Buying a Pool Cue - Part 3

Written by Bryan Mitchell

In parts 1 and 2 of this article we discussed the reasons for owning your own cue, different types of cues, prices etc. Here we will discuss the type of tips to put on your new cue. We will also discuss where and how to buy your new cue.

Cue Tips

A $600 pool cue with a $1 tip mounted on top is much like a Porsche with $25 tires mounted on the wheels. The tip, much like the tires, is the thing making contact with your subject. In this case the subject is the cue ball and not the road. The good news is that where a good set of tires for the Porsche might cost $300 each, the best cue tips on the market cost less than $20.00.

There are two basic types of tips. There are one piece tips and layered tips. Tips come in different densities ranging from super soft to extra hard. For the sake of time and space we will not cover super soft tips other than to say, if you like a soft tip and you are willing to take care of them, super soft tips can be great for adding more English with fewer miscues. Like soft tires, super soft tips often cost more and wear out quicker. The extra hard tips, sometimes made out of phenolic (a very hard plastic,) are made to be used on break and jump cues, not necessarily playing cues.

The two basic types, the one piece tips and the layered tips, are exactly what they sound like. A layered tip has a number of layers of leather, pressed together very tightly to create a tip that is basically layers of tip on top of identical layers of tip. This is the type of tip most professionals use. The advantage to layered tips is that they stay consistent throughout their lives. This means that if you strike a cue ball with the tip you mounted today, it should act pretty close to the same a few months from now; or at least until you get to the bottom layer. A one piece tip simply wears out. The tip is no more the same today than a pair of sneakers would be the same after playing basketball in them for a year. You may not mind, and you may not notice, but a one piece tip that is brand new does not feel the same as a tip that is heavily worn.

When it comes to tip density, you will need to decide what you want more out of your tip. Softer tips hit the ball with more grip and allow you to put greater English on the ball without miscuing. Softer tips also hold chalk better. Harder tips maintain their shape longer and require less maintenance than softer tips. For these reasons, the majority of experienced players use medium tips. Also if you are not sure which you would prefer, I would recommend going with a medium tip. If you find that you need more grip, you can change to a softer tip. If you find that you hate taking care of the tip, (keeping it shaped) then you may want to move to a harder tip.

A word of caution: If you order your cue with the tip you want, that’s great. If you order the tip and the cue separately, the choice tip needs to be mounted on the cue. DO NOT DO IT YOURSELF. You will find little kits in stores and on line with glue and sand paper and little brackets to hold the tip in place while the glue dries. DO NOT DO IT YOURSELF. You will find videos on YouTube showing you how to put the tips on. DO NOT DO IT YOURSELF. In my mind, this is the pool cue equivalent to giving yourself laser eye surgery. It will cost you more money in the end and just like the eye surgery, someone may go blind, because the tip you mounted is going to fly off the end of your cue at some point and might hit someone in the eye.

Find yourself a cue guy. You can check on line under pool cue repair or go to the local pool hall and give the cue to them. If you buy your cue from a retailer, they will have someone in house or out, that can do the work for you. The pool hall will have a guy they use for cue repairs, which includes changing tips. I will cost you no more than about $20 plus the cost of the tip. If you buy the tip from the repair guy (which he would love for you to do,) you might pay a little more.

When you find yourself a cue guy, ask him to show you how to keep a proper shape to your tip using a tip tool. This is a skill that you must develop because regardless of the type of tip you buy, it will start to flatten out the more you use it. The tips should have a nice round curve that is similar to the curve you find in a dime or nickel. It is not difficult to take care of your tip once it is mounted, but get some direction from someone who knows what he is doing. Not just someone who thinks he knows what he is doing.

Where to Buy a Pool Cue

In most areas you will find a billiard supply shop. At most pool halls or pool supply shops you will be limited in your choices as they are likely to carry only the mid to upper end of the middle market cues and only specific brands. As you can imagine, it would be very expensive to stock your store with 20 or 30 different $300-$600 cues hoping to have someone come in to buy them.

The odds are, you are more likely to find a cue on line or have a dealer order a cue for you. On line, even though you cannot hold the cue in your hand and see how it feels, the selection is unlimited. Due to the low overhead and highly competitive environment of the Internet sites, chances are you will find lower prices there as well. If you buy a mid- market or better cue, you should be able to get free shipping and maybe even a free gift such as a low end case the hold your cue. Shop around. Take your time. Learn about the different brands.

If you order your cue on line; first try to find someone with the cue you are interested in and see if it’s what you want. Also try out the different weights. I find that many players, specifically men, use a cue that is heavier than what they should be using. So try out a lighter cue than you “think” you want. At first it will feel like you have “nothing” in your hand, but in short time it might improve your game when it comes to control. I played for over 25 years using 21 oz. cues and today I have about 10 cues and all are set to 19 oz.

If you order on line or have a cue ordered for you, remember to have your tip mounted by the same company before they send your cue. High end cues often come with a quality (usually) multi layered tip. But if the cue does come with a low end tip, order a quality tip to be mounted before it is shipped. Note: Some high end cues come with cheap tips because the manufacturer knows the serious players are going to have the tips replaced to a brand he likes. Why put on a $20 tip and have to charge more for the cue, just to have the player replace the tip.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. As an example, Predator, a company which only makes cues priced in the higher price range ($400 and up,) sells their cues with a very nice medium density layered tip called Everest. A few other brands have a decent tip mounted out of the box as well. Read the descriptions carefully and if the cue comes with a tip you are not sure about, check on line for a description of that same tip. Is it a quality tip? Is it multi layered, etc?

Even if you have a tip brand you prefer, you may want to keep the quality tip that the cue comes with until it needs replacing. As an example, I use Predator cues. These cues come with a quality Everest tip but I like Moori tips. I don’t cut off the Everest tip and mount a Moori tip right away. The Everest is a fine tip and most players would not notice the difference. So I play down the Everest and when I need to replace the tip, I put on a Moori. The reality is I myself cannot tell the difference but I buy Moori just like I buy specific brands of tires. When I buy a car, I don’t have them take off the tires the car comes with and replace them, but I will buy my brand once those wear out.

If you have questions or comments or questions, please feel free to email me at BryanWMitchell [ at-sign ] aol [dot-sign] com Happy Shopping.

About The Author: Bryan Mitchell is a highly skilled player/instructor from the Northern Delaware area.

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