Wood For Pool Cue Making
There are a variety of suitable exotic woods for pool cue making. The most common wood for a pool cue shaft is hard maple. Some custom cue makers have been known to fashion shafts from Purpleheart an exotic wood from Central & South America. But the handle is limited only by your imagination. You'll find that while custom pool cue makers often make cues from the traditional ebony, stunning cues can be made from other exotic woods. Custom cue makers will use a variety of exotic wood combinations for handles, inlays and butt sleeves.
The most commonly used exotic pool cue blank is 1.5" x 1.5" x 18". If precut blanks of this size are unavailable you can choose 6/4 lumber instead. Kiln-dried wood is often preferred.
Custom pool cues can be constructed with the following
The type of wood you use in the construction of your cue will determine whether the cue will be softer hitting or harder hitting. For instance, Ebony and Cocobolo produce a similar hitting cue - hard rather than soft. Rosewood makes for a softer hitting cue. A cue made from Bocote will fall somewhere between.
Pool Cue Turning
We discovered the following article, originally posted to a website many years ago, which has since disappeared. The article provides a basic guide to turning a pool cue, and the author describes the species' of wood he chose for his pool cue project.
Please note that the author uses Imperial measurements. The sizes for a standard pool cue are measured in millimeters, as follows: shaft tapers from 13mm to 14mm, handle tapers from 14mm to 17mm). Some edits for clarity and spelling corrections have been made to the original article. The author is identified simply as Bill.
Experiences of Pool Cue Turning (1996)
PART I – The Pool Cue Shaft
Choose the Wood for the Pool Cue Shaft
The first thing I did was to rough out some hard maple blanks to 1" in diameter then set them aside to dry.
Turning the Shaft of the Cue
I mounted the dried pool cue blank on the lathe -- I use a Stronghold chuck with a spur attachment. I think turning the shaft of the cue is the most difficult part of the project. At one point I used to turn a lot of pens and smaller objects that required fine tool control and that experience helped in this project. The next step is to true the shaft -- at this point the lathe is running around 1500 rpm's and I jump it up to 2000 during the finishing process.
You must use a steady rest when turning the shaft of the pool cue. I position the steady about 1 foot from the tail stock -- with the shaft running in my left hand (wear a glove) I true a 1" section. Stop the lathe and position the steady on the section just turned. Go back to the tailstock and work towards the steady rest turning the shaft. I have found that the skew is the best tool to use -- use the short point in a "peeling" cut. Remember the more tool surface that contacts the wood results in more vibration.
Next step is to square both ends of the pool cue shaft. I remove the spur attachment, reverse the blank and remount it in the chuck, and bring the tail stock into position. The reason for reversing it is that you can true the shoulder on the tailstock end easier than the headstock -- remember the shoulder should be angled 1-3 degrees in, so the outside of the blank rests in the back of the chuck. The shaft should be running true at this point.
Position the steady rest at the tailstock end to hold the shaft firmly in place. Remove the live center and place the drill chuck in the tailstock with a .360 bit. Great care must be taken to ensure the hole is drilled on center -- the drill depth is about 1 ¼ ". Next mount a 7/16-14 tap in the drill chuck and tap the hole to receive the brass insert. Thread a 5/16-18 x ½ bolt in the insert -- now apply some glue to the threaded hole and use the bolt to thread the insert in place then back the bolt out. Thread 5/16-18 pin into the insert and reverse the shaft placing the pin in your chuck --- hopefully the shaft will be close to running true at this point. I start at the tailstock end, turning the first 9" of the shaft the same diameter and working to the headstock which has a final diameter of 7/8" (remember to use the steady rest). At the headstock end I placed two 7/8-5/8 i.d. black plastic rings with a silver ring in the middle. Only apply finish to the first 4" of the shaft and use a piece of leather to polish the shaft. Now place the ferrule on the tip of the shaft. The ferrule I used was oversized so I could turn the ferrule to the same diameter as the end of the shaft. Finally I glued the tip in place with hot stuff and positioned the steady rest so it holding the ferrule. Reduce the lathe speed to 500 - 600 rpm's and true the tip and ferrule. You should be able to run your hand over the end of the shaft and not feel any edges. The final length of the shaft should be 29".
Bingo the shaft is complete!
PART TWO – The Pool Cue Handle
Choosing the Wood for a Pool Cue Handle
In turning the handle there is a degree of creativity involved. I laminated lacewood and walnut, which turned out nice.
Turning the Handle of the Pool Cue
The only restriction at this point is that the length should be 29 inches, and the combined weight of the shaft and handle should range between 18 - 22 oz. I started with 2" stock and roughed it out to around 1 1/4" in diameter. [A 1 ½’ turning blank is the ideal size for a pool cue]. Make sure the shoulder at the tailstock end is square -- then reverse the handle mounting it into a 3-jaw or equivalent chuck. Drill a slightly smaller hole than 5/16 into the handle to about 2" in depth using a drill chuck mounted in the tailstock. Apply "hot stuff" glue in the hole -- with the 5/16 pin in the drill chuck press the pin into position. Using this method I was able to obtain perfect alignment, but when tapping the hole I was always off.
After the glue is dry reverse the pool cue handle and place the pin in the driving chuck. As soon as you turn on the lathe you'll know if the previous step was done correctly! Take a cut along the entire handle of the cue to bring it into round. The next step is to add the stainless steel joint collar. Prior to this step I drilled out the threads on the collar to 5/8 id. I also placed a 7/8 od x 5/8 id x 1/2 black butt material between the collar and the wood. After the end of the handle is turned to 5/8 od, place the collar in your chuck, apply glue and press the collar and ring into position.
Now you should be home free. Finish turning the handle of the pool cue to the desired taper. Many of the good cues have ivory butt material at the base. I have used contrasting wood because the ivory material runs around $40.00 per foot. I used gun stock finish on the handle which looks good -- you need to build-up coats. Finally add a rubber stop on the end.
Your custom turned pool cue is now complete.