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The Story of TREBLE

The short version

 

Once upon a time an engineer from Ohio bought a billiard table with dining top. After discovering that the model he bought was not quite right, and after he found out that about every model available in the market today has its own set of limitations, he decided to design a better product. With help from friends and family the concept of TREBLE was brought to life.    

The full version

 

I love playing billiards.

Growing up in East Germany in the 70’s, I cannot exactly recall when I was first exposed to this great game. In fact I don’t even have a recollection of any friends or families during those years who owned a billiard table. Most people lived in apartments or houses that didn’t have a space large enough to hold one. A few years after the wall came down I was a college student in Dresden. I decided to apply for an exchange year in the United States. Not exactly knowing what I got into, I ended up going to beautiful West Virginia, pursuing my engineering studies and getting a part time job in my residence hall. That job involved looking over a game room that contained a Ping Pong table, a TV set and a Billiard table. It was a hangout space for students, but at times it was deserted and while making $4.25 an hour I had plenty of idle time to play pool. First I played a little, then I played a lot and eventually I played every free minute of my day. Life was good.

 

After my year in West Virginia came to an end I returned to Germany, graduated from college, married my girlfriend, got a job with an American company and had children. Life had become busy and playing pool was a thing of my past. That did not even change when I moved back to the States in 2002.

Between my job, raising our 3 children with my wife, coaching soccer and traveling around the world the days simply didn’t have enough hours. But one thing had changed: I now lived in a house much bigger than the one I had grown up in and in a neighborhood where plenty of people had a billiard table in their home. My memory fails to recall when exactly I started looking into getting a pool table of my own or when I learned about the fabulous idea to combine a pool table with a dining top or what I must have done to convince my dear wife that we should own such a table. However, I do recall that in 2015 on my 45th birthday my wife took me to a store in West Chester, Ohio that sells billiard tables. We had a pleasant conversation with the owner and walked out after having placed an order for a brand new model of a contemporary billiard table with a dining top. After several months of waiting the table was finally delivered and set up in our living room. We started playing and enjoyed the table a lot until one day, when my wife asked me to convert the table in preparation of a dinner with friends. This is when we started noticing the imperfections of the model we had selected: The table top segments were heavy - 27lbs to be precise for each of the 4 segments that formed the table top - and carrying them along with a bunch of folding chairs took multiple trips to their storage location in our basement. It also required help from my son to lay the table top segments carefully onto the table to avoid scratching or scuffing the playing surface. Shortly after we noticed that a pool table is a bit higher than a dining table and that using standard height dining chairs with the standard height pool table felt not quite right. Who would have thought that 4 inches can make such a difference? Despite sitting on chairs that were too low we enjoyed our dinner with friends, and we converted the table the same night one more time to return to play pool.

 

Following this first billiard table conversion experience I was bothered that I had not researched in more detail prior to buying and that I had overlooked these little details that now became nuisances that would now stick with me and my family for a long time. However, being an engineer I like solving problems and I decided that building some custom height benches that could address at least part of the inconvenience. I designed some benches with foldable legs that could be stored “out-of-sight” under the table when it is in pool playing position and that could be easily set up when the table is used as a dining table. I also added 4 inches in height to the benches to match the seating height for the taller table height. After some days of fun in woodworking and upholstering the benches were done and I was proud of my accomplishment. But my state of content did not last long. While sitting on the taller benches did in fact address the issue of the taller table top, my thighs were wedged between the bench and the underside of the table. The tabletop measured about 7 inches from the dining surface to the underside, much more than any regular dining table. Hence getting to the perfect seating height on such a table was impossible without limiting thigh space. Unwillingly I trimmed the legs of the benches by a couple inches to split the difference and find a bearable compromise for comfortable seating between having benches tall enough for the table and low enough to preserve sufficient space for my thighs.

With the realization that my conversion top dining pool table would always remain a compromised design, I started a more thorough research for other models.

The perfect Billiard Dining Table combination

I was curious to see if someone had thought this whole thing through and gotten it right. Was the perfect design already out there? I was looking if there was a convertible pool table design that met 4 specific criteria:

  1. The table should convert with ease from playing to dining position. Table top segments should remain attached to the table and pivot easily between playing and dining position, such that a single person could move them with little effort in a matter of seconds. Much like opening a door and less like going camping and having to set up a tent. 

  2. The table should be sold with seating (chairs or benches) that matched the design, but more importantly had the proper heights and would not compromise on the comfort of seating. The seating should be stored under the table, preferably “out-of-sight”, but more importantly “out-of-the-way” when playing pool and without needing to carry it to a separate storage location.

  3. The design of the table should be contemporary: Simple, but elegant. Many pool tables are hidden in basements of houses and may remind you of what you expect to find in a bar with looks ranging from industrial to rustic. A convertible dining pool table instead should be a beautiful centerpiece for a living room.

  4. The table should be affordable. It should certainly not cost as much as a compact car. Ideally it should only cost marginally more than a regular dining table, making it an easy and obvious choice for young families buying their first dining table set to opt for the convertible model.

 

After weeks of online searching I had learned a lot. While there were lots of options of convertible dining billiard tables, none of them came even close to meeting the 4 criteria I had established. Most good looking contemporary tables came without matching seating, and the majority of them were rather expensive too. Table tops for most models are the basic style with detached lift-off segments that are heavy and difficult to move. Only very few models were available with pivoting table top segments, and those that existed looked like awkward boxes in the pool playing position with the tabletop segments dangling down at the sides of the table. There simply wasn’t a good design available that checked all my boxes.

 

This sparked my ambition to design a better transformable dining pool table. Following some months of thinking and sketching I had come up with some concepts that I considered viable candidates to pursue further. But how? Building such a table would require detailed engineering, industrial design and finding possible fabrication and distribution partners.  I decided to proceed step-by-step. This is a hobby – not a race. I filed my first own patent to protect several unique ideas involved. Although I had filed many patents at work, going through the process on your own and becoming a registered filer at the USPTO was quite an ordeal. Next I started involving a few friends to talk about the engineering challenges of such a design and to get help with 3D modeling. Eventually I ended up partnering with a great industrial design firm that helped me to move from simple sketches to full 3D models and visualization of the ideas. My family started pitching in, they helped from ideation to co-inventorship, setting up a web page, registering an LLC, researching places that may be possible manufacturing partners and provided much needed feedback. I vividly recall the comment “This design reminds me of a plastic folding table”… resulting directly in yet another reloop with our industrial design partners. We even had a family vote on naming the table and after careful consideration TREBLE (short for Transformable Entertaining Tables) was born.

 

 

Beyond Billiard - More work is planned

Designing a transformable Billiard Dining Table is actually not easy. There are lots of things to consider. Applying the unique concepts for TREBLE beyond the Billiard - Dining combination is more obvious. There are so many more things this table can do. Think about how many time have your kids started a board game or a puzzle and were not quite done when it was time for dinner?  Think about bars and micro breweries that have limited space and want their customers to be happy and entertained while waiting for dinner. Think about all the things you can do on a table, if it was easy to hide whatever you were doing in seconds by flipping up a 2nd table top.  

Today we are designing different table leg with integral storage and different seating options compatible with the unique table top of TREBLE. Tastes are different and so are the uses of this table.  Model 2 and Model 3 are in the making. The combinations are limitless. 

Today the search is on for the right manufacturing and distribution partner. And the goal remains: Making our design widely accessible. Young families who are buying their first dining table, should find that TREBLE is the obvious choice. 

The journey continues …

Uwe Schneider

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