Have you ever been to a billiard hall and seen a pool shark maneuver their cue stick so efficiently it made you envious? Entranced by the game, did you notice if the pool cue was wood or graphite?
So what’s the difference between graphite pool cue sticks and wooden cues, anyhow? Which is better and why? We’ll explore everything you need to know to strike hard and send the balls rolling.
Pool Cue Materials: Wood or Graphite
Traditionally, pool cues were made of wood, and the majority of them still are today. However, there is a rising trend of cues that are made from or utilize graphite. Some wooden billiard cues are bonded or covered with fiberglass or carbon fiber.
Modern manufactures have become more experimental and are integrating materials like memory foam, rubber, and aluminum. These little extras help players up their billiard game.
Wood Pool Cues
The most common type of pool cue in America is a wooden cue made of hard maple wood. That accounts for the golden blonde color and smoother finish. Maple is cheaper than other kinds of wood used for cues, but it is also stiffer material.
English cues tend to use ash wood, which is similar to oak. There is a more distinguishable grain to those sticks. By contrast, ash is more costly than maple. Snooker cues use ash, but some have maple wood shafts.
Pool sticks for 8-ball games are made of wood from ash, sycamore, rosewood, or ebony trees. They are often customizable to suit the player’s needs and length requirements.
Some wooden cues are more for decorative purposes than for playing. Antique shops and dealers may have billiard cues dating back decades or centuries with exquisite craftsmanship. These collectors’ items cost thousands of dollars, so are best for display purposes.
Benefits of Using Wood Cues
The benefits of using wooden pool cues instead of those made from graphite or other materials are:
- Wood cues are repairable if scratched or warped
- They are ideal for beginners, advanced players, and professionals
- They have a smooth shaft
- Wood cues offer the classic look, style, and sounds associated with pool
Drawbacks of Using Wood Cues
Cues made of wood also have some drawbacks in comparison to those made from graphite or other materials. Those include:
- Wooden pool cues are more expensive
- They require maintenance (cleaning and sanding)
- Wood cues can warp and get scratched or dinge if not cared for
Graphite Pool Cues
Graphite is a durable material often used in modern sports equipment because it is lightweight, resilient. It is also cheaper than most alternatives like wood.
Graphite pool cues aren’t made of solid graphite or fiberglass. They have a composite graphite fiberglass layer around a wooden core. Because graphite in its raw form is a carbon-based mineral, it’s blended with other materials in a composite.
You might see that graphite cues mention other materials like carbon fiber or fiberglass. These fibers are used as part of the composite material for graphite sports equipment.
Titanium cues are made from a fiber composite reinforced with titanium. Graphite and titanium cues are solid alternative options to wooden cues. They are equally efficient, depending on the materials’ quality and the cue’s design.
Benefits of Using Graphite Cues
Graphite or fiber-blend composite pool cues offer an alternative option to those made from wood. Here are some of the benefits:
- Less expensive than wood cues
- Sleek smoothness (no wood grains)
- Durability and resilience
- Ideal for beginners
- Protective sealants make them easy to clean and maintain with a cloth and water
- Graphite and composite cues won’t warp, even under extreme conditions
Drawbacks of Using Wood Cues
Thanks to features like durability, inexpensiveness, and ease of cleaning and maintenance, graphite cues are popular among beginners. However, graphite and fiber composite cues have their drawbacks too. They include:
- Graphite cues cannot be repaired or serviced like wood cues
- They don’t yield, bounce or feel as natural as wood cues
- They can be slippery, get sticky, and don’t have a nice grip
- Wooden cues provide a more solid strike
- Graphite cues aren’t good for English pool or snooker
What’s a Pool Cue?
Now that you know the differences between wood and graphite cues, you might wonder which is right for you? Before choosing which is best for your pool playing needs, it’s essential to know more about cues generally.
In Pool and sports like snooker and carom billiards, a long, lightweight cue stick hits the balls into pockets. Originally referred to as a billiard stick, the cue got its name from the French word “queue” for the tail.
It’s a handy title because their main target is the cue ball. In Pool and similar sports, the player must strike the cue ball first.
The slim sticks weigh between 16-21 ounces. Professionals tend to favor lighter cues weighing 19 ounces. Length ranges between 57-59 inches and should suit the player’s arm extension and height.
Types of Pool Cues
There are a few different types of pool cues so let’s go through them in more detail here.
One and Two-piece Cues
One-piece cue sticks are the most commonly seen cues in pool halls because of their uniformity. A two-piece cue breaks in the middle for ease of transportation. That is the cue preferred by more advanced or professional players.
The third kind of cue stick is the three-quarter two-piece. It has a folding joint three-quarter down the stick and is used for snooker.
You might not find these in a typical billiard hall, but advanced players fond of tricks may carry specialty cues. Due to the popularity of pool and the game’s evolution, manufacturers offer options for all sorts of shots.
These specialty sticks include cues for the break shot, jump shot, and artistic trick shots.
Cue Styles per Game
The type of cue a player uses depends on the game and the region. There are different cue varieties and lengths for 8-ball pool, 9-ball pool, and snooker.
The cue has to match the ball it’s striking. American balls are larger and heavier than the English variety, so they require different lengths and features.
American pool cues focus on power and the English type favor precision. Snooker cues are similar to English pool cues.
Standard pool cues generally fall between 56-59 inches. However, cue lengths can vary depending on the game and player height.
For example, 8-ball cues range from 55-57 inches, and nine-ball cues are typically 57 inches. Snooker sticks are between 57-59 inches, similar to standard pool cues.
The cue’s length must align with the player’s arms for optimal control and precision. Because of that cues have been created to fit smaller players, including kids and petite women. These cues are 48 inches in length.
Parts of a Pool Cue
Pool cues have three main parts: the shaft, joint, and butt.
The shaft contains the tip and ferrule, while the butt of a cue also has a bumper. The cue’s parts are spliced by machine or by hand.
Cue shafts are long and tapered where the stick meets the ferrule and the tip. There are several kinds of tapering. The two most used in modern pool playing are pro taper or the European taper.
North American homes and pool halls favor the European taper. Its taper widens evenly from the joint to the ferrule. The pro taper maintains a uniform diameter throughout most of the shaft, then widens at the joint.
The ferrule is found at the end of the shaft and connects it with the tip. It resembles a thimble covering the end of the stick and bears much of the striking impact so the wood doesn’t splinter.
Most are made of a resilient carbon-fiber composite, but some snooker ferrules are brass.
At the front end of a cue is a leather tip used to strike the ball. Most tips measure in diameter with the curvature of a dime or a nickel. They can also be rubber or synthetic materials.
Tips range from hard to soft. Both have their benefits and drawbacks, so it depends on the player’s preference. Soft tips hold chalk well but can break down.
Repeated strikes cause the tip to get smooth and slick. Chalking ensures friction. Most players chalk their cue’s tips every other turn to prevent slipping.
The joint is the hinge that connects the shaft with the butt of a cue. The two parts are connected with a screw. Because of the cue types, one-piece or two-piece, some joints serve multiple functions.
Joints are made from fiberglass, plastic, wood, brass, and other materials. Some joints are very ornate and may use exotic materials or feature intricate carvings.
The butt is the heaviest part of a cue. It is gripped firmly and used to strike the ball with one hand while the other hand steadies the shaft’s tip.
The inlays of a cue’s butt are often where fancy craftsmanship is displayed, especially in antique and specialty models.
Wraps on the butt of a cue are also desirable to enhance grip.
More expensive wood cues have leather or Irish linen wraps. Less expensive sticks and graphite cues may have nylon or Veltex grips. Some have no wraps at all.
The bumper is at the bottom of the cue, at the end of the butt. American pool cues use rubber bumpers. Snooker or English bumpers are leather.
The function of a bumper is to protect the cue. A bumper also helps to absorb some of the shocks from striking.
In this article, we covered the difference between a graphite pool cue and a wood pool cue.
I hope you found this article useful.
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- Pool Cue vs Snooker Cue