.). The term "bed" actually refers to what's under the fabric that you see, and not the fabric itself. Beds on good pool tables are made of slabs of slate that are finely ground and usually come from places where slate is of high quality, like China, Brazil or Italy. On the size of pool tables you'll find in places like Fast Eddie's, there are usually three slabs of slate laid side-by-side with an epoxy, putty or resin sealing the space between the three. This is sanded down to make a perfectly flat surface, what for the rolling to happen upon.

The Cloth

You probably call this stuff "felt," but my good sir, that just ain't right. The material used in pool tables is actually very specifically made by weaving wool or a wool/nylon blend, and it's called baize. Felt, on the other hand, is a pressed material, and not woven. Pool tables either use a napless weave or a heavier weave, depending on whether durability is an issue, and this changes the "speed" of the ball (the heavier weave, the slower).

The Markings on a Pool Table

Here's where we get a few complex names for parts of the table, though a few are pretty simple.

First off, you've got your "diamonds" or "sights," which are set evenly spaced on the rails and used to aim shots. There are seven on long rails, with the center pocket on pocket tables being where the seventh would be, and three on the short rails, with the corners or corner pockets each counting as one sight as well.

While we're on the sights, there are two parts of the table that may or may not be actually marked, one of which uses the sights. The "head string" is a line that goes from the second marked sight (not counting the corners) on one long rail on the head side of the table to the other. This is used in many games as the line behind which the cue ball must be shot to break. The "foot string," then, is the same thing on the foot side of the table. The "long string," on the other hand, is a line that divides the table in half lengthwise.

Where the head string and the long string intersect is a spot known as the "head spot," which is not always marked. The "foot spot" is found the same way with the long string and the foot string, and it usually is marked, as it's where the apex of the ball rack is placed in most billiards games.

One more invisible area is the "kitchen," which is the area behind the head string and where the cue ball is usually placed to start a game.

The Pockets and the Ball Return

The pockets are, obviously, the pockets on a table with... well... pockets. "Drop pockets" are those used in tables without the ball return system, which... is a mechanism that guides the balls from the pockets to a place where they can be retrieved and, on coin-operated tables, separates the cue ball from the rest.

Parts of a Pool Table

  • Title: Parts of a Pool Table
  • Author: (Billiards Forum)
  • Published: 2/28/2017 12:06:32 PM
  • Last Updated: 2/28/2017 12:18:18 PM
  • Last Updated By: billiardsforum

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