With all the decorations, finishes, and different materials used on pool cues these days, it can be hard to know what you have just by looking at it. The shaft may look different from the butt. The inlays and wraps are nearly impossible to identify by sight. So, in this article, I’ll explore the question: What are pool cues made of?
The main ingredient for most pool cues is wood. Hard Rock Maple wood is a favorite for the shaft. Other woods are often used as well, including many different kinds of maple, cherrywood, cocobolo, rosewood, zircote, and others. You can also find cues made of aluminum, fiberglass, carbon fiber, graphite, and even plastic. Many other materials are used for the other parts of a pool cue.
What is the Best Material for a Pool Cue?
The “best” material is a matter for debate among pool players. However, if you go solely by the sheer number of pool cues made from one material, wood is the winner. Wood has been holding steady for centuries in the number one spot, and it probably won’t be going anywhere, even with the advent of carbon fiber and the like.
However, no pool cues are made from wood only. There’s a lot of other materials that go into making a pool cue. We’ll get to those soon. First, a bit more about wood.
What is the Best Wood to Make a Pool Cue Out of?
The best wood for pool cues is hard rock maple. This is because maple is strong, durable, and does well to resist warping. Maple is also readily available, which helps keep the cost of cues down.
You can get a pool cue made with any number of exotic woods. But, the more exotic, the higher the price. And why mess with perfection? Maple has show itself to be a reliable wood for pool cues for a very long time.
Snooker cues are a little different. They’re typically made of ash. But that’s a subject for another article.
We were talking about pool cues. So, let’s cover what else pool cues are made from other than wood. And let’s start that off by answering a common question.
Are Pool Cues Hollow?
As a matter of fact, some pool cues are hollow in strategic places. Well, they’re not truly hollow. Let me explain.
Weight Bolt System
A lot of pool cue makers will hollow out some of the butt (no more than a few inches) and install an adjustable weight system. This way, they can make all the butts essentially the same and add or subtract weight bolts to fit customer specifications.
This is also nice in case you, as the customer, want to adjust the weight of your cue. You just add or subtract the specially made bolts to add or subtract weight. These bolts are typically made of metal, but their design tends to vary depending on the manufacturer.
Low Deflection Shafts
In the top of some cues— usually low deflection ones— the five or so inches behind the tip is hollowed out. The high-density wood is removed and replaced with a core of carbon fiber, foam, or a lower-density wood.
This helps with squirt or deflection, which is what happens any time you strike a cue ball anywhere but off-center. The more you can reduce deflection, the better ball control you’ll have. That’s the idea anyway. And many players swear by these low-deflection cues.
Other Pool Cue Materials
So far we have a few different materials that pool cues are made of: several kinds of wood, metal, carbon fiber, and foam. Not every cues is made with all of these materials. It all depends on the design and manufacturer. But we’re not done yet. There are still many more materials that go into making a pool cue.
Pool cue tips come in several different materials. However, the most popular material for tips is leather. Pigskin is a favorite among tip makers, but other types of leather are used, as well. Layered leather tips are the more expensive option, but they also tend to hold their shape the longest, therefore lasting longer than non-layered cues.
Other tip materials include phenolic resin, which is usually used for break or jump cues. Phenolic resin is a form of plastic that most pool balls are made of— meaning it’s super hard and not ideal for typical gameplay.
Other, less popular materials include plastic and imitation leather.
The ferrule is the little piece that sits on the top of the shaft behind the tip. Ferrules also come in several different materials. But, like tips, there’s a favorite among cue makers: linen fiber. The ferrule serves as a shock absorber for the shaft, so it needs to be tough and durable.
Synthetic materials are often used, but some ferrules are made from wood or brass. Ferrules used to be made from ivory, but these days many companies use imitation ivory like Aegis or Ivorine III.
Not all pool cues have wraps, but many of them do. The wrap is where the grip hand goes and is meant to help absorb moisture (sweat) and to help the player keep a firm grip on the cue stick. Wraps can also add flair and personality to a cue.
Most wraps are made from threads of Irish linen wrapped precisely around the cue and secured. Leather is also a popular choice for wraps, using either small or large strips around the butt.
The inlays are little decorative implements placed mostly on the forearm and the butt sleeve of the cue (on either side of the wrap). Some cheaper cues don’t use actual inlays. Instead, they use decals to imitate true inlays.
Depending on the materials used in the inlays and the intricacies of the carvings, you could be paying a lot or a little for your cue. Basic inlays found on mass-produced cues may be made with exotic woods and other materials, but the more exotic, unique, and intricate the inlays, the higher the cue price, generally.
Some common inlay materials include mother of pearl, cobalt, turquoise, brass, pewter, various urethanes, ebony, zicote, birdseye maple, bocote, zebrawood, tulipwood, and many, many more.
There are a variety of finishing options for pool cues. Many companies are using a UV cured finish these days to provide a smooth, non-stick feel all along the cue. These are also great for protection against moisture and other climate-related damage.
Most cues on the market (other than “house cues”) are made in two pieces for easy transportation. You can screw the two pieces together and not worry about it coming loose during gameplay. What makes this possible is metal. There’s a joint, pin, and collar that are generally made of metal.
Sometimes the joint is made of phenolic resin, buckhorn, or wood. But the pin and collar are made of metal most of the time.
Who knew there was such a complicated answer to the seemingly simple question of “what are pool cues made of?” The short answer would have been “Mostly wood, but a lot of other stuff, too.”
But, knowing what a pool cue is made of can help you determine a quality cue from a cheap cue. It can also tell you why a certain cue has a certain price tag. You can look at the exotic inlay materials and say, “Oh, that’s why.” Luckily, most cues are highly customizable these days. But there’s also an excellent selection of quality cues that won’t break the bank.
I hope this has helped you in your quest for knowledge or the perfect pool cue. Thanks for reading!