If you have room in your game room or man cave I would recommend getting yourself a good pool table. Once you have made the decision, the next stage is to choose the type of pool table to buy.
A big factor will be whether to go for a slate vs wood playing surface. But what is the difference between a slate vs wood pool table, you may ask?
For starters, if you’ve ever played pool at a club or a pub, you’ve more likely than not played on a slate table. For anyone of you hearing the term for the first time, this basically means that the surface you are playing on is an actual slab of slate with a cloth over it and a moderate to high-quality table built around it.
Slate tables tend to be better quality and therefore cost more, because a slate top is more expensive than a wood or wood substitute top.
Conversely, a wood table is built around a price point, so to speak. They are the cheaper versions intended to replicate the features of their higher-end counterparts, and the better wood tables do a decent job of it.
An important thing to note about these tables is that a great deal of manufacturers will advertise them as “more fun”, which is just salesman-ese for “I can’t think of any other quality, so here’s something I know will appeal to your needs”.
They are, however, much lighter, cheaper and more portable because they weigh less than a slate table. But what are the real differences?
Slate vs Wood Pool Table
In a nutshell, the key difference between a slate top vs. an MDF (wood laminate) top pool table is indeed the price tag, but there are some finer points such as playability and portability, which are as equally (or more) important if you decide to spruce up your game room.
Slate tables are as a rule more expensive than wood tables. This is in no small part due to the cost of the surface material, but what most people tend to forget is the price of the body around the playing surface.
The thing is, both slate and wood pool tables feature MDF bodies in the majority of cases, but the more upmarket ones will also feature a hardwood body. On that note, some mid price table (still of good quality) will often feature hardwood veneer over an MDF body, which gives them a rather upscale-looking finish.
The price range can go anywhere from $1,000 to as much as $20,000, depending on the brand.
Conversely, wood tables are invariably less expensive than their slate counterparts thanks to the fact the playing surface is, well… wood, typically wood laminate. As for the rest of the table, you can count on its being MDF as well, which further reduces the cost.
Non-slate, i.e wood pool tables can cost anywhere between $200 to $1,000, which makes them rather budget-friendly.
When it comes to quality, the differences between slate and wood pool tables are evident – slate tables are much more durable, so even if you pay more upfront, you’re saving money in the long run. In other words, unless you hit it hard and on purpose, a slate pool table should last you a good long while.
It’s also resistant to warping and if you happen to spill liquid on a slate, it won’t affect it in any way. You’ll might need to change the cloth, but that’s it.
Wood tables, on the other hand, are prone to breaking under pressure, so you should probably avoid resting all of your weight on the top when making trick shots. Moreover, MDF is prone to warping in humid conditions, so if you do go for one, be sure to store it in a dry area.
On a similar note, keep in mind that wood laminate sucks in liquids, so anything you spill on it stays in there, which will accelerate the degradation of the surface.
The portability issue comes into play only if you mean to move your pool table a lot. If so, then a slate top is far from ideal, due to its weight which averages about 250kg, or just over 550lbs.
Conversely, full size wood pool tables are much more portable, and can weigh as little as 100-odd kg (200+ lbs). This is still not lightweight enough for you to move on your own, but compare it to the 500+lbs slate top alone (not counting the rest of the table), and you get the idea.
If you go for a smaller table , for say the kid’s bedroom, then the majority of tables will be wood anyway and a re a lot lighter for easy movement and storage.
As mentioned earlier, MDF, aka non-slate pool tables are often advertised as “fun” tables, which makes very little sense from a player’s, let alone owner’s perspective. There is a reason players at tournaments play exclusively on slate tables.
In a nutshell, the balls will roll smoother on a slate bed due to the fact that the grains in the rock are flat and parallel, unlike the grains in MDF which are randomly oriented and blocky.
Yes, the playability is greatly affected by the brand of felt cloth you have on your table, but the type of surface has a big say in it, as well (despite what you might hear from most manufacturers and an occasional player).
If you want the best pool experience, can afford a slate table and have the room, the I urge you to buy a slate table. If you only want to play pool occasionally, want to move the table, have limited space or budget then a wood surface is the way to go.
That said, you can still have lots of fun playing pool on a wood table.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Wood Bed Table Advantages
- Price – Wood bed pool tables tend to be built using an MDF bed. This is a far cheaper material than slate and is reflected in the price. Therefore if you are on a limited budget and don’t want to source a used table, wood could be the better option.
- Weight – Wood / MDF is a lighter material than slate so it will be easier to transport and easier to move to different places within your games room.
- Beginners / kids – There are not many ‘small’ tables made of slate for kids. Plus, many parents just want a reasonably priced started to table to begin with to see if their kids enjoy the game. A small, portable wood / MDF table will be the value for money option here.
Wood Bed Table Disadvantages
- Game play – Wood / MDF tables play differently to slate. They are slower and you do not get the same ‘feel’ or control as you do with a slate table. No matter how much the manufacturer says you will.
- Warping – Over time wood / MDF can be prone to warping or deterioration especially if stored in a damp of hot/humid location.
- Liquid – Wood/MDF beds will absorb any liquid that is accidentally spilt on the table – This affect the ‘trueness’ of the surface
Slate Bed Table Advantages
- Game play – Slate provides a true, flat surface and allows for better cue ball control for straight shots. Affiliated pool tournaments with the American Amateur Pool League, playing 8 ball and 9 ball pool are played on a slate bed pool table for this reason. Therefore, you will improve more on a slate bed table.
- Warping – Slate will not warp over time and unless you hit it with something hard and take care of the table, it should last you a life time. Plus, it will not be susceptible to changes in temperature like wood is. If you spill a drink on slate, it won’t damage the slate. You will need to clean or replace the cloth, but not the slate itself.
Slate Bed Table Disadvantages
- Price – Weight is a natural material that costs more to source and shape than wood or MDF. This will have a knock on effect on the price. The equivalent slate bed table will almost always cost more than an MDF bed table and may cost more to transport.
- Weight – Slate is heavy and requires a strong frame to hold it. This means the pool table is heavy. If you want a permanent table that will not be moved then this is not a problem. If you require a portable or folding table then slate may be a problem for you.
Where to Buy Pool Tables
All in all, the differences between slate vs wood pool tables pretty much boils down to where you will be setting it up, the budget and the pool playing experience you require.
If you’re looking for a durable solution that won’t move too much and is the preferred option by professional pool leagues then a slate bed table is the way to go. They play better and last longer, though the upfront cost might deter some.
On the other hand, wood bed pool tables are much lighter (both literally and on your wallet), so you’ll have no trouble moving it. That said, they are tougher for upkeep, and must be especially guarded against humidity and water. A pool table cover can offer protection when not in use.
Personally, slate wins the slate vs wood pool table contest – But whichever way you go, fun is guaranteed.