Living in Los Angeles, to be near friends and family, Carlos Coll set up shop. A custom cue building shop. At the start, it’s purpose was for Carlos to fix his own personal playing cues. It then evolved into a shop to build and sell custom cues, as a Coll’s Custom Cues brand. Carlos credits Ned Morris, cuemaker and personal friend, with teaching him how to build cues.
A pool player himself, Carlos prefers One Pocket, admitting that he “tinkers way too much to be a good player.” He is more interested in the cues. A “cheapy three piece” was his first cue. It was with this cue that he would play pool with his father on his paternal grandfather’s table, when he was a young boy. He moved on to using a “Viking Cue,” a “Balabushka Cue,” followed by a “Ned Morris,” and finally with a cue that he built himself.
In building custom cues, Carlos concentrates on three guiding principles, which are quality of construction, design, and playability—with playability being most significant, because folks buy cues to play pool, not to set on a shelf to look pretty.
His cues definitely are beautiful. Only the best materials will do for a Coll. He mills his own wood and turns his own shafts. His shafts are Canadian Rock Maple, which is only harvested at certain times of the year. It’s important to have straight, tight grain, which allows for less movement of the wood, and is most pleasing to the eye. Each shaft is inspected for any sugar marks or other blemish which, when found, are thrown into the trash.
Native to exotic woods, which could include those from North America, Africa, and South America, can be used for the cues. Most cuemakers use the same types of woods. Some can, in fact, be toxic. For this reason, the preferred woods of the customers—if not already one that Carlos keeps on hand—will be researched for toxicity and if they can cause a reaction.
Any wood can be used so long as it isn’t toxic. If clients want something different, he can get it.
A search to find high quality materials is ongoing. When found, they may be bought—even if not for immediate use. Carlos always checks the humidity content of the wood he purchases, always “making sure that the materials are aged and cured properly.” He turns all of his wood himself. Nothing in his shop is prefabricated. The next step is conceptual, where design decisions will be made.
During construction of the cue, it is left to “set” along every step of the way, to allow for movement of the wood. Next the cue is actually built, then a “quality finish must be used to bring out the details in the wood, followed by a good polishing job.” Carlos tries to have professional players, and those whom he respects and admires, give feedback on his cues.
Most of the playability is dependent upon quality products, of course, but Carlos adds an additional step that he refers to as a “fitting.” He explained that a fitting is when a customer meets him at his shop to try out different shafts; to actually hit some balls to get a feel for different shafts. Customers continue to try out different shafts for as long as it may take until they are happy with a cue that has a solid comfortable hit—that fits with their expectancy of what they want the shaft to do.
Carlos does not “put out errors. If mistakes are visible, the cue will not leave [his] shop.” After the fitting and construction are completed, he will actually take time to play with each cue before it goes out. He does everything possible to ensure that the fit, quality, and beauty are there, and that he has built a cue to the highest possible quality. This is why each and every cue is checked at every step along the way.
The ideal cue for customers is one that responds to what they’re telling it to do, one that provides feedback. Personally, Carlos “does not like a heavy stick, and likes it to be less than 18.5 ounces, have a lot of control, and the hit to be very predictable and consistent.”
Carlos is unable to give a specific date that a cue can go home, mainly because in the process of building the piece, he allows it to rest—be left alone, untouched. Resting is necessary so that if there’s any movement in the wood, as there is in any wood being used in any project, it will have a chance to set, so to speak. Carlos can then make any adjustments or changes that might be needed.
Another factor to consider in the wait is dependent upon whether he has to turn the wood himself, and if all of the other parts are ready to go to begin building it. He often he has an array of exotic wood from which customers can choose. If not, he will find the highest quality available. A Coll Custom Cue will not be ready in less than three to four months.
Much time is spent answering client’s calls to reassure them that it is going to take a little longer because “it takes longer than most people expect.”
If a cue goes out fast, someone is cutting corners.
Prices start at $850, with two shafts, and can go up as high as the client is willing to pay—there is no ceiling per se, it is made by the client. Ironically, cues in the $1500 to $2400 range are the “easiest to sell [while] the cheaper, meaning less expensive not less quality, are harder to unload.” Carlos was thrilled that a Japanese distributor has placed an advanced order.
He went on to say that his cues are already in Japan and Germany, which is a huge feather in his cap considering that his advertising is by word of mouth! Seemingly then, it only is a matter of time until Coll Custom Cues are known far and wide by players of all skill levels. One of those players, Filipino player Edgie Geronimo, shoots with a Coll Cue. In fact, he has won or placed highly in at least four tournaments. A testament to the playability of a Coll.
This cue builder is fiercely adamant that he will be part of improving pool’s sometimes negative image. After all, “We, [the folks in the industry], need to understand what brings money to the industry.” The answer to that is “new players.” He continued, we need to think about “How would we want to mold it [the industry] for the future generation?”
When not building Coll’s Custom Cues, Carlos might be found behind the lens of a camera. By profession he is a photographer, and has snapped photos of celebrities. In fact, he is preparing a shoot for an upcoming new release of a solo artist. Finally, another quite interesting detail in the life of Carlos Coll is that he once partly owned a publication called “Skate” Magazine.
The business was his next door neighbor, and where he would often be found hanging out. After becoming friends with the folks, he eventually learned all that it took to actually run the publication, which he dubbed “a real job.” He was an equal half owner, in charge of the 78 page full color magazine with a distribution of 45-65,000.
Carlos Coll’s Custom Cues can be seen on his Facebook page, while his photographs can be seen at his website. Do yourself a favor and look at his fine workmanship. You will not be disappointed! Thank you for a wonderful interview, Carlos.