Making Cushions Part 1

There are two types of cushion on a full size billiards table, one made totally out of wood and one based on a long piece of steel with a wooden frame behind it. The advantage of a 'steel block' cushion is that it is extremely heavy and you tend to get a slightly more consistent rebound off it; also, most of the top level match tables have steel block cushions. This series of photgraphs shows the making of these cushions for a full size table, starting with the basic steel blocks.

Initially, the steel blocks are bolted to the slate. At this point the bolts are left fairly loose because the wooden blocks (you can see one on the table) will be screwed to the steels and the steels will need to be moved up and down to the correct height. The wooden blocks are the correct height for the cushions and are easier to fit if the steels are attached. You can see the small holes at the back of the steels (near the top) for the screws. It is important to make sure that the wooden blocks are level with the top of the steels - a few taps here and there using a small hammer, will help to do this!

Once the wooden block is attached to the steel, a template is used to draw an arc where the wood will need to be cut. The first cut is made using a saw and then a chisel is used to cut around the arc. Finally a file is used to smooth off the wood.

This photograph shows how a small ledge is left in the wooden block, for the rubber to sit on.

Steel block cushions need a piece of wood at each end, to attach the cloth. These pieces of wood are attached to the back of the steel with 2 screws. As the steels used for this project were quite old most of these pieces of wood were split so it was necessary to make new ones, but this photograph shows one that was in reasonable condition.

Here, 14 (2 more than the 12 required, to allow for mistakes) pieces of softwood have been cut.

The softwood is then cut, using a saw, at the same angle as the steel and the saw needs to run along the steel to do this. The wood is then shaped.

The rubber used for this project was Northern Rubber, a high quality and long-lasting rubber.

The rubber is attached to the wood using contact adhesive, making sure that the top of the rubber is flush with the top of the wood.

Around the pocket openings the adhesive may not be strong enough, particularly on the sharp middle pocket corners. A dab of superglue may be required here.

The end of the rubber can then be then cut off.

A template is needed in order to draw the pocket line - you can see a couple of perspex templates in the previous photograph.

Rubber is a strange substance and there's a few tricks to cutting it. First of all, a sharp knife, such as a stanley knife, will not work! The best tool for cutting rubber is something similar to a stiff kitchen knife, but it must not be too sharp. The knife should not be sharpened in the usual way, but on very rough sandpaper. The sandpaper will make scratches and grooves on the knife blade, and this helps. To cut through rubber the knife must be wet, so it needs to be constantly dipped into a glass of water.

Once cut, a middle pocket should look something like this.

A good view from the top of the cushion.

Cloth adhesive tape is then applied to the cushion. This adds strength to the rubber join and helps to particularly strengthen the corners.

The tape is wrapped around the corners and stapled to the softwood block.

These cushions are now ready for covering. This photograph clearly shows the two screws that attach the softwood to the steel and also shows the shaping of the long wooden block corners. For this project the long wooden blocks were hardwood.

Before the cushions are covered, all of the cushions need to be attached to the table, to make sure that the pocket sizes are OK and that no further cutting needs to be made.

Pocket templates are used for each pocket.

The six cushion cloths can be laid out and sprayed with adhesive, before glueing to the back of the steel. Interestingly, at the back of each steel is a long groove and traditionally a long thin piece of wood was planed to slot into this groove, tapped in with a hammer to jam the cloth into the back of the steel. However, with the improvement in modern glues, there is no need for this time consuming process. .

The top of the steel is also sprayed with adhesive and the cloth carefully applied.

Another view of this task.

Once the cloth has stuck, it is stretched around the rubber and stapled to the long wooden block. Any excess cloth is cut away with a stanley knife.

That's all so far! A big thank you to Ben Plummer for his expert technical advice, without which I would never have dreamed of entering into such a project. Thanks also to Pete Camm for doing such a great job on the cushions.