In this article I am going to tell you about the different equipment used in this game. I’ll go over cue sticks, the differences between different shafts on the market, tips and other general equipment I would recommend, as well as other good information about it all. I also provide links for you to find out more information on the items I am writing about, or so you can purchase them.
First, the Cue Stick!
I have many people ask me what kind of cue stick I recommend, what kind of cue stick I play with, and the differences between various shafts on the market. I’ll start with how I came to play with the cue stick I use now. In the beginning, I picked up a lot of cue sticks and hit balls with them to determine what kind of “hit” I liked to feel from various cues, and how much deflection each inherently had.
What is deflection you may ask? Deflection is the amount that the cue stick effectively shoots out the cue ball when applying english. After playing with the Meucci, I moved on to a custom cue stick (meaning not production made, produced by hand by a person) made by Jerry Franklin, called a Southwest. The Southwest has a much more firm hit, which I liked, and produced less deflection than the Meucci did. Over the years, after I let go of the Southwest, I picked up everyone else’s cues to zero in on what I liked best. Cues also aren’t a matter of cost. There was awhile in 1996 I played with an $80 Cuetec cue because I loved it from the first shot I took with it. Currently, I play with a Bob Hunter custom cue. Each cue built by him, in my experience, not only hits well, but also is a beautiful piece of art. I have been playing with this cue for 13 years, and it will be the last cue stick I own. When you find something you like, don’t sell it! I am constantly reminded of how lucky I am to have something that is perfect for me. Even though I could sell it today for $2,000 – I would never dream of doing such a thing.
What would make a cue stick so expensive? First, when a cue is made by hand and not production made, that adds to the cost. Also, custom cue makers such as Mr. Hunter use exotic woods such as cocobolo, ebony, birds-eye maple, zebrawood and Indian rosewood. Many use precious metals such as silver and sometimes gold. It is also standard to use ivory, which my cue has a lot of.
For the beginning player looking for a quality, but a less expensive cue, I like the Cuetec brand and even have hit well with a couple of Lucasi brand cues. You can get the Cuetec cue for less than around $100 for their introductory line, on up to around $250. The Lucasi is more in the $150-$250 and up range. Cuetec cues are also made to cut down on deflection, so it may be easier to use for some. Don’t be afraid to bargain a little for your cue; most stores you go into will come down on the price. Please stay away from three-piece cues. The more you cut into a solid piece of wood meant to be a cue stick, the less solid it is and you can feel this in the hit.
Cuetec Cues: http://www.cuetec.com/
I have also been asked about buying separate shafts that promise to cut down on the deflection imparted to the cue ball. I do not use these shafts myself. I started playing pool (17 years ago) before companies started engineering shafts to take away deflection. The reason I personally do not play with these shafts is I like that I know how to account for deflection with my conventional shaft, and that my shaft produces a hit that throws the cue a bit more off the line. I feel like I can do more with the cue ball because of this mastery of the amount of deflection. For those starting out and/or just learning english, any one of these shafts may help you produce the desired results more often and faster than taking the time to learn how the conventional shaft imparts spin. These engineered shafts make it so you can hit straighter at the contact point, taking away the need to judge so carefully, and making it so you have more successful shots more often.
Most people like having a break cue in their case. I have never played with one. I break with my regular playing cue, and have since I’ve owned it. You will do no damage to your regular playing cue by breaking with it – unless of course it is a very cheap cue. The only reason to have a break cue is that it may prolong the longevity and shape of the tip on your regular playing cue. I would generally recommend you go with a heavier break cue than a lighter one. Some players like to use those with a phenolic only or a phenolic/leather tip blend. In the end, you want to pick a break cue that is the most natural for you to yield in a power shot such as the break, while maintaining optimum control of the cue ball.
Let’s learn about the cue tip!
Ahhh, so many options! What you need to determine first is if you want a conventional one layer tip, or a stacked, laminated tip. A laminated tip is one that normally has 10 layers of either boar hide or pig leather, glued and compressed together. The conventional tip is one that has been cut out of a various animal hide and compressed, but is only one layer. The one layer tip such as Le Pro or Triangle tips are the least expensive options to have installed on your cue. The layered tips can run up to $40-$50 installed. The layered tips promise to deliver more of a consistent tip, and wear down slower than a conventional one layer tip would. These tips will keep their shape longer, and tend to “mushroom” less.
There are many different layered tips on the market. Tiger Products makes many different kinds of layered tips, which you can find on a lot of Cuetec cues, called the Sniper, Everest and Dynamite options. You may be asked about what shape you would like – either a “dime” or a “nickel” shape, when you have your cue tip replaced. Dime means that you would like your tip more rounded, versus a nickel being less rounded. What’s the difference? A more rounded tip will give you more spin on the ball when hitting away from the center axis. Almost all professionals play with this shape of a tip. A less rounded tip will help impart less spin on the cue ball. Also, tips come in various hardness levels: soft, medium and hard. The softer the tip, the more it grabs the cue ball, the more spin it will impart. Also, the softer the tip, the more propensity it has to mushroom out of the sides, losing its shape. The harder it is, the less spin it may impart, the more it might miscue, but keeps its shape longer. Most pros play with a medium-hard, or a hard tip.
Care and Maintenance of your Cue Stick…
I actually do not clean my shaft at all. I like it to be semi-dirty, as I can feel the shaft run through my fingers. The only time it gets cleaned up at all is when I get a new tip. Keep in mind, any time you apply sandpaper, or the little green scrub pads – anything – you take material off your playing cue that cannot be put back. I know people who have had their cues for 25 years. If they took a little piece of 200 grit sandpaper on it every other month, they wouldn’t have much of a shaft left. If you want to clean it between tips, using a towel to wipe it, it is okay as long as it has nothing on it. It is simply not necessary to do this to a shaft often. You can use all of those products out on the market, but just know you might be investing in a new shaft if you keep your cue for any lengthy period of time. This also goes for maintaining tips. I do not use any tip tools. Anytime you grind, prick, or rub at the tip, you take away tip material and shorten the life of the tip. Many pros I know just have a little square of 80 grit sandpaper that they either press (not grind!) into the tip or very lightly go over with. This is truly all you need if you find the tip is a bit glazed over. There is no need to scrape away this tip layer so vigorously. When you chalk your cue, try to be discerning about the cube of chalk you use. Do not use one that is too pitted, as the edges can scratch and discolor the ferrule.
Equipment I love to own!
There are a few things in my case that I always have with me. First and easiest are a couple of cubes of chalk. You never know where you have to travel to play pool, so you should always have what you need, versus relying on the Host Location. You don’t want to end up with those scratches in the ferrule mentioned above because you didn’t have your own. Not relying on a Host Location’s bridge applies here also. I really like Tiger’s Corona Bridge Head. This is a soft leather bridge that affixes on the end of any cue. It is way better than the white plastic options you’ll find under most tables! I also have a bridge that is very adjustable, just in case. I have a bridge called the Justa Bridge that allows me the height that no other bridge does, so that I can jack up over a ball and still apply draw to the cue ball. Lastly, if I absolutely need to smooth out something on my shaft, like a little nick or something sticky, then I have Tiger’s Shaft Smoother & Burnisher. It has two sides, so I can clean my shaft without water. Lastly, as the coach on my team, I have a neat little magnetic table so that when I want to explain a shot later, I can diagram it. Samm’s Pocket also has a lot of other fun pool related items, since the holidays are right around the corner!
Tiger Corona Bridge Head: http://www.tigerproducts.com/store/product.php?productid=16187&cat=248&page=1
Tiger Shaft Smoother & Burnisher: http://www.tigerproducts.com/store/product.php?productid=16195&cat=248&page=1
Magnetic Pool Table Diagram Tool: http://store.sammspocket.com/mac20.html
Finally, the Cue Ball!
The cue ball that is normally played with is called an Aramith red circle, because it has a little red circle on it. It is incorrect to call this cue ball a “red dot.” There is a different cue ball that actually has a red dot, so that moniker should be saved for when talking directly about that cue ball. The “red circle” is the most accepted ball when playing in most arenas. It is less dense than the measle ball, the ball with all of the red dots on it. The measle ball is also called the Aramith Pro Cup cue ball. I much prefer playing with the Aramith red circle ball, as it reacts in a predictable way and generally plays “lighter” than the measle ball. The measle rolls further, but draws less. The pros play with the measle ball now. It has been determined better for television, so they adjusted to learning how to play with it. There has been a huge discussion on the differences between the two balls, and I could write another article just on that. In the end, you can do more with a red circle, as it is more in line with the standard weight and density of the rest of the object balls, so I like it better.
I hope this article answered many of the questions regarding the many choices we have in the billiard industry! Please email me any questions or comments you may have at firstname.lastname@example.org.