Last Updated on May 5, 2021.

Air hockey tables are a favorite at arcades and have also risen in popularity with people wanting to purchase one for at-home use. It may seem like a straightforward game, but there is more to an air hockey tables’ construction and operation than meets the eye. 

To make the most of your new game room purchase, here is a comprehensive rundown explaining what an air hockey table is, as well as some information on how they work. 

What is an Air Hockey Table?

Air hockey tables have been incredibly popular on the arcade scene for decades, providing competitive entertainment for people of all ages. The air hockey table was initially created to produce a new and exciting game that was faster-paced and more energetic than pool or billiards. 

The sport of ice hockey inspired the game. The table was designed and built in the USA by a team of game designers and was patented in the late 1960s. Since then, the table’s technology and appearance have been tweaked and updated regularly, along with advancements in construction and technology.

What is an Air Hockey Table Made Of?

There are a few key sections that make up the construction of an air hockey table. The table’s surface is a smooth, sleek finish which is usually formed from a type of plastic. It is polished to create the least amount of friction possible during gameplay.

The table has raised sides to prevent the puck from coming off the table. There is a goal at either end of the table, allowing the puck to fall underneath. A fan is installed underneath the table, allowing the puck to hover slightly for free and easy movement. Let’s break down some more specifics about how the table looks and works:

  • The playfield or rink

The design of the playfield is based on that of a traditional ice hockey rink, which is split up into various parts. On each side of the table, there is a blue line and two dots known as face-off dots. Either side has a drawn-out goal. In the middle, you will find another face-off dot, as well as a red line that splits the table in half. Players must ensure their striker does not cross this red line during the game. 

You will also find holes throughout the air hockey table. They are in place to allow a passage of air to pass through from the fan, located underneath the table. This allows the strikers and the puck to move seamlessly across the table with minimum levels of friction. 

  • The fan

The fan underneath the table is a relatively powerful piece of equipment, as it needs to create enough air to enable the right amount of lift on the strikers and puck. However, thanks to advances in technology, the fan can operate reasonably quietly so as not to disturb the gameplay experience. 

The fan is what creates the floating effect of the pieces to ensure seamless, energetic gameplay. This kind of fan effect is the same type of technology as you might see being utilized in a hovercraft, for example. The fan is connected to the underside of the table by several screws. It must be plugged into a power source nearby to make sure the game runs smoothly for hours, although some smaller models are battery-powered.

How Do Scoring Goals Work?

The goals in an air hockey table are cut out into the sides of the table. They are just big enough for the puck to slide in. Therefore, scoring is relatively tricky for the beginner, and it requires skill and practice to become a true pro air hockey player. 

You need to get the puck through the goal to score a point. Depending on the type of table, there may be built-in electronic sensors within the goal, which are there to keep a tally each time a goal is scored. Of course, if you have a retro-style or older type air hockey table without the sensors, you will have to keep track of the score manually. Many older-style tables have what is known as a scoring abacus to help you to do so.

Keeping an Air Hockey Table Working Smoothly

There are several things to consider when looking to maintain an air hockey table’s performance and make sure that it is working smoothly at all times. Maintenance tasks include:

  • Cleaning and lubricating the surface

To make sure an air hockey table is working optimally, it must be regularly cleaned. Any residue should be removed thoroughly so that gameplay remains slick at all times. 

The surface of an air hockey table has to be regularly lubricated. An adequately lubricated air hockey table ensures the fastest possible gameplay. However, be warned that a table that is lubricated too much can become too slippery for players to control. Polishing the table should be done with a lint-free cloth, so no unwanted debris gets deposited onto the smooth surface. 

  • Cleaning the fans

The fans are integral to the table’s performance, and therefore, they also have to be maintained carefully to prevent dust from spreading around the room. Fortunately, most modern air hockey tables will have removable fans so they can be taken out and cleaned thoroughly without too much trouble. 

Use a damp cloth to wipe clean the fans. They should be fully dry before re-installing them onto the underside of the table to ensure optimum airflow. 

  • Waxing the surface

Another option to keep an air hockey table at peak performance is to use wax on the surface. Seeing as any air hockey table maintenance goal is to create the least amount of friction, using wax is one way to achieve this. Specific wax made for air hockey tables should be used to prevent damage. You should leave the wax to sit for several hours before resuming gameplay

Enjoy The Thrill of Air Hockey at Home

Air hockey tables have been providing the fun factor in arcades as well as in people’s homes for decades. They provide a unique sport and gameplay which takes inspiration from real-life ice-hockey. Children and adults of all ages can enjoy them. The main principle of how an ice hockey table works is the use of a very smooth surface with holes and fans underneath to move the strikers and puck around. Air hockey tables have to be maintained regularly to ensure slick gameplay. 

If you are considering adding an air hockey table to your home, look for a high-powered fan that offers whisper-quiet operation. Tables built from solid wood or powder-coated metal offer the highest durability, but plastic tables are an excellent, affordable alternative.