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We have been in the game room industry for over 35 years. Most of that past was in the sales and service of billiard tables, game tables, and shuffleboard tables. I started as a billiard mechanic (someone who installs and repairs pool tables) when I was 19 years old. During our history we have had retail stores in Arizona and Texas but for the last 7 years we have focused exclusively on the manufacture and sales of shuffleboard tables available on our web site. Throughout our history we have heard the pros and cons of the polymer epoxy – bar top – poured type shuffleboard finish. At one time in Texas when we ran our retail store, we sold some game room furniture to a customer and was asked if we could move his shuffleboard from his old house to his new game room. He had about a 40 to 50 year old American Shuffleboard® and it was probably in a commercial location before he placed it in his home.
He asked if we could get the top refinished and we said, “Sure.” At the time, we called up Champion Shuffleboard® since they were in Texas and they gave us a price to have the board refinished with a new polymer top. They did a real nice job on the top but once installed it took less than one hour before the customer was calling us and asking to have it removed and bring back his old finish. He did not like the epoxy. It was not what he was used to. We called Champion Shuffleboard® but they did not do a traditional finish. They did refer us to a person who ran a repair route in Oklahoma that would go around to commercial locations and refinish boards or switch them out with a traditionally finished board. Once we got him a new top with a traditional finish he was very happy. We would like to point out here some of the things we have known about the difference from other finishes and exactly why the polymer tops are offered and prevail. The main reason was for commercial use. The type of lacquers and shellacs that were used 50 to 60 years ago simply couldn’t stand up to heavy use. The top surface would wear off after a few years and the board surface would need a new finish.
However, in the past they used all hard maple to make the board tops so they were resistant to the dings and dents when people dropped pucks on the board so wood remained in good shape and only the chemical coating needed replacement. I have seen boards that were in a commercial location for maybe up to 10 years and then in a customers home for 50 years still with the original finish or at best one extra coat of shellac put on top at one time. These boards have a few dents and dings but if we get one that is 60 years old in this good of shape we simply scuff sand it and apply a new finish. There is no need to sand down the top in a planner/sander machine and put on a completely new finish. How can we tell if the board has ever been ran though a sander and/or planner and resurfaced? It is simple; the original old boards were all hard rock maple and a full 3′ thick. Less than indicates work has been done. The main reason for this was that the board would be resurfaced a few times over its history and that 3’ thickness would allow for a new surface sanding through a machine periodically. I have seen old boards that were only 2.5 inches thick so they may have been a few times throughout their history.
Today many boards are made out of soft maple and because they pour an epoxy top over the wood, any impact on dents and dings will have no impact on the softer nature of the soft maple. However this epoxy is basically like a sheet of Plexiglas. The main reason manufacturers use soft maple is that it is less expensive, and easier on the machine tools for cutting and planning. Also if they are using a radio frequency press to glue up the boards, they can get by with a lower wattage generator since soft maple is easier to glue up and laminate. One other feature of the polymer top boards is they do not have to fill in or sand the top prior to pour the polymer with as much care because slight imperfections will be covered with the plastic. The polymer is a poured epoxy in a liquid form and it will self level and fill in any slight variations in the top. They will also surface the board down to 2 and ¾ inch thick before the pour the polymer so they can often start with boards that are only 3′ wide when they manufacture the board. With the traditional type finish we use hard maple wood just like they did 60 years ago, so it is resistant to dents and dings.
We also have to start with wood that is 3 ¼ inch thick as after we surface before the finish it will net out at a full 3 inches thick. We also have to take much more care to fill in and make sure the top is perfectly flat and surfaced both top and bottom with no imperfections prior to the finish work. With todays new finish materials you have surfaces that you can lay down 3 to 4 mils thick that are virtually either 100 percent solids or virtually all solids. We worked with our finish supplier to come up with a formula that we were confident enough to give a lifetime warranty but still retail the natural feel and beauty of the maple wood. We still offer the polymer type tops and in the case of people who want a logo on their board we have to use the poured polymer. We also will offer the polymer upon request but McClure tables makes so many traditional style shuffleboard tables.
Many are replicas of shuffleboards made in the late 40’s and 50’s so we made the decision to switch to a traditional finish on all our shuffleboard playing surfaces. Not only can you see the difference but you can also hear the difference see our latest shuffleboard YouTube video here or see below on the features of our new finish: