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Posted by Ray Neset on Thu, Nov 14, 2013 @ 17:11 PM

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Minneapolis Convention Center, Hall C 1301 Second Avenue South, Mpls.

The Midwest Home & Holiday Show is a gathering of 200 of the Twin Cities' best remodelers, landscapers, designers, retailers & home improvement specialists. November 15, 16, 17, 2013. Join us for Minnesota's premiere show for home improvement ideas and gift shopping, all under one roof. From learning how to build it yourself to selecting the perfect flooring for your foyer, this show has it all. That's why I love the 23rd Annual Midwest Home and Holiday Show—held at the Minneapolis Convention Center this weekend. The Midwest Home & Holiday Show will be the premier home & holiday event offering the best trends and innovations in remodeling, design, buying tips, home services, fun entertaining, and holiday.

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2013 Schedule

Friday, November 15

1:00 p.m. All Areas Show Opens
2:00 p.m. COBORNS Delivers – Feature area 242 Cambria Holiday Culinary Kitchen
2:30 p.m. Ask the Experts –  Feature area 830 Metro Blooms – Andy Novak – How to Build a Raingarden
3:00 p.m. COBORNS Delivers – Feature area 242 Cambria Holiday Culinary Kitchen
3:30 p.m. Ask the Experts –  Feature area 830 Floor Coverings International – Jean Schmidt – How to select the right flooring
4:00 p.m. COBORNS Delivers – Feature area 242 Cambria Holiday Culinary Kitchen
4:30 p.m. Ask the Experts –  Feature area 830 SLH Home Systems – Don Hains – The Smart Way to a Smart Home
6:00 p.m. All Areas Show Closes
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Saturday, November 16

10:00 a.m. All Areas Show Opens
11:30 a.m. Ask the Experts –  Feature area 830 Metro Blooms – Laura Hurley – How to Build a Raingarden
12:00 p.m. COBORNS Delivers – Feature area 242 Cambria Holiday Culinary Kitchen
12:30 p.m. Ask the Experts –  Feature area 830 Floor Coverings International – Hiram Stratton – Common Flooring Misconceptions
1:00 p.m. COBORNS Delivers – Feature area 242 Cambria Holiday Culinary Kitchen
1:30 p.m. Ask the Experts –  Feature area 830 SLH Home Systems – Don Hains – The Smart Way to a Smart Home
2:00 p.m. COBORNS Delivers – Feature area 242 Cambria Holiday Culinary Kitchen
2:30 p.m. Ask the Experts –  Feature area 830 The Home Depot – Kevin Murphy and Matt Morey – The New Age of Lighting
6:00 p.m. All Areas Show Closes
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Sunday, November 17

11:00 a.m. All Areas Show Opens
12:00 p.m. COBORNS Delivers – Feature area 242 Cambria Holiday Culinary Kitchen
12:30 p.m. Ask the Experts –  Feature area 830 Metro Blooms – Rich Harrison – How to Build a Raingarden
1:00 p.m. COBORNS Delivers – Feature area 242 Cambria Holiday Culinary Kitchen
1:30 p.m. Ask the Experts –  Feature area 830 Floor Coverings International – Josh Loren – Floor Cleaning Tips: Protect Your Investment
2:00 p.m. COBORNS Delivers – Feature area 242 Cambria Holiday Culinary Kitchen
2:30 p.m. Ask the Experts –  Feature area 830 SLH Home Systems – Don Hains – The Smart Way to a Smart Home
3:30 p.m. Ask the Experts –  Feature area 830 The Home Depot – Kevin Murphy and Chad Scheutte – The New Age of Lighting
5:00 p.m. All Areas Show Closes
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Topics: Buying Tips, Pool Tables, Billiards, Fun, All American Recreation, Spas, Foosball, Comprehensive

Table tennis growing in popularity thanks to Hollywood

Posted by Ray Neset on Fri, Nov 08, 2013 @ 16:11 PM

SPiN L.A.Table tennis has been around since the 1880's, but that doesn't mean that images of Victorians should immediately come to mind when thinking of ping pong players.  Quite the opposite is likely the case.

In recent years a handful of movies have been made to help shape the perception of the sport in the minds of everyone.
No tie required
In 2002, the comedy/drama Pingu-Pongu was released.  This Japanese film directed by Fumihiko Sori is about the growth and friendship of two different high-school table tennis players, "Peco" Hoshino, the brash, arrogant player, determined to turn pro and his quiet, nerdy childhood friend "Smile" Tsukimoto.

Smile frustrates his coach because he sees it as just a game. In teaching him, his coach learns that coaching is more than just training students to be good players.  Meanwhile, Peco experiences a crisis when defeated.  He's unable to play well until he rediscovers the reasons why he played to begin with.
You don't have to be a celeb to play
Back in 2007, Balls of Fury, a comedy about a down-and-out former professional ping-pong phenom named Randy Daytona was released in theaters.  Randy is drawn into international intrigue when FBI Agent Ernie Rodriguez (George Lopez) recruits him for a secret mission.  Randy is determined to bounce back and win, and to smoke out his father's killer, arch-fiend Feng, played by Christopher Walken.

Randy discovers that in unsanctioned, underground extreme table tennis, the competition is brutal and the stakes are deadly. Obviously this is supposed to be a comedy, so it's over the top most of the time, but it helped to bring attention to the sport that already seemed poised for a comeback.
Redford & Newman in spirit anyway
During the same year, the comedy Ping Pong Playa, about a kid dreams of playing professional basketball in order to escape his dead-end job, living in the suburbs, his bossy older brother and running his Mom's ping pong classes.

The "streetwise" swaggering Christopher "C-Dub" Wang (Jimmy Tsai) is a suburban kid that sees politics in all things Asian American.  C-Dub dreams of a pro basketball career.  When misfortune befalls his family, he has to overcome living at home, working a job he doesn't like, a worldly older brother, running his Mom's ping pong classes and defending the family's athletic dynasty. Sadly, the film didn't even break $1m at the box office, so as a catalyst for the game of table tennis, it left much to be desired.
Intensity is part of the game
More recently however, Ping-pong tables are popping up on every corner and there is no bigger advocate for the game than Hollywood star and political activist Susan Sarandon.

Sarandon's SPiN New York opened in 2009 in a 1972 YMCA's 13,000 square feet basement filled with Olympic-quality table tennis flanked by a huge bar and offering private lessons and regular celeb-hosted parties.
Please keep your clothes on
According to their website, "By combining an unusual mixture of sport, design and entertainment, SPiN New York has created a unique day and nighttime venue with 17 ping-pong courts, a full bar, restaurant, pro-shop and private VIP room. SPiN is open to anyone and everyone during the day and 21+ after 9pm. Memberships are available for the more obsessed players, but not necessary to take part in our nightly events, tournaments, private ping-pong instruction with professional players, and casual socializing and play."

As an inducement SPiN's first 300 founding members receive reduced annual dues and bragging rights about being founding members of a table tennis club.
That's not Kryptonite he's playing withSarandon made a guest appearance on Project Runway back in January of this year.  Project Runway, hosted by super model Heidi Klum, lent some additional star power to SPiN's public profile as well as the game.
SPiN winning uniform Layana Aguilar resized 600Sarandon's goal that evening was to find the perfect ball-girl and ball-boy uniform designs for SPiN and at the same time heighten the profile of her investment.  Several hot outfits were produced for the judges.
To date, SPiN has opened locations in Dubai, New York City, Milwaukee, L.A. and Toronto.

The combination of movies, television and high profile celebrities only help to boost the popularity of a great sport.  We've seen a continued and growing interest in table tennis and I don't see that ending any time soon.

Topics: Buying Tips, Frequently Asked Questions, Fun, All American Recreation, Comprehensive

Table Tennis Basics

Posted by Ray Neset on Thu, Nov 07, 2013 @ 18:11 PM

Who doesn't remember watching Tom Hank's character, Forrest Gump, playing ping pong in China and starting a table tennis craze?

As the story goes, it's 1969 and Forrest has joined the Army Special Services.  He job is to  entertain the wounded military veterans with his table tennis skills.  Because of his exceptional skills, he earns a place in the All-American Ping Pong team which travels to China during the Ping Pong Diplomatic period during the early 1970s.  Forrest returns a national celebrity.

Because of Chinese domination of the sport many people think that the game, commonly known as "ping pong", originated in China, but that would be wrong.  The truth is far less exotic.  During the 1880's, English parlors of the upper-class were the scene for the upper-class wanting after dinner distraction.  It's not really clear that British military officers brought the game back from India or South Africa, but initial accessories consisted of a row of books serving as a net, books or cigar box lids serving as rackets, and golf-balls and champagne corks doubling as early table tennis balls.

The unique sound generated by pieces of parchment stretched over a frame likely led to the nickname "ping-pong".  The name "ping-pong" was trademarked in 1901 by British manufacturer J. Jaques & Son Ltd., while other manufacturers called it "table tennis."

In 1901, British table tennis enthusiast, James W. Gibb, discovered a novelty celluloid ball on a trip to the US.

London hosted the first World Championship in 1926.

In the 1930s, American journalist Edgar Snow commented in his non-fiction Red Star Over China that the Chinese had a "passion for the English game of table tennis."

Greater spin and speed came to the game in the 1950s when a rubber layer was applied over a spongy layer.

At the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, table tennis finally became an Olympic event.

International rules specify that a light 2.7 gram, 40 mm diameter ball be used.  40 mm table tennis balls are slower & spin less than the older 1.5" ones.  The balls, made of a high-bouncing air-filled celluloid, come in white or orange with a matte finish.

The official table measures 9' long, 5' wide and 30" high.  The playing surface, made of wood or a wood product, must be uniformly dark colored and matte, divided down the middle by a 6" high net.

Called by different names around the world, the official term designated by the International Table Tennis Federation or ITTF, governing body of all international table tennis associations, is "racket", though "bat" is used in Britain, and "paddle" is more common in the U.S.  The "blade", the wooden portion of the racket, must consist of at least 85% of its thickness of natural wood, according to ITTF regulations.  Although the official ITTF restrictions focus only on the flatness and rigidness of the blade, the average size of the blade is about 6.5" long and 6" wide.

Table tennis regulations allow for different surfaces on the two sides of the racket.  A racket may have a spin side, and a no spin side on the reverse.  By flipping the racket, different returns are possible.  To help distinguish between the two sides, international rules specify that one side must be red and the other black.

Even with high speed play, players can see what side of the racket the opponent used to hit the ball.  According to ITTF rules, unless damaged in play, the racket cannot be exchanged at any time during a match.

Table tennis remains popular today and might even be seeing a resurgance.  Celebrity actress, Susan Sarandon has opened a chain of Ping Pong establishments called SPiN.  According to SPiN's website, "By combining an unusual mixture of sport, design and entertainment, SPiN New York has created a unique day and nighttime venue with 17 ping-pong courts, a full bar, restaurant, pro-shop and private VIP room. SPiN is open to anyone and everyone during the day and 21+ after 9pm. Memberships are available for the more obsessed players, but not necessary to take part in our nightly events, tournaments, private ping-pong instruction with professional players, and casual socializing and play."

Table tennis seems to be experiencing a rennaissance and that's exciting news for those of us that believe it's a fun and fast-paced social game for every age.  So turn off the TV and grab your paddle and ball.  Table tennis is where it's at!

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Topics: Buying Tips, Frequently Asked Questions, Fun, All American Recreation

What Are The Benefits of Swim Spas Compared To Pools?

Posted by Ray Neset on Thu, Apr 18, 2013 @ 12:04 PM

Years ago when I was a new home owner, I looked into the possibilities of owning an in-ground pool.  I knew that since the days of the ancient Egyptians until the last few decades, only princes, kings and the most affluent were able to afford them.

While that has changed, in-ground pools remain unatainable for many.

Besides the initial cost of installation, here in Minnesota, pools could justifiably be considered less than the pinnacle of practicality.  Not that pools lack the fun factor for young and old alike, the reality is that by the time school starts again in the fall, many pool owners are ready to put them to bed for the year and focus on outdoor activities that require warm outerwear or indoor pursuits.

 For all the complaints that the season is too short to justify the investment, when I look to our neighbors to the South, they mothball their pools for the season at about the same time as we do.

My sister and her family live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and their town home complex has traditionally closed down their outdoor pool at the same time as our neighbors in Bloomington.

The major difference is that we have to drain the mechanicals, lower the water and put on covers to protect the investment from conditions that are unforgiving.

By contrast, one can peer through the chain link fence surrounding their pool much later in the season and watch the water circulating around a beautiful azure blue bottom pool devoid of swimmers.

So I maintain that once football practice starts and homework assignments begin, not many are thinking about taking a moonlight dip in the pool.

The exception would be the “sportos” in the house.  These are the people for whom swim spas were designed.  “Sportos” don’t necessarily translate to teens high on hormones and adrenaline; they can also be people of any age interested in the amazing health benefits of swimming.

14&squot; x 8&squot; x 54" Swim Spa

Healthy and low-cost, swimming is an activity that you can continue throughout a person’s lifetime.  The physical and mental health benefits of swimming are many.  Swimming is a great overall workout because it requires swimmers to move their entire body against the resistance of the water.

Swim spas have to be one of the best developments for the year-round swimmer since in-door pools, but at a fraction of the cost and hassle.  Because they are prefabricated, all-in-one units, installation is relatively simple, requiring sufficient space to accommodate the footprint, a pad that meets local municipal standards, electrical and access at delivery time.  In some cases, large or small spas must to be “craned” into the backyard with restrictive access.  Once in place, an electrician rather than a small army is required to finish the job.

Swim spas come in various sizes, but most are designed so that the user swims against a flow strong enough as not to require the same dimensions as a pool.  Essentially the swimmer is swimming in place.

Until recently, swim spas have been considerably more expensive than their smaller siblings that have discreetly fit in a corner of the yard or deck.

What has happened as a consequence of the recent nationwide economic downturn is a consolidation of the suppliers of the components used in spas.  In turn, this consolidation has brought the prices down, making the price of American-made spas more competitive since components used in them all come from a handful of manufacturers.  Inferior foreign spas with suspiciously short warranties and parts with questionable supply chains have also helped to make American spas more competitive. 

Historically spa owners have looked forward to at least 20 years of use, with minor service costs during that timeframe.

During the summer of 2012 All-American Recreation began selling the Four Winds line of spas that also happens to manufacture multiple sizes of swim spas that give flexibility to the end-user.

Four Winds’ swim spas come in 12’, 14’ and 16’ lengths.

16&squot; x 8&squot; x 54" Swim Spa

Besides the benefit of year-round use, swim spas are significantly less expensive to purchase and operate.

Evaporation from an open pool of approximately 25 to 45 thousand gallons can add to the ongoing cost of ownership, making covers swim spas far more practical.

The chemicals required to maintain a swim spa are the same as for smaller spas, just larger amounts.  Personally, I prefer the Nature2 mineral cartridges that allow users to dramatically reduce the amount of oxidizer required.

Because spas are so well insulated, they are able to maintain temperatures at or near 103 degrees even at minus 20 degrees, when pools couldn’t even hope to keep up.

Topics: Buying Tips, Frequently Asked Questions, Fun, All American Recreation, Spas, Swimming Pools


Posted by Jerry Schiltz on Mon, Apr 15, 2013 @ 21:04 PM


 IS THIS REALLY SUCH A GREAT DEAL???  It seems that there is a weekend spa or hot tub sale in a different city and state every weekend.  Same traveling sales people, different city and state….

 WARNING….. Here are some things to consider about spa or hot tub sale promotions.

 Thousands of dollars are spent for advertising the sale:

  • Thousands of dollars are spent on advertising to get you, the retail customer, to the sale.
  • Advertising and promotions for the sale can cost in excess of $100,000.
  • The advertising cost is added into the sale price of the spa.  The sale price of the spa can be increased more than $1,000 to cover the advertising cost for the spa.
  • Think about the number of spas that need to be sold to pay for $100,000 in advertising.  The answer is 100 spas, which is an extremely high number of spas to sell in one weekend.

 Traveling Sales People:

  • Many of the spa sales people working the sale are not from the local area.
  • Most of the traveling sales people will be working another spa sale next weekend in a different city and state.
  • The sales person will tell the buyer what they want to hear, but the sales contract terms and conditions may be different than their verbal presentation.  Be sure to read the small print…..
  • The sales person may seem very nice, which is a good trait of a successful sales person.  Would you buy from sales person that was not nice?  Probability not…..but the sales person may not be completely honest and open about the product specifications and the terms and conditions of the sale agreement, even though they seem really nice.
  • The traveling sales person is usually not available for you when you need warranty coverage or service work.

 Commissions add to the spa cost:

  • Generally the dealer who is promoting the sale pays for the air fare, hotels and food for the traveling sales people.  The air fare, hotels and food can be in excess of $1,000 per sales person for the duration of the sale.
  • Sales people can earn up to 20% commission for the sale of a spa.
  • Generally the sales people are rewarded higher commission rates if they are successful in selling the product to the buyer for more money.
  • Assume that the spa or hot tub is sold at $7,500 and the sales person gets 10% commission. The sales person gets $750 commission for the sale of the hot tub or spa.  You, the buyer, pay for the sales person commission….and think about the extra cost added to the spa for other expenses, such as advertising, travel expenses and spiffs…

 Interest FREE Financing:

  • The cost for credit card fees and financing is built into the sale price of the spa.
  • The dealer pays 1.5% to 4% for accepting credit cards towards the payment of the spa.
  • The dealer pay up to 15% for interest FREE financing, which is included in the spa sale price.
  • You the buyer can generally purchase a spa below the negotiated sale price if you decide to pay by cash.  Ask for the cash discount after you have negotiated the best sale price. You may be surprised about the extra savings available for cash.

 Trade-In Old Spa:

  • Sales people may offer you a high trade-in allowance for your old used spa. The trade-in allowance may depend on the condition of your old spa.  The majority of old spas that are taken on trade are cut up and hauled to the dump.  You may save money by giving your old spa away.
  • DO NOT BE FOOLED by the amount of money the dealer is offering for your old spa.  The sale price for the new spa may be inflated, which will allow the dealer to give you an inflated high price for your old spa.
  • Ask the dealer for a written price quote, which will show you the new spa sale price; options included and used spa trade-in allowance.  Consider the bottom line quote BEFORE you purchase the new spa.

 Shop around BEFORE you go to the weekend sale:

  • Generally the sale prices offered at the truckload or weekend sale are higher than the everyday sale prices at many of the local area spa and hot tub dealerships.
  • Shop and compare spas at several local area spa dealers to educate yourself, BEFORE you go to the weekend spa sale.
  • Consider purchasing your spa from the local area dealer, who is available to take care of your spa service work and warranty coverage.
  • It is difficult to make the proper product comparisons and best buying decision if you do not take the time to educate yourself and become familiar with the various spas and hot tubs.
  • Check the (BBB) Better Business Bureau website for verification and rating of the dealer you are considering for your spa or hot tub purchase. 


How You Can Help Your Moped or Scooter Run Best on Ethanol-Free Gas

Posted by Gerald Schiltz on Sat, Apr 06, 2013 @ 19:04 PM


Use Non-Oxy Pure Gas.  It is free of Ethanol.

 Motor Scooters perform the best on pure gas:

  • Manufacturer warranties do not include cleaning of carburetors.
  • Motor scooters driven in other countries do not have as many carburetor problems, as the USA, because their gas does not contain ethanol or corn additives.
  • All-American Recreation will attempt to provide information to their customers at the time of motor scooter purchase regarding the usage of pure gas.

 Check websites for listing of gas stations offering non-oxy pure gas:

  • One of the popular websites is:
  • You are able to locate over 350 gas stations in Minnesota who sell pure gas.
  • Customers can locate a listing of gas stations in their state at the bottom of the page.
  • The use of pure gas will save customers hundreds of dollars in carburetor cleaning used in motor scooters, motorcycles, boats, ATV’s and other recreational vehicles.

 Ethanol gas contains 10%-15% additives from corn.

  • Ethanol gas contains corn additives, which can cause gumming of the carburetor jets.
  • The cost of gas with ethanol is generally 10%-15% less cost than pure gas or non-oxy gas.  The savings at the pump will cost you more in maintenance of motor scooters.
  • The reduced cost of gas with ethanol is not a savings, when you consider the labor cost to clean gummed up carburetor jets.
  • We highly recommend that our motor scooter customers use pure gas or non-oxy gas.

 Pure Gas is also referred to as Non-Oxy Gas:

  • You may notice signs at gas stations that show Non-Oxy gas sold here.
  • Some of the gas stations listed do not have signs showing that they sell Non-Oxy gas.
  • Some of the gas stations listed do not sell Non-Oxy gas on a year round basis.
  • We recommend that you call the gas station of your choice to confirm availability.

 Old gas can cause the jets in small carburetors to gum up:

  • We recommend that the motor scooters be run every week for extended time periods to use up the gas within the tank.  This is true with pure gas or gas with ethanol.
  • We recommend that pure gas be purchased directly from the gas station on a regular basis in an effort to keep fresh gas in the motor scooter gas tank.
  • The owners of motor scooters, who ride their motor scooters daily, do not experience as many gas problems or carburetor problems, because their gas is usually fresh.


Topics: Moped, Buying Tips, Frequently Asked Questions

How To Keep Pool & Spa Water Free of Metals

Posted by Ray Neset on Thu, Apr 04, 2013 @ 13:04 PM

Standard Filter Housing w/Hydro-Cure® sediment cartridge for clearing metals from pool and spa water

Oxidizing filters are one way to purify pool and spa water.

Minerals can become a problem in the water when they are oxidized by chlorine, bromine or less frequently by hydrogen peroxide. These chemicals are commonly used pool and spa sanitizers because of their abilities to release massive amounts of oxygen when they come in contact with water, thus killing bacteria by essentially smothering them. When the minerals come into contact with oxidizing agents they react by quickly changing color, causing staining on most surfaces they contact.


While the staining is harmless, it’s quite unsightly on the surface of an investment that likely cost thousands of dollars and can require many hours of labor to remove.


There are 5 general strategies for removing minerals and clearing pool water. They are: 

1. Water softeners

2. Pressure aerators

3. Oxidizing filters

4. Combination treatments

5. Complexation


Water softeners can remove small amounts of minerals. Water is flushed from the softener medium by forcing sodium-rich water back through the unit. This method is impractical when filling a vessel as large as a pool and also creates other problems. Soft water will leach minerals from wherever it can be found in the sealed system. So if soft water is used, calcium chloride should be added to the water to avoid the pitting of pool or spa heater elements. The ideal range is widely considered to be 250 to 500 ppm of hardness.

Dissolved minerals are easily oxidized to a solid form by mixing water with air. A pressure aerator mixes air with the water, the air is vented, and then the solid particles are filtered from the water, adding no chemicals to the water.  The filter must be backwashed or purged frequently to properly maintain the system. To protect the water from bacterial contamination from the air, the system should be totally enclosed and only potable water should be used.  When using this method appropriate pumping capacity must be maintained for adequate air intake. Pressure aeration would likely be installed to serve a dual purpose for the homeowner, primarily for drinking water, bathing, laundry, etc.

A child swims in clear pool waterThe kind of clear pool water we all want

When the concentration of minerals is not very high, an oxidizing filter using natural manganese greensand can be used. Manganese greensand is capable of reducing iron, manganese and hydrogen sulfide from water through oxidation and filtration and has been used in the U.S. since the 1950's for this purpose. These filters usually range from around $500 to $1500.

When the mineral content is above 10 ppm, a combination of chemical treatment and filtration could be necessary. Small chemical pumps are used to add chlorine bleach, potassium permanganate, or hydrogen peroxide into the water. After a retention time of at least 20 minutes to allow for oxidation of ferrous iron into the insoluble ferric form, the solid particles are filtered out. This isn’t very practical for pools that can hold tens of thousands of gallons.




Complexation is a chemical reaction that takes place between a metal ion and a molecular or ionic entity known as a ligand  In plain English, it’s a simple and low cost method for removing minerals from water. A phosphate compound or sequestering agent is added to the water to tie up or complex the dissolved minerals. This can be the most economical solution to the problem.

The downside to using phosphates in pool water is that algae only require amounts measured in ppb for reproduction.  Without sufficient phosphates, algae soon die off. There are phosphate “sponges” that draw them out of the water, but this simply adds to the cost, making complexation less practical.

Read Part III of How to Remove Metals from Pool and Spa Water here.


Topics: Buying Tips, Frequently Asked Questions, All American Recreation, Spas, Swimming Pools, pool care, Spa Care

How Can You Find the Perfect Billiard Balls?

Posted by Ray Neset on Tue, Mar 19, 2013 @ 18:03 PM

photo resized 600According to Billiard Congress of America (BCA):


Molded and finished in a perfect sphere in the following weight and diameter:

Pocket Billiard Balls Weight: 5 ½ to 6 oz.

*Diameter: 2 ¼”         

*Diameter tolerance: ± 005”

For the purposes of selecting and buying the right balls, a bit more information is required.  Generally speaking, billiard balls are small, hard balls used in cue sports.  However, several of the games in which these balls are used aren’t widely popular in the United States, such as carom, billiards and snooker.

Billiard sports are games of skill generally played with a cue stick used to strike billiard balls, moving them around a cloth-covered table bounded by rubber cushions.

Billiards is a generic label for all such games.  The word's usage has different meanings in various parts of the world.  In Britain and Australia, "billiards" usually refers to English billiards.  In the U.S. and Canada, it usually refers to a class of games.

Carom billiards, refers to games played on tables without pockets, typically 10’ long.

Snooker and English billiards are played on six pocket billiard tables called a snooker table.  These tables measure slightly less than 12’ by 6’ and are classified separately from pool because historically, they developed differently.

The number, type, diameter, color, and pattern of the balls differ depending upon the specific game being played.  American-style pool balls measure 2 14“ in diameter.  They also used in many pool games throughout the world.  A set comes in two suits, seven solids and seven stripes, an 8 ball and a cue ball.

Hardness, friction coefficient and resilience are very important ball properties to the finer points of game play.

Billiard balls have been made of wood, clay, ox-bone and ivory.  Ivory was the preferred raw material from the early 1600’s until the early 20th century.  By the mid-19th century, elephant slaughter for their ivory inspired a change to a more sustainable material, since no more than eight balls could be made from a single elephant tusk.

New York supplier, Phelan and Collender challenged Inventors to come up with an alternative material that could be manufactured rather than harvested.

Eventually balls cast from plastic materials that are strongly resistant to cracking and chipping were developed.

 Phenol formaldehyde resins are synthetic polymers obtained by the reaction of phenol or substituted phenol with formaldehyde.

Phenol, also known as carbolic acid, is an organic compound.  The volatile white crystalline solid is mildly acidic, and requires careful handling due to its propensity to cause burns.  Phenol was originally extracted from coal tar, but today is produced from petroleum.

Phenolic resins are mainly used in the production of circuit boards, but are better known for the production of molded pool balls.  In the form of Bakelite, it was the earliest commercial synthetic resin.

Currently Saluc, under the brand names Aramith and Brunswick Centennial, manufactures phenolic resin balls.

Saluc S.A. is a Belgian specialty manufacturing company, founded in 1923.  They are best known for their Aramith brand billiard, pool and snooker balls, and are the manufacturer under license of the Brunswick Centennial pool ball line.  The company also manufactures other sorts of balls and bearings with high tolerancesfor a wide variety of industrial and consumer-product applications.

According to their website:

Used by almost 80% of players worldwide, they are recognised as the reference of the industry.

Saluc was established in 1923, manufacturing synthetic tannins for about forty tanneries in the area around Callenelle, Belgium.  After WW II, the industry in the region nearly disappeared and tough competition from chemical giants forced the company to look for alternatives.

Through continuous fine-tuning in quality and production, Saluc took the competitive lead.  Today, Saluc is the only company worldwide producing phenolic billiard balls, exporting over 99% of its production to more than 60 countries.

Unlike polyester, the Saluc’s phenolic resin was specifically engineered for the billiard application in its own chemical plant.  The technology led to a material especially suitable, with unmatched chip- and scratch-resistance.  According to Yves Bilquin, Sales & Marketing Manager for North America and previously the Research & Development manager:

“The Aramith phenolic balls last up to five times longer than other balls made of polyester. Their unique structure, more than one hundred times finer than mineral-filled polyester, gives the Aramith balls their specific reactivity and allows them to hold their high-gloss polish over time, resulting in minimal ball and table cloth wear.”

Phenolic resin balls are extra-hard and dense, with a translucent vitrification layer that gives the exceptional characteristics to the products, giving value to the player.  According to Aramith, the lowest yearly cost is achieved on lower table and cloth maintenance because Aramith balls greatly reduce the damage done by non-phenolic resin balls.

A 13-step upstream integration process controls the raw material.  The process lasts up to 23 days and includes casting and curing processes, combined with unique grinding and a state-of-the-art polishing technology.  Throughout the process, computerized technology continuously interfaces with and assists craftsmanship to guarantee the tightest tolerances and specifications.  Each ball is still checked manually before leaving the factory to provide reliable output.

As for effect on the environment, Saluc maintains a full water treatment facility which incorporates environment-friendly processes with sophisticated technology.

Within the Aramith regular product lines are Super Aramith Pro sets, Aramith Premium sets and Aramith Premier sets.  Aramith also produce “Fun” sets; Glow in the Dark kit, Aramith Stone Collection & Aramith Camouflage set, as well as a variety of cue balls and training balls, and a Crazy 8-Ball, Golden 8, American Eagle, Leopard 9 and a Snake 9-Ball.

Aramith also produces Snooker, Carom, Yotsudama, Bocetta, Poker, Russian Pyramid, Bumper and Casino balls.

Other plastics and resins such as polyester (under various trade names) and clear acrylic are also used in, by competing billiard ball manufacturers.  Elephant Balls are top quality billiards balls made from premium grade materials with a high-gloss finish to avoid pool table cloth wear. 

According to the McDermott website, their U.S. distributor, Elephant Billiard Balls & Pool Training Accessories include:

Elephant Lunar Rocks Billiard Balls, engineered for the Hollywood motion picture “Pluto Nash,” starring Eddie Murphy.  The silvery moon rock textured balls have stylized oversized numbers.  Elephant Lunar Rocks are precision crafted for perfect size (2.25”), balance, roundness (within .001”) and weight (4.25oz). The high-gloss finish and premium grade materials reduce table cloth wear.  MSRP is $150.

Elephant Beautiful Ball Billiard set are stunning.  Molded and finished in a perfect sphere, with both dynamic and static balance, each ball is precisely crafted to meet every specification for professional quality billiard balls, including roundness (within 0.001"), size (2.25"), weight (6oz.), and balance (perfectly balanced).  The unique marbleized design, combined with vibrant colors, make each ball a one-of-a-kind work of art that cannot be replicated even though many have tried.  Their trademarked stripe on the 9-15 balls, make the set easy to use.  MSRP is $180.

Elephant Marble Rack Billiard Ball are professional grade billiard balls have a marbleized pattern in vibrant colors with numbers in "Rack" Shape.  The collection is of official size and weight.  MSRP is $85.

Elephant Traditional Balls is their least expensive line; the most durable set in its price range. It’s comparable to sets at twice the price.  Vibrant colors combined with high-gloss finish make this set one of the most attractive on the market.  Consistency is the name of the game, which means each ball must be weighted and sized properly, perfectly balanced, and uniformly round.  MSRP is $70.

Elephant also makes Elephant Practice Ball and Elephant EZ Shot Cue Ball.

EPCO Industrial balls are manufactured in sizes range from 1 1/4" to 8 1/2" and available in a ground, matte, or ultra high gloss finish.  They manufacture balls in commercial grade & close tolerance specifications that are easy to machine, drill, tap, polish, & cement. 

Some applications for EPCO industrial balls include trackball devices, check valves, novelties and displays, video games, juggling, sphere play, trophies and awards, decorative uses, and yes, billiard balls.

EPCO's Industrial Balls manufacture balls in the U. S. using a proprietary formulation of Partek resin.  EPCO Clear Rocco Style Pool/Billiard Ball sets are regulation 2.25" in diameter and 4.5 oz in weight.  EPCO Clear Rocco Style Pool/Billiard Ball Set is manufactured of high quality "Partek" resin for precise roundness, balance and weight control.  The colorful center markings make this pool table accessory a great addition to a home recreation room.

EPCO’s billiard balls come in Marbleized, Sparkle, Pearlescent, Clear, Tournament, Professional, Marbleized Stripe, Glo and customized with photo image of name, logo or photo, electronically sublimated into the ball surface, engraved, inlaid or clear.

Topics: Buying Tips, Frequently Asked Questions, Pool Tables, Billiards, Fun, All American Recreation

What Makes Quality Pool Table Cloth?

Posted by Ray Neset on Wed, Mar 06, 2013 @ 19:03 PM

billiardclothswatches resized 600Since cloth is what pool balls roll on, and not the slate, it’s important to understand what makes one cloth manufacturer different from another.  The Billiard Congress of America never endorses one brand over another and their recommendation for a non-professional pool table covering is vague:

The bed must be covered with a billiard fabric, the major portion of which is made of wool, with proper tension to avoid unwanted ball roll-off.

To understand pool table cloth manufacturers and the products they offer, one must first understand a bit of cloth weaving history.

 The Industrial Revolution, arguably the most important event in the history of humanity since the domestication of animals and plants, began about 1760 and was the shift in manufacturing processes that changed the world.

The transition as it relates to cloth weaving involved going from hand production methods to machines.  The Industrial Revolution began in Britain and spread to the rest of Western Europe and the U.S. within a few decades.

Prior to this revolution spinning and weaving was a cottage industry, done in households for domestic consumption.  During the off-season farmer’s wives spun the thread and then the men wove the threads into cloth.

In 1733, a subsequent improvement in weaving occurred with the invention of the flying shuttle.  In 1769 Richard Arkwright patented the water frame and in 1771, he installed it along with the spinning jenny in his cotton mill.  This singular act created one of the first factories, a building constructed specifically to house machinery rather than simply bringing workers together under one roof.

In the weaving of cloth, there are two types of thread or yarn used: the warp and the weft.  The warp is the set of lengthwise yarns, held in tension on a framework called a loom.  The second type of yarn, the weft, is then inserted over-and-under the warp threads to create a pattern similar to a reed or wicker basket.  Because the warp is held under high tension during the entire weaving process, it must have significant tensile strength.

Arkwright didn’t invent the devices that revolutionized the weaving trade, but he nurtured the inventors and patented their ideas.  He developed the use of power in the manufacturing process, first horse power, and then water power.

A couple of the major players in billiard cloth have been actively involved in the weaving trade it for centuries.  Yes, you read that right, centuries.

Belgian weaver Iwan Simonis has been making cloth in Verviers, Belgium since 1680.  The company was started by middle-class merchant, Guillaume Henri Simon Simonis, and known as “le Mercier” or “the haberdasher.”  The company is currently celebrating its third of a millennium marker in the weaving business; no small milestone.

According to Simonis, the high quality of the water in the town of Verviers was particularly suitable for washing wool, the major ingredient in modern pool table cloth.

Jacques Joseph Simonis was the one who insured the continued future success of the business and he named it after his son Iwan, born in 1769.

Because the British government threatened anyone who exported the technique employed in their mills with permanent exile, at the end of the eighteenth century, Simonis’ spinners still worked with a single spindle.

 A British engineer named William Cockerill left England and eventually met a Simonis wool buyer named Mali, in Hamburg.  Mali realized the value of the technique, until then, unknown outside England.

 Under contract with Simonis, Cockerill agreed to produce spinning machines, the first of which were constructed in 1797.

 In 1982 a fire destroyed the Simonis company archives, destroying any evidence of the exact date on which the company began to manufacture billiard cloth.  By the companies estimate, they’ve been at the business for about 200 years.

The beginning of the nineteenth century ushered in inventions in carding machines and spinning wool, longitudinal shearing machines and the Leviathan used to clean wool.

By 1878, a dam in the area of La Gileppe, manufacturing innovations, and an abundance of skilled labor, Verviers had become a center of the wool industry.

The Simonis mills continued successfully until WWII, when the Allies bombed it; preventing the company from fully recovering in the post-war period, along with much of the textile industry in Western Europe.  Simonis was forced to close or sell its spinning, haberdashery, woven garments production, and the combing, scouring and wool carbonizing divisions.

Peltzer & Fils, was established in 1785 by German-born Jean Henri Peltzer in Hodimont, (part of the district of Verviers, at the time part of the Duchy of Limburg, a Dutch territory belonging to the Hapsburgs).  Peltzer & Fils continued to expand over the next century, and a subsidiary was established in Buenos Aires in 1849 and another in Poland in 1885.

In 1961, S.A. Simonis and Peltzer & Fils were combined to create Le Société Anonyme des Draps et Filés Iwan Simonis or the Belgian public limited company Iwan Simonis Cloth, with an emphasis on commercial continuity.

Today, over three hundred years after its creation, the name Iwan Simonis is now synonymous with the highest quality billiard cloth available anywhere in the world.  Iwan Simonis billiard cloth is still exported from Belgium.

Besides the lengthy history, what makes Simonis cloth so superior is the smooth, even threads that assure a consistent speed, English and cushion rebound.  The high wool content worsted thread construction makes ball spin more consistent and reduces ball burn experienced with many other cloths.  Their precise construction is why Simonis has remained the choice of tournament play for generations.

Simonis conducts regular dynamometric tests to maintain the tolerances of extension, elasticity, thickness and abrasion of their cloth, ensuring consistent quality.

The cloth is specially woven and sheared so the direction of the ball is not affected by the cloth.  Simonis manufactures a complete range of pool, snooker, carom and pyramid cloths, to suit the characteristics of every type of game played on a billiards table throughout the world. 

H.W.T. Mali & Co. has been providing the world with top tier, quality billiard products since 1826, during the presidency of John Quincy Adams.  Henri Mali, the great-great-grandfather of Frederick Mali, was born in Amsterdam in 1774.  He went to Verviers to join forces with Simonis as managing partner of the company where he remained until his death in 1850. 

As the story goes, it was Henri Mali, who in 1799 found and arranged for the inventor of the "Spinning Jenny," John Cockerill, to come to Hamburg.  Henri hired him and brought him to Verviers, broking the English monopoly on the efficient manufacture of woven cloth.

In 1826, Henri sent his son, Henri Williem Theodore Mali, to look into starting a business in the U.S.  He formed the Henry W. T. Mali & Co., Inc. that year and was joined by his younger brother Charles a few years later. 

In 1831, Belgium became a kingdom, and Henri W. T. Mali was appointed the first Counsel General in the United States, a position that has been held by a member of the Mali family until 1949, when Henry J. declined the post. 

Neither Henry W. T. nor his brother Charles had male heirs, so in 1878 their brother Jules, who at the time was head of Simonis back in Belgium, sent his son, Pierre, to New York to carry on the family business. 

This tradition passed Mali to Mali.  Frederick Johnston Mali, is the 5th generation to run Mali and Co., and until recently was the oldest and largest supplier of billiard fabric in the United States.

Until 2012, the Henry W.T. Mali &. Co. continued the tradition of service exemplified by his great-grandfather John Taylor Johnston, founder of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and great-great-grandmother Lucretia Mott, renowned Quaker Abolitionist and women's rights advocate, when the company was forced to close in bankruptcy. 

Having been a customer of H.W.T. Mali & Co. for decades, customer anecdotes can be very valuable in assessing the quality of the product.  One of my personal favorites comes from a customer whose parents had sold their home of many years and given him the family table.  The table produced by us was purchased in the 1970’s, which we covered with Mali cloth and he was in our store in 2007 to purchase new cloth. 

Beginning in their teenage years and over the intervening ones, the man, his brother and their father had racked up countless hours on the cloth.  When the time came to move the table to his own home, in his haste, he hadn’t bothered to remove the staples in the original cloth, opting instead to tear it off. 

Upon further inquiry, he insisted that after more than 30 years, the cloth had still been in good condition, having played on it regularly until the move; he simply didn’t want to take the time to methodically remove it. 

That kind of endorsement is tough to beat.  But even with five generations of stories extolling the virtues of Mali cloth, it remains unclear as to whether or not this great company will be able to rise from the ashes.

D & R Industries, Inc. began in 1963 was named for founders Dennis Ruber and Richard Utanoff.  The amusement industry parts distribution business began in Richard's mother's bedroom in a small apartment in Chicago.

D & R Industries, Inc. went through many changes, but found its niche in the billiard industry.  Having distributed billiard fabrics for over than 25 years, Ruber saw a need for affordable high quality billiard fabrics.

The decision was made to switch to become a billiard cloth manufacturer, so a team of engineers, textile experts and billiard people developed the "Championship Line."  Manufacturing since 1990, Championship claims that it “sells more billiard fabric than all of its major competitors combined.” 

Championship billiard fabrics are produced in Santiago, Mexico, located outside of Mexico City.  Santiago uses an active shearing machine and a vacuum decating machine in the finishing of its fabrics. 

Active shearing uses laser beams to shave the fabric on the top and bottom giving Championship cloth its smooth playing surface.  Active shearing also practically eliminates pilling that is commonplace in other billiard fabrics. 

The final piece to Championship's finishing process is the vacuum decating machine.  During steaming, a 2,000-pound cylinder presses the fabric, resulting in a harder playing surface. Because of this hardness, Championship claims their fabrics play faster than their competitors’ and more resistant to punctures.  Fewer punctures achieves less ball deflection.  Longevity is a byproduct of their special finishing processes. 

In 2011, Simonis filed a lawsuit in federal court against its rival Championship, as it had done previously in 2008.  The billiard cloth icon was asking them to retract statements and pay damages incurred when relative neophyte Championship, which began manufacturing billiard cloth in 1990, started running full-page ads in leading pool and billiard magazines.  According to court records the ads claimed that laboratory testing proved that Championship's cloth held up 50 percent longer than cloth used by Simonis. 

As detailed in a Chicago Tribune article: 

The evidence Championship cited relied on a third competitor's (Fisher Textiles) internal lab testing that indicated Fisher's cloth held up to sandpaper-like abrasion better than Championship or Simonis. In its ads, Championship copied the lab results (minus the bit proving that Fisher was the most durable) and ran full-page ads in magazines across the country: "Lab results confirm that Championship's Tour Edition outlasts Simonis 860 by over 50 percent." -

In 2008, Simonis sued in federal court.  They also claimed: 

"There's certain characteristics that are desirable for a billiard cloth, and abrasion resistance against sandpaper isn't one of them," Ivan Lee, president and chief executive of Simonis North America, said in an interview Tuesday. "Billiard cloth has balls rolling on it, not sandpaper." 

The suit was settled in September 2010, but one year later, Simonis claimed Championship was at it again. 

In response to another Championship ad, Simonis filed a second lawsuit in federal court, asking again for a retraction, damages and an end to the ads. 

Quoted in the Chicago Tribune article, Johnny Maricich, a league operator for a franchise of the American Poolplayers Association, said the type of cloth used on a billiard or pool table makes a big difference. 

“If the cloth is poor quality, the ball won't roll as well, play will be slower and it won't stay flat, Maricich said. The ball will roll off in another direction. 

“‘Simonis is probably the top cloth used on most pool tables. Those balls roll forever on that cloth. It's like glass,’ Maricich said. ‘Championship makes a pool edition that's a fairly popular cloth, mostly used on bar tables. But the pool halls mostly use a Simonis brand.’” 

Without clearly taking sides, Maricich manages to distill down between the two pool table fabric choices the one he seems to prefer. 

In spite of its bankruptcy, I wouldn’t count H.W.T. Mali & Co. out of the competition.  If they’re able to resurrect themselves, their nearly two centuries in the business counts for quite a bit.

During that timeframe, they’ve certainly survived numerous competitors and economic hard times and lived to fight another day.

As for the battle between these industry giants, the world will just have to wait and see what players will emerge victorious.  Regardless of the outcome, any table owner considering one of these manufacturers is guaranteed to receive great cloth that should last for years to come.

Topics: Buying Tips, Frequently Asked Questions, Pool Tables, Billiards, Fun, All American Recreation

How does pool table shipping work

Posted by Gerald Schiltz on Sun, Feb 24, 2013 @ 14:02 PM

Freight Cost, Shipping Cost and Residential Delivery

Shipping World resized 600

You will see many websites that offer free freight or free shipping on their products.  Freight and shipping cost are not free.  Companies add the freight and shipping cost into the product sale price.  Free freight and free shipping advertisements is common practice to enhance the sale of the product.  Generally the customer or buyer is paying for the freight and shipping cost, which the seller has added to the sale price of the product.  This practice is legal and used as promotions around the world.

Examples of freight and shipping cost are:

  • Cost of labor for the truck drivers and warehouse people
  • Cost for the truck rental, depreciation, tires, wear and tear
  • Cost for gasoline or diesel fuel necessary for the truck engine to run.

Examples of freight carriers are:

  • UPS = United Parcel Service, which utilize truck vans, large trucks, semi-trucks and airplanes.
  • USPS = United States Postal Service, which utilize small mail trucks, large trucks, semi-trucks and airplanes.
  • FedEx = Federal Express, which utilizes truck vans, large trucks, semi-trucks and airplanes.
  • Spee-Dee Delivery Service = Spee-Dee Delivery utilizes truck vans, large trucks and semi-trucks.
  • Regional Carriers = Many areas of the USA have regional freight companies who utilize small vehicles, truck vans, large trucks and semi-trucks.
  • Common Carrier Freight Companies = Selection from many different freight companies throughout the USA, which provide the most competitive freight rate for the delivery of the product.

Shipment of heavy products:

  • Pool tables, furniture, motor scooters, spas, hot tubs and other heavy products are shipped by common carrier.
  • Many of the heavy products require a forklift or pallet jack to unload.
  • Truck drivers may ask for customer assistance in unloading heavy products.

Dock Delivery or Residential Delivery:

  • Freight rates are based on the delivery of products to business loading docks or the loading dock of the particular freight company. 
  • Some customers are allowed to pick-up the products at the freight company to save the cost of residential delivery.  Customers may call or ask the freight company regarding the pick-up of products from the freight dock in their area.
  • Residential area deliveries are usually performed by smaller trucks, not semi-trucks.  Residential deliveries are extra freight cost.  Smaller delivery trucks are available with hydraulic lift gates for additional fees. 

Delivery of product to residential areas or homes:

  • Generally semi-trucks or large trucks are not allowed on the streets in residential areas.
  • Semi-trucks may be too big to make the turns on the smaller streets in residential areas.
  • Smaller trucks or delivery vans are generally allowed to delivery products in residential areas.
  • Delivery vans with hydraulic lift gates are available for ease of delivery in residential areas.  Hydraulic lift gate trucks cost additional fees, which may be the responsibility of the buyer or customer.  Fees can range from $50 - $150 for the delivery of several heavy boxes or crates.
  • Please do not expect the truck driver to manually unload the boxes or crates from the truck.


Topics: Frequently Asked Questions