Why Do Pool Tables Use Slate?

Pool tables are notoriously heavy. Some of the weight comes from the frame, but most of the pool table’s weight comes from its slate bed. This makes the table challenging to move and maintain, so you’ve got to wonder why pool tables use slate in the first place.

Slate is used for pool tables because it is a durable material that naturally splits into large flat pieces. These pieces can be polished into a perfectly flat surface, which is necessary for playing pool.

If you still have questions about pool table slate and other options for pool table beds, then keep reading because we’ve got the answers.

Why Do Pool Tables Have Slate Beds?

Slate is a metamorphic rock made up of clays and minerals, but may also contain a significant amount of quartz. It is usually dark gray. But what makes slate the best choice for pool table construction is that it can be split into thin, flat pieces because of the parallel orientation of the clay and minerals. This is called slaty cleavage.

For most pool tables, the large piece of slate is cut into three pieces to make it easier to move and to allow for more precise leveling, but some pool tables do use a single piece.

When purchasing a three-piece slate, it is important to ensure that each piece is from the same original piece of slate. Most three-piece slates will have a chalk arc drawn across the slate, so that when put together, it is easy to tell what order they should be in and that they were from the same piece. For more about three-piece slates, check out our post that goes over all the advantages and disadvantages.

Here are the properties of slate that make it an excellent choice for pool table beds:

  • Because of slate’s slaty cleavage, pool table slate is easier than other stones to make perfectly flat by grinding and polishing.
  • Slate is durable. (Although it can be broken if you stand on the table or place something heavy on it.)
  • Slate will not warp in humid condition and is not impacted by normal levels of indoor heat.

Do All Pool Tables Use Slate?

Not all pool tables use slate, but the best ones most certainly do. Here are some of the other materials used to construct pool table beds:

  • MDF: Medium-Density Fiberboard is an engineered wood product. It is generally used on less expensive pool tables. Its main advantage is that it is much lighter than slate, but it doesn’t last nearly as long.
  • Wood: Antique pool tables had wooden beds! Slate started being used in the 1800s because wood tends to warp.
  • Plastic: There are a variety of different methods of using plastic to create a pool table bed. Pool tables that use plastic are usually very inexpensive and low quality.

Just because a pool table doesn’t have slate doesn’t mean it isn’t a good buy for some. It depends on how much you play and how long you want the pool table to last. If you only anticipate playing with your kids for a few years and then retiring the table, one of these options might be great for you.

Also important is that different pool table thicknesses will impact the weight of the table. Interested in learning more about slate thickness? We’ve got just the post for you.

Is It Worth Getting a Slate Table?

The jury is out on this one. If you play regularly and seriously, then there is no substitute for a slate pool table. Slate is by far the best material to use for a pool table bed because:

  • Slate’s slaty cleavage means that is can be cleaved into large, flat pieces.
  • Slate lasts a long time as long as you treat it well.
  • Slate isn’t impacted by humidity and heat.

But if you’re just looking to have a little competitive fun with your family or guests and don’t anticipate keeping the pool table for years to come, then a cheaper and lighter table without a slate bed might be the best option. It all depends on what you’re looking to get out of your pool table!


Benny is the owner of Supreme Billiards and has been shooting pool and teaching people how to shoot pool for a few years now. He enjoys showing new players techniques and drills to improve their pool game.

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