The Truth About Cues, Part Two~ by Roger Long

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The Truth About Cues, Part Two

Cues are unique. They may be similar to golf clubs and baseball bats in that they are used to strike a ball, but other than that, the similarities are few.

The biggest difference is that golf clubs and baseball bats both contact the ball on their sides (faces), whereas a cue contacts the ball on its end (tip). This makes a difference in the type of vibration and sound that the user feels and hears when the cue ball is struck. Instruments like clubs and bats experience what is called a radial vibration because the vibrations travel across the instruments’ radii(side-to-side), while billiard cues are subject to a longitudinal vibration because those vibrations travel through its length (end-to-end).

The exact“hit” that a cue produces is identified by its longitudinal vibrations which are determined by the cue’s wood(s) and/or other material components used in its make-up. Although these vibrations are felt, they do not determine the overall “feel” of the cue. Instead, the feel of a cue is related to things such as its butt and shaft diameters, by its weight distribution (balance), and whether or not it has a wrap. Therefore, when it comes to a cues, hit and feel it describes two different things, and it is generally the hit that most players are concerned with.

If we were to go looking for the type of cue that delivers the most mellow hit, we would have to look no further than a good quality (wooden, of course) house cue. Why is that? Well, one word will explain it: simplicity. House cues are one piece, and because of that they deliver a more consistent vibration frequency from the tip back to the grip hand. This means that the frequency is not changed one or more times during its lengthwise travel by metal components and other hard materials commonly used in the construction of many cues. In cues that incorporate hard, capped over ferrules, steel pins and joint collars, and steel decorative rings, the longitudinal vibrations get broken up several times and the hit that is felt on the back end isn’t what it started out to be on the front end.

In view of this, we should be able to see that the two-piece cue providing the closest hit to a one-piece cue is the “Sneaky Pete” (or “Hustler”) cue. This cue is so named because it looks just like a one-piece house cue, the design of which was originally intended to allow its user to carry it into bars and pool rooms without scaring off would be victims. Although today’s pool environment offers little chance of one player sneaking up and hustling another player, the Sneaky Pete remains one of the best hitting cues that money can buy, and it’s all because of its simplicity.

Oddly enough, the Sneaky Pete was not the first design in two-piece cues. From the beginning, cue builders seemed to almost get carried away with their use of metal components. We can safely assume that things like ferrules, joint collars, and butt caps were, and still are, intended to keep a cue’s wood from splitting at those points of shock and stress. But the quest for durability has also – at times anyway – led to a decline in play ability. (To be continued next time.)

Author: Roger Long
Editor: Chris Freeman

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