Predator 5K4 CueI have previously written about some of the different billiards games that are played around the world, most of which we can play here in Australia. So it begs the question, what cue to use?

The selection of a cue is personal, but I’ll give you some things to look for.

Better quality Snooker cues are made using either a Maple or Ash shaft with a hardwood butt. What is referred to as a machine splice cue the butt is joined to the bottom of the shaft. Whereas, in the case of a handmade cue, the butt is overlayed over the shaft up to four places. The Ash cue is preferred by the majority of Professional players. In general, quality cues sold through billiards outlets are manufactured 57 inches (145cm) in length and weigh 16 to 18 ounces (454 to 510g). Snooker cues should taper evenly from the butt end to the tip and have a slightly rigid shaft. Some manufacturers will make a cue to personal specifications, but unless you have intentions of pursuing the sport to a higher than club level, the cost may be prohibitive and to no avail. Some suppliers of cues will alter the cue to your measurements, but this could also alter the balance.
I am often asked about the length a cue should be for snooker.  Again, we enter into the ability a player has or wishes to attain to.  For 98% of the playing public the standard length cue you purchase will certainly suffice. For the 2% of players that go on to good amateur level and beyond, they will require a cue that is more suited to their specifications.

The tip size is another question often asked. I would recommend nothing less than 10mm for the 2 1/16 inch (51mm), full size Snooker ball. For the average player I would suggest the 11mm tip. Main reason being that the smaller the tip, the more accurate you have to be in striking the ball, so as not to impart unintentional side spin on the cue ball.
Snooker cues are made in one piece, two piece with the join in the centre and a two piece with the join approximately half way from the butt to the centre of the cue, referred to as “the “¾ join cue”.  If made properly all types are fine, it is mainly convenience of carry for the two piece type.

The Pool cue is similar in length to the Snooker cue but the weights vary from 18 to 21 ounces (510 to 595gram). The shaft of Pool cues have 2 tapers. The even taper like the Snooker cue and what is called the pro taper. The pro taper is straight from the tip for approximately 16 inches (41mm) then tapers to the butt. This is preferred by the Professional players. The shafts of the cues are made from Maple. The most popular style is two piece. The shaft of the Pool is slightly more flexible, (whippy) than the Snooker cue.  I would suggest a tip size for the 2¼inch (55mm) Pool ball no less than 12mm and 13mm for the average or home player.

I have no playing experience, hence little knowledge of the Carom games, but I have a couple of cues given to me by my late father, Eddie, so I can give you a description only. Carom cues tend to be slightly shorter than the Snooker and Pool cues with a thicker butt and joint, a wooden joint which is collarless wood to wood, a taper and tip size similar to snooker cues. The length of the cues are 54 to 56 inches (140 to 190cm). Weight is 16.5 to 18.5 ounces (470 to 520g) with tips 11 to 12mm in diameter.
Due to style of play in Carom, many shots are played with extreme side or English applied to the cue ball the shaft is usually quite stiff. There is a variety of wood used for the cues and most quality cues are hand made.

The saying that a billiard cue is an extension of your arm is a truism. Simply it means that you shouldn’t really feel the cue in your hand, just as you don’t feel your hand at the end of your arm. You pick up the various weighted cues and take a few practice swings as if to hit a ball. As a guide, if you can feel the cue, whether too heavy or light then keep trying till you get the one that you don’t feel in your hand and that will be the right weighted cue for you.

I have a suggestion when checking a cue for straightness. People think the most obvious way is to roll it on a flat surface such as a billiard table. This is a very severe test. If the cue rolls flat, great, but if it doesn’t, don’t just assume the cue is bent. My suggestion is to look down the shaft from the butt end to the tip. Sight it as if shooting a rifle. Look down the centre line of the cue. If there is a bend you will see it. Rolling a cue can sometimes pick up a small imperfection that doesn’t allow it to roll flat, but the shaft may not be bent. 

Hopefully this will help you when you next go to purchase a cue for your favourite billiards game.

by Edward Charlton, Pro player since 1975 now retired and billiard company owner for over 30 years.