The Differences in Billiard Felt & Fabric Covers

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TRADITIONAL BILLIARD FELT VERSUS WORSTED BILLIARD FABRIC.

 In general there are two different kinds of pool cloth, traditional felt and worsted fabric.  Both types are made from wool and typically contain a small percentage of nylon which is necessary to provide stretch and durability.  In addition to these two types of cloth, there is also a very cheap felt that is mixed with polyester.  This cheap billiard felt is commonly found on non-slate pool tables and not worthy of discussion other than the fact that it is CHEAP in every way.

It costs more than $400 to have a slate pool table reupholstered (re-covered) in a new felt or fabric.  Therefore it is important for you to know the facts.  Unfortunately, the general appearance of billiard felt/fabric degrades with each game that is played.  Unlike a golf fairway, there is no way to fix a divot on a pool table. A divot (removal of fibers) in the surface is easily caused by a miscue or when a player strikes a little too low on the cue ball in an effort to impart back spin. A divot can also be caused by the sharp edges of a cue tip (leather tip) that is not properly groomed or an attempt to jump the cue ball. A divot will appear as a small spot in the material as it is missing some, or in some cases all of its fibers.  When all of the fibers are removed by a severe divot, you will actually see the grey slate on which the felt/fabric is applied.  The good news is divots on a pool table will not grow in size and the billiard ball will amazingly roll over it with little to no deflection.

Divots and ball marks are a natural consequence of playing the game of pool. Divots are more common with novice players who miscue or aggressive players who try to move the cue ball around the table.

BRIEF HISTORY

Up until the 1950’s billiard felt was made from a blend of long and short wool fibers.  This non-directional billiard felt had a fuzzy feel and played slower than today’s billiard felts.  In the early 1950’s nylon fibers were introduced into the manufacturing process.  The nylon/wool blend gave the billiard felt more stretch for a tighter installation and overall it was more durable and played faster than the obsolete woolen felt.

Up until the 1980’s, the game of choice was 14.1 straight pool which required a great deal of cue ball control and finesse.  You had to call each shot and accumulated one point for each ball pocketed until you or your opponent reached 125 points.  In the 1980’s the game of choice became 9-ball and 8-ball which required moving the cue ball greater distances around the pool table.  When worsted billiard fabric was introduced in the 1990’s the professional players quickly endorsed it as superior to the traditional felt.  Today worsted fabric has since become the fabric of choice because it plays faster and is more consistent which is critical to the game of 9-ball.

TRADITONAL WOOL BILLIARD FABRIC

The traditional wool fabric (also called napped billiard cloth) is woven with yarn that is made from both long and short fibers twisted together to make a thick yarn with a fuzzy surface.  The fuzzy nap is a term given to the raised surface of the felt created by “teasing” individual fibers out of the base of the felt itself.  The direction of the nap must always run from the head of the table (break line) to the foot of the table (balls racked).  The nap is created by brushing the felt in one direction which teases (raises) the short fibers and lays them down in one direction.  When a proper nap is achieved it should feel smooth when running your hand in one direction and there should be a resistance in the opposite direction.  Understanding and mastering the nap are essential elements of the game of 14.1 straight pool and even more so in the game of snooker.  Today there is virtually no quality difference between one manufacturer and another since the traditional billiard felt is made in the same mills located primarily in Mexico.  Some brands coat their felt with Teflon to promote a degree of stain resistance.  This is a bad idea because the balls now slide on the felt rather than roll.  Teflon may be acceptable for a low end frying pan but not so good for playing pool.

Characteristics and benefits of Traditional Billiard Felt include:

  • Hides dust and chalk because the looser weave and construction allows the particles to go through the fabric surface.  The chalk and dust accumulates on the surface of the slate underneath the felt. The accumulated particles act as abrasives and create wear on the fabric.
  • The twisted long and short fibers allow surface cover to create a nap finish if teased in one direction.
  • The fibers are cut short to minimize pilling (however, some pilling is inevitable).
  • Traditional wool fabric requires regular brushing to lay the nap down in one direction.
  • Fabric plays faster over time and use as the short fibers get worn down.
  • Available in a variety of colors.

WORSTED BILLIARD FABRIC

Woven with yarn that is combed to remove the short fibers from the yarn.  This is the top choice for super-smooth, super-fast American pool.  Worsted fabric is much more expensive to manufacture.  In general it is longer lasting, consistently flat, very smooth, and easier to clean.  It provides the perfect surface for professional pool tournaments.  The better quality brands including Simonis and Hainsworth (Accuguard) have designed their fabrics for impressive speed, ball spin, durability and low maintenance.  Hainsworth has gone the extra mile by reducing hydral expansion (resists loosening up over time) which provides a protective spill proof finish.

Characteristics of Worsted Billiard Fabric include:

  • Balls run faster with consistent speed (no break-in time is required).
  • Longer lasting and more durable with anti-pill finish
  • Extremely tight weave.  Chalk particles do not penetrate felt but rather sit on the surface making it easy to clean up with a damp felt, brush or vacuum.
  • Low maintenance does not require regular brushing.
  • Available in 25 or more colors.

SUMMARY

A good quality traditional billiard felt that is properly brushed is a terrific choice for playing straight pool or snooker where slower speed can be beneficial.  However, for all around American games such as 8-ball, 9-ball, one-pocket and even straight pool…the worsted fabric is a better choice and a better value because it plays faster, balls rolls further, cleans up better and is more durable.  In either case, make sure you stay with the good quality brands including Simonis and Hainsworth and Accuguard.

 

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