Ash is by far the most popular wood for snooker and English pool cues. Maple was traditionally the only wood used for American pool cues. Maple is more dense than ash and does not have the pronounced grain features of ash. The enhanced grain of ash cues is highly regarded by many players by utilising the arrow pattern of the wood for aim, but can be distracting for those who prefer the plainer maple. Generally ash has a better feel and touch to maple but it is a personal choice. The natural spring in ash gives it more response. The stiffer maple is said to have more power for the break. Remember all natural wood will at some stage warp unless proper care is taken. Ash cues can be bent back, maple cues cannot. Proper storage and care for your wooden cues is crucial. Being a natural fibre they are susceptible to direct sunlight, moisture and leaning against walls. Correct storage consists of cue cases or cue stands that store cues straight and this will extend the cues life.
Composite cues have a construction of outer fibreglass with a core filled wooden component for extra strength. The fibreglass coating makes the composite cues warp resistant. Generally a lot more effort goes into making composite cues so their life is enhanced greatly due to their construction. These cues are built to last. They don’t have the same give of natural timber cues and are less forgiving to the beginner. Remember the stiffer the cue usually the more power you can generate but your aim is critical to ensure this. Composite cues are usually reserved for the player with more ability. However well these cues are built, they are susceptible to wear and tear and must be cared for and stored correctly in a cue case or cue stand.
Cues vary in length and are still measured in traditional imperial terms. The shortest cue length is 36” which is made for juniors and tight corners as is 48”. 54” cues are for young adults and shorter people with 57” being the most popular and comfortable. 58” & 60” are generally for taller people or bigger tables where you need the extra length.
Cue tips vary in size and also the way they are attached to the ferrule; either glue on or screw in. Most snooker players prefer a tip size between 9mm to 10mm. English pool players tend to use a smaller tip between 8mm to 9mm mainly due to using a smaller and lighter cue ball. American pool players use a tip size of 13mm due to the larger ball size.
There are many theories about tip size in relation to the amount of spin you can impart on the cue ball with a smaller tip and how it is easier to hit the centre of the ball with a bigger tip. It really does boil down to personal preference. The amount of spin is mainly down to cue action, timing and most importantly a good follow through with the cue after striking the white ball. The ability to hit the centre of the white consistently is down to your cue action, a firm bridge, good stance and keeping still on the shot. Tip size does have an effect on the amount of throw caused by the cue on to the cue ball when using side. The amount of throw is proportional to the size of the tip i.e. the bigger the tip the more the cue ball is pushed off line, this amount does vary from cue to cue. No two cues react exactly the same with regard to throw off.