For a bit of wood with a patch of leather on the end, snooker cues can be surprisingly beautiful and elegant. If you’ve ever held on in your hands, you’ve probably asked yourself just how are snooker cues made?
It’s a good question. After all, it’s not even just one bit of wood.
Most cues are made from multiple bits of wood stuck together. Yet, it will be almost impossible to detect any joins in even lower quality cues.
So, exactly how are snooker cues made?
The answer depends on what type of snooker cue you buy…
Handmade Individual Snooker Cues
If you’re playing at the highest levels, or simply want to buy the best, handmade cues are the top pick.
They’ll set you back a bit, often costing several hundreds of pounds. But, your cue will have had individual attention and can be customised closely to your requirements.
One of the best snooker cue makers is John Parris, whose cues account for a large percentage of the cues used by the top professionals.
You can see the amount of effort that goes into making each individual John Parris cue on the clip below:
So, here are the steps that reveal how snooker cues are made when you buy a handmade cue…
Step 1: Wood Selection
Ash and maple are the most common woods used in making snooker cues.
As it forms the main shaft of the cue, the choice of wood at this stage is vital to the overall finish and performance of the cue.
That’s why the best snooker cue makers will spend hours sorting through wood at a quality timber yard, looking for only the best bits of wood that will make good cues. The colour, grain and density of the wood is all considered.
They’ll then bring them back to the workshop in small sections, ready for the next step.
Step 2: Cutting Into Sections
Next, the planks of wood are cut down into smaller square sections.
Each individual square section has the potential to become a cue. However, first, the cue make will check again that the grain runs nicely and there are no knots or blemishes that will impact the overall quality of the cue.
Any sections that don’t make the grade are discarded.
Step 3: Rounding Off
By now, only the best bits of wood are left, and they’ve been cut into nice square sections that can be moulded into a snooker cue.
This starts with ’rounding off’. But, before that can begin, the square sections are left for a couple of months.
Then, a first ’rounding off’ process is performed which gets the sections into round cue shapes but leaves them thicker than they need to be.
Then, they’re left for at least another month. This is all part of the process of ensuring there’s no moisture left in the wood and that the wood has reached its maximum quality level.
Then, another layer is taken off, they’re left again, and then a final layer is removed to get the cues down to almost the finished size.
Step 4: Cue Sizing
The next step to understand when answering the question of ‘how are snooker cues made’ is the sizing step.
This is when each cue is carefully weighed. Since different cuts of wood can have different densities, the weights can vary by a surprising amount.
Each shaft of wood is then carefully matched to the different orders that have been made so that each person gets a cue that is as close to their desired weight, length and tip size as possible.
At this stage, each shaft is also checked to ensure it’s straight, of a suitable density and doesn’t have any imperfections.
Step 5: Splicing
The next step in making a snooker cue is splicing the butt. This is where another type of wood (usually ebony) is joined to the shaft to create the lovely ‘spiked’ effect you see on most cues.
However, it also has a practical purpose since it helps to add weight to the cue at the butt end, providing a better overall feel when playing.
The butt end is planed down to two sides and ebony glued on. Then it’s planed down again on the other sides into a ‘wedge’ shape and more ebony glued on.
The whole butt is then planed by hand with the cue turned regularly as the cue maker works.
Eventually, the pointy spikes where the ebony meets the shaft begin to appear.
Step 6: Finishing The Butt
By this stage, the wood is finally beginning to closely resemble the finished snooker cue.
The butt is planed down again on one side to create a half-wedge. Another piece of wood can then be glued to this section and planed down again to get the finished look.
Since this part is mostly for decorative purposes, there are many different types of wood that can be used here depending on the desired look.
Additional wooden veneers can also be added to create further design details that ‘outline’ the decorative wood.
Step 7: Adding The Ferrule
Once the butt is compled, the cue can be cut down to the final length.
The very end of the cue is then cue down so that a brass ferrule can be added.
Once again, this isn’t done just for looks. It provides protection fo the end of the cue that helps to stop the shaft from splitting. Plus, it also provides a nice, flat base on which the tip can be glued.
Step 8: Final Sanding
The penultimate step is to sand down the snooker cue to its final finish.
This is actually a much longer process than it sounds. Several different grades of sandpaper are used in order to get the smoothest possible finish.
Step 9: Finishing Touches
At last! It’s been a long and labour-intensive process, but the finishing touches can now be applied to the cue.
First, the tip will be glued to the end of the cue, cut down to size, and carefully shaped to the customers requirements.
A few coats of linseed oil are then applied to the cue. This helps to protect it from absorbing moisture or drying out while also bringing the grain out to add to the aesthetical look of the cue.
The ‘flat’ is added to the butt of the cue. This is a traditional feature that is mostly now used to help players always hold the cue in consistently the same way.
The flat is also where cue makers will add their own ‘badge’ or logo to brand up the cue as one of theirs.
Finally, the cue is complete!
Mass-Produced Snooker Cues
Of course, not everyone needs or can afford a handmade snooker cue tailored to requirements.
That’s why the vast majority of casual and hobby players will use one of the many available ‘mass-produced’ snooker cues.
It’s important not to confuse ‘mass-produced’ for poor quality. The best snooker cues that are mass-produced are still very good cues. They just don’t have the same personal attention.
However, instead of costing hundreds of pounds, you can find some of the best snooker cues under £100.
So, how are they made?
Well, the actual process isn’t that much different to the handmade process. It’s just that a machine will do most of the work instead of an individual skilled cue maker.
That means the quality isn’t quite as exact, and you’re unlikely to be able to request specific features or weights of cue.
However, for most people who don’t play professionally, they’ll be more than adequate.
If you’re just starting out, be sure to check out our guide to the best snooker cues for beginners.
So there we have it! Now you can answer the question ‘how are snooker cues made?’ and surprise everyone with your in-depth knowledge about the humble snooker cue.
Frequently Asked Questions
We’ll end this look at how are snooker cues made with a quick run through of some of the most common questions we get asked…
Do snooker cues have to be made of wood?
There are no reasons why snooker cues have to be made of wood. In fact, there are cues available made of animal bones and antlers!
Of course, they’re hard to find and may be expensive. Wood is by far the cheapest and most popular choice of cue material.
While wood may usually be the main material used, you shouldn’t forget most cues have a brass ferrule upon which a leather tip is glued.
What are the best snooker cues made from?
The best snooker cues tend to be made from either ash wood or maple wood.
In the case of handmade cues, the wood will be carefully chosen based on the grain and density. It will then be checked for imperfections and knots.
The cue may then be spliced with other types of wood at the butt to create a decorative finish.
What is the end of a snooker cue made of?
The tip end of a snooker cue is usually made from leather and is glued directly to the end of the shaft. A brass ferrule is used to provide extra strength and a flat base on which to mount the tip.
The butt end of a snooker cue is typically two to three different types of wood spliced together. While ash or maple will usually be used for the shaft, the black wood at the butt is usually ebony.
There may then be a further type of wood added on top of the ebony as further decoration.
What is the average weight of a snooker cue?
Snooker cues will usually weigh somewhere between 16 and 18 ounces. That’s around 450 to 510 grams. However, they can be slightly lighter or heavier depending on the size and individual requirements of the owner.
How long does a snooker cue last?
A good quality snooker cue that has been well cared for should last many years. In fact, most professional snooker players will try and stick to using just one cue their whole career.
That’s why it can be worth paying more for a better cue, because it’s not something you should have to replace often, if at all.
Who is the best cue maker?
John Parris is often regarded as the best cue maker for snooker players. Around 60% of professional-level players are thought to use a John Parris cue.