Wednesday, March 6, 2013

DIY Low Deflection Cue Shaft

Ghetto Low Deflection Shafts

We are settled into the new house and I've ended up spending more time than I expected these last few weeks learning how to play pool again. I have a lot less free time these days than I did a dozen years ago, so now I feel like I need to be more effective in my pool practice. In college I could practice for hours on end, but it is time to get more focused. I wanted to start with a low-deflection cue, but without the high cost - especially given that I'd like a low-deflection shaft for breaking, shooting, and one for keeping at work (we have a 9' Olhausen in the office).

Years ago I shot with a Predator 314 shaft, so I was curious if I could get similar low-deflection characteristics by lowering end-mass, just drilling out the first 6" of my shaft. There is a lot of shaft marketing, but after a bit of reading it seemed like far and away the most significant factor is end-mass. I did not find anything online about how to do this, so just thought I'd give it a shot.

We have a set of abused two-piece generic Chinese cues in the office, so that is where I started my experiment. I don't have a cue lathe, and getting one would be more expensive than just buying myself some shafts. I don't have a stand-up drill press, and I think even with a drill press making sure to drill exactly straight is difficult. Here is the ghetto rig I came up with to solve my problem.

I bought a set of extra long brad point drill bits on Amazon and a bit of 1/2" copper pipe. The copper pipe is just a bit larger than 13mm, giving me room to put some tape around the shaft. I attached this to a mitre box, attached the box to the edge of my work bench along with my drill. My work bench has a nice bit of angle-iron as coping, which is about as straight as I could hope. I spent a bit of time shimming up underneath the back of the drill and beneath the mitre box, but ended up with something pretty darn close to straight. 

I used the mitre box saw to chop off the top of the ferrule, reducing its size and tried drilling out a shaft. Unsurprisingly the first shaft was not perfect.

You can see that the hole I drilled was less than the shaft doweling that went into the ferrule - more on that in a minute. After slowly drilling out about 5 1/2" from this shaft I used spray foam insulation to fill the void, hoping to prevent the cue from feeling too hollow.

From there I shaved off the end with a razor, sanded it down with a Tweeten cue sander and glued on a LePro tip.

I bought a long 5/16 18 bolt from Home Depot to mount in my drill so I could spin the shaft to finish the tip and sand down the diameter of the cue to ~12mm and give this garbage cue a pro taper. Nothing particularly difficult about that part, just a bit of time.

The hole gives me significantly less surface area to glue to. I also was worried that this might feel very hollow or might hit a bit oddly for straight shots given that there was effectively no support where the hole is. None of that ended up being true. The cue shot surprisingly well - reducing the deflection around a full ball's width from the headstring to the foot of the table.

With this slight success I decided to move along to my break cue and sneaky pete. This time my drilling was perfectly straight and I drilled out around 6 1/4" from the end. I spent a bit more time getting the taper just right and used a Mori medium tip on the sneaky pete.

Ok, now here is a problem with this method. The final cue I drilled out was an old antique cue. The dowling inside the ferrule was about the same size as the hole I was drilling - but foolishly I went ahead and drilled it out anyway. When I was sanding down the sides of the tip I had pressure perpendicular to the shaft and SNAP - off came the ferrule.

I tried to recover from this disaster by gluing in a piece of plastic on both the ferrule and shaft side, but in trying to get everything lined up perfectly the shaft ended up cracking. Whoops.

In the end I would say that for inexpensive cues this is a great way to turn them into something useful. Of course if you can afford the real deal I'm sure your money is well spent, but if you're looking for a cheap way to get results maybe you could give this a try and hopefully improve on my first attempts. I bought three more sneaky petes from Muellers and expect to be able to turn them into very nice playing cues with low deflection as well.