Pool cues, what makes them worth the money?
Can you answer what is the best pool cue for the money?
No, we can't answer the second one, this article will not answer what is "the best pool cues for the money". That is too subjective but we will give you some ideas of what you pay for.
Have you ever looked at an item and wondered if it is worth it? What makes the item worth the price listed and can you find it cheaper???
With pool cues those questions above need to be answered also.
So let us give you a run-down on pool cues, what they are made from, and what you are paying for when you purchase a pool cue.
Material, quality, design, reliability, and peformance will be discussed in this article but lets start by what pool cues are made of.
When you look for a pool cue you will find 4 basic delineations - Wood, graphite, fiberglass or metal. But don't be confused by the first three, they are all made from wood. Metal cues - well just don't go there, they stink.
The graphite and fiberglass cues are wood with a coating over the wood. This coating makes the cue a bit sturdier to abuse. But, if you hit it hard enough you will damage the cue.
So if a graphite or fiberglass pool cue is a bit sturdier then why not buy one? Are there any downsides to them?
For a lot of people fiberglass or graphite clad cues make a great decision. But some people complain about clad cues getting sticky with play and they can tend to have a bit more deflection to them.
Deflection? What is Deflection?
We like to use http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deflection_(engineering) as a resource and this part of the description: "the degree to which a structural element is displaced under a load". The pool cue, as it hits the cue ball, WILL deflect, or alter its trajectory; this will then push the cue ball in a different direction then possibly intended and then affect the object ball. Ask yourself: The last time you missed the pocket by only a little bit... was it your aim, or the deflection caused by your cue???
So far we have talked about the reliability of clad pool cues and a couple of negatives about them and touched on deflection. We will continue to talk about reliability and deflection as we move forward in this article but let’s bring price into the discussion.
The price of a pool cue is dependent on quite a few factors… including cost of materials, art, engineering, and reliability. While you can go into Wal-Mart, Kmart, Target, etc. and see some pool cues under $30 and think “Wow, those are a good price!” I think you can purchase those and wouldn’t discourage you from purchasing them. But I hope by the end of this article you will see why cues are a "get what you pay for" item. Now I am not advocating you to avoid purchasing from one of those stores. If you decide that the pool cue is worth it to you after reading this article, then buy the cue!
So let’s talk about why the price of pool cues starts to climb and what you get for your money.
Pool cues can be found in a lot of stores from $20 up to thousands of dollars.
What makes one pool cue worth $20 while another is worth thousands? Well, before we get into the thousand dollar cues let’s talk about pool cues for the majority of people; commercially available pool cues from $20 to $999. There are a lot of cue manufacturers from Action, Lucasi, Schon, Viking, Joss, McDermott, Meucci, Predator, Mezz, etc. etc. etc. and in those lines you will see cues anywhere from $40 and up. Why are they already starting at $40 when Walmart has ones starting at $20? Quality of parts for certain. If you look at a $20 Wal-Mart cue and a $40 Action cue you will almost immediately notice differences, and those difference matter.
First look at how cheap the design looks on the Wal-Mart cue, next notice the differences in the wrap, pool cue shaft, ferrule, tip and how everything lines up. We can almost guarantee the wrap will not be Irish linen, the tip will be low quality, the ferrule will be low quality and the shaft will not have been aged for very long. Plus the joint will look, and be, cheap. Let’s break it down a bit:
The tip: PLEASE, PLEASE do not buy a cue that has a screw on tip unless it is just for banging around. If you buy a cue with a screw-on tip it will most likely be a tip that doesn’t hold chalk for long or is too hard to shape. So expect to spend a bit to buy a good tip and maybe a bit more to pay someone to put it on. But here is the problem - if you have a screw on tip you can't put a regular tip on your cue. Now if you took our advice and NOT purchase a cue with a screw on tip, you can change it to a good leather tip without much problem.
The wrap: Most cheap cues use nylon wrap. Nylon is not very absorbent and will not last for long. The preferred material for a cloth wrap is Irish linen which is a very durable material and absorbs sweat. Some of the higher end cues get leather and treated right the leather wrap will keep your cue looking good for a very long time!
The ferrule: If the ferrule is of low quality it is prone to cracking and if it cracks you might be in danger of the wood underneath cracking also.
The cue shaft: Wood breathes. If you take a live tree and cut it down, as it dries out it will change shape… Go to your favorite hardware store and take a look at their cut lumber. How much of it is 100% straight? How would you like trying to play with one of those pieces of lumber? How good would your game be?
Why does their wood warp? It has not aged very well and was cut before it was finished aging. The longer you age the wood, the less prone the wood will be to bending, but the longer you age the wood the more cost the companies incur. The better cue makers age their wood, cut, age, cut, etc. This makes the shaft much less prone to warp and this will also be taken on as an expense by the cue maker and most likely will be passed on to the customer.
Why do cue makers take this extra care for a pool cue? Do shafts warp? Do cues warp? Yes. But a lot less likely if taken care of in this manner by the cue maker. If they take the time to age the wood properly you will pay extra for this. There are also chemicals you can use to seal the cells in the wood which also helps prevent warping but the chemicals add to the cost too. NOTE You MUST take care of your cue after it has been purchased or you risk it warping no matter how well it was aged and taken care of by the manufacturer.
The Joint: Please take a look at a Wal-Mart, Kmart, Target, etc. pool cue and look at the joint. It WILL look cheap and it you count on it being cheap. On one level of cue, the joint would be so cheap you might have a tough time keeping the cue together; not good.
So far I hope you can see how the cost is reflected in quality and a low cost cue is made of low quality parts. Don't just take our word for this; please take a look at pool cues in Wal-Mart or the like. Please.
This will give you a great idea how all cheap parts look when put together. These cues are around $20 and have that $20 level of quality. As you step up, you add quality parts and cost. So take a $20 price point cue and add in good maple wood + $20; add a good joint + $20; add a good ferrule and tip adds another $15. So there you have it... you have a cue that costs $75, or more, with so much better quality parts and you will be thankful.
So far, we have not even gone above the $100.00 level, and have not talked about the design too much either. So as far as we are concerned, $75 would be a good starting point for a basic cue but at www.cuesplus.com we always provide discounts so the $75 cue will actually more likely cost you $65 or less.
Let us dive into a pool cue in the $100 to $200 range. It will have better aged wood, better quality wood, more expensive woods, better quality tip and ferrule, better joint, better artwork and maybe some exotic woods thrown in the mix.
If you look close on the butt section of the Wal-Mart pool cue you will see it is a coated transfer - meaning a decal images glued on the cue and coated. This is a fast and CHEAP way of getting a cue that is more than just a bare wood cue (and it helps cover imperfections in the wood). A cue that has quality wood with real wood inlays takes more work and will reflected in the price but they also look SO MUCH better and you don’t get as many imperfections in the wood because they can’t just cover it up with a decal.
You will have better quality wood.
You will have a lot less concern with the shaft warping.
You will have a lot less concern with the ferrule cracking.
You will get a better design that will look good - not a full decal.
And you will have a lot less concern with having to spend more money to replace a junky tip.
Now let’s talk about technology and how it comes into play.
Remember deflection? Cue manufactures are spending money trying to come up with a low deflection cue using different tapers, pie design shafts, different core materials, different ferrule materials, tips, etc. etc. etc. The bottom line is you will pay for the development cost in the cost of these cues but you will also reap the benefits from these advancements. This usually makes the basic pool cues raise into the $350 and up price points even without the fancy design. Add in inlayed wood and designs with a advanced shaft and the prices raise quickly.
Finally let’s talk about cues above $900 and custom cues. What do you get? Quality wood, Quality parts, Quality artwork, technology, skill and artisanship! And let us not forget reputation. A true Balabushka pool cue in today’s standards may seem a bit crude but Balabushka was a legend and you will pay for a legend. PLUS you are paying for something that isn't made anymore. Original Balabushkas are no longer being made but the name does live on with the Balabushka line of production cues.
A lot of custom cues we carry are built with the best parts, skill and are very artistic - they will last you a lifetime and be works of art you can be proud of. You are paying for the skill of the cue maker, not the skill of a machine. You are getting the best parts and a skilled artist putting them together and let’s face it - Some of the cue makers are already legendary, and for good reason.
There are also “custom fit” cues. Custom cues and custom fit cues are two different animals. Custom fit cues are rare to get and you would need to contact a custom cue maker and work with them. Some of the custom cue makers will work with you to “custom fit” a cue. They will measure you and build a cue to you, and also will work with you for shaft tapers, dimensions, specific weights, balance, and custom inlays. If you get to this level you are going to pay a lot of money and will mostly already know what you want in a cue. I would suspect unless you have a up-and-coming custom cue maker doing this work for you, you are going to pay over $1000.00 for a custom built cue.
So there you have a basic run-down of why pool cues go up in price as you add in quality materials, artistry, skill and technology and what you get for your money. We could have gone into many more details and specifics but this article would be twice as long! I hope we have given you some insight on what range of pool cue you should look at and what you should expect for the prices. We truly believe that a good cue for a lot of folks are in the Action, Griffin, McDermott, Joss, etc. cue lines. One of the favorite production cues is a McDermott and one of our favorite custom cues is an AE custom cue but we like quite a few pool cues and use most of the ones we own.
Lastly, can you get the cue for a cheap/discount price? Remember the age old adage: You get what you pay for. If you are looking for a new pool cue, with quality, you will need to pay more then $20 but you do not need to pay thousands. Most pool cue makers limit the discount that can be advertised for their products. So you will see a general price range for almost all cues and they will usually only go below that set price when they are damaged or clearance for some reason. We always stive to give you the best deal we can, so please feel free to ask us about our pool cues, and also a price match or a discount - we might be able to do a bit better then the advertised price.
If you wish to have more information please feel free to contact us.