Progressive Turning
    Wood needs to be dried completely before it can be used in a cue. You can't just buy kiln dried stock and expect to use it right away. After buying wood, I like to cut it into turning squares and then let it sit in the shop for several months to a year before using it. After a waiting period, I will then begin to progressively turn it.

    All wood species are inherently unstable, some more-so than others. This is caused by grain patterns being tighter on one side of the piece than on the other. When a slice is cut off a piece of wood, an imbalance of grain structure occurs and internal stress causes the piece to bend slightly in the direction of the weaker side. Over time, it will then re-stabilize in the new bent configuration until it is cut again. In order to work with wood, you need to understand this, be patient, work with it and let it do what it wants to do.

    Cues are built by first cutting to a square stock, then letting it sit and re-stabilize. After a month or so it can be turned to over-sized round with another waiting period to follow. Then to a taper and so on, until it's finally to a suitable size for use in the cue. Progressive turning is the only way to gradually stress relieve the wood. Time and patience result in a finished cue that should stay as straight and stable as possible.

    Wood varies considerably in weight from one species to another. Nearly all cues need weight added to bring them up to a desirable playing weight. As a result, different amounts of weight are needed depending on the materials being used. Production cues are often times weighted after the construction process is complete. A weight bolt is installed at the very back end, under the butt sleeve of the cue, creating a butt heavy feel.

    During the construction process of my cues, I calculate how much weight is necessary and place that weight permanently between the handle and the forearm. This brings the center of gravity forward, creating a well balanced cue. A well balanced cue simply feels better and makes your stroke more effortless, with less vibration and a solid hit.

    My shafts are progressively turned over a period of several months. I use hard rock maple of the clearest and whitest that I can get. The shafts are a long pro taper of my own design that transition in as near a parabolic curve as possible. The transition keeps vibration to a minimum, producing a nice solid hit.

    A quality finished product requires the use of the best available materials. Some woods such as Ebony are very expensive. For example, a cheaper wood stained black could look much like Ebony, but it's not the real thing. That's not the way things are done in my shop.

    I make my ferrules from Ivorine 3 & 4, a hard linen based material. Cheaper PVC type materials are available but are soft and prone to cracking. I'm sure everyone has noticed folks playing with cues that have cracked or shattered butt caps. I won't build a butt cap or joint collar with anything less than a hard crack resistant material, even though the cost is considerably higher.

    I use a flat face joint with a 3/8 x 10 brass pin on shooting cues. The 3/8 x 10 joint makes for a very solid hitting cue. On jump/break cues, I will also use a piloted 5/16 x 14 joint for quick breakdown to jump configuration.

    There are several finishes available and suitable for cues. Acrylics, lacquers and epoxies are some of the more popular among cue builders. They are in general fairly quick and ease to apply, either by spraying or dipping. Every product seems to have some pros and cons. Some go on thick and look very nice until they are dropped or dinged. Then they end up with a big blister or chip that crazes out almost like cracked glass. Some finishes won't stick to metals or other synthetics. Some are too soft and scratch easily. Most are not truly clear and yellow over time.

    Cyanoacrylate is my product of choice. First of all, it's hard and sticks to anything. It goes on thin and resists crazing when dropped or dinged. It's absolutely clear and won't yellow. It produces a high gloss, glass like finish.

    The downside of cyanoacrylate is that it's a major pain to apply. It's messy, very time consuming and plain old hard work. There's no easy way to apply it. Rub it on by hand, let it dry and sand it down. After a couple of days and many coats later, it looks beautiful. More importantly, it's hard, durable, absolutely clear and doesn't yellow.

Dryfrog Development LLC
Copyright Dryfrog Development LLC 2009