Shuffleboard is a game that can be played by virtually anyone. It is a game of strategy and finesse, but it can also be a game of brawn at times. Shuffleboard can be played either on a table or on the ground- like on the deck of a cruise ship. For obvious reasons, we will be concentrating on the game that is played on a table today. This buying guide will help you decide what you need and will explain everything you want or need to know about shuffleboard tables. Then, at the end of our buying guide, we will present you with the top-rated shuffleboards that you can buy in 2017.
Top Shuffleboard Table Comparison Chart
Shuffleboard is a great recreational game. Having a shuffleboard table can be every bit as fun as having a pool table in your ‘rec’ room. Anyone can play, and you can have endless amounts of fun. The game itself was created in England in the 15th century. Legend says that King Henry VIII even played the game in his day. The game poked and prodded along for years until it became very popular in the United States in the 1950s. From there, all sorts of competitions have sprung up. And it’s just become a very popular game to be played recreationally as well. After this phenomenon, the game of shuffleboard has recently become huge in Scandinavian countries- especially in their bars!
This popularity in Sweden and Norway, in particular, has caused the game to become even more popular in mainland Europe and the UK again itself. This resurgence means that shuffleboard has become a truly global game, and it may be why you are here reading this now! Because of its ease of use, businesses, leagues, and private citizens are all buying up shuffleboards because it is a good way to play games with friends and coworkers without getting injured or causing a lot of unnecessary fights.
Shuffleboard Buying Guide
The board itself is the main part of the game of shuffleboard. Without it, you are just shuffling. Whatever that is. So, the board is a very key component. Depending on where you are from and the term you prefer to use, it can also be called the “plank.” The material that is used is maple in almost all shuffleboards. This type of wood is exceptional for this purpose because it is slick enough to have the “puck” pushed on, it looks very nice and shiny, and it holds up very well. So you don’t have to worry about dings and dents occurring near as much as you would if you were encountering other types of wood or other materials. Mahogany and Russian Birchwood can also be used, but the majority of tables will have some form of maple used.
In the older days of shuffleboard, hard maple was much more preferred than soft maple. Obviously, hard maple will be “harder” and more durable than something that is called “soft.” However, a maple is still a maple, and they are both high-quality materials that can be used to great effect. Soft maple has come into vogue of late because of the use of polymer finishes. You can learn more about that in the section below.
The absolute best wood, and as a result the most “premium” is the North American Maple. Only found on the continent of North America, this wood withstands the test of time. Tables used with this type of wood dating back to the 1940s are still around, which shows this kind of wood has a long lifespan and is very highly desired.
On top of the surface, itself is another important piece in the puzzle: the finish. Having a polymer finish is crucial because it will extend the life of your table’s surface. Polymer finishes are basically poured onto the top to prevent air bubbles from forming. Note the key word there: poured. There are other products out there that see finishes that are sprayed on. This type of finish is inferior to poured on finishes. The polymer method is also much more durable, thus better, than the traditional finishes made out of shellacs or lacquers, which were around when the game became popular the 50s.
Polymer finishes should be desirable to you because they prevent your table from being damaged by dropped pucks. This is huge even on a table made from what would be considered “soft maple.” In theory, soft maple by itself will not hold up very well. But with a polymer finish, it becomes much much stronger. To put it another way, polymer finishes are similar to having another quarter of an inch material on the top of the surface. So you are getting much more protection, and the finish is usually guaranteed via warranty.
The cabinet of the shuffleboard is what it all fits into. This can also be called the “cradle” because it looks like a cradle as it is holding all it together. It is very important for this to be made with good materials because it will easily overshadow the rest of the table if it is poorly made. More expensive tables are typically made with solid wood for the cabinet. Cheaper tables can be found with particle board. So, you wouldn’t want all of those great features to be combined with particle board, so you have to look and be careful as to what you are purchasing.
One of the advantages of solid hardwood is that they give you more weight. Yes, this is going to make it harder to carry around. But it will also make it much more difficult to move while you are playing a game of shuffleboard. So, you don’t have to worry about someone leaning on the table or knocking it over or anything like that! With particle board, this can be a serious problem that will shorten the life of the table if it’s allowed to do so!
There are some tricksters out there, so it’s important to tell you that you must be careful and look carefully at product specifications and descriptions as you are looking for a shuffleboard to purchase. Sometimes, a good (or bad- depends on how you see it) salesman will sneak in there that it is an oak cabinet. This does not ALWAYS mean that it is truly made from oak. Rather, it just means that the look of the cabinet is oak. So, it could be describing the color and not the type of materials used to make the cabinet. Like with anything, just be vigilant and use common sense, and it should leave you happy with your experience.
One easy way to determine how high the quality of the shuffleboard is is to look at the thickness of the board. The very best tables and those that are used for high levels of competition have a surface that is 20 inches wide and a thickness of three inches. This three inch is a huge deal. Anything below that is going to be of lesser quality. This doesn’t necessarily mean its bad or that you shouldn’t buy it, or that it doesn’t fit your needs. But it simply cannot be as high quality because there is less protection available to it. Because of what we talked about earlier with the polymer coatings, thinner surfaces are unable to be coated as much because there is simply just less there to be coated. This makes them less stable.
Length of the Table
One of the major considerations that you have to make is what length you need. An official size shuffleboard table is 22 feet in length. However, you don’t have to have a 22-foot long board. In fact, some people out there won’t be able to accommodate that size. So, you have to be very careful and make sure that you select one that will fit your needs. It’ll do little good if you can’t get fit it into the basement or playroom. There are other versions of the shuffleboard table that can be found at as small a length at nine feet. These are compacted versions, and they can be every bit as fun as the full-size version is.
Just looking at the length alone isn’t going to completely answer your questions here, though. You must be able to walk around the table, remember. So you are going to want to add at least 2-3 feet clearance area all around the table. This is something to keep in mind. So, if you want to have a 22-foot long board, you need to have at least 25 feet clearance in order to fit it into your room. This is something that many people overlook, as they are just concerned with the actual size of the board. Don’t force yourself to squeeze into tight spaces when it’s unnecessary to do so!
In the old days, it was very common to see an abacus system used to keep score. Think back to playing Foosball if you’re familiar. This is a simple sliding metal system that you use to keep track of your points. This is still a very popular set up for today’s games, but there are more options that are now available as well. Due to modern technology and its advancements, many shuffleboards now have electronic scoring available to use by the players. This makes it much easier to keep up with the score of the game and is a very popular option for bars and places where disputes might arise. So, if you have a brother that likes to lie, this may be right for you, too.
Keeping score of the game is very important, but there are a couple of ways to do so in shuffleboard. The most common system is the 3 level grid. This can also be refereed to as the “1-2-3” system. This is a system that is most commonly used with shuffleboard tables. But there are other options for tables as well. You can find shuffleboard tables with the same scoring system on them that it seen on outdoor “tables.” The outdoor “table” scoring system features triangles and six different scoring zones, which makes the strategy much different. Which you want and need is completely up to you.
Adjusting the Climate
For players that are very serious, climate adjustment is very important. Climatic adjusters play a big role in making sure that curvatures in the playing surface are minimized as much as possible. Wood bends depending on the humidity, temperature, and air pressure. A climatic adjuster can reverse your table’s change to become concave or convex. This is not something that is always included in a shuffleboard, so you will need to look for them if you want one. They sound very complicated, but they aren’t nearly as convoluted as they sound. They simply work with a bolt and screw system. Some have as many as six, or as few as four, underneath that you can adjust. More can be learned on this if you are interested in doing just a little bit of research here.
European vs American Version
One of the very interesting things to look at is how the game of shuffleboard is played across the globe. Many would assume it would be the exact same, but this is far from the case. Much like how we like our football or how we drink our tea, the two games are different. The tactics are much different simply because of the shape of the board itself. In the American version, the shuffleboard is almost completely flat. This forces you to be much more accurate, and it is less forgiving on you as you seek to keep your puck on the board. In the European version of the game, the table is very much concave in comparison to the American version. This makes it much more difficult to miss the board entirely. This means the pucks will all be present throughout each match, but it also opens up more trick shot opportunities as you can use the natural curve of the board to either go around an opponent’s puck or knock theirs off. These are two completely different styles of play, and you can find either one if you are looking for them.
Maintenance of Shuffleboard Tables
Maintaining your shuffleboard table is very important. No matter the quality of the materials or the price, you have to take care of your table in order to get as much life as possible out of it. This is why you might want to get some sort of adjuster, as mentioned before, for the climate. But there is much more to go along with this topic.
For starters, you have to take care of the surface. There isn’t any magical air to it like air hockey, so you have to make sure and take care of the surface. To do this, there is special “wax.” Shuffleboard wax can be referred to other names as well. These names vary from “cheese” (because of its close resemblance to Parmesan cheese), “silicone wax,” or “sand” even. No matter the name, the purpose is the same. The purpose is to prepare the surface for play.
Before doing this, you are going to want to take a wiper board and wipe the surface clean. Dust and dirt will go to your board, no matter what the setting is. You just want to use this to make sure that your surface is clean and smooth throughout.
After this, you will apply your wax. The wax is meant to help give you the correct speed when playing. A surface that plays too slow is absolutely awful because it means that the puck won’t slide near as far as you like. However, a surface that plays too fast will see our pucks flying off with little effort. So you want to just coat it with the perfect amount. There are different types of waxes, all with different speeds, so you can shop around and find what fits best for you. Once you’ve found a way that you all agree on, then you can just continue to do it the same way! You are going to want to get into the routine of doing this, and you will find a routine that works for you eventually. But most suggest that you reapply the wax between three and six rounds.
One of the things you’re going to want to make sure and avoid is touching the wax with your fingers while you are playing. Sometimes this may prove difficult if you are picking up your pucks, but it really shouldn’t be too much of an issue for you. You don’t want to do this because it will remove wax from certain areas of the surface, which will adversely affect your game. One tip to avoid this is to slide the pucks off the table using your hands. Just slide them off, like when you slid them down earlier. This way you don’t have to take any chances of picking the puck up and making the wax come off of the table. This is not only good etiquette, but it will also keep your life much easier as you won’t have to come back and sprinkle wax on the board every time you go down to count your score.
Another thing that shouldn’t have to be said is to never use objects besides shuffleboard pucks. This will be the #1 cause of a surface that has been ruined. Also, refraining from throwing things and hitting the surface or cabinet will go a long way in maintaining your board.
Also, like a pool table, a table cover can go a long way to making sure that your surface stays in tip-top shape. Covers can be a little costly, but they are a great accessory to have and are almost necessary for a truly serious player of shuffleboard.
Best Shuffleboard Table Reviews
One of the top-notch shuffleboard tables that you can buy is the Playcraft Telluride. This is a beautiful, classic-looking piece that also incorporates a modern scoreboard that looks timely yet modern at the same time. It comes in two different colors, espresso and honey, and is made from Canadian Maple. Playing equipment is included, but assembly is going to be required. They offer three sizing options: 12, 18, and 22 feet, but no matter what you’re going to be paying a premium price for this premium table.
- Has a scoreboard, which is great for bars and clubs
- Three separate sizes and two different colors
- Top of the line Canadian Maple
- Quite a hefty price, no matter the size
- The wax included with it is not the best
Playcraft’s Woodbridge model comes in at #2 as it is a bit of streamlined version of the #1 choice. For this offering, Playcraft gives you a much more affordable option. Offsetting this affordability, however, is the fact that the table is only available in sizes ranging from nine feet to 16 feet. This means that you can’t play official league or tournament games on it. Like its earlier counterpart, it requires assembly and does come with the playing equipment. It also comes in four different colors: Honey oak, espresso, cherry, and black.
- Good entry-level board
- Good prices
- Great color choices and styles
- Not great for those with lots of room or needing tournament-official boards
- Has to be assembled
An option for those that want to get in at the very ground floor of the entry-level choices would potentially like taking a look at this offering. It comes in at a very low price, so there will be some issues with it. The first issue is that it is only eight foot long, which is somehow shorter than almost anyone claims there’s to be. Pucks and wax are included, as well as an abacus to keep score with. This is most ideal for someone with very little space or young children that you just aren’t sure are going to get into the game very much.
- Very low price
- Takes up much less space than regulation shuffleboards
- Great for younger people, assuming they are not destructive
- Not the highest of quality, for obvious reasons
- Not going to be of much use for serious players.
At number four is mid-level price point item from Fairview Game Rooms. This offering, as the title states though, is only 12 feet. So the fact that it is a moderate price might not be that great since it is ten feet under regulation size. It has two looks: chestnut and mahogany. It includes all necessary items to play the game. And inside of the cabinet is room for some storage, in fact. It does have a rather large abacus, so you won’t have to start over as frequently as most would require you to do so.
- Good mid-size table for those without much space
- Two different looks made with decent wooded materials
- Comes with all materials needed to play
- A little pricey given its size
- Not near long enough for bars or businesses
Another choice for those that are short on room is Hathaway’s Challenger model. This option goes from nine feet up to 14 feet, so it’s getting a little closer to full size than #4 was. Depending on the size, it will either have two or three legs. The price ranges, but it’s on the high end of the moderate scale for all sizes. This one does have an internal climate adjuster, however, so that will explain a lot of the price right there. It comes in two looks: walnut and dark cherry. It does come with everything you need to play with, but the wax is a little too fast for a smaller sized table like this one.
- Can be adjusted for climate
- Another good option for small or medium-sized spaces
- Has two great looks
- Is a little bit pricey compared to others
- The wax is going to make your pucks slide off if used with this table
Another product from Playcraft’s shuffleboard table line comes in at #6 via the Georgetown. The Georgetown is available in three looks: espresso, cherry, and honey. It is a moderate to approaching higher price item considering that the size ranges from 12 to 16 feet options only. The cabinet is made out of pure hardwood, which sets it apart from other comparable tables. Playing equipment is included like its brothers and sisters, but assembly is also required as well. Keep in mind the hardwood will make it heavier and harder to navigate!
- Great, classic look
- Good mid-sized option for those with moderate spacing
- Cabinet made from hardwood
- Still not a regulation-sized board for serious players
- Assembly is required and could be difficult because of its weight
Here is yet another smaller option, this time from Blue Wave. This 12-foot table is available in just the one style- dark cherry. It is a very heavy board at over 400 pounds, and you have to essentially do all the heavy lifting yourself with friends if you order it online. It comes with all of the accessories that you need to play with, and it is a pretty reasonable price despite the smaller size.
- Decent price
- Good for mid-sized rooms
- Has what you need to play with
- Very heavy
- Not large enough for official games
In terms of looks, this Playcraft offering might be the best looking table on the list. In either color- honey or cherry- it looks fantastic! It has an abacus for scoring, the legs look great with a little bit of an artistic design, and all materials are included as well. It only comes in two sizes, though: 12 and 14 feet, and is a little pricey for the sizes!
- Great looking table
- Comes with all accessories
- Great for smaller areas that need classic-looking tables
- Pricey for this size
- Doesn’t come with great instructions for assembly
Coming in only one size and at a pretty low price is Atomic’s nine-foot set. This is obviously for much smaller rooms, but it is also for those that want a little bit of a modern look compared to the classic look that most shuffleboard tables still have. It has an abacus in the very middle of the table, which is also different from the other offerings you typically see. It includes all necessary materials, like most of the other offerings you see on the market today. There are no fancy frills like adjusters and it is actually only eight of playing space that is offered.
- Very low price
- Great for very small rooms
- Platinum look differs from the wood look
- Will not hold up as well as wood
- No adjusters or anything resembling luxury.
Conclusion & Recommendations
Buying a shuffleboard for the family, business, or recreation department can be a great way to earn some major brownie points. Shuffleboard is a game that all can enjoy. Purchasing one isn’t nearly as complicated as many purchasing decisions in the sports and recreation world, but it is still important. The higher the price that you pay, the larger the table typically is. This is ideal for businesses such as bars, recreation departments with large areas, or families with larger homes. Smaller tables are options for people with younger children and little space as well. There are also further options for those that want to try to fit a shuffleboard that fits their personality. You can do this by buying tables that are now made out of things such as metal! Beware that the price could be drastically different in comparison to traditional tables. As you can see, knowing what you need is really the full battle of buying a shuffleboard table!