From left to right: #1 Double Cantilever table up #2 DC down #3 portable folding table #4 accordion low boy table down #5 ALB UP #6 center support #7 Lazy Susan #8 Round Pedestal Base
One of the most important items you will ever buy in a grooming salon is your table, and it is quite often purchased based on BUDGET constraints not necessarily buying according to what you will need. It is also one of the most DANGEROUS pieces of equipment in the salon. Used incorrectly a dog can be killed or seriously injured on or by your table. It can hurt YOU if you choose the wrong table for your purposes or if it is not used properly.
SO, how do you decide which table is best for you? It is as easy as choosing the right car for your family...oh, wait... that is not easy either! I cannot help you find a car but I can help you pick a table.
In order to decided what is best for your situation you need to answer the following questions:
Stationary, Electric or Hydraulic?
- Portable or Stationary are perfect for housecall, travelling, competing and dog shows. They are really good for starting out. BUT. They are inherently unstable, cause physical pain to users due to the height restrictions and have really low weight allowances. Usually they are made out of cheaper materials. I suggest everyone has one in case they need a spare table for temporary groomers, may end up working from home or a temporary location or decide to compete. HOWEVER, as a permanent choice for grooming they are not my first choice.
- Hydraulic tables are much heavier and stable than portable ones are, but they are not my favorites either for numerous reasons. They are usually "jerky" when being raised because the pumps are mechanically worked by the groomers foot and usually they "drop" slightly as they are being raised. That can make the dogs on the tables very uncomfortable and in some cases they panic, trying to leap off the table or flatten. Then you have to settle them down before you can get to work again. When lowering them they can drop really fast (especially with a large dog on the table) and that, again, can scare dogs. Another thing to consider is that if you, like me, have bad knees, hips, back or are weak at all, then it is hard to use a hydraulic table. I personally CANNOT use one any more. My knees are not strong enough to support me or push the controls. Something to think about. If the hydraulic pump leaks or fails you would have to (hopefully) find parts and then find a hydraulic repair shop to do it for you. In my area? They are non-existent and as a result my hydraulic table that failed became metal for the recycler.
- Electric tables are the best in my opinion as the are stable, balanced and smooth operating with little effort. They adjust smoothly, quickly and easily. My Ultra_lift (now Mason) tables all move smoothly enough that 99% of all dogs have no reaction to them moving. They are fast. Lowering them has ZERO drop as they are controlled going down. Weight limits are generally higher than hydraulics and even very very large dogs can easily be moved by the controls where it would be very hard for most people to use a hydraulic for dogs over 80 pounds or so. They are more expensive but usually once you use an electric table you will never go back to using anything else. The drawbacks are obvious. The electrical cord means the table is not movable easily, and the cord can be a trip hazard and traps hair as well. I solved those issues by placing the tables with the cord/motor side facing the wall and wrapping the cords, securing them with cable ties. You can also use a cord cover (Lowe's or Home Depot sell them) if the table needs to be further away so that tripping can be reduced. If pedals or motors go out, even if you cannot get parts from the manufacturer, a good electrician can rewire it for you and fix any problems that may arise.
After deciding you need something besides a portable table, you need to choose between hydraulic and electric. THEN you need to decide on a style of table.
The table types listed above in the photo gallery are not all created equally. Different types of lifting mechanisms result in varying degrees of stability as well as height.
- Accordion style tables tend to go lower to the ground than any other style. They also have great stability. They are harder to clean and require more maintenance (oiling and greasing) than other styles. These go straight up and down so they require less room in the shop or mobile unit. These are perfect for all sizes of dogs and have weight limits up to 500 pounds.
- Cantilever are VERY stable and are usually self lubricating and have sealed pistons for protection of the moving parts. They do not lift or lower straight, they rather shift to the side and as a result need more room to operate than the base implies. The lowest they are going to go is determined by the height of the frame. These are perfect for all sizes of dogs and have weight limits varying from 200 to 500 pounds depending on the frame construction.
- X lift tend to be lighter than other tables but are stable. They have a rail on which the lift mechanism runs, making it lift and lower almost straight up and down. Damage to that rail can mean a table needs repairing or replacing. More cleaning and greasing may be required over a cantilever based table. These are perfect for all sizes of dogs and have weight limits that handle up to 200 pounds easily.
- Z lift are less stable than an accordion, cantilever or X lift but more stable than a round or center base. They will have a lower table weight limit and will TIP if the dog gets to the end of the table furthest away from the frame. I have seen some rated for large dogs but I would suggest small to medium dogs ONLY for this style of table.
- Center bases are inherently unstable, and suitable for toy dogs only or when they can be anchored to the floor.
- Round based hydraulics are also unstable by nature, but some are more unstable than others. The weight of the base will make the difference on that. If possible, see this type in person to see how stable they are. They are also not suitable for larger dogs IMO and do not go low enough to do them easily anyway. IF POSSIBLE anchor these to the floor as well.
- Turning table tops are available on some tables but make sure you have the room for the top to spin. Smaller table top lazy susan tables are available and are perfect for toy breeds and puppies.
OK, so those are the types of tables, now, let's talk about what to look for in a table before purchase.
Ask about parts!
- IF my motor quits can I get a new one?
- IF My hydraulic pump goes out can I get a new one? (This happened to me)
- IF my pedals quit can they be replaced? (This happened to me also)
- IF my table top splinters or peels can I get a new one?
- HOW is the table top attached? Bolts? Screws?
- IF my frame rusts in 12 months will you cover it? (That happened to me with a table never used in a bathing room).
Next, ask about specifications.
- How thick is the table top? .75 inches or 1 inch is preferred.
- What is the table top made out of (PLYWOOD is best and AVOID PARTICLE BOARD or OSB)?
- What is the frame made out of?
- What type of painting system is used (Powdercoating, baked enamel or spray paint for example)?
- How is the table top covering attached? Metal strips break and catch clothing.
- What type of top does it have? Ridged rubber is hard to clean and many dogs find it uncomfortable. Smooth tops and painted tops can be slick. Pebbled is easy to clean and less slick generally speaking.
- How hard is it to put a clamp on? Do they have a built in arm clamp available? Some tables are really thick so it is hard to put a clamp on or the frame prevents you from placing it where you like it.
After you have decided on the style and done the research to determine a brand, buy the best table you can afford. If it means saving another month or two to get a better table it is will worth it in my opinion because buying a table ONCE in your career instead of buying three or four makes the most sense.
If you can pick the table up at a dog show or trade show you will save money on shipping fr om most places. there are a few brands that ship "free" but that cost is built into the cost of the table itself. ALWAYS order in advance and have the company bring the table to the show for you. Otherwise you may be disappointed. Most vendors do not bring a lot of tables with them due to the cost of shipping them to the shows and getting them home afterwards if they do not sell.
I hope you found this helpful. Next up?? Table arms and clamps.