What do I need to think about when buying a cue?

Snooker Crazy Handmade Snooker Pool Cues

What do I need to think about when buying a cue?


  1. Is there anything wrong with the cue you already have?Would you be better off spending any spare monies on coaching instead?

  2. Is ‘The guy down the club’ the best person to offer advice?

  3. What dimensions should the cue be?

  4. What constitutes a good cue?

  5. Will I get a far better cue if I spend more money?

  6. What types of cues are there?

  7. Should I avoid anything that isn’t made in this country?

  8. What types of wood should the cue be made of?

  9. What type of finish is best on a cue?

  10. Tips?


 

Is there anything wrong with the cue you already have?

If you are playing at a great level and things are going well then you have to ask yourself why you would risk this by buying a new cue? Some people are searchers of the ‘Holy Grail’ cue and truly believe that one day they will pick a cue up and ‘Eureka’, they have found a magic wand and they can now pot balls off the lampshades; get me one if you find it!

If you have that fantastic cue then I’d stick with it or at the very least keep hold of it if you are going to try a new one.

If your cue is in a bad state of repair then you could consider a refurbish / repair but if you really have to have a new cue then think carefully about new cue dimensions before making drastic changes.

Would you be better off spending any spare monies on coaching instead?

Now firstly let me say that I started Snooker Crazy to give honest, friendly advice in the game that I love and if that every changes I will go back to my previous job where I certainly earned more money!

Unless your cue is the ‘Broomstick’ of cues then I would always seek coaching advice first to improve your game. Simplistically for me, if the cues pointing in the wrong direction then guess what, the object ball’s probably not going to go in. I get so many people ask me if buying our most expensive cue will improve their game and I always say, if you point it in the right direction then it has a good chance.

For me, I always promote coaching over equipment for players as if you are struggling it is the best way to get there quicker and understand what you should be doing.

I’ve met 2 types of players over the years:

The natural gifted player – generally thinks that coaching is a waste of time and money.
Everyone else – has an open mind to the benefits of help.

I love talking to the naturally gifted player who just says coaching is just a waste of time and money especially when you can see they would clearly benefit from some experienced help. If someone as naturally talented as ROS can seek safety shot advice and mental toughness from Ray Reardon and other psychological mind coaches then I think we should all have an open mind to at least trying.

Is ‘The guy down the club’ the best person to offer advice?

Tough one this as it depends who that person is. We generally ask the player that is better than us or the person that is the best player in the club. I have met many of both and to be fair, I have met few that have an in-depth knowledge as to how various cues are made, what constitutes a good cue and some know even less about tips. In general, you get a good description of what they personally have had and used and some have only ever had 1 or 2 cues and have used the same tip for their playing career.

That said, there are a few who have a great knowledge and take a keen interest in everything cue and tip related.

Now I realise this doesn’t answer the question with a sound ‘yes’ or ‘no’ but I would take advice from various sources and then consider the information as a whole. I get so many people coming to me with totally incorrect information and saying the guy is a good player so he must know what he is talking about; guess what, not always!

What dimensions should the cue be?

The easiest answer for me is, depends on the dimensions of your body, your cue stance and what it takes for you to get a great feel and good timing of your shots……….so not too much then!

A standard cue for me is generally ash shaft, ebony butt with some exotic splices, 58”, 18oz, 30mm butt, 16 to 18” balance point, 9.75mm tip and a few other characteristics on top.

Do you like an inch out of the back of your grip hand or 2”? do you play with a straight bridge arm like Joe Davis or slightly bent like the modern day players? Do you have shoulder problems so really bend your bridge arm or do you have twitches in your back-swing so use a shorter cue so you don’t take it far enough back to get the twitch? Lots to consider so in my opinion don’t listen to the……….

A cue should reach the top of your shoulder or be 1 inch below, there are more things to consider. Again, I would spend an hour with a coach to consider what constitutes the correct stance for you and go from there.

When I first question customers I get a variety of answers as to what they want and to be fair, most aren’t sure so the discussion is generally the most valuable time spent.

When they say heavy, most aren’t sure what heavy weigh’s and I find that out very quickly by swapping the cues around. If you are lucky enough to try a few cues then this generally helps you discover what the best dimensions are for you. If you get the opportunity then take it as we are all after something different.

What constitutes a good cue?

As long as a cue is tailored to you as a player and is well made using decent materials then everything’s good. Now I know I can hear people saying ‘rubbish.’ There are many past world champions with cues that you certainly wouldn’t use if you saw it in the rack and not all from the old era of players.

I’d be interested how many of the modern day players have straight cues? I would think Reardon, Spencer and Hendry wouldn’t have had their cues straightened and they certainly racked up a few world championships with bent cues.

If the cue is well balanced and you feel good about it then you have a chance.

For me, I like to see a cue that has a balance point between 16 and 18” (as I said), a semi stiff shaft with some life in it,  smooth on the shaft (oiled), a little more grippy on the butt (waxed), not always a glossy look, a weight that doesn’t feel heavy or light, nice straight grain (I cue grain up not arrows) and most importantly, a tip that gives me decent feedback, feel and grip; so not too much.

Will I get a far better cue if I spend more money?

On balance, most probably but only in a certain range.

Does a £300 play better than a £25? Does a £700 play better than a £300?

In many ways I would say a £300 on average would definitely play better than a £25 but it would vary when comparing a £300 to a £700. To answer this fully you would really have to compare each makers cues against each other as the answer wouldn’t be accurate solely based on price.

Do you get a quality cue at around the £500 to £700 range?

You most certainly should do. Is there a major difference between this and a £300 cue? Sometimes but not always.

I have seen cues from the same makers with 4 different badges in the same spec cue with prices ranging from £200 to £700, all ash shafts with a plain ebony butt. In some cases the shaft looked better on the more expensive cues but not always and 5 perfect arrows and straight grain does not always mean that the shaft doesn’t have the playing characteristics of a piece of rope!

In most cases, we have some quality craftsmen in this country and If you are getting a custom made cue and paying £700 upwards I would definitely want a few images as the cue is made just to build confidence. Don’t hassle a cue maker to death, just 3 or 4 images so you know what you are paying for.

Now we have to mention that obviously labour is cheaper abroad so this makes the mix even more confusing to the buyer. Foreign cue makers have rapidly come to the forefront of cue making and are breaking new ground with value for money so there are many new Asian brands commonplace in the UK market providing the quality of the more established cue maker from the home shores.

If you are looking at a particular brand then try and at least see one of the cues in the flesh or even better, discuss the experience of buying the cue and playing with it with the player just to get an overall picture of what you are likely to get.

It’s never easy to truly answer this question across the range so do your homework and take as much advise as possible.  

What types of cues are there?

Going back years ago the cues were generally 2 piece (split evenly down the middle with a join), 1 piece and occasionally I have see 3 piece and a few 4 piece! Generally they were 1 and 2 piece.

Nowadays the cues are either 1 piece or ¾ ( ¾ shaft with ¼ butt ).

We now have the introduction of the mini butt (normally 6”) and telescopic cue extension that screw into the butt and fit nicely into the cue case so lots to choose from. Some pro’s still use the slip over telescopic extension but personally I prefer the screw in.

The 1 piece cue is described as this as there isn’t a joint splitting the cue but more importantly the benefits are said to be that the shaft wood runs from the ferrule right through the butt to the other end making a continuous shaft. Why is this important? Well it is widely believed that the player gets more feedback on the shot with a 1 piece cue. Is this the belief of all? Not really but many professional and better players prefer the 1 piece and swear by it.

Why then do many players buy a ¾? This biggest answer I get is because the cue is much more easier to transport and fits in the boot of a car!

Machine or hand made? Hmm. This is a massive section as we could talk all day regarding what is truly hand made. What I will say is that in normal terms, a hand made cue requires far more skills and takes a lot longer to produce than an assembly line machine made cue.

Does a machine made cue not play as well? If it is assembled correctly, has sounds joints and a top grade shaft then there is no reason why not but this is rarely the case so I would always opt for hand made if the budget allows.

What do I use? I have used both and don’t have a personal preference so it really depends on your requirements and what you want from a cue.

Should I avoid anything that isn’t made in this country?

The straight answer is no, take a balanced view on everything on the market.

Some established Uk companies make their top of the range cues but can source the lesser valued cues from factories abroad and re-badge. Some understandably use the best shafts for the more expensive cues and then can use the lesser shafts for a range they rename or for rest sticks.

The cue industry is a tough market to be in so obviously manufacturers look to use everything they have regarding materials and savings from suppliers abroad.

If a cue is a player then it doesn’t really matter where it comes from and with the emergence of the now established cue makers overseas the marketplace is now very competitive.

Obviously you have to be careful of high volume, factory made cues from certain parts of the world but there are some great custom made cues being shipped to this country and very reasonable prices so take stock before you decide.

What types of wood should the cue be made of?

Shaft Wood

Now over the years I think I’ve seen most everything that can be used for the shaft from Ash, Maple, Pear, Oak, Fibreglass and even aluminium.

No matter what has been tried over the years the more common players use ash with maple coming in second and then a mixture of the rest.

Obviously this again is personal choice but ash is the choice of the many so it’s playing characteristics must suit the masses. I like the feel of it and the fact that you can choose a shaft that isn’t poker stiff or plays like a piece of string is a great benefit.

Butt wood.

Well, again you can get plain ebony which has that classic look to all the exotic splices, the mixture of both has set the trend for cues in the modern day era.

Nowadays there are the composite / ebonex / rocolite (man made) butts which provide an even density and on some of the cheaper butts you will find plastic with a decal sticker showing splices.

Personally I am constantly amazed by the choice of exotic butt wood and the various designs used to show off the cue makers skills, we are very lucky nowadays.

Do I have any concerns about butt woods?

For me, as long as the material used is of consistent density across the whole butt so it doesn’t affect feel then fine; I would also like to know the woods are correctly dried and whatever is used is reflected in the overall price of the cue.

What type of finish is best on a cue?

I’ve seen lots of mixes and various cures to bad feeling shafts so we are pretty spoiled for choice with what we can have.

Personally I have an oiled shaft from a mixture I make myself as I like the feel. It doesn’t dry too quickly but I am more interested in what it feels like once dried. On the butt I normally have an oil finish to start and then a slight wax buff that also dries in a couple of days.

We all like different feels and finishes on a cue so it’s whatever you like that counts.

Personally I don’t like lacquer so do my very best to alter the state with wax mixes or remove it completely from the shaft. I find it too sticky but I know many players use a ‘cue slick’ cleaner and other products to overcome this.

In recent years I have taken more interest in wax as a shaft finish; if mixed and dried correctly it can give a beautiful feel when playing and if a more expensive wax (whiter wax) is used then it should dry better without being too sticky.

I’ve made my own oils and waxes for some time now, whether they will ever be sold or not we’ll have to see!

Tips?

Basically, it’s a minefield of choice out there nowadays. Gone are the old days where you either fitted Blue Diamond or Elkmaster, there are now literally hundreds of tips to choose from.

Normally you will have a choice of a pressed tip ( e.g. single piece of leather pressed from a hide ) or a layered tip ( e.g. layers of pig skin stuck together).  

Again, more expensive doesn’t mean better, I’ve seen the more expensive tips fall apart and I’ve seen the bullet hard ones at both ends of the scale. What I would say is don’t choose a cue based on what tip is on it as you can simply replace it.

There are many popular makes used by the masses out there now with various grades so what you need to do is decide how hard you would like the tip, get one with the best reputation / reviews you can find and then choose a tip shape you are happy with.

Tips are normally made from leather and yes, it can be inconsistent so not everyone will be perfect.

I naturally try lots of tips out from time to time as they come onto the market and have found some of the more cheaper tips actually play very well even when  they look terrible in the box! If you are unsure on shape then start with something more conventional. If you have a perfectly good cue but the tip is a little small then consider a ‘crown tip’ shape like Barry Hawkins.

If you have an old cue with a screw in tip then I would think about a method of replacement as there is a far better choice of decent tips when using stick on.

What I will say is once you have found a decent tip, accept it and stay with it or you will be dabbling forever.

Well, I hoped you enjoyed this little insight into cue buying. It’s better to be armed with a few more thoughts as too many players just pick one of the rack and buy on what the butt looks like.

We have many articles on ‘Tip shapes’ and other various topics sp why not take a look on our ‘Blog’ section in the menu.


 


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