The Truth About Cues, Part Three
The main point I’ve stressed so far in this series is that the less you put into a cue, the more you
can expect to get out of it. By that I mean that cues made from components of less density are
more likely to have mellower hits. Stated even more simply: keep as much metal and other hard
parts out of your cue if you want a soft, quiet hit. However, if a soft, quiet hit is of no concern to
you, go ahead and load the cue up with whatever you want. After all, it’s your cue.
Now that brings us to the item that probably effects a cue’s hit more than any other single
component, and that is the joint. Once again, if our goal is to get a two-piece cue that hits most
like a one-piece cue, the ideal joint to have would be a solid wood joint. That would be one with
a wooden pin that threads directly into a wooden shaft with no metal insert. They do make a cue
that has such a joint, but for some strange reason it is usually available only on carom cues.
The three most common joints used in pool cues are: 3/8-10, 5/16-14, and 5/16-18. What the
fractional numbers represent here are the joint pin’s diameter in inches, while the whole numbers
represent the number of threads per inch. Of those three, the 3/8-10 is the only one that does not
require a brass insert in the shaft. That’s because the larger diameter of the pin, and its fewer
threads per inch, allows it to mate directly up to a shaft that has been drilled and tapped with the
same thread. This joint style has been McDermott’s standard joint for years. It is also a common
joint with many other cue makers.
The next joint style is the 5/16-14. The smaller diameter and closer pitch on these threads
requires the use of a metal insert (usually brass) in the shaft. That’s because such small threads
cut directly into the shaft would not hold up well at all. One of the common features of this joint
style is the flange on the end of the insert that protrudes out from the shaft and fits into a recess
in the butt end when the two are screwed together. Originally, the idea of this design was to
maintain close tolerances between the insert flange and the butt end thereby providing a snug and
precise fit. However, I’m not so sure those close tolerances are much of a consideration with
most of today’s cue makers. This joint style is used by many cue makers but it was primarily
made famous by Balabushka, Joss, and Schon.
The last common joint style is the 5/16-18. This one also is too small and fine to be threaded
directly into wood. However, in theory this joint provides a couple of advantages over its close
cousin, the 5/16-14. One is that the finer threads seem to provide a tighter lock between the shaft
and the butt. The other is that most cue makers who use this joint machine off the insert flange
and make the faces of both the shaft and the butt flat so that they allow wood from the shaft to
butt up to wood from the butt, thereby providing a hit that is a little closer to that of a one-piece
In recent years cue makers have come up with many different variations in joint styles. We’ll
look at some of those in my next article.
Author: Roger Long
Editor: Chris Freeman