Is that stuff really necessary?
The first time I encountered a shuffleboard table at a bar, I was a little confused.
It was a beautiful long wooden table. But it was covered in dust.
This waxy substance was all over the table. It would move around and spread in different directions as the pucks glided through towards the end of the table.
After each game, the players would sprinkle some more of this saw dust on the table. They seemed like they knew what they were doing.
They even scooped some up during the game and dropped it on certain spots before they shot.
I thought it was peculiar. But as it turns out, this dust is a critical element of the game.
It’s actually called shuffleboard powder. And there are a few interesting bits of info about shuffleboard powder that any serious barroom shuffleboard player should know.
Here’s what I’ve learned.
Shuffleboard Powder is Part of Routine Table Care and Maintenance
The surface of a shuffleboard table should be cleaned on a regular basis. This is usually done using a specialty cleaner made to remove dirt and grime off the playing surface.
Then the table is coated with a light application of silicone spray. This spray lowers the surface tension of the table. That’s why the powder spreads so easily. It is applied before the powder and essential for a fast and smooth glide.
The powder is the finishing touch. Shuffleboard powder should be applied lightly and evenly over the silicone-coated playing surface. If too much is used, it can pile up and slow down the pucks on the table.
Shuffleboard powder helps the pucks glide down the table. Without the powder, there wouldn’t be much gliding at all. The game would be much less fun.
Also, what’s great about this powder is that it allows you to fine tune the action of your pucks on the table.
Shuffleboard Powder Tailored to Table Length, Speed and Control
Shuffleboard powder is made from different materials. The fastest types of powder are made from pure silicone beads. As you can imagine, it means the pucks will fly down the table with maximum speed and very little resistance.
Pure silicone based shuffleboard powder also requires a long table. This means a table that is at least 18-22 feet.
Using powder like this requires a high level of skill and finesse to control the pucks and place accurate shots. As such, it’s really only for pro-level players. But is there even such a thing in the world of shuffleboard?
Yes. There are pros, semi-pros, and competitive tournament shuffleboard players. And these players all use either silicone based powder or some blend of silicone with another material, like ground corn, to add a little more control.
For the rest of us, a medium speed powder will usually do. This is what you’re most likely to find at a bar or other casual shuffleboard playing environment.
Medium speed shuffleboard powder is intended for use on a wider range of tables, from 14 – 22 feet. These powders are made from a blend of materials. Maybe a little silicone with some sand and cornmeal, for example.
Next are the slow speed powders. These powders are designed to provide maximum resistance while allowing for enough glide to play on tables between 9 – 12 feet.
Slow speed powders are made with very little, if any, silicone. These powders are necessary to maintain control on smaller tables. But they provide a lot of resistance and would likely ruin your game on a full length table.
To see an example of how the powders are classified according to table length, speed and skill level, check out Sun-Glo powders.
They make 7 different shuffleboard powders. The powders are numbered from 1 -7 in order of speed, with 1 being the fastest.
The #1 powder is made from pure silicone ball bearings and intended for professional use on full length tables. The #7 is the slowest shuffleboard powder. It’s designed for small tables and max control.
Try Mixing the Powder
Every shuffleboard playing environment is a little different.
You never know how temperature, humidity or other factors might affect the table and how it interacts with a certain type of shuffleboard powder.
Also, there’s usually a mix of skill levels in a group. For this reason, it’s helpful to keep a few different types of powder on hand.
Try different ratios and mixtures. You might find the optimum balance for your speed, table and type of play.
A lot of shuffleboard powder ends up in the gully during a game. Players can use this excess powder to cover dry spots during the game.
But there is still a lot leftover. And this powder starts to add up after a few games.
One bar-owner I know has a simple solution to clear the powder out of the table gutters: A gutter scoop!
Just slide it along the gullies after every few games. And you can even recycle the powder for later.
So far, that’s about as much as I know about shuffleboard powder.
It’s definitely necessary.
And as you learn more about how to play shuffleboard, you can also learn how to customize the type of powder based on the desired speed of play, level of control and length of table.