Creating a (playable?) Pool Table prop
Like most aussies, we’ve all gone down to the pub at one point or another and shot a few balls with mates between drinks. However, unless you have the money* and space, the Pool table still remains one of those luxury items either found down at the pub or at your rich uncles house.
* I say ‘money’ for although there are a variety of cheaper pool table options available these days (read: wooden table top rather than slate), when it comes to purchasing a pool table to regularly play off – there is no substitute for quality – and you’d surely be disappointed with anything other than slate.
You can also say there is no substitute for quality when it comes to photography, well, that is the mantra I strive to live by anyway, where there is no room in the vocabulary for ‘good enough’ – it has to be either good, or it isn’t. If it isn’t, try harder.
So when I came across a few concept images of glamour models modelling on pool tables – it simply became a question of how – I was already sold on the concept.
With all the special effects photography I do (see the portfolio if you don’t understand), photo shopping in a pool table is well in the realms of possibility. However, wherever possible I do try to build the required props – or at least the items the model in question will be in close contact with. In the instance that a photograph required a pool table to be located somewhere in the background or foreground of the model, yes, I would very easily be swayed to Photoshop it in – but in the instance you want interaction – well, there is no substitute for the genuine article.
So with a few spare days up my sleeve and my collection of power tools charged and ready to go – I started out planning the construction of my very own pool table.
DISCLAIMER: The tips and story that follows should be used as a guide only. This blog in no way is mandating “the way” a pool table should be developed. However, if you are heading down the path to construct one yourself, this blog may enlighten you on a few bits and pieces and is written on the premise that ‘every little bit helps’.
Although no budget was initially set, I was mindful that I didn’t want this project to cost anywhere near as much as the out-right cost of purchasing a second hand table or cheaper wooden table. With slate obviously out of the question (I am a one-man-band here), it was clear that I was looking at a wood construction. With an idea that smaller wooden pool tables had a cost of approx. $600+, I opted for creating a mid-size table 8×10 for a budget of around $300.00.
There were to be no shortcuts (no visible ones anyway) with this table construction – as primarily the purpose of the table is to be used in photo shoots, aesthetics was critical. In addition to this, with aesthetics being so front of mind, it wouldn’t be too big a leap to therefore create it for practical use as well – though this was a secondary mandate – being ever so mindful of the challenges of developing a table top that was perfectly level in every respect for satisfactory game play.
A wood chip board 10 x 8
Felt material (Spotlight)
6x brass pockets
Balls and Cue
Staple gun, circular saw, drill and screws & wood glue.
Assembly was rather straight forward – provided you took your time and measured twice and cut once. As best practice, when constructing something I like to try and prepare all of the components and sit them together to get a general feel for how the end product will look. For one, it gives you an idea of the end goal and two, it helps with spotting any measurement errors you may have made along the way – rather than waiting till the very end and realising it doesn’t fit together.
This also helped re-assure the fact that the hole size and placement was correct. Despite studying photos of completed pool tables, the table top, minus the walls doesn’t look like much of a pool table at all – and because of this, the whole positioning and size can easily throw you off.
Once the holes were cut, it was time to lay on the felt material. For aesthetic reasons (since this is initially a photo-prop first and foremost) I wanted a punchy colour rather than the traditional green. From a game play perspective, it was important that the felt material was extremely short as to allow the ball to travel the distance. If you were designing this pool table for game play (other than recommending slate for the base), I would recommend you go to an authorised pool table supply shop and purchase your fabric from there. However, for what I intended to use it for, Spotlight worked out just fine.
The method for fixing the fabric to the table is no different whether you’re making the table as a prop or for game play. Start by rolling out the fabric onto the table surface – be sure the table surface is first of all free from all dust – the smallest spec will show up the size of a mountain under the fabric and once the fabric is down there won’t be anything you can do about it.
Starting from one side, staple the fabric to the side or base of the table, keep the staples nice and close and ensure you keep a straight line. Continue down one side of the table. Then do the opposite site, and ensure you have good tension on the fabric. Keep a close eye on the table and watch for any ripples in the material. These can usually be remedied by applying extra stretch to the material.
The walls were fitted with stiff rubber to assist with the ball bouncing off the sides and then wrapped in the same fabric as the table top. Each wall piece was then screwed into the table from underneath the table.
As a finishing touch (and to also serve as a mount for the brass pockets), additional pine was stained in a jarrah varnish and fixed onto the exterior walls.
The end result – a very versatile pool table prop that looks the part. As for game play – since I never created sturdy legs for the table I could never fully test this out – besides, once the first model climbs on it in heels, all bets are off!
For portability around the studio, the table pictured above (and below) was resting on four 400x400mm dollys – which also came in handy for shooting – allowing me to rotate the table into the perfect frame without having to move either myself or adjust the lighting.
A preview of the finished product – it’s incredible what a little smoke, lighting and a beautiful model can do!