Once you own a pool table, it’s usually not long before you end up buying a pool cue upwards of $100, so it’s imperative that you look after your investment, not only to keep that cue in good working order but to also ensure you’re getting the most out of playing with it.
Many parts make up a single pool or billiards cue, so in order to keep your stick in good working order you need to maintain all of it. Let’s start with the tip.
The most important part of a pool cue is the tip. It’s the part that strikes the ball so a poorly maintained tip will affect every shot and nothing will save your game if your tip is poorly maintained.
The purpose of the tip is to hold chalk. You should always have chalk on your tip before every shot.
The tip is made of leather and should be concave in shape, but should still have a flat section on the end. A good leather cue tip should also be rough enough so that chalk can stick to it. The tip needs to be able to grab the cue ball, just for an instant, but long enough so that spin can be transferred to the ball.
When you buy a pool cue, it’s more than likely the tip won’t be the proper shape. It needs to be the shape of a nickel, not too round and not too flat.
After 4 – 6 weeks of play, your tip will more than likely need to be reshaped. Smacking into the cue ball all those times causes the tip to compress. Softer tips will compress quicker than harder tips. Sanding the tip is only required to reshape it, over-sanding will cause it to wear out faster than it should. The idea is to roughen up the tip to enable better ball control. When sanding the tip, use 200 or 400 grade sandpaper and be sure the sandpaper doesn’t touch the ferrule.
Tip maintenance is not an exact art… sand, shape, then test. This will give you the best indicator of a well maintained tip, not simply the look of it.
Although not as important as the cue tip, the ferrule does server a purpose and it’s important to maintain it as well. It connects the tip to the shaft and it usually made from ivory.
Cleaning the ferrule is a simple case of using a damp cloth. No sandpaper or chemicals.
The ferrule should be firmly fixed to the shaft and tip, without any movement. Quite often when a stick is dropped, either the tip or ferrule will be damaged.
After the tip, the shaft is the next most important part of a cue stick. They are either made from wood, titanium or carbon fiber. As wood pool cue’s are the most popular today, we’ll be focusing on this type.
The shaft of a pool cue requires regular maintenance. This is to ensure the cue doesn’t become sticky when it slides back and forth or the bridge of your hand.
It’s important to not use any products that will potentially break down the timber in the shaft, this includes waxes and oils. There are lots of products on the market to help clean the shaft but giving it a light sand with 400 or 600 grit sandpaper is usually good enough. Never allow the sandpaper to touch the ferrule or collar. The goal is to only sand the shaft so that it’s smooth in your hand.
The Collar (Joint)
The collar or joint is the section of the cue that joins a 2 piece cue together. When the cue is not being used, joint protectors will protect the pin from damage in case it’s dropped. Joint protectors will also keep moisture out of the shaft. Many cues will use good quality collars so joint protectors aren’t necessary.
The Butt (Sleeve)
The butt or sleeve is right near the end of the cue and its purpose is to absorb moisture from a player’s hand. It shouldn’t need much maintenance as a player should never touch this part of the cue. Simply wipe it down with a damp cloth.
Quick Tips on how to Protect Your Cue
- Always store your cue vertical or horizontal (never lean it up against a wall, even if it’s only a slight lean)
- Never expose your cue to moisture (water and wood are not good friends)
- Never expose your cue to extreme heat or cold (either one will warp the shaft)
- Never store your cue in places with high humidity (it will eventually warp the wood)
- Never apply oils to the shaft (it will soften the wood and eventually perish it)
How to Store Your Pool Cue
Your cue should only be stored in one of two places… in the rack, or in a case. A rack will keep it vertical while a case will keep it horizontal. It should never be stored by leaning against a wall or table. Ever!
Storing your cue in a rack allows for extra ventilation compared to storing it in a case. While Storing in a case provides protection from direct sunlight. It’s your choice.
Is my Pool Cue Warping?
How do you know if your pool cue is warped or is just starting to warp? A warped cue will provide no end of frustration and depending of how warped it is, you may as well just stop playing and throw that crappy cue in the bin.
Look down the barrel of the shaft, quite often small bends and imperfections will be visible to the naked eye. The other well known method is to roll the cue on the pool table. If it has any sort of warp, the cue will wobble as it rolls. When rolling your cue, look very closely at the position of the tip. The tip of a straight cue will keep in the same position while it rolls.
Buying a quality cue and proper storage are both key to owning a beautiful straight cue for many years. Remember, not all timbers are the same, some are softer and more prone to warping than others.
Once again, proper storage is the key to warp prevention. Remember either horizontal or vertical, never any angle in-between.
Buying a carbon fiber or titanium cue will never warp. This is the main reason why many players opt for these types of cues.
Pool cue maintenance doesn’t have to be a chore. A few simple tasks and some common sense when is comes to storage is all that’s required. It’s important to do your research and buy the best pool cue your budget allows. There are a few poor quality cues on the market but you usually get what you pay for. If you are a beginner, be sure to check out this guide on buying a cue stick.