Making Cushions Part 2

Part 1 showed how the main part of the cushions were made, but although that's the most important part of a cushion it would not be of any use without the wood that bolts on to it. It is this wooden 'freeze" that holds the pocket plates, and of course makes the whole thing look pretty! The freeze can be made out of any wood, in this case it was good quality Oak, purchased from Smithfield Timber, Middlesbrough. As it took me a while to start the project the wood was stored for a while before being put to use. This is far from ideal and the wood can easily warp, so it was clamped together to minimise this.

If you are confident about working with wood you could use solid pieces of wood, but if you have had minimal woodwork experience it is certainly easier to use three separate pieces of wood to make up each cushion (there's also a fourth piece of wood for the slat that slides in to hide the bolts, but this needs very little machining).

This photo shows the three pieces of wood. The dimensions of each were: 87cm x 36cm for the top, 42cm x 49cm for the middle and 77cm x 23 cm for the bottom. It was important that the top face should have a nice grain as it would be the main part to be seen.

You should be able to see that the wood has been routed to cut out various sections. As the wooden cushion freeze is bolted to the steel blocks, it has to fit up to the steel. You will remember from Part 1 that there were softwood blocks that were used close to each pocket, attached to the steel, so that the cloth could be stapled or tacked to them. The oak had to be routed so that the softwood wood fit inside the routed oak.

The three pieces of oak need to be attached together. This is quite a tricky job because the whole cushion needs to be flush to the steel. Remember that the top of the steel has the baize on it so this adds about 1mm thickness, so if you fix the wood exactly level the cushion will tilt downwards. In other words, you need to allow for the 1mm thickness of the baize.

Screws were used to attach the three pieces of wood. Two quick release clamps and two G clamps were used to keep the wood in place whilst fixing the screws. The best way to join the wood pieces was to first of all fix a screw near the centre of the cushion and then work outwards, manipulating the wood and clamping it to get the correct distances. You will have noticed that the middle piece of wood is much narrower than the other two and one of the reasons for this is that the bolts that attach the freeze to the steel protrude about 9mm so to save routing, the middle piece of wood is recessed (about 11mm).

The screws are invisible because they are inserted from the bottom cushion upwards. It is important to pilot drill first of all and use a little bit of grease on the screw to help it slide through the wood.

This diagram shows how the three pieces of oak were joined, using a 4mm by 100mm screw.

It was worth trying a middle pocket plate whilst the leather was still on it, to make sure that the pocket would not protrude beyond the back of the cushion rail.

This photo shows how the pocket plates used in this instance were slightly too large for the opening. It was important to fix the middle pocket plates before the corner pocket plates. The opening for the middle pocket plates to slot into was 87mm, in this case.

It was important to have sufficient distance between the fall of the middle pocket and the leather, at the front of the pocket plate. If this distance was too short the ball may bounce back out of the pocket. This is much more of a problem with middle pockets, rather than corner pockets. In this case a distance of just over 4½ inches (114 mm) inches was allowed, which is about the minimum that you would want. Interestingly, modern pro match tables have a much greater depth from the pocket plate to the slate drop, than those found on older tables.

This photo shows how the oak was routed to allow the fitting of the brass pocket plates.

You can see how the middle pocket plate fits into the routed edges. If the pocket plate was an exact size then routing would not be necessary.

This photo shows the finished middle pocket.

Once the middles were finished, it was time to cut the wood to size for the corners. The exact length of the freeze depends on the shape and size if the corner plates.

On this photo you can see the different lengths of wood (the middle and bottom pieces are longer than the top rail).

The measurement from the pocket plate to the drop of the slate is not so critical for the corner pockets but 5½ inches (140 mm) inches is regarded as a minimum.

This is another view of the "setting up" of the corner plates. The block of wood is used to determine the distance to the slate drop.

The distance to the back of the cushion rail needs to be constant.

Also, it needs to look right. In this photo you can see the pencil markings annotating where the cushion rail will be cut.

A bit of masking tape comes in handy to mark the cushions. Also, a protractor can be used to mark the 45 degree lines, as with these pocket plates a small 45 degree cut was needed.

The rail is cut and the plates then need to be fitted. It is important not to drill the holes too low, because low pockets can cause a ball to jump out. The cushion is also drilled from below to allow the bolt to fit into the pocket plate thread. It is this bolt that tightens the plate and holds it rigid.

Once all the pocket plates have been fitted the cushions can be routed to make them look pretty.

This photo shows the pattern that was used on the router, to shape the top and the bottom pieces of wood and to cut a slot for the thinner wooden slats to fit into.

Finally, you can attach the finished article to the steels.