Pool table bumpers are usually soft, however, they can harden with age and lack of proper care. The hardening of the bumpers will impact the speed at which your balls rebound. As such, it is essential to know how to take care of these bumpers.
More importantly, how to ensure the bumpers maintain their softness over a long period. There are several things you can do that we will discuss, among them how to soften pool table bumpers. There are also tests you can conduct to tell if your bumpers are hard.
How to Soften pool table bumpers
There are several things you need to do to ensure your pool table bumpers stay soft for longer. The most important things to do are;
Protect the table from the elements
Pool table bumpers are made of hard rubber and are glued to the rails; as such are vulnerable to hardening over time. However, the process can be hastened by exposure to the elements. Rain, the sun, and dirt are all bad for your pool table.
Therefore, keeping your pool table indoors in the den, game room, or basement is advisable. These are all areas that are away from the weather. If you want to keep your pool table on the patio or outdoor, it is important to invest in some type of covering.
Also, ensure the table is kept in a shaded area away from direct sunlight and well covered in case of rain.
Do not use cleaning chemicals.
Depending on how often you use it, you will be cleaning your pool table is something you will be doing either frequently or a few times. When cleaning the table, especially the rails and the bumpers, avoid detergents with cleaning chemicals.
These chemicals will do more harm than good. Instead, use a damp cloth to wipe away any dust on the bumpers or rails.
Insulate the room if possible
Rubber as a material is hardened by being exposed to high temperatures. As such, the rubber on your bumpers can harden quickly if the room temperature is high. It may be a good idea to insulate the room where the pool table is.
Vacuum the felt covers
Dirt can get trapped in the felt covers, and this dirt may negatively affect the bumpers. To avoid this, it is recommended to vacuum the felt covers. A hand vacuum set to the lowest suction setting is recommended for this task.
If you have a standing vacuum, do not use it with an attachment with a rotating brush. Instead, use one with soft bristles. The best attachment to use, though, is one without bristles.
Follow the rules
There are rules to follow to keep the pool table in tip-top shape when it comes to pool table maintenance. The first is that you should not lean on the table or bump against it. Furthermore, food and drinks should be kept away from the table.
Also, while it may seem obvious, do not sit or stand on the pool table. Using a table cover to cover the table when you are not playing is also recommended to keep the bumpers in good shape.
How to inspect the bumpers/cushions
As already mentioned, if the bumpers are damaged or worn out, you will not be able to enjoy the game. It is thus helpful to know how to inspect the bumpers. There are a number of tests you can use to test the quality of the bumpers.
Test-1: The BCA test
The Billiard Congress of America test is done by shooting the cue ball from the head spot to the foot spot with a firm stroke. For this test, ensure the ball is centered. The ball should travel the entire length of the table four times without jumping. If you do not get this result, then you may want to check your bumpers.
Test-2: Inspecting by sight
The cushions of a pool table are upright, and the edges are usually steady and even. However, when the bumpers are damaged, the table edges will look uneven as the bumpers sag. The sagging of the bumpers is usually caused by exposure to high temperatures.
By looking at the edges and cushions, you should be able to detect this sagging and the uneven table edges.
Test-3: Hand test
Squeezing the cushions by hand will also give you an idea of their condition. Ideally, when you squeeze the cushions, they should not press inwards more than a quarter of an inch and not more than an eighth of an inch.
Ideally, the cushions should feel like strong and bouncy rubber when squeezed and not like wood. Bad cushions will feel more like wood when squeezed.
Test-4: The feel test
Another test you can do with your hands is running your fingers below the rails all around the table. You should try to feel for worn spaces between the cushion and the table. If you detect any kind of space, it may indicate that your bumpers are not in good shape.
Test-5: Bounce test
Another test you can do is rolling a ball into the rails. Ideally, the ball should bounce back onto the playing field quickly. If this does not happen and the ball comes to a stop, then it may be a sign of faulty bumpers.
Test-6: Spin test
To do this test, aim the ball at the rails with a moderate topspin. When you strike the ball, and it jumps more than an inch, it may be a sign of bad bumpers.
Exceptions to bad bumpers
The tests outlined above do not always mean that your bumpers are faulty. The defect may be caused by a problem with other parts of the table. Here are other things that may cause inconsistencies when playing.
First-1: Loose rails bolts
Pool table slates are usually bolted using rail bolts. Sometimes these bolts become loose and cause vibrations. These vibrations cause the ball to slow down when it hits the bumpers and make it seem like the bumpers are faulty.
So sometimes, the culprit may be loose rail bolts and not defective bumpers. It is important to check this before blaming it on the bumpers.
Second-1: Improper cushion installation
In some cases, the cause of the ball slowing down after hitting the bumper may be an improper installation of the cushions. This happens mostly when the cloth is overly pulled so that the cushion rubber sits low.
The effect of this is that the ball will not travel consistently after hitting the cushions and may be the reason why it’s traveling slower than usual.
Third-1: Low-quality rubber
If you perform the bounce test and the results are not positive, it may be because of poor quality rubber on the cushions. Cheap low-quality rubber typically does not have the same bounce as high-quality rubber. Low-quality rubber is usually pink in color, with higher quality rubber being amber or tan in color.
Fourth-1: Degraded rubber
The ball’s bounce loss can also be caused by the cushion rubber being degraded over time. This can be as a result of natural wear and tear or poor maintenance of the pool table.
How to pick the right pool table bumper
When you want to replace your pool table bumpers, you will be presented with various options. So how do you pick the right one? The main things to consider when shopping for a new pool table bumper are.
Know Your Pool table cushion profile
It is important to know what cushions/bumper profile your pool table uses. More often than not, American pool tables use a k66 cushion profile. Snooker and billiard tables typically use the k55 profile, which is a little shorter.
The k55 is thicker and bigger and is ideal for larger tables that use bigger balls. There are also the u23 bumpers that are shorter and slimmer. These are typically used in ⅞ coin-operated bars pool table.
Pool tables come in different sizes from 7ft to 9 ft, and bumpers are designed for different sizes. A bumper designed for a 7ft table will not fit a 9 ft table and vice versa. Thus it is important to check what table size a bumper is designed to fit.
Bumper Quality Vary For Price
Price is another thing to consider. Most of the best bumpers will typically cost more, and this is something to note. Ideally, you want bumpers made from high-quality gum with a high gum content.
Cushion end facings
End facings are small strips of rubber glued on the edges. They ensure consistent bounce, and in some cases, bumpers do not come with them. The best end facings are typically made from 3/16 neoprene.
How to Replace Pool Table Cushions
If your cushions are faulty or worn out, they will need to be replaced. Replacing table cushions is not a complicated process and is something you can do yourself. So what is the procedure for replacing table cushions?
Before we get to the procedure, let’s see what tools we will need for the task. Typically you will require three main tools for this process; a stapler gun, staple remover, and a scrapper. But that is not all.
You will also need the new cushions, cushion facing, staple pins, a featherstrip, and in some cases, a new felt.
Step one: Loosen the rails.
The first thing to do is to loosen the rails. As a precaution, keep the screws and nuts that hold up the rails safe. Once loosened, remove the rails and put them aside away from the table.
Step Two: Remove the staple pins
Next, remove the staple pins that are used to pin the felt to the rails. These will usually be found on the lower side of the rails.
Step three: remove the featherstrip
The next thing to remove is the featherstrip. Now, this is a delicate part that can break easily; as such, ensure you do it gently and try not to break it. But if you do end up breaking it, you need to have an extra one on standby.
Removing the feathrestrip will cause the felt cover to fall off easily. If you do not intend on replacing the felt, clean it and place it aside.
Step Four: Remove the bumper
The bumper will be attached to the softer part of the rails using glue. Use a flat-edged tool to pry away the old bumper. Next, using the scraper, scrape away any remaining glue residue on the wood. Do this ensuring you do not scrape the wood.
Step five: attach the new bumper.
Apply a generous amount of glue on the wood and attach the new bumper. Bumpers usually have more canvas than rubber on one side. Attach the cushion with the rubber side facing up, and allow the cushion to set.
Step six: attach the cushion facing.
Next, cut out the pockets and apply glue to attach the cushion facing. Ensure that the whole part is set and check for any unglued parts between the cushion and the rails.
Step seven: re-attach the feather strip.
Use the feather strip to secure the end of the felts. Do this by gently tapping on the feather strip with a wooden mallet. A hammer is not recommended as it will break the feather strip.
Step Eight: Draw the felt
Finally, draw and staple the felt secure without tightening it too much. Take caution when stapling the wrinkles around the edges.
Are pool table bumpers universal?
No pool table bumpers come in different profiles and are designed to fit different-sized pool tables. As such, you cannot install a bumper designed for a 9 ft table to a 7 ft table. Also, some use k55 profile bumpers others use k66 profile bumpers.
Pool table bumpers are made for rubber made from natural gum. As such, they are built to be tough and last long, with some of the best pool table bumpers lasting up to 25 to 50 years. However, this is only possible if the bumpers and the table as a whole is well maintained.
Thus it is vital to learn how to soften pool table bumpers to ensure you get the most out of them.