Choosing A Cue, New, Used, Custom Or Production

Everyone who plays pool on a regular basis is eventually faced with the question of buying their own cue.  I have been buying cues for over 20 years, I have bought everything from cheap walmart cues, to high end custom cues. I wish when I started out that there was someone giving me a little insight on what to look out for when buying a cue. So here is my $0.02 worth on the subject.

The first thing you should do is decide on a budget. Believe it or not quality cues can be bought on almost any budget. I have seen excellent cues selling as low a $40.00 and as high as $300,000.00!  Decide how much you are comfortable spending and stick to it. How a person feels about a cue’s performance is very subjective. One person may like a very whippy, flexible shaft like a Meucci, others may prefer the firm hit of a Huebler. There is no one size fits all answer. If you like it, it doesn’t matter if it costs $20.00 or $2,000.00, as long as its right for you. So don’t get caught up in all the hype of certain cue manufactures, how others feel about a cue does nothing for your game.

Now that you know how much you want to spend I think it’s important to know some of the pitfalls of cue buying. I have NEVER seen a cue at Walmart (or similar discount store) that was worth the tax paid on it. Stay away from discount store cues all together. They are typically made from extremely cheap materials that are not designed to handle the stresses that a cue is put through. Here is a good example;

When a shaft is made for a cue the process usually starts many years before actual production begins. The shaft wood needs to be aged properly. You cannot take fresh timber and turn it down on a lathe and get a decent shaft from it. You will end up with a piece of wood that looks more like a hockey stick. The wood is bought years in advance and stored in climate controlled areas to insure proper drying and aging.

Then the shaft is turned down in stages. A cue maker will only remove so much material at a time. If this process is done too fast the shaft will warp. The wood needs time between turning to let the wood relax, if any warping occurs at that time  a good cue maker will decide if the shaft can be saved or if it’s doomed for the scrap pile .

Discount store cues are not made this way. They use cheap wood and the machining is done very quickly in order to maximize profits. These cues will not last. Don’t waste your money on them. I made this mistake when I was a kid and I learned very quickly that it is hard to play pool with a cue that looks like a question mark.

Some will argue that all they can afford is a Wamart cue. Well, i have seen their cues sell as high as $60.00 and I can tell you now that if you are patient, you can get a very good production cue for that same money or less on the secondary market.

USED CUES

Used cues can’t be an excellent way to stretch you cue budget and get the most bang for your buck. The wanted/for sale section on AZBilliards website is a great place to find a good deal on a new or used cue. Your local pool hall can also be a good spot to get a deal on a cue, it may sound bad but the folks that gamble on pool games at times use their cues to raise cash in a hurry. Good deals can be made in that manner, just make sure the person your buying the cue from is really the owner of that cue! (yes, it happens…..allot!)

When buying a used cue there are a few things you will want to look at. First, check the shaft over thoroughly. Look for dents in the shaft, look for cracks in the ferule and at the base of the shaft and joint collar. I like to look at the tip to see if it has been maintained well. Chances are if the tip is flat, the owner doesn’t care much about the condition of the cue and probably has a bad habit of hitting the balls too hard. When checking to see if the cue is straight it is a good idea to roll it together and as separate pieces. This will help you determine if the joint is in good shape or not as well.

Another trick is to lay the butt end of the cue on the table and position that joint on the rail, letting the shaft hang over the edge of the table. Now roll it and watch the tip of the shaft. You would be surprised at how many cues wobble when tested this way. (this type of test is a bit on the picky side, most cues will have some slight wobble to them)

One thing I stay away from is a cue that has the clear coat wearing off the butt end. A cue refinish can cost well over $100.00 and may quickly make that great deal go bad. I also consider the person I am buying from as much as the cues condition. If you don’t feel like you can trust the person it’s a good idea to walk away from the deal. Cues are bought and sold everyday and another one will come along soon so don’t put yourself in a bad position by taking a chance on a stolen cue.

NEW PRODUCTION CUES

Cues manufactures like Joss, Schon, McDermott,Meucci etc. They all make a good product. The best thing you can do for yourself if you feel this is the route you want to take is to go to an authorized dealer that will let you try out the cue you are interested in. How else are you going to know if you like their style of cue.  If a dealer is unwilling to let you do this, walk away.

My personal recommendations for production cues are based solely on my own use and experience. I have found that Joss makes a very good product that lasts a long time and is not too bad on the pocket-book. I like their piloted joint better than say a McDermotts wood to wood style joint. The forward balance of most of there cues seems to suit my style of play.

Another cheaper production cue that I have been very impressed with is Players. It is true that their components are not as good as a lot of the other bigger named manufactures but for the money they are hard to beat. I bought one of their sneaky pete’s for around $70.00 online and it has been a great cue. Worth every penny.

Here are some of the brands I have used and enjoy.

Joss Cues

Joss has several cues at a reasonable price. At the $200-$400 dollar range they are hard to beat.

McDermott Cues

McDermott seems to be gearing towards the more affordable cue range. They have several cues around $100.00 (although they offer many higher end ones as well) and they play decent in my opinion. I used to have one of their mid range cues in the late 80’s and I loved it.

Schon Cues

Schon cues are higher end production cues. I feel the hit of their cue is almost the same as two of my Joss cues. They have some nice designs to choose from and range around $500.00  to  $2000.00.

Players

I couldn’t find a site for players other than a distributors site. I didn’t feel it would be fair to cater to just one retail site so i leave the search to you. Players cues are a value cue that plays great in my opinion. Their price range is $40.00 to $140.00 dollars on most retail sites and they offer a wide range of styles to choose from. If you are on a tight budget than I think you should consider this brand.  They probably wont last you a life time but they are worth the money.

CUSTOM CUES

Now this is where things can get expensive. A person can spend anywhere from $300.00 to tens of thousands on a custom cue.  The first thing to do is to find a cue maker with a solid reputation. If you can find one in your area that you can visit that’s even better. Know what you want before you talk with them. There is nothing worse than asking a cue maker to make you a custom cue and then when he asks you what you want you say, duh  I dunno, sumtin kewl!

He is going to want to know what material you want it made out of, what type of inlays and rings you want. What weight and length you desire and what your budget is. He can help guide you as long as you have a good idea of what you are looking for. You need to understand that you will have to be flexible. For instance you want a 16 oz cue but you want the entire butt to be made of Gaboon Ebony, a very heavy wood.  You need to trust the makers experience and listen to him/her when they tell you that something is not a good idea.

Most custom cue makers have a website these days. Take the time to go through it before calling or emailing them. It can save you both a lot of time.

As for my custom cue, it is a Cameron Custom Cue made by Barry Cameron. I have some others but this is my favorite so far. Barry was a great guy to deal with, he made me feel at ease and walked my through the process very well. He gave me an estimated price and stuck to it and completed the cue on time.  He was patient with  me and I was careful not to change my mind too much! The cue turned out beautiful and every time I take it to a new pool hall people ask me where i got it. Best of all, Barry’s prices are very competitive. At the time I got my cue you could have a basic cue made by him starting at $500.00, and that included 2 shafts! I haven’t spoken with him recently about his prices so please understand that costs may have raised some in the last 3 years.

It is also important to understand that what they do takes time. A reasonable build time can range between 4 months to a year+. Some cue makers have a waiting list as long as eight years! Most, though, can take care of you in less than a year. It is important to understand that what they do is an art, and they take a great deal of pride in their work. After all, it’s their name on the cue and they want their name to stand for quality.

Below is a list of cue makers that I have either bought from or used their cues.  There are several out there that I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting or trying out their cues but if you have read much of my blog then you know that I prefer to only recommend products that I have used personally. But, just because a cue maker isn’t on my list doesn’t mean you should stay away from them, There are dozens of great cue makers out there that have a solid reputation.


LINK—->Cameron Custom Cues

Excellent work at a fair price. Has a good eye for detail.

LINK—->Bob Dzuricky of Dzuricky Custom Cues

Bob work has amazed me and he is such a nice person to deal with.

LINK—->Richard Black Custom Cues

High end pieces of functional art! His cues are some of the finest that you will see. (a bit out of my price range though)

I hope you found this article helpful. Just remember there are tons of cues out there and everyone has their own favorite. Opinions will vary, but what makes you happy, it doesn’t matter if it’s a 50 dollar yard sale find or a $100,000.00 museum quality specimen.  What really makes the cue good is the person using it.

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2 responses to “Choosing A Cue, New, Used, Custom Or Production

  1. Over on the AZ forums, someone recommended getting a custom cue if the budget allows. I asked (but was never answered) what the benefit was. Any thoughts on Custom vs. Production apart from the uniqueness of the custom cue?

    Also any thoughts on when to change/try a new stick?

    — matthew (aka krupa on azbilliards)

    • The benefit of buying a custom is that, with the right cue maker, you decide the details. The one Barry Cameron did for me was truly custom. I decided what material to use for the everything but the shaft. We waited weeks until he found just the right piece of Cocobolo wood for the wrap area. (it’s a no-wrap cue) He also made matching joint protectors out of the left over cocobolo. I chose the balance point, the exact weight, I had him make it 60″ long because I am 6’2″ and like a longer cue. I decided what material would be used for the ferule and how long it would be. I even decided on what pin type to use!

      That’s the real reason for wanting a custom, to have it made they way YOU want it. To have it look, feel and play to your specifications. Some people buy them just for the looks, some for an investment, I buy them because the cue was made for me and is one of a kind. Will it make you play better….no, not directly.

      Custom VS Production—————————

      Whats the difference? Production cues are made consistently made the same with a few exceptions. For example, all Joss cue are made the same as far as taper, length, piloted joint, and construction style are concerned (some may be full splice some may be half splice). The difference will be in their materials and design. (inlays, rings, points) But they will all have the same pin type, same joint material and same ferule. You can order one to be altered to some degree but mainly its a off the shelf type of deal. With customs you play a much larger role in deciding how the cue will be made. Some cue makers are unwilling to change certain things, but for the most part, you decide.

      Now because you can tailor a custom to fit your needs and considering you know what you need. A custom made cue for you should be better than a cookie cutter cue made with the masses in mind. People are amazed when I let them try out my cue. I ask the what weight the think it is and I usually hear answers like 17oz, or even 16oz. It is actually 19.5 oz, but it’s balance and weight distribution is so good it feels lighter in your hands. What struck me the most when I shot with my Cameron custom cue the first time was that it felt like an old shoe! There was no breaking it in, it felt like I had been using it forever. It just fit me so well.

      When to change cues?

      When ever you feel like you want to and your pocket book can handle it! If your happy with it I wouldn’t change. Pool cue’s will last a long time if taken care of properly. Some folks retire their cues after several years of service for a variety of reasons. But I can offer this advice, quite often I have seen people that trade cues on a regular basis. All of them, to a man, regret getting rid of that “certain” cue. The one that was right for them, in search for something better. When you find that old shoe, keep it, don’t let it go or you’ll regret it later.

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