Leather Snooker Tips
Well I keep hearing fellow snooker enthusiasts discussing how great old leather is for making snooker tips. After doing a bit of digging and thinking around the process, I thought I’d find out for myself.
Older leather has obviously had more time to dry and harden over time, hence the darker look. The leather I’ve chosen looks like it has been placed in a tip press but also has a feel like it has been heat dried at the same time.
So, onto some of the basics of how to make leather snooker tips.
If you take an Elkmaster tip (a leather pressed tip), you generally either just fit it and wait for it to harden up through play or compress it then and then fit it. With old leather it is already compressed to the point of being hard, it’s a little like a laminate tip as regards hardness.
What we really want to know is will it shape like a standard tip, look like a standard tip and above all, play like one with some nice grip.
Lets see how I got on.
As you can see from the picture, I have placed some nice new leather on the right and some old, harder and denser leather on the left. If you look at the new leather you can see the thickness and although the older leather is only slightly smaller, I can assure you it is rock hard!
The new leather bends easily but the old leather is really stiff
Leather Snooker Tips
I’ve decided to use the smaller of the old shoe heels that are around 65 years old (fell off a lorry just after world war two!). The smaller pieces are sightly harder as I want to see how a harder tip will play for grip as this is the closest to a laminate.
The tool you can see is an 11mm circular leather punch usually used with a hammer.
Cutting Leather Snooker Tips
After a little thought, I have decided to place the punch in a vice against two metal plates, this way we can cut it slowly. Now a word of warning here. Even closing the vice slowly I was still surprised by the final ‘Bang’ as the punch cut through the hardest part of the leather!
Make sure your punch is completely square to the leather.
Just in case
The sudden release of pressure as the punch cuts through the hardest part of the heel needs a little protection I think! Just to be sure, I placed a towel over the various parts and this seemed to ensure they didn’t move far when each tip was cut out.
The ‘Bang’ really was an eye opener!
Rough Leather Snooker Tips
Here we have the rough leather snooker tips cut out of the old leather. As you can see, they vaguely resemble tips but what I really like at this stage is if you try and squeeze them they are really solid.
I’ve certainly punched a few tips out in my time but these are by far the hardest!
Preparing the Base
With a tip this hard I like a nice base on it so it will just soak a little glue into it, not far, just slightly. To make any headway on the base you really need to use an 80 grit, yes 80 grit paper and it leaves a really good base that is still hard and flat because of it’s age.
Always shape shiny side down in a figure of eight to keep the base even.
Fitting Leather Snooker Tips
I have used super glue gel as it really does give you some stability, time to move the tip around and doesn’t soak too much into the base. Once the tip is sound I like to use a craft knife or a scalpel to cut back the sides of the tip to the ferrule walls.
Be careful against the ferrule with the blade as you can easy cause some damage.
Shaping Leather Snooker Tips
Now whether you are working on leather snooker tips or laminated I find it best to initially keep the tip walls level with the ferrule when shaping. As you can see in the picture the tip’s looking pretty close so it was worth taking the time to ensure we didn’t take any big chunks out by coming inside the ferrule walls.
Now we can start to really shape the tip.
Shaping Leather Snooker Tips
On a something this hard I take the top off with 80 grit, then drop back to 400 for fine shaping and finally 1000 to finish off. The tip won’t fall apart with 80 grit so just do it as this baby fights back.
As you can see in the picture you still get a good amount of tip to play with so you can pretty much pick any type of cue tip shape you like.
Finally a Leather Snooker Tip
Well after a little shaping and reduction in the tips height we finally have something that resembles a snooker tip. It feels nice and solid and also has a little grip. I guess on reflection, this feels more like a laminated snooker tip than a standard pressed leather tip.
I fitted the leather tip to an old hand made Horace Lindrum maple cue that I’d rescued and refurbished; the tip looks and feels great, certainly in keeping with the tips used at that time.
Well I guess you’d like to know how it played?
Well I don’t mind telling you that I was a little surprised how well the tip played. I felt it would probably be reasonably good but the tip had a superb grip which I wasn’t really prepared for. It screwed the ball excellently and took just the right amount of side which was really good for a new tip (but old leather!). It had no trouble holding the chalk and you got confidence in playing all the shots very quickly, absolutely superb.
What you have to remember is, learn from the leather you choose and once you find the right type, buy it all and then hide it back home!
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