Tools of the Trade: The Cue. ~ Kimberly Lecumberri


In order to play pool, you have to have a cue, or a“stick.”

If you are knocking around balls in any other way, you are simply not playing pool. Social players tend to play with cues provided by the venue, or “house sticks,” but if you are part of a league or play on a regular basis, you probably have your own cue that was made by a particular person or company.

In this article, we are going to talk about cues and their history.

The game of pool has been around for centuries. Throughout that time, the game has evolved in a variety of ways. Therefore, it stands to reason that the equipment used to play the game has evolved as well. Before the invention of the cue that we currently play with, players used a golf club like object known as a “mace” to push balls around the table and into the pockets. The mace was difficult to shoot with because if a ball was too close to the rail, it was almost impossible to get the foot of the mace between the ball and the rail to make a clean shot.

By 1670, players started using the butt of the stick to shoot with. This is how the word “cue” was invented. Cue evolved from the French term, queue, which means “tail.” When players used the tail end, or butt, of the stick to make a shot, they were using the “queue.” By 1800, the foot of the mace was removed so that players shot with a pointed stick rather than the bulky mace. These first cues were used along with the mace and stayed in use until the early 19th century. Initially, only skilled players were able to use the cue in public billiards rooms because it was believed that novice players and women would tear the fragile fabric with the pointed cue.

With the invention of the cue, tables also changed. Originally, tables were shallow and the rails were very low; their only intention was to keep the balls from rolling off the table. With the cue came more maneuverability for players and an ability to push the ball more effectively, or “stroke” it, off the rail. For this reason, rails that were originally stuffed with cotton flocking or linen became rubber.

The original intention of the cue was to try to strike the cue ball as centrally as possible to avoid a miscue.

The idea of spin was actually discovered before the invention of cue tips. Francois Mingaud is credited with inventing the leather cue tip. While being held as a political prisoner in France, he studied the game of billiards, experimenting with the leather tip and in 1807, after his release, he demonstrated his invention to others. He is also credited with being the first person to demonstrate that by raising the cue vertically, to the position adopted by the mace, he could perform what is currently known as a Massé shot.

In pre-tip days, players would often twist the end of their cue into a plaster wall or ceiling in order to “chalk” the tip of their cue to reduce chances of a miscue. The first person to market chalk was John Carr, a marker from John Bartley’s billiards room in Bath. Carr and Bartley are credited wit