Billiards in the New Millennium – Checking & Straightening 2pc Timber Cues

INTRODUCTION

This blog is designed to enlighten your understanding of pool cue straightness.

Please take the time to read it as it will give you the knowledge to:

  • Identify & isolate a variance that a cue may have
  • Measure the significance that a variance has on cue performance
  • Adjust a variance and maintain the straightness of a timber cue –

thus giving you a level of confidence & perspective through knowledge in an area where players can be very misinformed.

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HISTORY

Up until the 1990’s the majority of the cues on the market have been single piece (1pc) cues, and still are in most pubs. In the new millennium, however, because of the growth of Online Shopping, 2pc cues now dominate the market, simply because of the shipping advantages. It’s amazing though, that even though we’ve had this huge industry shift for more than 20 years, some of the antiquated beliefs, understandings & traditions have not evolved past the single piece cue.

It’s now time to clear up one of the biggest misunderstandings in the game & that is the method of checking & adjusting straightness of 2pc cues. At the same time, we also need to define what actually constitutes a significant, adjustable or negligible 2pc cue variance.

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“We must first ask ourselves why this is the only sports product that is checked with such scrutiny & if not perfect, we can’t play with it. After all, we don’t check the roundness of the pool balls. We don’t roll a baseball bat or take the head off a golf club so as we can roll it & check the shaft for millimeter precision. And yet, a pool cue is a 1.5m long, very thin piece of timber & we, for some reason have this unreasonable expectation of Utopian perfection.

So why do we roll a cue? – BECAUSE WE CAN!”  – An experienced player usually looks down the shaft while rotating the cue then adjusts his/her shot to any minor variations.

Paul Graver (Pool Cue Maker & Designer at Custom Pool Cues)

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VARIANCE DEFINITIONS

I doubt if there are many players who haven’t, at some time rolled a 1pc cue on the table to check the variance, and this is fine because 99% of variances in a 1pc cue actually do constitute a bent shaft. However, with a 2pc cue, the variance can be isolated to 3 different areas that in most circumstances have nothing to do with warping or bending of the shaft. The shape of the cue butt is one of these, however, unless there is a significant bend in one direction it is of very little importance. So we will only focus on the main two variance areas.

  1. Top Shaft Variance – This is by far the most important. If the top shaft is straight or has negligible variance (See Below) then any joiner variance<=5mm becomes either negligible or adjustable. If there’s a significant lift in the tip >=2mm or a visible hook in the very tip area, then action may be required (see ACTIONS & ADJUSTMENTS – 1)
  2. Joiner Variance – A cue may possess straight top & bottom shafts but have a minor variation in the joiner causing the tip to lift when rolled. If lift is <= 5mm, it can usually be pressure adjusted back to negligible & even zero.(see ACTIONS & ADJUSTMENTS – 2)

Now, let’s get the Variance into Perspective – Taking into account a median distance between the tip & the bridge hand  – divided by the full length of the cue, a joiner variance will have an inaccuracy level of around 10% of the variance measurement (i.e . 150/1500mm = 10%). This means that, as long as the top shaft is within an acceptable range, a joiner variance of <4mm will affect the cues accuracy by <0.4mm.

And let’s face it……………we’re not trying to Split an Atom here…

Negligible Variance Example: If the cue appears to be rolling straight but there is an mm or so of daylight showing between the middle of the shaft & the table when you get your eyes at table height, this is simply a mild shape variation over the shaft length which is present in many timber cues. It makes no difference at all to the playing quality. In fact, a mild even bend of 1 – 2mm over the 725mm length of the top shaft equates to only 0.135 – 0.27% inaccuracy. If this is the type of perfection that you require to play well, you need to request it from the seller.

The above is an example of “The Unrealistic Expectation of Utopian Perfection” that we mentioned earlier.

Wood is wood. Learn to love it’s mild imperfections. It absorbs shock, looks great and is adjustable.

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We are ex-cue makers & for more than 12 years have dealt with the misconceptions & misguided importance placed on 100% cue straightness. We have met players who can’t make a shot once they realize their cue has a minor variance to the competition player who doesn’t care because they’ll whip your butt anyway. The fact is that, as long as the top shaft is straight, variances of 1 – 3mm in the joiner do not represent an unplayable cue & in most cases don’t affect the playing quality of the cue in any way at all. Is it messing with your head?

– Paul Graver (Cue maker)

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HOW TO PERFORM A TWO-PIECE CUE STRAIGHTNESS CHECK

A.) Visual Check – Look down the full shaft of the cue, like a gun barrel and slowly rotate it through 360 degrees.What you are looking for is:

1.) A visible hook to one side in the “top half of the top shaft” (towards the tip end)

* As explained earlier, this does not include mild variations <=2mm in ‘tapering or shape of the shaft’ .

2.) A significant joiner variation where the top shaft changes direction from the butt of the cue

  • If you believe that variance 1.) is present, then proceed to B.) Top shaft check
  • If you believe that variance 2.) is present, then proceed to C.) Full length check
  • If neither of these exist, your cue is straight. You have no significant variance that affects the cue.

B.) Top Shaft check –

  • Roll the top shaft on the table – don’t push down on either end. Just give it a push to roll it.
    • If there is no tip-lift & the shaft rolls evenly, any variance is considered “negligible to zero”
    • TIP LIFT – If the tip lifts by a millimeter or more, you may have a hook in the tip end that requires attention. Depending on the size of the lift (i.e 1mm or 3mm) & how close the apex of the bending is to the tip end would define how much of an effect it has on your cue accuracy.
    • SHAFT SHAPE – If the top shaft has a separation from the table (not at the tip end) of 1mm or more, it’s not a “game breaker”.  If the shaft rolls evenly & does not roll back after being pushed, it would be considered a “minor variance in the shape of the shaft” which has no effect on cue accuracy. Small variances (1 – 2mm) can be adjusted simply by apply pressure in the opposite direction to the bend over a sequence of days. However, if the separation is 2 – 3mm or more OR the shaft rolls back towards you, this could be considered a significant bend.
  • If you believe you have a top shaft variance that is significant (as defined in the above 2 points), remove the top shaft & look down it, slowly rotating it. You will start to see the shape of the variance and whether it is a hook or just a shape variation.

C.) Full-Length Joiner Variance Check

  • This is your normal table roll but by now you’d realize that a tip-lift with a two-piece cue when the top shaft is straight does not would denote bending of the shaft.
  • If the top shaft is within range then this variance is only of concern if it’s 5mm or more. Most variances less than this can be adjusted back to zero or close to it.

If you believe that a cue you’ve purchased is outside these ranges, it goes a long way to perform these tests and report the actual size & type of the variances to the seller. because our product is Custom made & can’t be re-sold back to the public, we perform and document these tests on every cue before they are made & again before they are dispatched – so we insist that our customers run these tests if they have a discrepancy.

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ACTIONS AND ADJUSTMENTS – This section explains how to carry out minor variance adjustments on your cue.

(Please Note – This is a guide. No responsibility is taken unless we are guiding you through)

1.) Top Shaft Variance – As defined earlier, the top shaft variance is the important one.

  • Roll the top shaft on the table & there should be a tip lift of zero to negligible <=1mm (however 1mm is not significant unless it’s a hook in the tip area, so we state >=2mm) .
  • If there is a significant bending of the top shaft, mainly in the shape of a hook, close to the tip, you have a valid reason for requesting a cue return/replacement if just purchased – or to try to straighten it yourself if not in warranty. To attempt a minor straighten, please see the below video (You may have to make your own tool but it’s pretty easy – using a large hook from the hardware & a sawn off broom handle or other timber).

2.) Joiner Variance – This is the most common variance & as stated, as long as the top shaft is straight:

  • A variance of <3mm is negligible & adjustable.  A variance of 3 – 5 mm can be adjusted back to negligible.
  • A joiner variance can be caused by various factors from breathing of the timber to foreign material in the joiner area to a minor offset when being made. Either way, as you can imagine, when dealing with an item that’s has a 22mm diameter at the joiner but is 1500mm long, it’s not that surprising that a mild change can cause a <5mm variance. The beauty is that the adjustment only needs to be a minor one.

A.) Cleaning and minor push adjustment

  1. First check to make sure that the joiner is tightened properly. It’s remarkable how many times a variance is caused simply by not tightening the joiner correctly.
  2. Clean the joiner surfaces on both the top & bottom shafts where they come together. You may also blow out the joiner hole with compressed air. Foreign material like dirt, dust & even lacquer residue can cause a joiner not to tighten correctly. Lumps of cue finish can be removed with a Stanley knife (box cutter) or filed/sanded.
  3. If the above two points fail, tighten the joiner as much as you can. Place the cue down on the table & push on the joiner in the opposite direction to the variance. Untighten then tighten again.
  4. If the above steps fail to bring it in <2mm or you would prefer to push for zero variance, proceed to a pressure adjustment.

B.) Pressure Adjustment – (VIDEO COMING SOON)

  1. Place cue on the table and with the hand on the cue butt 20cm below the joiner, roll the cue until the tip lifts.
  2. You’re going to be turning the cue over & placing pressure on the joiner against the bending direction, so mark the side of the cue that is going to be placed face down, with a sticky dot.
  3. Turn the cue over, so that the bending side is now face down.
  4. Place a flat hand on the top shaft, close to the joiner so that when you lift the cue butt, the top shaft is flat on the table & not being bent.
  5. Grab the cue butt about half to one-third of the way from the base with the other hand & pull upwards off the table.
  6. This scares most people at first as they think that the shaft may snap. Until you get used to the surprising strength of cues & become comfortable with carrying out pressure adjustments, we recommend that you just make small adjustments over a sequence of days. This is better anyway, as it gives the timber more time to adjust & the adjustment is more likely to stay. Remember you’re only making millimeter adjustments anyway.
  7. Once you’ve got the cue straight, this is a minor check & adjustment that you can do as regular cue maintenance.

Video Coming Soon

If you believe your cue to be below the acceptable standard, please run the above checks then be as specific as possible then click here for our Returns Policy Page & Returns Request Form.

 


 

 

 

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