Pool tables are no strangers to abuse. Just pop into any bar and you’ll see: scratched and scuffed, sat upon and spilled upon, they definitely take a beating. But that means plenty of work for the folks who make a living repairing the key piece of equipment in America’s favorite bar sport.
“People are people and every job is a little bit different,” said Ron Flexon, owner of Atlanta-based Affordable Billiard Service Inc. “Whatever condition its in, you have to pull it apart until it’s in manageable pieces.”
The job brings billiard-table repairmen to an assortment of work sites, from people’s homes to dive bars, college rec rooms, YMCAs, and even major billiards tournament halls. Josh Ebert, owner of Absolute Billiard Service in Dayton, Ohio, says he’s serviced pool tables in the homes of some pro players, at a billiards convention in Las Vegas, and even been called all the way to North Carolina for a job. Again, he’s based in Dayton.
“That’s one of the perks of the job,” Ebert said. “You’re potentially in a different place and different environment every day. You’re doing the same thing, but you’re also not.”
Despite the travel, pool table servicing tends to be a fairly small-scale job. Flexon’s company is made up of three full-time employees, two part-timers and a couple trucks. Ebert’s business is a two-man operation, with one truck. The tools are relatively simple, as well: screw guns to take the table apart, electric staplers to pin the felt down, beeswax to seal the slate table tops together, blowtorches to melt the wax, and a collection of basic hand tools.
But no service job is without its crazy stories.
“We were at a job in a bad part of town,” Ebert said, “and we started replacing the cloth on a table and saw that the rubber on one of the rails had a bulge in it. We got underneath and pulled a chunk of irregular-shaped metal out of it. I asked the customer about it and she didn’t know what it was. I kind of half-jokingly asked her if it was a bullet. Her eyes got big and she says, ‘Oh yeah, that was in ’06!’ I guess she’d had a party and someone fired a gun and the bullet got embedded into the rail.”
Not exactly the kind of shot Ebert is used to seeing on a pool table.