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Steel Block Cushions - Pro and Con

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  • Steel Block Cushions - Pro and Con

    Reading through many posts on this forum, there seems to be a good deal of ambivalence about steel block cushions. Buyers seem to value them, sellers love to charge extra for them, and fitters consider them a cost better spent on other things. Is there any common ground to be found here? Do SBCs provide more consistent, long-lived rebound? Is rebound amplified for a given set of rubber, thereby allowing thicker, longer-lasting cloth to be used? Do SBCs help to preserve rail integrity or does the complex construction tend to degrade quicker than simpler non-SBC rails? Any thoughts?

    P.S. Geoff, you hinted that you are less than enthused about SBCs. I was not able to find any posts of yours that directly addressed this issue. Could you explain your position or direct me to a post where you have already done so? Thank you in advance - I always appreciate your expertise and common sense in table matters.

  • #2
    Hi,i can only talk from my experience as a long term snooker club owner.That experience tells me that in a commercial club they are a bad idea.My reasons are from a playing point of view if they get alot of use which is obviously what you want they need recovering at least every 3 months,if you leave them longer they will start jumping and bouncing and the pockets get tighter due to the jaws getting very lively.This leads to far too many moans and groans from your better players.
    If i was just setting up 1 or 2 tables i think i would be tempted to use them,you could get away for longer periods without a recover or just pay the extra to have them recovered regulary.

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    • #3
      TL,

      Thanks for your response. Let me see if I understand you correctly.

      The SBCs are too lively from the start, but the table is initially and for some time reasonably playable due to the slowing effect of new cloth. Once the cloth wears (cushion, bed, both?), the true speed of the SBCs is asserted and the balls begin to jump and bounce out of pockets. Also, the amplified rebound of SBCs works to wear cushion cloth faster than normally rebounding cushions.

      Questions:

      Why would SBCs cause increased wear of cushion cloth? Is it just because players tend to play them more often?

      All cushions get "faster" as cloth (bed and cushion) wears. Do only SBCs become unacceptably fast as cloth wears?

      Thanks again for the info.

      Comment


      • #4
        steels are a good thing if you want consistant bounce , but they have design flaws the centre pockets always wear through fast , this is down to the edge of the steel and the pocket opening as a ball hits it then the cloth will split down the sides of the cushions , Each side just as the ball is falling into the pocket fall . on older televised games in the 70s and 80-s I have noticed this .

        steels where used becuase of the weight and stiffness of them along the full lenth ,but other methods of cushion make up is just as good , Cuban mahogany is a very heavy wood and can give just as good bounce as steels .

        the reason fitters are not too keen on them is because they are more awkward to recover than standard cushions , also the rerubber is more difficult , and at each end are flimsy pieces of wood that you have to staple into which are often Broken or crumbling , Thurston made some cushions called the Adamant cushion where they inlaid slate inserts along the lenth of each cushion , this made the cushions very heavy and the rsult is a better bounce , some recent manufacturers have copied the adamant cushion but use steel inserts inplace of the slate , these are also heavy and if made correct with the steel underlapping the block whiuch the rubber sits on , they can be just as good as steel block cushions .

        another thing I have noticed on steel block cushions is the surround woodwork often warps and the tops are either dipping below the back edge of the steel or are proud of it , in my opinion it's about time someone revised how to stiffen a cushion up useing the same methods of thurstons adamant cushion , life would be so much easier for a fitter .
        [/SIGPIC]http://www.gclbilliards.com

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        • #5
          As always thanks for that Geoff. So would you rate a good cuban mahogany table as being the best?
          王可

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          • #6
            Interesting topic Williak. Can you post some information about the dimensions of the steel block. How thick and wide the steel plate is used. And what are the measurements and shape of the Cuban mahogany cushion blocks. It will help to determine the performance difference between the two.
            Thanks

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            • #7
              hsn , Crossed wires here cuban mahogany is the whole cushion not the blocks that the rubber is attached to these are soft wood as they even are on steel cushions , I do not know why people call them steel block cushions when they are realy just a steel plate cushions , Even Burroughs and watts never called them steel block , they always advertised them as Steel vacuum cushions due to holes drilled behind the rubber rebate causeing vacuum to make the ball bounce more , a failed design thats why they dropped the vaccum advertiseing , the plate being a 3/8th thickness of plate that the soft wood cushion rubber blocks are screwed to .
              the reason soft wood cushion blaoks are used is to accept tacks or stapel easy , hard blocks would split with the amount of recovering being done over the years .

              a standard cushion is the type manufactured entirley of wood ( Normaly hard wood ) in a three section format , upper capping includeing moulding , body block which has the bolt holes for cushion bolts and lower moulding , if a slide out panel is required the upper body and lower mouldings are rebated for this . if buttons are used to hide the cushion bolts no rebate slot is required .

              Phil most cuban mahogany tables where manufactured before modern times so impossible to find a cuban mahogany modern table , you require a modern table for modern play so would still recomend the K & hillman or riley aristocrat with adjustable munting .

              steels are overrated . if you change the rubber in an acceptable time of say 10 to 20 years , they will and should keep a good bounce once bruised in which normaly takes the first 6 months .

              the tables on TV would prob be new rubber and new recover , imagine what the speed of the bounce would be if they used older 6 month old used bruised in rubber cushions used on say a club or practice tables first ? , a new recover will trap rubber until the cushion cloth loosens up normaly after a week of play . the new cloth restricts the bounce on a freshly recovered table .

              a ball thrown down the table should rebound around 4.5 lenths of a normal cushioned table and 5 lenths on steels , is that half a run realy worth the extra you pay for steels ? both these scenarios should have northern rubber on them of course and not hte lower quality chinese stuff .
              Last edited by Geoff Large; 9th January 2012, 01:55 AM.
              [/SIGPIC]http://www.gclbilliards.com

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              • #8
                Don't laugh. Would it be possible to bruise in rubbers before they were fitted? My idea was runnng a roller or something over them.
                王可

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                • #9
                  not realy Phil they need a ball hitting into the rubber as it is fixed to the block to bruise them in proper .
                  [/SIGPIC]http://www.gclbilliards.com

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                  • #10
                    Thank you Geoff. I am interested to learn about the measurements of the steel blocks (steel plates, if you like). As an expeienced fitter, can you share with us your knowledge about the thickness and width of such steel plates that are being used on the modern tables such as Star?
                    As far as my internet reseach has shown they are 12mm thick. The slate the "Star" uses is 50mm thick. If you add the height of the rubber cushions that is 31.75mm to the thickness of slate plus the wooden underborder of slate which is 25.4mm; the steel plate should be at least 107.15mm (4.2 inches)wide.
                    Please correct me. And do also let us know the measurement of the groove at the back of the steel plate that accepts the cloth retaining slip.
                    Thank you

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I have not worked on a star table yet so do not know the measurements of the steels , the older steels there are three differant types , if you are making a set of steels it may be lower costs to find a second hand set and just wrok with them .
                      we are breaking a set of steels out of a Burroughs and watts table without cappings , you are most welcome for those at £120 , I also have a set of steels with oak cappings and pocket plates in raw form as they came off the table for £300 .

                      yuou have to realise I am a Billiards fitter not a table manufacture , i have never bothered to measure the lenths of steels and thats in 36 years of fitting , although i could measure the next set I take off , my role is recovering and rerubbersing , and setting up tables , measurements of lenth and thickness of the steel plate is not realy inportant or warrented in my line of work , i use the table and bolt the cushions to it for guaging the pocket openings . or take a Cardboard template off the old rubber if they are happy with the openings and rerpoduce the pocket width as before .

                      Geoff
                      Last edited by Geoff Large; 10th January 2012, 10:47 AM.
                      [/SIGPIC]http://www.gclbilliards.com

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                      • #12
                        As per Geoff:
                        ""the reason fitters are not too keen on them is because they are more awkward to recover than standard cushions , also the rerubber is more difficult , and at each end are flimsy pieces of wood that you have to staple into which are often Broken or crumbling ,""

                        These annoying little pieces of wood that you have to staple the cloth to are often insufficient. I have an 80's Westbury BCE that I recently revovered. BCE made a great table but these little 'wedges' really spoil the whole quality of the table. Geoff is correct - they fracture (they're made of pine so they take a staple easy), but are screwed to the steel block. They often fracture becuase of these screws. They're also very important since they form the inside shape of the pocket and follow the natural angle at which the steel is cut (as per the cloth splitting). If these 'wedges' are mis-shaped in anyway they will cause balls to jump out of the pocket.

                        Anyway , I have no other comment and just wanted to vent and thanks Geoff for pointing this out. There has to be a better material to make these things out of (possibly with the option off covering the steel-end to prevent middle pocket tearing).

                        jono

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                        • #13
                          Some of the early steels had shorter lenths of steel with these added angle end staple woods being rebated back and also compound cut , making replacements very hard to make hence they extended the steels and made the ends more square with a sloping angle , and made smaller pieces of staple end woods , but these allow the steels to show around the slate falls and often split the cloth on the centre pockets .
                          I think a whole new way of making steel cushions is required and I see no better way than try and duplicate a standard cushion with steel block inserts like the Adamant thurston table , but it is hard to bring about change .
                          [/SIGPIC]http://www.gclbilliards.com

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                          • #14
                            This is very good offer at this price had I needed the steels.
                            I am looking forward to read the measurements though.
                            Let me add one more thing to take your expert opinion on; I have read in some forum that the thickness/girth of the bolts that are used to secure the steel plates to slate also affects the bounce of the cushions. As a fitter I hope you always check the response of cushions after you finish the job.
                            Next time can you please also measure the girth of the bolts for rerader's curiosity.
                            Thank you
                            Originally posted by Geoff Large View Post
                            I have not worked on a star table yet so do not know the measurements of the steels , the older steels there are three differant types , if you are making a set of steels it may be lower costs to find a second hand set and just wrok with them .
                            we are breaking a set of steels out of a Burroughs and watts table without cappings , you are most welcome for those at £120 , I also have a set of steels with oak cappings and pocket plates in raw form as they came off the table for £300 .

                            yuou have to realise I am a Billiards fitter not a table manufacture , i have never bothered to measure the lenths of steels and thats in 36 years of fitting , although i could measure the next set I take off , my role is recovering and rerubbersing , and setting up tables , measurements of lenth and thickness of the steel plate is not realy inportant or warrented in my line of work , i use the table and bolt the cushions to it for guaging the pocket openings . or take a Cardboard template off the old rubber if they are happy with the openings and rerpoduce the pocket width as before .

                            Geoff

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                            • #15
                              The bolts used to secure the steels are just cut down cushion bolts , they are the same thread as the slate insert bolt on burroughs and watts tables . so there is no differanc in girth of the bolt to a normal cushion bolt . modern chinese steels may differ with thread and I have come across some lower cost chinese steels with such thinner bolts .
                              all bolts on cushions are tigntened up with my carpenters brace and wide bit unless they have a socket head then I use my socket brace with 17mm socket ,,until tight then given an extra 1/8th to a 1/4 turn to make sure they are tight , the bolts also have good thick penny washers on this makes the differance not the size of bolt but a washer that will span the slot in steels .
                              on modern steels there is no cushion bolt slot just a large hole .
                              if you are playing on a table with steels on why not just measure the lenth of the back edge of the steel where the cloth meets the capping , deduct 1/8th for thickness of cloth and you have youre lenth with the outer end woods on , you can normaly feel where this end wood stops so you could then deduct this off , if you cannot feel it take a magnet to find where the steel starts .
                              Testing bounce directly after a recover is not going to give its true speed as new cloth will trap the rubber and restrict it from its full responce in bounce , when the cloth has given a bit the bounce will be better .
                              as for testing a cushion after fitting if I have gone through my procedure of tightening then no further turn will be possible without risking Bolt snap off , what I am trying to say is so what if the rubber is not as good as you thought after a recover , is it the fitters Fault ? some tables are faster than others but it may not all be down to the cushion rebound , other things such as hieght of block BY MANUFACTURER can not be correct , the rubbers are old and require replaceing , or the cloth nap is long or cloth is thicker then last cloth and slowing the ball speed down , or the most common fault is the cushion cloth is tight and restricting the bounce , which playing in will solve .
                              as stated before the total run lenth of a ball thrown down a table is 5 to 5.5 runs on a good set of steels , and 4.5 on standard cushions . there is always going to be a table that is alittle faster , you also have to take in the worn down cloth and tempreture of the room , moisture content too .

                              Geoff
                              [/SIGPIC]http://www.gclbilliards.com

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