The Truth About Cues, Part Four
In my last article I mentioned that there are three standard joints used in cues: 5/16-14, 5/16-18, and 3/8-10. These three joints are found in probably 70%, or more, of all cues in use today. That number used to be much higher, but the ratio has changed quite a bit in recent years, and it will probably change even more as it seems every new cue maker that comes along today feels a need to introduce their own joint style.
Some of the joints that differ from the standard three are: Uni-Loc (a quick-release), Radial (a ball thread), 3/8-11& 3/8-12 (both variants of the 3/8-10), Wavy (a ball thread variant), United (a 5/16-14 variant), and the Speed Joint (another 5/16-14 variant).
A few of these newer joint styles may offer benefits such as requiring less threading time, or providing a snugger fit, but they all do practically nothing to improve the hit of the cue. It appears their main purpose in being different is to steer the consumer back to the original cue maker when looking for replacement shafts and joint caps. That explanation may sound unreasonable until you realize that proprietary products command premium prices. It’s a marketing strategy that has worked well in the software industry, and now cue makers are learning how to make it work for them, too.
The thing to remember is that the type of joint used in a cue will make a difference in how the cue hits. This point was driven home to me early in my pool playing life. My first decent cue was a Rich. It had a 5/16-18 flat-faced joint, with a brass pin going into a brass ferule. I played thousands of games with that cue and I loved the way it hit. But then, anything would have been better than those old Taiwan cues with the screw-on tips that I had used in the beginning.
Then the time came for me to step up in the world, so I ordered a Tim Scruggs custom cue that had four veneered Rosewood points in the forearm, a Rosewood butt sleeve, a linen wrap, and decorative stitched rings for accents. That cue cost me $400, which was a lot of money at that time (1984). Visions of 100-ball runs danced in my head as I awaited the arrival of my new cue. Finally, the day came.
But guess what…I never did like the way that cue played!
It took me months of playing with the Scruggs, plus hours of mental contemplation to figure out what the problem was, but then I finally did. There were some minor differences in weight and shaft size between my old Rich and my new Scruggs, but the biggest difference was in their joints. The Scruggs cue had a 5/16-14 stainless steel pin going into a piloted brass insert in the shaft. The “piloted” part of that description tells us that the flange on the insert protrudes out from the shaft and fits down into a cavity in the butt when the two parts are screwed together, which in turn tells us that there was no wood-to-wood contact like I had had in my Rich cue. Result: different hit altogether.
Author: Roger Long Editor: Chris Freeman