View Full Version : Are Modern Cue Sticks Better Than Yesteryears?
02-12-2003, 06:30 AM
No! Modern Cue sticks Are Not Functionally Better Than Cue Sticks Made In The Past.
A cue stick is basically just a straight piece of high quality wood. Virtually all the functional differences between them are determined by weight, taper, balance and type of wood. The first three are a matter of user preference. The last has not changed in a hundred years. Rock maple was and still is the generally accepted premier material for a shaft. The butt wood does not seem to matter much according to many experts.
Within certain limits, there is no particular balance, size, or shape that is superior to others for all players. If you get two cue sticks made by two different people from two different eras, but with those same four qualities, the two sticks will perform virtually the same.
The quality of the wood, primarily the straightness and tightness of the grain are factors; but if anything, it was probably easier and less costly to find good quality wood years ago.
The availability of more exotic woods and better inlay techniques in modern times are strictly aesthetic enhancements. And they are only used in the butt which once again, is widely considered to have no effect on the hit outside of the weight and balance.
The low squirt technology utilized by Predator and Meucci might be the one area where modern cue sticks are superior to those of the past. However, many experts and professional players prefer not to use them, so their superiority is a matter of debate and not clearly definite for all players.
Cue sticks are unlike tennis racquets or golf clubs where the use of modern composite materials and substantial changes to the size and weight of the head have created functional differences in how they perform. Those implements unlike a cue stick, are swung in an arc and strike the ball from the side causing lateral bending and rebound forces which is where virtually all of their enhanced qualities stem from.
There are graphite and fiberglass sticks available... though I don't like how they play at all. It amazes me when I see Allison Fisher playing with the cuetech cue.
I would have to think that the industry of cue making in general is better than what it was say fifty years ago. There seems to be more cuemakers than one can count. It seems that there would be greater accessibility to high quality cues as well(thanks to more cue makers and the internet.) I am just speculating, as I wasn't alive fifty years ago. /ccboard/images/graemlins/laugh.gif
There are probably alot more tip varieties now as well, though again I am just speculating. Of course this lack of variety didn't stop Mosconi from running hundreds of balls... but I would wager to guess Mosconi could chalk up his pinky finger and beat me. Players like that might as well be labeled as wizards so I won't judge cue quality based on the ability of a wizard. /ccboard/images/graemlins/grin.gif
Though the equipment may not be significantly better, the increase in options certainly makes me happy. Pool is certainly my top recreational activity, so the more things I have to play and tinker with the better. Further, there is an endless array of products I can blame bad performances on besides my ability(or lack thereof.) If nothing else, that is
certainly an improvement over the days of yesteryear.
02-12-2003, 07:54 AM
ABSOLUTELY! Beyond the woods used, and the aforementioned variety of things like tips, the methods used to build cue sticks has greatly improved over yesteryear. Glue technology alone is a huge area - and also affects a cue's playability. The fact that cuemakers can now use laminates (not like predator) for under the wraps and are also coring cues, makes for more consistency of hit from cue to cue, regardless of cosmetics. Also allows the cue's balance point to be governed by the woods used, rather than having to add wieght artificially via weight bolts. I don't think you'll find a cue builder today that will say today's cues aren't better than those produced 50 years ago. Just my $.02 worth.
I have no doubt that the best old cues played great. But as far as a given lot of production cues, there can be no doubt that modern cues are better. Look, a modern Toyota Camry is vastly better than a 1947 De Soto or something. Everything is better. I picked up a cheap Lucasi recently because I liked the way that particular one played and liked the way I hit with it. (I will be getting something better too.) That Lucasi is 10 times better than the old Willie Hoppe I have. And I got a predator shaft along with the other one - a production shaft made by another manufacturer that fits the cue and plays fine. Buy it, screw it on and play. That didn't happen back in the day. I like my old Hoppe, but to compare two production cues from different eras shows how much better modern manufactured stuff is. Sure, I'd like a Balabushka, but the average now is just so much better. No comparison. The vast majority of pool players are playing with much better cues now. Except of course for the ones playing with Meuccis. /ccboard/images/graemlins/smile.gif
02-12-2003, 12:11 PM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote JPB:</font><hr> Except of course for the ones playing with Meuccis. /ccboard/images/graemlins/smile.gif <hr /></blockquote>
I agree on the Meucci and remember the old saying, "Someone broke my car window and dumped a Meucci inside."
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote JPB:</font><hr> Except of course for the ones playing with Meuccis. /ccboard/images/graemlins/smile.gif <hr /></blockquote>HEY! I resemble that remark... /ccboard/images/graemlins/wink.gif
I dislike the new Meucci's too, but I love the old Originals from the 80's. Mine still has both original "no-dot" shafts and with the new Hercules tips I just had installed, still plays great.
My only experience with them was back in the '80's. I had one, and looking back on it, there was no question it was the worst cue I have ever used. It simply was not acceptable. I didn't really understand it or know it at the time, but only after I had played with more cues. The Meucci simply was unplayable because of the total deflection and flexibility. I don't think there was ever a worse cue made in that regard, except for the $15 ramen wood cues or something. Maybe they are better now. To be fair I don't know. In the case of the cue I had, it was not a question of likes or dislikes or preference in feel. The cue was horrid. Didn't really matter to my game though, and good players were able to play fine with them in those days. If they are still as flexible now as they were then, however, they are not good enough.
02-12-2003, 12:31 PM
Did you ever play with an authentic Balabushka?
If you did not, then you cannot answer truely.
If I remember back when, Meucci cues always hit with a slight PING.
By the way, I own an original 1977 Palmer Cue which still plays great!
although it's true that you can get a pretty good cue for less today-dollars than you used to i suspect the real change is in the table.
with simonis cloth, lively rails and air conditioning it just does not take as much stroke to get the job done as it used to. those old cues had to hit right and play true at much more power than the new ones do. may not be accurate to compare the old and new tools. they are for somewhat different purposes.
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote Jack Jr:</font><hr> Did you ever play with an authentic Balabushka?
If you did not, then you cannot answer truely.
If I remember back when, Meucci cues always hit with a slight PING.
By the way, I own an original 1977 Palmer Cue which still plays great! <hr /></blockquote>
No, never did play with a real Balabushka. I have only seen one. But I have played with cues from the early '70's which played fine. I hit a few with a Palmer once, but don't know the vintage. Much older than the new ones, but I don't think it was a real valuable one either. I don't know. And my Hoppe from the '60's, although to play with it I had a shaft made by Dave Kikel. The original shaft was cracked. I am assuming Balabushkas were better. If I'm wrong tell me.
02-12-2003, 01:44 PM
Pete Balner made me an imatation Balabushka 40 years ago but he used his screw, so it would not be taken for Georges cue. I still use to this day it is super. I did play with a $12 two-piece cue that had an original Black Diamond tip on it. I would trade any cue for that tip. Draw the cueball from one end of the table to the other with just a snap of the cue. The most amazing cue+tip I ever played with.####
02-12-2003, 02:06 PM
I have owned a lot of Balabushka's. I have a couple under the bed now. They were not really anything special in my opinion, just cues. His workmanship was not even close to today's cuemakers. His inlay work was terrible They were good for their time but, if he was alive today, I would say he could not give them away without considerable improvement in the workmanship. I never personally got a cue from him, all mine were second hand. I ordered a cue from him once, then after a couple of years got mad and canceled the order. I had sent him the price in full. Once I canceled the order he sent me a refund immediately. What was funny, was he added interest for the time he had the money. I was told that Dean Martin ordered a cue from him and he never sent it either. It was almost impossible to get a cue from him if you were not there to get it personally. I bet your dad could get one from him in a month. If he did not know you, forget it.
02-12-2003, 02:21 PM
True - true I may add the balls. The cue ball of today and the ob are much superior to the by-gone era of old mud balls.
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote HOWARD:</font><hr> Houstondan,
True - true I may add the balls. The cue ball of today and the ob are much superior to the by-gone era of old mud balls.
Howard <hr /></blockquote>
i forgot to mention, there has been a general reduction in the weight of cues over the years. although there are certainly people who still like heavy cues, the trend has been to lighter sticks, indicative of the greater ease of stroke needed.
02-13-2003, 07:49 AM
Here is what is left out today. There is no old growth wood left to make shafts with. My Palmer shaft has the growth rings in the shaft, the new shafts are bare.####
02-13-2003, 06:06 PM
Hi Tom. I'm suprised at your statement that modern cues aren't any better then yesteryears. Evan some of the cheap
production cues are better then the old cues. First, today we have better adhesives and a better technicle understanding of what happens when a cue strikes a ball. Second, most of the old cues were full splice ( finger joint ) and they played stiffer then what's being made today. Then there were the cues that were made from one length of wood ( I'm refering only to the butts in this discourse) almost all of which warped because of the length in one piece construction. Also the majority of the old cues used steel or brass joints making one of your statements that the shaft is the only thing that's important mostly true in those examples. But for the most part that only holds true with cues built with steel joints. But certainly not cues built with wood to wood joints. You also compared cues to tennis rackets and golf clubs stating those items utilize lateral strengths to store and release energy and while that's true, a cue also stores energy. It stores it during compression. You can compare the two to a leaf type spring
and a coil spring (leaf spring- golf club and coil spring- pool cue.) While it's not as obvious as when a golf club bends cue compression is every bit as dynamic. When a cue strikes a ball it compresses and stores energy, subsequently it has to release that energy. How it releases that energy and how much energy is stored is directly related to the construction of the butt and the coupling between the shaft and the butt. If one thinks in terms of a coil spring, a shorter spring will store and release less energy then a longer spring all other factors being equal and obviously there are limits to how long a spring could be used in any given application. Hence springs are staged in variable rates to store large amounts of energy in a smaller package. Well that's how a cue works, it compresses, stores and releases energy. The effeincy of the construction design directly dictates how much energy that cue will store and release and can be easily demonstrated when applying equal force to a cue ball using different designs with all other things ( material, dimensions etc ) being equal. I built five butts, each one constructed differently internally but wood type and density along with dimensions, weight and all other material being the same. These were coupled to the same shaft in each test so as not to skew the results. Without releasing data the results were remarkable. from 1 to 5 there was an incremental increase is released force as the design evolved resulting in less vibration with less deflection and the ability to remain closer to center of the cue ball while achieving the same amount of revolutions. The butt can and does make a difference in the way a cue plays. Without question many of todays cues are far superior to cues built by the old 'masters'. I know I'm going to take heat from stating this but please if you disagree don't make it personal. We've all got opinions and this is mine.take care, John G
02-14-2003, 07:35 AM
John very scientific post I am waiting for Fred to reply. When I had Petey Palmer make my cue I ask him if he could copy a simple Balabushka he said I sell George his parts it is no problem, I will use my joint so it won't be taken for Georges Cue. I had the chance to buy Balabushkas for $90 and they all had a click after you hit three or four shots. I was always of the opinion that anything beyond the joint should be plain no rings or ornamental garbage. For years I had played with a 17 oz house cue. I beat Babe Cranfield playing an exhibition in Hudson with same cue. Transporting the cue was the prolem.####
02-14-2003, 08:27 AM
I think it is safe to say that many of the materials used to make new cues are far superior to those used in the past. I donít think you can compare the large cue makers such as Joss, McDermott, and Schon, to the old hand made cues of years gone by or to the work done by small custom cue makers such as Ezell custom cues, Esperto (sp?) More, Hunter Classic Cues, and many others across the country. I personally donít beleave you get the same quality from mass-produced cues as you get from a custom cue maker. Cue making is becoming a lost art. I think that todayís custom cue makers have the knowledge (learned from old cue makers) materials and equment to make a much better cue. As for a lot of the larger companies their cues have lost something over the years, they just donít seam to play as well. For example I had an old Schon that played great, I played with a new Schon, that did feel good, but nowhere as good as the old one.
02-14-2003, 09:28 AM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote Carlton31698:</font><hr> I think it is safe to say that many of the materials used to make new cues are far superior to those used in the past. <hr /></blockquote>
Since #### Leonard rang my bell, I figured I'd give my opinion.
Materials-wise, it seems to me that wood has proven thusfar superior to synthetics. That is, the idea of graphite which has helped reduce vibration in lateral impact sports like tennis and golf may not give a pool player any help. That's because the force is right down the axis, as someone else mentioned.
It also seems that good wood for shafts isn't as available as it once was. Of course, back then there were only a handful of cuemakers demanding the wood, and today there are hundreds, not to mention all of the other industries that want the wood. (See #### Leonard's post)
IMO, a cue made well then is as good as a cue made well today. The talk of modern day adhesives (and remember folks, I'm an assembly engineer so I'm not blowing smoke) is only as good as the process that it's used. And strong adhesives like epoxies and CA have finite working time windows.
Now, a lot of old cues are indeed failing today at the glue joints. IMO, it's only pure speculation that today's cues will last any longer. Time and not theory will be the telling factor.
The plus of today is the technology of accurate machining. But, otoh, we're talking about wood, a moving, non-homogenous substance. Today's mold and machine building is certainly better, but we're talking metal machining in those areas. Metal isn't wood.
A final point is the idea of custom cuemakers vs. production cues. There are production cues that are obviously very strict on quality. Joss and Pechauer come to mind. There are also a lot of relatively inexperienced custom cuemakers who don't pretend to make a cue with the quality of a Dan Janes or the Pechauers. So, that idea really shouldn't be some kind of telling criterion on the quality of the cues either way.
02-14-2003, 10:05 AM
[ QUOTE ]
If one thinks in terms of a coil spring, .... Well that's how a cue works, it compresses, stores and releases energy. <hr /></blockquote>
No, I don't think so. Not like a coil spring. The only part of the cue that will behave with Hook's Law of any kind would be the tip and maybe the ferrule. And we weren't talking about tips, right?
[ QUOTE ]
The effeincy of the construction design directly dictates how much energy that cue will store and release <hr /></blockquote>
I'm just thinking that your terminology isn't correct. I do agree that a more efficient energy transfer can be achieved by certain design attributes and that's probably what you're really testing. But the idea of storing and releasing of energy doesn't sit well in my mind. I don't think that's the right engineering model. The cue wood would need to compress and decompress within the normal contact time (tip/cueball) of .001, other than the tip/ferrule system. I don't thik the material allows for that.
02-14-2003, 11:35 AM
I do believe cues are better today on the average, but I think it is more due to the demand for that kind of quality and a willingness to pay for it. I am curious what materials are available today that are superior to what was available to cuemakers of the past? I think a lot changed in the late 60's when Ernie Gutierrez entered the market. He began producing a cue beyond anything done before and with a price to go with it. At a time when the young Joss cue and people like Balabushka were selling a cue for $80.00 with two shafts, he was asking $600.00 or more, and getting it. I was told by Burt Schrager, That when he first saw a Ginacue, he knew the business was about to change. He felt like his cues were junk next to a Ginacue. They had set a new standard in quality and design. The machines and materials have been there all along, but the inclination to make a superior cue was not. A cuemaker of years ago could do just as good an inlay on a 1930s Gorton, as one today on a cnc machine, just not as fast. Same thing regarding lathes. Balabushka built a very good cue and was innovative. He began making a standard size butt a little thinner then other cuemakers, and the quality of construction was excellent, although workmanship was not of the level you see today and not even at that time, near as good as Gina or Joss. Even in regard to glues, today there are glues that are better then glues of years ago, but I don't think that matters in regard to cuebuilding. The glues available to the cuemaker 50 or 60 years ago, were more then sufficient to put together a cue that would play solid and stay together for a lifetime of play. I don't like the finish many cuemakers use today. I dislike the use of automotive finishes on cues. I have seen cues, with what look like blisters in the finish, with these finishes. It is also I am told, difficult to do repairs or refinish the cues. I don't know when it got started, but I don't think it is superior for the needs of a cue. I don't like the phony shiny plastic look it gives a cue. The colors in the woods don't seem to jump out at you, they look like plastic. I was told be one cuemaker, he could finish and deliver the cue in 48 hours. That may be more his concern, speed, then putting on a proper finish. That is my opinion and I would be interested to hear from cuemakers if they disagree.
02-14-2003, 12:29 PM
Hi Fred, I'm glad you jumped into the fray. My anology to a coil spring was probably not a good one to use, but I couldn't think of any other way to describe whats happening. I'm not going to argue theory with you, your far to eduacated in engineering for me. In addition I think you're a very bright man. I also won't pretend to understand everything thats happening. While I agree that the amount of compression beyond the tip is so small, particularly when one considers this energy has to pass thru the ferrule down the shaft, thru the mechanics of the joint and into and thru the mechanics of the butt, a distance total of some 40+ inches, one wouldn't think there would be enough time and contact with the ball to cause an effect. When I was testing I placed pickups at intervals down the length of the cue and recorded the resonance and the rate of vibration in the butt. There is a direct correlation in the reduction of vibration and the transference of energy to the ball. I had an engenering student take the problem to class and run it by his professor. He said the same thing , that can't happen. But somethings happening. There seems to be a set of numbers ( dimensions) in the construction of the butt ( the mechanical connection of the handle to the forarm ) that's causing this. I tested with a robot so that all external parameters remained resonably equal. Only the mechanical connection in the butt was altered. Cue ball travel was measured and compared as well as off center strikes in varying incrementals to measure the revolutions. While I had no way to accuratly measure revs, exit angle of the ball off the rail demonstrated more spin as the mechanics evolved. It Doesn't make sense. Thanks for your reply. John G
02-14-2003, 12:52 PM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote John G:</font><hr> I tested with a robot so that all external parameters remained resonably equal. Only the mechanical connection in the butt was altered.<hr /></blockquote>
I'd love it if you expounded on this, but I'd suggest that this isn't the forum. Rec.sport.billiard would be the correct forum, as others have been theorizing using accelerometers on the rest of the cue.
[ QUOTE ]
While I had no way to accuratly measure revs, exit angle of the ball off the rail demonstrated more spin as the mechanics evolved. It Doesn't make sense. Thanks for your reply. John G <hr /></blockquote> You're right. It doesn't make sense ;-) I think makers like Schuler, Lambros, and Thierry Layani have made great strides in attempting to decrease losses at the joint, in effect maximizing the energy transfer. I find that important. However, your study suggests that an increase in energy transfer also affects the spin/speed ratio. I'd have to see that experiment. Any chance you video-taped it?
02-14-2003, 01:27 PM
My local cuemaker has repaired a few Bushkas. The reason? Wood glue and balsa wood used for points.
Epoxy and remilling points these days are much more durable.
The ferrules these days are pretty much indestructible.
02-14-2003, 07:32 PM
Hi Fred, No I didn't. I didn't have that much forsight. This started because I had way to much time and to much pain and an old idea that I wasn't able to get anyone to listen to. It was therapy for me. And your right, this isn't the forum to discuss this. Take care, John G
I am now entering my 7th decade of playing pool, so I am a expert on older cues, I began playing during WWII, and have used Willie Hoppe, Rambo's, a original balabushka, and I have over 100 cues hanging on the wall. I have just about every thing ever made, and the truth is, the modern cues are totally superior to the old cues. All my old stuff is either in a vault, or wall hangers now. Nobody in golf today plays with 20 yr old golf clubs for the same reason, todays technology, produces a better playing product. Today, I play with 2 cues, a Schuler & a Meucci. Fast Larry Guninger. www.fastlarrypool.com (http://www.fastlarrypool.com)
02-14-2003, 10:35 PM
Thanks Fred for jumping in I seem to have forgotten Rec.sport.billiard.####
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote #### leonard:</font><hr> Here is what is left out today. There is no old growth wood left to make shafts with. My Palmer shaft has the growth rings in the shaft, the new shafts are bare.#### <hr /></blockquote>
Tim Scruggs had this article by Leonard Bludworth on his Web site, but it doesn't seem to be online anymore:
The Pro's and Con's of Light and Dark Shaft Wood
by Leonard "Blud" Bludworth
For several years now, we as cue makers, have went through some tough times, doing our best to supply you, the consumer with the best shaft wood. The question of which is best, light colored or white wood as it's called today., or the more darker, to a tan colored wood with some grain?
Cue buyers, have been told for years, that white wood was the best shaft wood (the statement of white wood being the best, was for promotional gain only) The wood we use for shaft wood in today's market, is the same type of wood that has been used for generations. In the modern world of drying woods, our shaft wood, is being broken down by force drying it to the point of very poor cell structure, no hardness, no spine, poor weight and memory.
One method of drying wood, is to put it in a vacuum kiln. This is a very fast way to dry, and bring down the moisture content in woods today. In this process, it removes some, if not most of the mineral stain. It also breaks down the internal structure of the wood. (the cell structure leaving not much strength or spine). The cell structure of the wood, produces the strength of the shaft, meaning spine, straightness and memory of the wooden shaft. With this very fast and efficient way to produce dried wood, you know have a softer piece of wood that could warp very easily, and become very "whippy". It will not be as hard as it should be, and it's got no memory to speak of. (Memory is a term we use for the shaft returning to it's natural state) It gets dirty and stains easily, and is very light in weight. 3.3 to 3.7 oz's.
The woods that are kiln dried slow, and also air dried for some time, would be straight, have good backbone (spine), have good memory, and be very slick. (Slow drying the wood, will remove most of the moisture content, but would not remove all of the grain stain). As a result of this process, it was dense and had a wonderful hit, or feel if you will. It would be darker, but it was dense, slick and very straight. When you hit a ball you could fell the "ball". These were great shafts, that had the proper amount of stiffness, good memory, and had a good solid weight shafts. These shafts stayed clean and stiff, they played very nice. When you hit the ball, you weren't surprised on how the cue ball reacted.
Comparison of Light and Dark Wood
<ul type="square"> White looks great
White does not last long, gets dirty real fast
White becomes whippy
White has no memory to speak of
White has lost it's spine
The cell structure is broken down, with a false hit or feel, not solid
Needs to be cleaned and polished often
It's got a spongy feel when you hit the ball
You ability for shot making is limited
It doesn't help to elevate your game
More apt to warp
Shafts are light in weight[/list]
<ul type="square"> Not ugly, but not pretty either
It stays the same color
It is not whippy
Returns to the same state
It has the proper stiffness
The cell structure is in place, you can feel the solid hit
Just wipe it down and keep playing
It's got a solid hit and feel
You make those difficult shots better than before with more confidence
You will become an overall better shotmaker
Less apt to warp (still has backbone)
These shafts are heavy, dense, more solid[/list]
Cue makers, have had to add more weight to the butt of the cues to bring up the weight, to fit the shaft weight. We don't build a shaft and then fit a butt to it. We build the but and then fit a shaft to the butt. Normally the but should weigh in at about 15.5 oz's and the shaft weighing in at 3.7 oz's for a well balanced cue at 19.2 oz's. (about the national average weight) Today's cues are weigh in in at about 15.8 and the shafts at about 3.4. So you can see, that the cue maker had to adjust to this over time. This makes the cue butt a little heavier, than normal.
As a comparison take a look at older collectable cues, that sell for thousands of dollars. They all had the darker shaft wood. it is not dark from playing with them, they are dark because that was the best wood for the shafts. I have personally played with and inspected hundreds of older cues. They for the most part, have the darker shaft woods.
Being in the cue making business and repairing cues for most of three decades, I've had a lot of experience working with all the top brand name cues and shafts. After working with shafts so long, you can just feel the wood turning in your had, and you know it's a great shaft. When this happens it has always been, the good dark shaft wood that has a hardness, spine, memory and slickness you can't find in today's shaft wood.
This was written to educate you, the consumer, on shaft wood and was not intended to knock any cue makers or wood producers. The information in this article is the opinions of several cue making friends, who thought it was time to explain our view points on this subject. The majority of the older cue makers prefer the darker woods. Several wood turners, and wood produces feel the same was as we do.
Please don't feel as if you have been ripped off by purchasing a cue with white wood. You haven't been. I hope you have enjoyed reading this article and have learned something about shaft woods.
[Tim Scrugg's note]Tim Scruggs agrees with the content of this article and has said that in is 30+ years of building cues and turning wood, the shaft woods today, are the softest that he has seen.
I had a cue with the light, soft wood and at first thought the hit was great. Then I got another cue, this one with the dark-wood characteristics that Blud describes above. The first cue went on eBay the same day. Never again will I buy a cue that doesn't come with old growth shafts, but otherwise I'd want the cue to be made with modern construction technology.
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