Have You Wondered Which Hardwoods
Are Most Commonly Used To Build Pool Cues?
Pool cues can be made of almost any type wood and material, and honestly, most have been tried.
There is a common denominator in most cues – Maple wood!
Maple has been a standard in pool cues since the first cues were made, with good reason.
Musical instruments use maple wood in their construction also.
The commonality of this should not be lost on us pool players.
Maple wood in its various types has one common factor; it has harmonics like no other wood in the world. I don’t know of any other type of wood that even comes close to maple’s ability to “sing” when struck, either with a cue ball on a table or a string on a Stradivarius violin.
On a musical instrument the vibrations of the string being plucked produces resonances in the wood that are incomparable to any other wood type out there.
It is my belief that this is the main reason maple is still the most used and sought after material in the production of pool cues.
That being said there are always degrees of quality and type in each maple tree logged.
Here is a little information about the different types of maple followed by a listing of some other woods commonly used in the production of cues.
Hard Rock Maple
The higher the concentration of rings the better the quality.
When purchasing a cue look to see how many growth rings you can see in the solid maple shafts and make sure they run pretty straight.
Hard rock maple is also used for something else, the productions of maple syrup.
Maple syrup is very high in sugar content. Sometimes when I turn a shaft down there will be sugar streaks in the wood, little brown lines that show up and cause the wood to look defective.
Although they are not defects, shooters don’t like seeing them so these shafts are most often turned into break cues or jump cues.
The “Birdseye’s” in the wood are still a mystery to wood experts.
Some say that a “fungus” causes the little swirl that resembles an eye to grow straight through the wood.
Yet others believe it is caused by a mineral in the soil that distorts the wood growth.
Whatever the cause it creates a unique look that is most recognizable.
Birdseye maple is solid, not as hard as sugar maple but close.
It is a feature of maple in which the growth of the wood fibers are distorted in an undulating chatoyant (the term “chatoyant” refers to the unique look that is most often seen in semiprecious stones that give the viewer an appearance of 3 dimensional depth when the material is moved) pattern, producing wavy lines known as “flames”.
This effect is often mistakenly said to be part of the grain of the wood; it is more accurately called “figure”, as the distortion is perpendicular to the grain direction.
Prized for its beautiful appearance, it is used frequently in the manufacturing of musical instruments, such as violins and bassoons, fine furniture and over the last ten years pool cues.
Quilt or Quilted Maple
It is seen on the tangential plane (flat-sawn) and looks like a wavy “quilted” pattern, often similar to ripples on water.
The quilted figure is only found in the Western Big Leaf species of maple.
It is a distortion of the grain pattern itself.
Appreciated for its beauty, it is used frequently in the manufacturing of musical instruments, especially guitars.
Quilted maple is an end grain figure that shows a circular pattern on flat sawn material.
There are many terms that describe the shape and pattern of quilted maple like watered, popcorn, tubular, sausage, bubble wrap and angle step.
This is also the softest of the maple trees and therefore not as dense or hard as the other maples.
There are various types of woods that can be used in the making of a pool cue.
Many of the aspects that make the various types of maple such beautiful woods are seen in other species as well.
The “chatoyant” look can be found in many species and is most often found in or around “boles” in the wood. This is where the tree’s straight grain is disrupted by a branch growth, burls, or other things that cause a “swirling” in the growth of the wood.
Just about every wood species in the world has been used in the making of pool cues, some with great success and others not so much.
If you are searching for just the right wood for your cue, then here is some advice. Pick what is pleasing to your eye, not anyone else’s eye, just you.
If you are true to your taste when picking the wood, you will love your pool cue for its beauty.