The Truth About Cues, Part 5
By Roger Long
I ended my last article by relating how changing from my old Rich to a new Scruggs had made a significant difference in the hit that I was accustomed to with my old cue, and it turned out that it was because the two cues had different joints.
It was after discovering what a difference that one component could make, that I started paying closer attention to all the components in cues. And what I found out was that, besides the joint, almost all other components in any given cue will usually make a slight difference in the overall play ability of that cue. Maybe not as much difference as the joint, but a difference none the less.
Take, for instance, my next cue after the Scruggs. That cue was made by Joe Blackburn, a man who primarily makes his living by recovering pool tables and repairing cues, but also sets up at professional tournaments where he does tip replacements and other repairs for the “big boys”. It was at one such tournament, years ago,that Joe was displaying a cue he had made that was a copy of a Southwest. By that I mean its joint was a 3/8-11 brass pin that threaded into the wooden shaft in a flat-faced configuration; had Micarta ferrules on both shafts; and had a short phenolic butt cap and phenolic joint collars – all just like a Southwest Cue.
Now being I previously had the opportunity to hit some balls with a Southwest cue, and had subsequently made my mind up that it had the exact hit I liked, I suspected Joe Blackburn’s cue would offer that same hit. And I was right! Soooooo….I bought that cue!
After I returned home with my new Blackburn cue, I was showing all my friends how well it played. One of those friends quickly decided that he had to have a cue built by Joe Blackburn, so he placed an order for one with all the same specs as mine.
Upon my friend receiving his cue, I asked him if I could try it out. Immediately, I noticed a slight difference in the hit between his and mine. His seemed to be just a little stiffer and noisier. I couldn’t figure it out. How could two cues made by the same man, out of the same woods, and to the same specs, have two different hits? And then something dawned on me. My friend’s cue was adorned with nickel-silver rings in the joint collars, whereas mine had ebony and maple “stitch” rings, which told me that they were most likely responsible for my cue’s softer, quieter hit.
In the years since, I have noticed that you rarely, if ever, will see a Southwest cue with any metal in it except for the brass joint pin. And for a company that has a 12-year waiting list for cues costing in excess of $2K each, I’d say they have good reason for building cues the way they do.
But keep in mind that other cue components: the tip, the ferrule, the collar materials, etc. all play a part in producing any cue’s final hit.
Next time: shafts.
Author: Roger Long Editor: Chris Freeman