View Full Version : Looking for Cue Lathe
04-29-2003, 05:50 PM
I am really interested in getting started in cue making. I was wondering if anyone knew where I could get a cheap lathe to learn with?
04-29-2003, 09:16 PM
I know at least four people who make custom cues either as a business, side-business, or a hobby. In all cases, I have yet to find very much that is cheap about it (as in inexpensive). In pricing lathes that would do the job, in the Dallas area I am better of buying a new one at Harbor Freight Tools. Used ones seem to be almost as expensive and they come with history, unknown quantities of reliability and durability, and no warranty. I've asked cuemakers, machinists, and read the classifieds until I'm blue in the face. It's been the same result every time, unless you know someone with some spare lathes sitting in the corner /ccboard/images/graemlins/smile.gif
I've had better luck with learning how to make a cue (and I am not a cuemaker and never will be)just by talking to cuemakers. They are artists and machinists, an all in one master craftsman; and most love to talk to anyone who can keep up with the jargon and detail of discussing what they do (that so few of their customers truly understand).
JMHO, I hope this is of some use to you. Good luck in your endeavors!
04-30-2003, 10:15 AM
Dallas is not a good area to purchase used machine tools. California and the northeast seem to be much better, with seemingly never-ending gluts of surplus lathes, mills, etc. I got tired of hearing "sorry, sold to the first caller" when I called every lathe ad in the Morning News.
I got lucky and found a guy on the newsgroup "rec.crafts.metalworking" who had a nice $700 Atlas lathe for sale in St Louis, so I drove there and back on a weekend. The same lathe, with all the tooling I got, might have sold for $1200 in Dallas but it would have been gone before I got to it.
Hint: If you want to do tip and ferrule work, check out the 7x10 mini-lathe at Harbor Freight, currently on sale for $359. It's about the same price as the Willard tipping fixture, and you get a real lathe that can do other things as well.
04-30-2003, 11:20 AM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote SpiderMan:</font><hr>Hint: If you want to do tip and ferrule work, check out the 7x10 mini-lathe at Harbor Freight, currently on sale for $359. It's about the same price as the Willard tipping fixture, and you get a real lathe that can do other things as well.<hr /></blockquote>That's what I did. I bought the Homier Speedway Metal Lathe http://www.homier.com/thumbnail.asp?a=03911&b=250&c=208 , a 7x12 mini-lathe, for $299 plus $50 shipping. Great investment. A guy on Ebay had been selling them without much luck, I think.
04-30-2003, 04:53 PM
Thanks for the link to homier.com. I have never seen this version machine that cheap. I think I am going to order a couple later this summer. /ccboard/images/graemlins/laugh.gif /ccboard/images/graemlins/grin.gif
I've seen tabletop woodworking lathes on ebay for between $150 and $200.
04-30-2003, 05:36 PM
Go to schools and see if they want to get rid of their old 36" belt driven lathes. The gear head ones are pretty noisy but are more accurate. The tooling costs a lot more. A good 6-jaw chucks like Bison are going for around a grand.
Old Atlas lathes are dime a dozen but they have flat beds.
Logan, Clausing and South Bend are good old American brands who I think are still better than the Chinese imports. The best Chinese imports are Jet or Grizzly imo. They go for around 2k and up.
Can you tell I've been checking around? /ccboard/images/graemlins/grin.gif
I don't know if you know machining but making cues require a good knowledge of machining. Cuemakers spend a great deal of time just for shopping and looking for needed parts.
04-30-2003, 05:40 PM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote captain:</font><hr> I've seen tabletop woodworking lathes on ebay for between $150 and $200. <hr /></blockquote>
They are of no use to cuemakers except for turning squares into "almost" round stock.
Cuemakers actually need heavy duty metal lathes. At least 36" between centers.
05-01-2003, 09:05 AM
Check out these people (http://www.cuemonster.com). They have some cool equipment. I heard about a setup they had at Valley Forge that was pretty impressive.
05-01-2003, 10:57 AM
You might check out www.cuesmith.com (http://www.cuesmith.com) - Chris Hightower has "The Cue Building Book" as well as videos, lathes, and supplies there. I have not seen the book and it is not cheap, but it might give you some ideas of whether or not you want to get into this and how to locate and adapt equipment.
Walt in VA
05-01-2003, 11:32 AM
I've visited the shops of several cuemakers (Mike Erwin, Bill Schick, Mike Sigel, Alex Brick, etc), and none of them use the so-called "cue lathes" to make cues. They all use good, solid, heavy, metalworking lathes adapted to their needs.
I suspect that if you poll the cuemakers who are online here (Blackheart, Troy, JohnG, etc), you will also find that they use converted metalworking equipment. The purpose-built "cue lathes" might be good as light-duty portable gear to take to tournaments and trade shows, but I have a hard time imagining that you would equip a stationary business that way.
05-01-2003, 12:36 PM
Spiderman: this is off-topic, but your icon has got the best of my curiosity. How tall are you?
05-01-2003, 12:39 PM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote SpiderMan:</font><hr> . . .I suspect that if you poll the cuemakers who are online here (Blackheart, Troy, JohnG, etc), you will also find that they use converted metalworking equipment. The purpose-built "cue lathes" might be good as light-duty portable gear to take to tournaments and trade shows, but I have a hard time imagining that you would equip a stationary business that way.
SpiderMan <hr /></blockquote>I hope he doesn't mind (wonder where he's been), but here are some excerpts from an old email I got from Blackheart:
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote Blackheart (Jerry):</font><hr>With a converted wood lathe, (with a drill press chuck mounted
on it & a DC motor) & an Atlas lathe older than me, I started making Qs & repairing Qs that needed shafts replaced. . . .I bought an old inlay machine that didn't work very well, but it started me going. From then I started buying more equipment until now I have 6 lathes, 3 saws, an inlay machine, a drill press. . . .Not to influence you, but I have 2 Porper lathes & a Cuesmith.<hr /></blockquote>I have also seen photos of a few shops, and most of them feature full-blown metal lathes, but I have also read where several cuemakers started with modified drill presses, wood lathes, and/or whatever.
However, I do agree that the advantages to a 'regular' metal lathe are there in price and parts availability--and I think that a 1930s Atlas that's still running now will probably outlast a new "cue" lathe.
Btw, I have a Craftsman wood lathe in the basement, which I've partially turned down a shaft--just getting a feel for the wood--and I started with a (badly) mounted rotozip tool, which I removed and did some continuation turning with just the rest and a chisel.
My biggest issue so far, is that I have an independent 4-jaw chuck, and my centering skills aren't the best (yet).
Also, when I have the time/money to play around again, I'm working on adding an adjustable base, on which I will mount a (possibly modified) pivoting cross-slide vice, which will be my 'make-do' tool holder.
If I ever get the stuff working decently (don't hold your breath), I'll post some pictures.
~~donations accepted for precision tooling.
05-01-2003, 12:52 PM
not to disagree, but, for a person who does not really know about machinery, one of the lathes like Hightower sells will be very usefull right out of the box, along with the tech support that will be supplied. Someone wanting to build cues for real will need a lot more equipment over time and at least several more lathes that can be set up for dedicated jobs, turning butts, shafts, part making and so on. If you just have one lathe it can be hard. If you are in the middle of a job and someone shows up with say a ferrule job, you want to be able to step to another lathe and do the repair without having to make set up changes. Having said all that, even a person who graduates to becoming a full time cuebuilder and buys a Hightower lathe to start, will always have a place in the shop for it and will pay for it's self many times over. It is, in my opinion, a more realistic way for someone to get started. That would be the case even with a small 7x12 like Fred has. The shops you describe built up over time and if they told you what they started with, I would bet it was not a $50,000 investment. I just think one of those per-fab cue lathes will give someone a nice quick start rather then hunting for equipment that, if they ever find any, they will now have to modify to even get started without any idea what they are doing.
Just another way of looking at it.
05-01-2003, 01:01 PM
I bought the book (Blackheart referred me to it) several months back.
For what you get, I think it's pricey--plastic bound, laminated cover. . . .However, I consider that he (Chris Hightower) is supporting competition by selling it, so I think he's entitled to what he gets for it.
Readers could probably figure out some of the "how-to" stuff by trial, error, and Google support groups, but there is also a lot of good info about woods, tips, machines, and such. The illustrations aren't heavily detailed, but they get the point across. Mr. Hightower even apologizes for his lack of skill at drawing--which also bring up the almost 'stream-of-conscious' style of writing of the book. I personally liked the writing, but some folks may have issues with it.
Overall, I think its good to have it, if you can throw the $ at it. There's a dearth of published information out there, and I'm glad that Mr. Hightower took the time and effort to put out something for those of us with an interest. (He was also a nice person on the phone.) I would even recommend buying it, just to help keep it in publication for the future.
05-01-2003, 01:41 PM
I'm 6'3". I can get 'most anywhere and keep one toe on the floor because I'm pretty flexible. Anyway, that tangle of arms and legs is why my BCA teammates gave me my nickname /ccboard/images/graemlins/grin.gif
05-01-2003, 01:50 PM
If you have a collection of old "Texas Billard News" magazines, which later became "American Cueist", Dennis Dieckmann wrote a serialized "how-to" manual on cuebuilding about five years ago. Unfortunately, he didn't seem to be that good at staying ahead of his deadlines, so after a few months the articles got poorly written and strayed far away from his original outline.
Some of the material can still be found by rambling around on his web site http://www.cuemaker.com and the rest will have to be copied from the old magazines. I doubt he ever actually finished his book.
Interesting fact: Dennis makes a big production of stressing that he is a cue builder, not a cue maker, then uses "cuemaker" as his web site /ccboard/images/graemlins/crazy.gif
05-01-2003, 02:17 PM
I have been using the Cue Companion lathe for a few years. It does a good job turning shafts, doing tips, ferrules, irish linin wraps etc. I haven't seen the other peices he came out with, but for quality and ease of use, I think the ones Predator314 saw at Valley Forge would be a (reletively) inexpensive way to get started. Hint: Go for the highest powered motor they offer if you buy one.
05-01-2003, 02:31 PM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote SpiderMan:</font><hr> The purpose-built "cue lathes" might be good as light-duty portable gear to take to tournaments and trade shows, but I have a hard time imagining that you would equip a stationary business that way.<hr /></blockquote>Here's what Thomas Wayne had to say:
Excerpt discussing specialty cue lathes:
Thomas Wayne saz:
"By the time Joe first brought his lathe to market, I had already fully equipped my shop (you can accumulate a lot stuff in almost 30 years of being a "tool junkie"). If I was just starting out today, however, I'd be thrilled with one of his fully equipped lathes ("model B"). What a head start that would be. "
05-01-2003, 02:42 PM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote Popcorn:</font><hr> Having said all that, even a person who graduates to becoming a full time cuebuilder and buys a Hightower lathe to start, will always have a place in the shop for it and will pay for it's self many times over. It is, in my opinion, a more realistic way for someone to get started. That would be the case even with a small 7x12 like Fred has. ... I just think one of those per-fab cue lathes will give someone a nice quick start rather then hunting for equipment that, if they ever find any, they will now have to modify to even get started without any idea what they are doing.<hr /></blockquote>
In case anyone cares, I bought the lathe specifically to do tips. If you can believe that. I've done tips forever like many here, but I knew that with the lathe, not only could I do them quickly, but more precisely, and in the end, simply with better results.
That being said, you have to be willing to make and modify. I've had to fabricate collets, steady rests. I didn't have a drill chuck arbor for my tailstock, so I made one (#2 Morse Taper) and mounted a 3/8th drill chuck that I had sitting around doing nothing. I've drawn up a cup-faced live center and radius-cutting tool holder. I'll end up making those in the next few weeks. And here, I'm just doing tips!!! Of course, I could just buy those things, but what fun would that be?
Fred <~~~ having fun
05-01-2003, 04:20 PM
Thanks for reminding me--I found his stuff awhile back, but buried it on my local. . . .
If anyone wants the stuff, and doesn't want to have to d/l each one individually, I've got them all Zipped up together, and I can email them/it. It's about 5 Mb, Zipped.
05-01-2003, 05:29 PM
I can't tell if you were agreeing with me or not. My point in mentioning you was that even though you can't build a cue on your lathe , you can do a lot with it. If you later bought a full size lathe for cue building you would still have use for the lathe you have and it would get a nice spot in the shop for part making and so on. I have a complete cue shop, with three metal lathes, two wood lathes for sanding, a Gorton P1-2 pantograph, a milling machine, two band saws, table saw and lots of miscellaneous tools and I don't even build cues. I have, but don't get much time to go into the shop and work at it. I do stuff for friends, make shafts and so on. I just like tools and that is how I began buying stuff as I found it, it's fun.
I maybe wrong but the pictures and descriptions of these lathes look pretty darn close to ones I've seen in PH's.
05-02-2003, 10:30 AM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote Popcorn:</font><hr> I can't tell if you were agreeing with me or not.<hr /></blockquote>I'm good like that.
[ QUOTE ]
My point in mentioning you was that even though you can't build a cue on your lathe , you can do a lot with it. <hr /></blockquote>I was agreeing. Wholeheartedly.
05-05-2003, 02:54 PM
Thanks for all the info guys. If I ever save enough money to buy some equipment, I'll be sure to let you know =)
I have the QCompanion Repair Lathe and second your idea of getting the biggest motor they offer. I think it does a good job on repairs, the videos are good, and the support people are very good...
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