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Me, myself, and my cues... 

As a kid it was usually my mom who helped finance my billiards scuttles & cue obsession.  This was mostly done behind dad's back to dodge his often mundane comments — things like "Don't they have cues at the pool-hall that he could borrow?!"

However, more recently when dad finally saw my Longoni cue, he was so impressed that he emphatically told me not to use it but instead "should hang it on the wall as a piece of art!"  (Yea, my dad's a bit kooky that way — I once gave him a hammer that he thought was too nice to use and instead hung it on the wall in their living room.)

Below you'll find some blurbs about my favorite cues, including two Italian, two British, two Swedish, and two American.  Although I've spent quite a bit of dough on those cues, still, as you can see from this write-up, I'm more interested in the playability of a cue rather than some fictive collector's value or show-room esthetics.  

—     Longoni cue

Next to my custom built Parris (see below), my pride & joy cue is the Longoni — the most user-friendly playing cue I've ever had. 

Every time I pull out this gem, it brings a smile to my face.  Along with the stunning look comes its sewed-in blue leather strips that make the grip feel oh-so-perfect.  Those Italians certainly know style and performance (just like my Ducati).  This cue is truly a colpire con forza.

The woods used are stunning birdseye maple, ebony, and briar (root wood from a small shrub used for making smoking pipes).  The cue has a custom (Richard Chudy cut) 10 mm euro-taper maple shaft with a super short (2mm) uncapped ferrule fitted with a carbon fiber pad. It has a quick-release steel joint (which has my name engraved).  The beefy steel joint makes the cue quite forward balanced, but yet, feels perfect.  Total weight is 19.4 oz. 

Last year I had Longoni ship me an XP-joint to install on a Z2 shaft partial.  But since the Z2 doesn't have a true euro-taper, this shaft never became part of my main playing combo, (tip size is 11.8mm).  It's the Chudy shaft that is really made for a perfect ebullience.  Currently I use a Kamui layered boar skin tip on the Z2 shaft, and a custom pressed Elk Master 'Milk Dud' on the Chudy. 

It has also been nice to deal with Pierluigi Longoni personally.  One example was when I asked him about using ivory on cues, and he replied that he would never use ivory "even if they say it's coming from sick animals..."  Although I won't frown upon people who use ivory, it still feels kind of cool that my cuemaker is on (what I think) the right side of this issue. 

I was recently in L.A. and accidentally forgot my dear Longoni inside the car (underneath the rear window) for three days in scalding heat.  Actually, it didn't dawn on me until one day after coming back home that the cue was still in my car.  When I later pulled it out, I was appalled to find that the cue's finish had turned all cloudy (you could barely see the wood through the milky murk).  The irony is that I've almost been religious about not leaving my cues in the car, day or night, but I guess I have now contracted some sort of dementia, perhaps "Alzheimer's Light."  And to make things worse, there seem to be no connection between my brain and my impulsions — for instance, in the middle of the night I often get this urge to work on and/or "modify" stuff, whether it's work related or simply stuff like my motorcycle or my cues, there seem to always be something that "needs" to be fixed when I'm supposed to be sleeping.  As a kid they blamed this behavior on excessive sleepwalking & sleep deprivation — nowadays I think the only excuse is insanity.  So in this case, in the middle of the night, I got hold of some varnish remover and started to strip the lacquer off the cue... and about 6 hours later I had a cue with no varnish... looking like hell. 

—     John Parris pool cue

Perhaps I should first point out that John Parris is solely a snooker cue maker — hence, getting a custom pool cue built by him was a feat in itself.  (I also have a snooker cue built by him, see below.)

I first contacted John years ago, essentially begging him to build a pool cue for me, but got the impression that he wasn't interested in building any pool cues.  But later when I realized that he had actually built Tony Drago's pool cues, I called again and this time managed to persuade him to also build one for me.

When I finally decided on the spec & design for the cue, I called John again, and as we hammered out the details, he causally mentioned that I would soon be in good company of the Prince of Brunei who he had just made a similar cue. (I guess that's what they call Royal treatment ;^)

So after 9 months of eagerly waiting for this custom handmade super duper cue, what'ya think was the first thing I did with it? .... I sent it off to another cue maker to finish off the shaft the way I wanted it.  It might sound crazy, but my initial plan was actually to have John Parris build a "partial-shaft" that Richard Chudy could later apply his magic to.  For those who aren't familiar with Richard Chudy (RC3 cues) I can tell that he's currently one of the foremost cue makers in the States.  Hence, I had him cut and taper the shaft exactly the way I wanted it.  And howdya think it plays?  Although this cue has a very harsh "PLANK" sound when shooting, and it was 9 very long months for me to wait for it, yet I think I could've happily waited 9 years — this isn't only a handsome piece of work, but it also plays perfectly.  Along with the Longoni, it has now become my main playing cue. 

The wood used in the butt is hand spliced ebony with an inset facing splice of maple & ebony check inlay.  Very delicate.  The top part of the butt is cut from the same piece of ash as the shaft, making the grain continue across the joint into the shaft.  The ash shaft has a semi euro-taper, super short uncapped brass ferrule (2mm) and a sub 10mm tip diameter.  Currently I'm using a homemade 'Milk Dud' Elk Master tip that I soaked 30 days in milk and then pressed for another 10 days.  I also have a carbon fiber pad between the ferrule and the tip.  Initially I wanted a UniLoc quick-release joint but after thinking more about how much I like the hit of my other Parris cue, I opted for a similar brass joint (but reversed), and lucky me; it came out perfectly.  Since John doesn't use weight bolts, I spec'd the cue at 19.5 oz from the get-go.  It's quite nicely balanced, slightly towards the butt-end.  I also had John make a solid ebony 6" butt extension for it. 

Besides from building the most excellent cues in the world, one would perhaps expect that the administrative part of his business would be on par.  However, it's tempting to joke that Parris communicates by mail-doves and use mules to ship his cues.  Sarcasm aside, I still happen to think it's nice to know that John Parris hasn't turned his magnificent craft into a slick mass-production business.  For example, all Parris cues are entirely handmade in his little Forest Hill shop in London with no association to any other manufacturer (except for the brass joints).  I like that.  I also like the fact that John is a very friendly and approachable laddie, only a phone-call away. 

—     Keith Josey cue

Since I never cared for wrapped handles, especially linen wraps, all my playing cues are "naked" (except the Longoni with its leather strips).  The same nudity goes for my Keith Josey 'Sneaky Pete'. 

Although Keith Josey advertises his cues as having "very little deflection" I'm sorry to say that this is a bit disingenuous (or as Bob Jewett so eloquently articulated after squirt-testing my Josey; "utter bullshit").  In fact, next to my phenolic break-cue, I haven't owned a squirtier cue.  Sure, it has a solid hit, but as soon as you apply some english, the deflection is so massive that it's not even funny. 

So what to do?  Well hell, I decided to just toss the original shaft and get a Josey Predator 314 instead (an option that Keith offers).  And this combo is in fact closer to his advertisement; "All of my cues are well known for their solid hit with very little deflection."  But since I had an inkling that this cue could perhaps become even more sturdy, I decided to also get an OB-1 shaft for it... which turned out to be an even better match for it than the 314.  The tip size for both the 314 and the OB-1 is 12.8mm.

The above ad-slogan was also a reason why I got the cue in the first place — I wanted a firm hitting 9-ball banger in the best American 'Sneaky Pete' tradition.  However, the cue's intricate and beautiful CNC work doesn't make it very "sneaky" — actually, I never understood why Keith would label this piece of art as a 'Sneaky Pete'. 

This model is one of his upper-end, thus has a cored out and threaded butt to accommodate weight bolts.  It has a 16 set inlayed cocobolo along with beautiful birdseye maple.  As mentioned above, it came with a stiff 13mm pro-taper maple shaft that boots a radial pin joint.  Together it weighs 19.7 ounces and is by far the most butt heavy cue I've ever had (although Keith claims that his cues are "forward balanced").  As mentioned, currently my playing shafts for this cue is a Predator 314 with a padded Talisman tip (water buffalo hide) and an OB-1 shaft with a Tiger Everest tip.  Both those shafts hit quite firm with this cue and they certainly have much less deflection than the original shaft.  

Years ago, before I got the Longoni, I contacted Keith to build me a custom cue.  But since he didn't wanna do my spec, I went with the Longoni.  Years later I ended up buying this second hander that was originally purchased directly from him that was a prototype show-piece at the Valley Forge billiards convention in 2005. 

—     Brunswick cue

A while back I got hold of a ratty vintage Brunswick for basically nothing (a gift from an old gf).  The cue had some serious water damage, warped shaft, and a cracked aluminum joint, but hidden underneath its yellowing varnish & grime was that distinctive Brunswick logo... barely visible.

Obviously, this wasn't a valuable antique, but since the cue had this cool flattened butt-end (similar to my Parris cues), for laughs (and to indignation for some on the AZ Billiards forum) I decided to install a UniLoc joint and a Z-shaft on this whimsical piece. 

Since I like scruffy old hardware, my plan was to preserve its old cruddy looks while trying to make it as playable as possible.  However, when I got the cue back from the brilliant cuemaker Ryan Theewen, he had removed the old finish, making the wood stunningly beautiful — even making the Brunswick logo look nice (and yet preserving the old "17 oz" imprint). 

So not only did I get a new beautiful steel joint & collar fitted, I also had the butt-end cored, tapped, and fitted with a weight-rod (to balance it out and get it within my spec of 18.8 oz).  Although this was suppose to be my "fun-cue", it somehow ended up being a serious hitter — now playing like a champ.  It currently has a soft Elk Master tip. 

It's funny how things sometimes turn out.  My plan was to give this cue to a friend as a b-day present, but since it turned out so nice, I'm not sure if my friend can really make use of it and enjoy it... so for now I think I'll hold on to it. 

—     John Parris snooker cue

This is yet another John Parris cue — however, this one is a pure snooker cue. 

Whenever I feel the big mojo coming on, I gleefully unpack the snooker Parris — it's a cue that can really put spin on things.  It's just amazing how much finesse and english that can be applied with this cue, and it doesn't matter if I use a soft Elk Master tip or a rock hard Triangle — it serves the spinach effortlessly. 

One other reason why I like this cue — and more so my Parris pool cue — is that Ash wood is more flexible than Maple, and therefore has less deflection, while still hitting hard (although with a nasty harsh sound).  In addition, my Parris cues have very thin shafts, making the deflection (squirt) even less prone than any Predator or OB-1 shaft.

Since I'm not playing snooker anymore, I use this cue solely for pool — and I bet that anyone who has tried a snooker cue for pool would also know how lively it plays — although a bit hard to control, the ball action is phenomenal. 

This cue has a so-called 3/4 (butt/shaft) — a 22" ebony & olive wood butt and a 57" ash shaft euro-tapered to a 10mm tip.  I had a guy at a machine-shop modify the brass ferrule, making it super short — about two millimeters.  Currently I'm using a Tiger Sniper layered tip.  Together it weighs 18.8 oz and is quite butt-heavy.  I also have a telescopic extension for it — which, by the way, I wish would fit all my cues; I hate using a bridge. 

[Update: I lent this cue to a friend of mine who qualified for the 2008 World Snooker Championships in Austria -- but unfortunately, on his way there, it was stolen at the airport. Any leads, please contact me.]

—     Longoni break/jump cue

Since my break shots have been an amusement for many patrons at our pool hall, it might not make sense to compound the ridicule by using a phenolic tip break-cue.  But yet, I decided to goose up the money disburser and invest in a fancy Longoni break/jump cue. 

Although I prefer my break-cues to be on the lighter side, this cue is my heaviest cue yet — dialing in at 20.3 oz.  Still, it has helped improving my breaking quite a bit.  The tip size is 13mm. 

However, the more I play with it, the more I wish it had weight-bolts that could be removed.  My only other complaint is the phenolic tip that makes it quite squirty to hit with.  But since this cue is solely used for breaking & jumping, the deflection doesn't matter that much.  But in the near future I might scrap the phenolic and install a hard leather tip instead, just to regain a bit more control while breaking. 

And speaking of control, or lack thereof — since this cue is also a jump cue (it has two butt-joints) I also use it for my jumping.  I'm sure someone could write a short novel about my jump shots, but for now I'll leave it at that — people are often in tears watching my balls fly off the table (even the pool-hall owner is crying). 

I also have two other break/jump cues; a J&J and a Vallarta.  But since both of those are run-of-the-mill types of cues, I won't include them here (although I must say that the J&J is a damn good cue for its minuscule price-tag, and it feels like an indestructible tree-log due to its 13.7mm shaft and robust construction). 

—     Lennart Haag carom cues

To my parents dismay, as a kid I went through cues like most people go through toilet paper — buying, selling, trading, gambling, or otherwise disposing them.  I wish I could say I broke even, but I can't... not even close. 

Anyways, the only cues I have left from that era are two Swedish made carom cues.  One of those is in fact my very first cue (that my mom secretly payed for behind dad's back) and the other one I proudly won in a tournament.  They were both built by an old Swedish billiards champion turned cue-maker, Lennart Haag.  I have been told they were made sometime in the early or mid '70s. 

Both cues are very light and forward balanced; 15 and 16.2 oz with wood joints and 11.4mm euro-tapered shafts.  Since I grew up playing with those and similar cues, they still feel okay to me, although they are now banged up and cracked. 

It was actually during a wild bender at our local dive bar that one of those cues got severely "fractured" as I was sharing it with this super hot black Limey chick.  So after she broke my cue (and my heart), I decided to update my cue arsenal and get back into practicing pool again — at a real billiards hall. 

—     Cue cases

Here are some of the cases that I'm trying to get rid of — including, 1x1, 1x2, 2x2, 3x5, 4x6, a vintage leather case, a Longoni case, an aluminum snooker case, a modified fish-rod case... etc.

Sure, none of those cases are really superxs fancy,but yet if someone wanna trade a ... say, a classy Fellini for a few cases, give me a call.

—     Credits

Along with the aforementioned cue builders, I would also like to thank all the good guys who have worked on and/or modified my cues over the years, including Richard Chudy, Steve Lydon, Rich Hein, Richard Uno, Johnny Donoho, Ryan Theewen, and Jon Nichols. 

Of course I also need to mention my nemesis/hero Bob Jewett — one of the most knowledgeable billiards persons of our time.