Checking your equipment

Take care of your cue.

I don’t mind admitting to the fact that I’m easily impressed by relatively simple things. So when someone walks into to play pool with a fancy pool cue case, I’m very impressed. Even more impressed when the case is opened to reveal not one, but two customized cues. Having your own cue adds a justified swagger to its owner, and is like money in the bank. I just can’t wait to get mine.

A cue is like a delicate musical instrument, so treat it like one. It’s like a violinist owning a valuable Stradivarius fiddle. Play the hell out of it, like violinists do when performing, but take good care of it. They carefully take the violin out of its case, guard it when they aren’t actually playing and carefully return it to its case when they finish. They don’t prop it up against a wall, thump it on the floor, or toss it on a table. You should do the same. Keep your cue stored carefully when you aren’t performing. Store it in a solid case in an upright position away from heat and air conditioning vents. Don’t keep your cue in a damp basement or a hot attic. And, try not to give it prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. It doesn’t take as much as you might think to warp a shaft. Leaning the cue up against a wall overnight may be enough to do it. Even a shaft left long enough on a flat surface can eventually warp. The butt can also warp. The ideal temperature range for a cue is 68 to 72 degrees with modest humidity.

Accidentally leaving your cue in a hot car or a cold one, even for a relatively short period of time, may be enough to ruin a perfectly good cue.

There are about a dozen different materials in a typical two-piece cue. All of those materials expand and contract differently with heat and cold. The constant expanding and contracting is largely responsible for components of a cue being eventually felt through the finish. The finish is also worn down over time just by handling and playing with a cue. Taking it out of a case, putting it back in the case, cleaning the cue, in short every time it is touched the finish is being worn down. Moisture, or humidity, is another cue killer. Most materials will absorb water and they swell when they do. The various results of exposure to temperature extremes alone can be severe. Joints become brittle and lose, rings poke through a previously smooth finish, inlays pop up and the finish separates from the surface of the wood. Unless you are going to hermetically seal the cue in a temperature and humidity controlled environment all you can do is slow down the process.

Most people just don’t know how to care for their shafts. A shaft should be a consistent diameter to the ferrule for several inches back toward the butt or have a gradual taper in that direction. Most used shafts are not like that. They tend to be thinner a few inches back from the ferrule because of the over use of sandpaper or Scotch-Brite.

Your hands perspire. Perspiration, because part of its purpose is to remove cellular waste from our bodies, is acidic. Acid isn’t good for your cue. Neither is the chalk, powder, table grit, French-fry oil, cigarette smoke, or spilled pop or beer you inevitably come in contact with. Hopefully you occasionally wash your hands. Do the same with your cue. Don’t scrub it with a kitchen pad. Dampen a soft cloth in clean soapy water. Wipe down the body of the cue with the cloth and immediately dry it with a different soft dry cloth. Pay special attention to the shaft. Regularly removing most of the embedded chalk and powder from the shaft will extend its playing life. A gentle rub down with a good wax or furniture polish, after the bath, will help protect your cue until its next contact with the outside world.

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