How and Why Do Small White Spots Appear on Brand New Billiard Fabric

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I often hear from clients that white spots are showing up soon after they had a brand new cloth stretched and fitted to their pool table.  I also hear concerns about cue marks or divots on their cloth.  Sometimes the divot “shaves off” the nap of the cloth and other times it is more severe and leaves a small hole in the cloth. 

Fibrillation:  Wool is a natural fiber that has unique characteristics, one being fibrillation, caused by the breakdown of the outer protective scales, exposing the inner fiber structure called fibrils, which reflect light, causing the white marks.  This is actually an optical illusion and if you dampen the white marks they temporarily turn back to their original color.  Chalk dust exaggerates these white marks so brushing and damp blotting will mitigate their appearance. 

Fibrillation should not be attributed to the fault of the cloth as it will appear on both traditional billiard cloth and worsted billiard fabric.  In fact, if you take one of your better woolen suits and tightly stretch it over a hard rock surface… then simply dropping a cue ball on the fabric will in fact leave a white spot due to fibrillation.  Over time the wool fibers become more damaged in areas of heavy ball contact and will show white marks.  This is part of the natural wear and tear process and has no significant effect on the playing performance.

Common Causes of Fibrillation:

  • Striking a cue ball with a good amount of force (i.e. breaking or applying a lot of cue ball spin, also called “English”.
  • Dropping a ball on the cloth or causing a ball to jump.
  • Over time white tracking marks appear under the cushion and pocket openings caused by spinning balls crushing the wool fibers between the cushion and the slate.

Cue Marks and Divots:  These are small spots which appear when the players cue tip literally “shaves off” the nap surface after striking the cue ball below mid center, often to achieve a back spin shot.  Further still, a careless or novice player could actually rip the cloth with the cue tip when taking this type of shot.  Fortunately, the small hole does not get larger over time and has minimal impact on ball roll and overall play.

 These marks are most noticeable on a new cloth but gradually become less prominent as the cloth wears.  Always check you cue tips as this type of damage appears more frequently if the cue tips have become damaged or are badly fitted, also if the edges of the ferrule are rough or sharp.

Care for Your Cloth:  In particular, players should not…

  • Spin coins, drop balls or put heavy objects on the table.
  • Use cues with sharp edges or ferrules.
  • Smoke or drink over the table.
  • Chalk cues over the table, as dust builds up and acts as an abrasive.
  • Allow novice players to strike the cue ball below center until they become proficient at properly stroking and controlling the cue stick.

Summary:  Avid payers of any sport play effortlessly and aggressively, often striking the ball hard to achieve positioning as necessary.  Unlike golf fairways where aggressive strikes create divots, which can be renewed by filling, seeding and watering… there is no such renewal on a billiard fabric.  The fabric must simply be replaced periodically.  An active billiard hall will often have their fabric changed two times per year while a home owner will allow much more time before replacing their cloth. 

 A billiard table is often a fine piece of furniture that complements your room décor.  Some pool tables are quite elaborate in their materials, carvings, inlays and finish.  The fabric color is carefully selected to complement the room setting.  Unfortunately, the only way to maintain a beautiful fabric is to strike the balls softly and carefully or not use the table.  However, if you are to enjoy the game of pool as it was meant to be played, your cloth will show it and require more frequent replacements.  Most of all enjoy your pool table, try to ingonore some of the unsightly marks that appear and know that your billiard fabric can be replaced whenever you want

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  • Chris Shanklin