Get one thing straight. If you can't shoot pool, a custom-made cue won't help—even the Pechauer 2016 People's Choice cue—with its 910 inlays, including snakewood, two-carat diamonds, ivory, silver and a price tag of $35,000. But if you have a facility for manipulating colored spheres over cool green baize, a personalized cue may take you up a notch. It's the firm hit of the leather tip on a phenolic resin ball. If the cue is right, it feels like an extension of the hand that guides it.
There's a curious paradox: pool players often gaze at the colorful elements in the butt end of the cue, but it's the other end—the shaft—that pockets the balls. "You can make the butt out of anything you want, but it's important to keep in mind that the functionality is most important," says Brian Roeder, standing before several wall racks full of cues at Blatt Billiards on 330 West 38th Street in New York. "Make sure that the cue has balance. Also, you want a cue that is made of maple wood. With the length of the pool cue and the weight of the billiard ball, maple is a hard enough wood for the taper [of the shaft] to be thinner."
What about weight? "Weight is a personal preference," Roeder explains. "The weight is typically 18 to 21 ounces. A better player may use a lighter weight to get more finesse." Speaking of finesse, Steve Roeder adds, "The best players want a soft or super soft tip. The softer the tip, the greater finesse and accuracy."
Steve walks to a glass case in which cues are kept at 75 degrees and 55 percent humidity to keep the wood from warping or expanding. From this "cue humidor" he extracts a Pechauer with a snakeskin handle, mahogany wood, ebony and mother-of-pearl inlays. This pool weapon of the highest order fetches $6,500. "But the average good quality cue goes from $250 to $1,500," he says.
Then he shows a McDermott cue for $695 with turquoise wood with ebony inlays on a maple butt. "The cost goes up depending on the materials used, such as an Irish-lined wrap or leather wrap. The cue maker is an artist."
Some players are queuing up in search of something different from such established brands as Pechauer, McDermott and Viking. "Predator is making carbon fiber cues for the younger generation," Brian points out. "They are trying to be the most innovative brand, I would say the sexiest brand. They came out with what they want to be the brand with a carbon-fiber shaft that will last you forever. It's $1,400." Whatever your preference in balance or design, trust that some cue maker has thought of it.