How your pool cue is constructed can be a major factor when trying to improve your game. Not all pool cues are made the same.
Pool cue construction has changed drastically over the years. Today’s pool cues are made very differently to those built decades ago.
Understanding how they are made can help you understand the type of cue “YOU” require in order to better your game. Even if you are a beginner, learning with the right cue will help your game drastically.
Once you have purchased a pool cue, you want to ensure that it will last with proper maintenance.
Differences between a Pool Cue, Billiard Cue & Snooker Cue
The main difference between a pool cue, billiard cue and snooker cue is the cue tip. Pool and billiard cue tips have a diameter of 15/32” (12mm) – 33/64” (13mm) while snooker cues have smaller tips, roughly 23/64” (9mm) – 13/32/” (10.5mm) in diameter.
The difference in tip size is because of the difference in size and weight of the cue ball. Pool balls are larger and heavier in size compared to snooker cue balls. Pool cues are typically built more robust to handle striking a heavier cue ball.
Apart from the tip, there aren’t many other differences between poo, billiard and snooker cues. All three are the same cue length 57” – 58” and the overall weight is roughly the same 19oz – 21oz.
Cue materials can also vary greatly, from wood cues, to fiberglass and also hybrid cues. Choosing the right one is an important decision as it will affect your game play.
It is also sensible to know the different parts of a cue.
Pool Cue Construction
The modern well-made pool cue is quite a piece of equipment. While you may be familiar with the one-piece, slightly warped version down at the local bar, many folks make the investment in a higher quality two-piece cue. You could spend anywhere from $50.00 for a production model, to several thousand for a custom made stick and a good cue case.
If you’re a collector, you could expect to pay tens of thousands for an exotic or antique pool cue. Naturally a beginner wouldn’t make an investment of this magnitude until they had a lot of practice time under their belt and/or a serious commitment to the game. See our buying a pool cue page for help on finding that perfect cue.
The average pool cue is 58 inches long and weighs between 18 and 22 ounces. The “feel” of a particular cue is a subjective matter. Some shooters like a hard feel to their sticks while others desire more “give” or softness, which enables them to get a better sense of the shot.
The same applies to the weight – some like it light, others like it heavy, with some in between. One interesting aspect to a pool cue is the degree of “squirt” it applies to the cue ball. Squirt is defined as the deflection of the cue caused when hitting it off-center to apply side-spin or English.
Naturally, different cue makers’ sticks will have different degrees of squirt depending on materials used and manufacturing process. Lower deflecting sticks are becoming more accepted and popular.
In a two-piece pool cue, the shaft is the section that contains the tip, and where the hand that forms the bridge grabs on to. This section is usually made of hard rock maple, but may also be made of graphite or fiberglass. The shaft must taper correctly and be very smooth to provide just the right feel as the stick slides through the fingers during a shot.
There are two different tapers to pool cues – the European or straight taper, which gradually and evenly increases diameter from the tip to the butt end, and the Pro taper, which maintains the same diameter 12 to 14 inches from the tip down the shaft and then gradually increases diameter from there to the butt.
Depending on the taper of a cue’s shaft, cue tip sizes range between 11.75 mm and 14mm, with the average size being 13 mm. Today tips are made from compressed and treated leather and are attached to the shaft with glue. Cue tips come in different densities – from soft to hard.
Soft tips hold chalk better and offer a better feel for the cue ball, often resulting in more control and finesse. Hard tips hold their shape longer and transfer more power to the cue ball – a plus when breaking.
The ferrule is designed to cushion the impact of the shot and strengthen the tip area. Different manufacturers use various materials for their ferrules, from assorted hard plastics, to ivory-like composites, to ceramic-plastic mixtures, to who knows what. Ferrules come in different lengths and are attached to the shaft by threads or slip-fit and secured with glue.
The rings are narrow metal bands on the pool cue that attach to the collars of both the shaft and butt end, and sometimes in the inlay areas of the butt as well. They help provide support to the joint sections and are also a design element that add symmetry to the look of the cue.
The joint is obviously where the shaft joins to the butt end. It is the section of the cue that is attached to the bottom of the shaft and contains the threads that receive the pin of the butt section.
This part of the stick receives and transfers the energy of the shot from one section of the cue to the other. The harder the material it is made from, the harder a shot can be taken. Some common materials of its manufacture include metal, wood, phenolic resin, buckhorn, or ivory.
The butt is the thicker section of the cue stick and would be thought of as the handle. The butt is where most of the decoration of the pool cue is done and it is this section that accounts for the majority of the cost in fancy high-end pool cues. It is made up of several different sections – forearm, wrap, butt sleeve, and bumper.
The collar is where the butt mates to the shaft and where the threaded pin is attached. It is glued to the forearm portion of the butt of the stick and is made of a strong material such as stainless steel, wood, ivory, or phenolic resin. It is threaded to accept the pin and ensures a positive transfer of energy to the butt end.
The pin is usually made of metal and is the piece that actually connects the shaft of cue stick to the butt end. It is the male end of the joint and screws into the female threads of the shaft. This pin can be a different length, width, and thread size depending on the manufacturer.
The forearm is usually made of rock maple but can be some other exotic wood, and is the section of the stick where the design is most apparent. This area is where the cue maker puts his unique stamp on the cue by the use of intricate inlays, veneers, gemstones, exotic woods, and other design elements. Production cues, on the other hand, may use less expensive methods such as decals and paint schemes.
The wrap is the material attached to what is considered the handle of the cue. It can be made of such things as Irish linen or leather and is usually colored to compliment the design of the forearm scheme. Its function is to provide a sure grip on the stick and to protect the wood from sweat and moisture. Some cues may have a nylon or painted wrap or not have a wrap at all.
The butt sleeve is the last section of the cue stick. It is attached to the wrap and is generally made of the same wood as the forearm. The design scheme of the forearm is usually carried through to the butt sleeve though on a smaller scale. This portion of the stick is often made separately and cored out to accept the weights which adjust the balance of the cue stick.
The bumper is just that – a bumper for the bottom of the stick that cushions it from hard contact with the floor. Typically made of rubber, it absorbs impact and protects the cue from nicks and chipping.
Early Days of Cue Construction
Cue construction, even in the early days, was more an art than a science. Billiard cues, even going back to the early maces, were probably the most artistic of all the items associated with the game itself. Early maces were hand carved ivory and inlaid jewels and gold. They were probably worth as much as the whole table itself.
With the advances made in industry in the 1800s cues were not only made beautifully but they could now be mass produced in a variety of styles. Probably the greatest cue manufacturer of the era was B. Finck Company. It was said that their cues in both beauty and quality was unequaled by anyone. Their cues were used by the finest players in Europe.
By 1879 Finck had more than 160 cues in its catalog. They made both one and two piece cues in many designs and styles. They even made cues that were designed for specific games and for all levels of society, from the lowest commoner to the highest in royalty. They also specialized in what were called “cues for kings.” These cues were extremely expensive, made with inlaid gold and very rare gems. Most of the cues were actually purchased by the kings as more of a status symbol and were very rarely used in actual play. Finck also created custom cues which were awarded as prizes in various tournaments across the land.
Since Finck, many other famous cue makers came onto the scene including Britner, Rambow, Paradise, Balner, Martin, Szamboti and Balabushka. All of these companies, even today, make cues that are considered a symbol of excellence and are valued as true treasures.
There are many variations in the cues that are made. They are dictated by the game itself. For example, billiard cues are stiffer than pool cues because billiard balls are heavier than pool balls. Other variations include the type of wood that is used which will determine how light or heavy the cue itself is, as some prefer a heavier cue to a lighter one.
A good part of the reason that billiard cues were able to be made so well and attractive was the art of marquetry, which is the art of making designs or pictures with thin pieces of wood, shell or other materials. This art has been a part of billiard cue making almost right from the beginning. Floral, geometric or other inlaid designs have greatly added to the beauty of tables and cues. Precious gems and metals have also been used in this art. Even the art of “finishing,” which Stradavari used on his violins, was also used on cues and tables.
What is a Sneaky Pete Cue?
Sneaky Pete cues are quite often used by professional players. They are designed to look like a poorly made cue when in actual fact, they are expertly made. Thinking that your opponent is using a cheap cue meant that you would underestimate their playing ability and be susceptible to being hustled. Sneaky Pete cues are quite often called Hustle Style cues for this very reason.
Knowing how a pool cue is constructed will help you buy the right kind of cue and will help you become a better player, but it won’t make you a professional overnight. As you game improves and you become more comfortable playing, it makes sense to own different types of cues, for different types of games played. Once you’re bought a cue then learn how to hold it. It makes sense to buy a snooker cue only if you plan on playing snooker.