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Cue Tips - recommendations?


Cue Tips - recommendations?

I'd like to start a discussion on the pros and cons of cue tips - hardness, brands, etc. I'm a casual player that does most of his playing on my home table (1915 Brunswick Victor 4x8). I have a Mali cue, and love it, but I have no idea what tip is on it. I'm assuming it's a Le Pro, since it seems that most new cues come with them. My house cues are in need of new tips, and I really don't know what to get - too many choices.

Cue Tips - recommendations?

Replies & Comments

  1. flyguystraightshooter on 11/15/2009 9:02:21 AM

    Few notes on billiard cue tip factors from articles on this site:

    Cue tip for break cue - says: "...break cues typically have a cue tip with a width greater than or equal to 13mm. Most breaking cues have either a hardened leather tip or a phenolic tip."

    Cue Tip Width: Short article notes: "A 10mm tip is used on snooker cues. An 11mm tip is used primarily on modified snooker cues. Where a 12.5mm tip is used for pool cues."

    Then just off the top of my head: Softer cue tips will last for a shorter time, especially if you like to kill the cue ball. They tend to mushroom more than do hard pool cue tips, and they do so faster than harder tips. That said, I think softer tips make for less miscues, and more precision billiard shot making.

    According to the article on pool cue specs, "Most pool players prefer the hard Le Pro tips. These tips tend to hold their shape longer when playing with heavier balls." I'm not sure why, or where that data is from.

  2. flyguystraightshooter on 11/15/2009 9:05:13 AM

    Actually, My last comment can probably be clarified. It likely means that "of those players using hard billiard cue tips, most prefer the Le Pro tip versus other hard pool cue tips."

  3. flyguyjana on 11/15/2009 9:11:07 AM

    Yeah, I think the softer the tip, the more precise one can be when shooting.

    Basically, soft cue tips are related to improved application of various types of english to a billiard shot. I've read that in tests (by a pool players who know how to apply english) that they had trouble making the same shots when they switched to a cue with a harder tip.

    Softer billiard cue tip = more control.

    Think about how the tip compresses when contacting the cue ball (then watch the video at the very bottom of the page in the footer). You'll see what I mean.

  4. flyguybilliardsforum on 11/15/2009 9:26:30 AM

    Well, soft tips "hold" cue chalk better and longer. This is because they scuff easier. I personally prefer the soft billiard cue tips, for most of the reasons mentioned above. I just like that I can "feel" the shot better.

    However, i may be the minority, because as @straighshooter pointed out in our article, many prefer harder tips because they believe (whether true or not) that harder tips support shot consistency and shot control.

    Oh, PS, for soft tips, I'll usually pick up a box of Elk master pool cue tip replacements.

    Also, if you DO have a Le Pro tip, it's probably a "hard" tip. See this:

    Le Professionel cue tips are more commonly known as Le Pro tips. These tips are the finest vegetable-tanned Oak Leather tips available anywhere. Everyone knows they are an industry standard. These are hard cue tips.

  5. flyguyMitch Alsup on 11/15/2009 10:13:09 AM

    Softer billiard cue tip = more control.

    I am going to disagree with this statement.

    Control has to do with how the tip interacts with the CB and the transfer of spin. The transfer of spin from tip to CB is due to friction The CHALK is the medium that exerts frictional forces on the surface of the CB during impact--not the tip The hardness of the tip determines how big an area makes contact with the CB. Soft tips make a big contact area, hard tips make a small contact area. Big contact area means low pressure, small contact area mean high pressure. Chalk needs a particular amount of pressure so that the calcium carbonate of the chalk bites into the surface of the CB to deliver this frictional force. If the tip is too soft, there is too great an area during the millisecond of contact, and the chalk crystals do not bite. Thus, while counter-intuitive, harder tips can spin the CB just as much as softer tips. The only alteration in this physics is when masséing the CB where the slate of the table greatly increases the contact pressure and a softer tip can be used and deliver massive spin to the CB.

    The hardness of tip you prefer is also dependent on the game you like to play. A power game such as 9-ball will want a harder tip, while a control game such as 14.1 will want a softer tip. The kind of tip you end up preferring is also somewhat dependent on the chalk you like/use.

    I think that most players will like tips in the harder end of the medium section (78 on the durrometer) to the middle of the hard end (85 on the durrometer). Save the 90+ tips for breaking and jumping.

  6. flyguyMitch Alsup on 11/15/2009 10:22:47 AM

    For your reading entertainment:

  7. flyguybilliardsforum on 11/15/2009 11:25:57 AM

    Mitch, you are the man! Learned a lot from your post.

    Can you clarify this point: I don't follow what you are saying.

    If the tip is too soft, there is too great an area during the millisecond of contact, and the chalk crystals do not bite.

  8. flyguyflyguy on 11/15/2009 1:36:23 PM

    Mitch, thanks for the info - all your posts are helpful and well-thought out. If I may, I'd like to post your 3 posts relating to tips here all as one, for the benefit of others.

    From Mitch Alsup;

    While the typical Elk Master/LePro tips play just fine, Let me entice you with a thought (or two).

    It is not the softness of the tip that enables transfer of spin from tip to cue-ball, the softness of the tip only determines the surface area between the ip and the cue-ball at contact. It is, in actuality, the chalk that ends up applying the spin transfer to the cue-ball. For chalk to do its job, both sides of the contact point have to sustain enough pressure so that the chalk crystals dig into both surfaces. Thus, harder tips will allow you to impart greater amounts of english than softer tips.

    Harder tips have several advantages: A) they do not mushroom, B) they need significantly lower amouts of 'grooming' to stay round and even, C) they hold their shape for months at a time, D) you can impart more english.

    With that out of the way, let me return to tips. After you pay a professional tip installer (one with a real lathe) $10-$15 to put a $0.50-$2.00 tip on your cue, you should really think about using the more expensive layerd tips such as Talisman and Moori. At this point you walk out of the store having paid $30-$35 for a $20 tip whereas before you walked out ofthe store having paid $20 for a $0.50 tip. Which really is the better value?

    My story: I bought a Predator (generation 1) cue last year for my birthday. After spending 6 hours adjusting my game to the way this cue plays, I just loved the cue and how it played, how the ball had power comming off the tip. After a little while, the tip needed some maintanence due to mushrooming, so I carefuly sanded down the outside perimeter of the tip, and recurved the front surface. Then over time I started to notice little things that started to annoy me about the tip. After a hard hit, there would be a dimple on the surface of tip and for the rest of the night I would have to avoid hitting a soft shot on that corner of the tip if I wanted good chance of shot success. After I got home, I would reshape the tip. This got to be a habit and soon the tip was thin enough that other effects started to become apparent. I did substantially more grooming of the tip that I though I should.

    So, after reading the link below and doing a loot of google research, thinking about the situation for a couple of weeks, and talked with the two nearest professionals I play around, I decided to give one of the high dollar tips a go. It turns out that the LePro that was installed on my Predator cue had been compressed at the factory to a harder than out-of-the-box normal LePro tip. So, armed with this knowledge and my serious displeasure of constant tip grooming, I gave a high dollar harder tip* a try. Let me say I was initially skeptical. However, I generally play on a table with ****py fuzzy felt that plays dead slow. However, with this new tip I could make a shot of a ball near a corner pocket from the other end of the table AND draw the cue-ball back 3 feet (no rails). This is a table so slow that few can even get a cue-ball to even move backwads on, let alone 3 feet, and let alone^2 from the other end of the table!

    After 4 months of constant use, and even starting to use my play cue as my break cue, doing big masses, and what not--my opinions have changed. Hard tips give the player greater certanty as to when contact is made, greater control over how much spin and speed are imparted, greater touch when doing irregular strokes**, and no tip maintanence; and the only cost is that you have to be aware to chalk up every shot. The sound made at contact will change--but this is neither a bad nor a good thing, its just a thing.

    Now part of this MAY be from the hardness of the tip, and part of it MAY be from the high-dollar tip and the way it is manufactured (multi layered). I really don't care. It plays, it holds its shape, I don't have to chase the curve (groom), and it gives every appearance of not wearing out (since there is no groming going on to wear it out). Then, to boot, once I got the real hang of using a tip such as this, I can pot a ball, and use draw to bring the cure-ball back 6 feet in a big parabolic arc to places most could not place a cue-ball. {Sometimes this is even to my benefit (hic)}. Then there are the little distinctions: on those gentle straight long shots where energy control is paramount, the cue-ball will respond off the harder tip with a straighter roll (a lower surprise coefficient--if you will).

    So how hard is hard. My original tip out-of-the-box would be about 78.2 on the durometer, while the hardened version from Preditor would be close to 80-81. My new tip is in the 83 range. For a player that rarely generates more than 20 MPH on his break, you can get buy with a tip in the high 70s of hardness (LePro, Everest, Ram MH), but for players that like to hit the cue harder than this, or draw the length of the table (or more than gentle masses), you should be looking for something in the low 80s for play cues. For break cues look into the mid 90s, and for jump cues something in the mid-to-high 90s.

    If you dislike putting dimples on your tip, if yo dislike tip maintanence, and like to apply english, look into the harder tips.

    On Tip diameter and radius

    Cue tips range in size from about 11mm through 15mm. In very general, the smaller the tip diameter the lower the mass at that end of the cue, this cuts down on cue-ball deflection at the cost of being whippy (not-stiff == absorbs power). The modern low-deflection shafts have drilled out the center of the shaft to lower end mass, instead, getting stiffness=power without getting the deflection. The size, between resonable limits is purely personal preference on your play cue, not so on a massé or jump cue (both 14mm), and most likely not on you break cue (probably 14mm). {There are a few that hold to the notion that a smaller sized tip helps aiming accuracy. If this is you, try placing a straight red line on your ferrule and use this as a guide.}

    Cue Tip Radius ranges in size from 6mm through 9mm with nickle and dime being the more typical limits. This is more personal preference on your play cue, as the difference between a nickle and a dime at CB impact at miscue limit is less than 6% shaft offset. Flat tips work better if you don't want a lot of sipn {break, jump}, more rounded work better if you do--but even here, the differences in any absolute measure are small compared to the amounts we are talking about. To dispell a misconception: The radius of the tip (unless it is well outside of the nickle-dime range) does not change the amount of english that can be applied (rotating velocity of the CB after impact by cue-tip.) If it did, you would see snooker tips on massé cues. You don't! You see 14mm tips on these with nickle radii. The only place where standardization seems to have taken place is on tips for break and jump cues (both nickle radii). Jump cues with 12.5mm tips are notoriously hard to get the CB to jump over a ball less than 1 balls width (2.25") away. Thus for jumping up close, a bigger tip is prefered. I, personally, have not noticed the inverse, and find the 14mm tip on mine jumps just dandy at long ranges.

    The kind of material used in the ferrule can interact with the radius on your tip. A stiff material (brass, ivory) on the ferrule will be significantly different from the shaft-wood and make the cue player like shorter radii tips to avoid (transmitting forces near) the stiff outer perimeter of the ferrule. Conversely a softer material on the ferrule (ivorine III) will not be noticible stiffer than the wood inside the ferrule. This allows the whole tip to be used and more nickle tip radii prefered.

    Cue tip hardness ranges on some (durometer) scale between 60 and 99. A soft tip will be in the mid 60s, medium in the mid 70, hard in the low 80s, x hard in the high 80s-low 90s, xx hard in the high 90s. The softness of the cue tip has NOTHING to do with how well it holds chalk--but does have something to do with how easy it is to put chalk on the cue tip, and how often you need to recontour the tip. The softness of the tip and the speed of impact determine the area of contact between tip and CB. If this area is small the force is large and the calcium carbonate crystals in the chalk grip the CB. So tip hardness has to do with how you shoot. Shoot with touch and delicacy (14.1) and you should be in the medium range. shoot any harder (8-ball, 9-ball) and you should be in the hard range. Soft tips are for people who like to perform constant tip maintanence. Medium tips are for people who rarely hit the CB hard (keyword==rarely). hard tips are for (basically) everyone else (including massés). x-hard and xx-hard are for jumping, and breaking.

    I happen to use hard multi-layerd tips (83 durometer), blue master chalk. I find that the kind of chalk you pick does interact with the kind of tip you end up prefering. Green Master chalk likes (slightly softer tips in the) 79-80 durrometer reading while Blue likes 82-88, The xx hard tips like the grey and black chalks but the room owners do not. All in all, I just the BM chalk on my break, jump, and massé cue tips and learn to live with the lack of bite.

    Summary: unless you have tried out a lot of shafts, tips, chalks, and ferrules do not think that you should have one tip size or another--you will adjust naturally.

    On Shaping, roughing, and replacing the tip -

    I happen to find the rough nail files just perfect for light tip maintanence (100 to 150 grit ones).

    As you slowly turn the shaft begin near the edge and with light pressure gently s****e the file along the tip tangential to the already established curvature. Watch the tip as the file removes the chalk and you can see where the tip was dimpled from hard hits. Work these down until the whole tip is even in the rotational direction. Most of the deep dimples are found in the center from hard hits.

    If you hold one end of the nail file on a pack of matches, and the pack of matches on the shaft of the cue. The angle of the pack of matches allows you to trim down any overhang of the tip beyond the ferrule. Just slide the nail file with the pack of matches up and down the shaft while slowly turning the shaft.

    When I had a LePro tip, I had to scuff it about every other week for optimal chalk holding. My Everest is better about not needing so much maintanence. I will soon be trying out a Talisman hard--as the Everest is a little soft for my playing.

    Also note: chalk in a humid climate is only good for a few hours--to a few days. You can restore the chalk at 220 dF in an oven for 20 minutes. If the cahlk will not squeek on the tip while being applied, it mayhave become too water saturated to do its job well. I buy chalk by the gross and leave it at the bar when I'm done playing.

    It is time to replace a tip, A) when you lose confidence in it, B) when you have groomed it enough times that the edge is thinner than 1/16 inch (1.5mm), C) when you want to try something new.

    Tip hardness*: You might think that a soft tip will grip the cue ball better during the moment of impact. The reality is that it is not the tip doing the grabbing, but the chalk crystals. The job of the tip is to be stiff enough to allow the chalk to be placed onto the surface and hold it until the moment of impact. A soft tip will allow the chalk crystals to embed in to the leather and not grip the cue as well. Thus, the tip needs a certain minimum hardness. This minimum is dependent upon how hard the player hits the average cue stroke. In addition the chalk need a particular amount of pressure at the moment of contact to bite into both surfaces. Medium tips should be about as soft as anyone considers.

    The harder the tip, the less curvature maintanece but maybe more surface roughtness maintanence. If you have a tip on your stick that requires mushroom grooming more than once a month--it is simply too soft.

    Really hard tips are required to perform above-the-equator jumps, and break cues should also have vary hard tips if you break with a great deal of energy.

    I have a friend who plays with a hard tip when playing 9-ball, and a medium tip when playing (pannama) 8-ball. This is due to the difference in finnesse between the games.

    Finally, there is some trade-off between tip hardness and ferrule hardness. Ferrule hardness has been comming down over the last 2 decades (excepting for jump and break cues). Ferrule hardness determins how the edge of the tip responds when applying lots of english, follow or draw, and does little when stroking in the middle.

    (*) there used to be long hard rubber tips that would hold chalk like the dickens and still play as if they were medium soft. The leather ones we can use these days do not have these properties. If you have one of these old tips--take care of it.

  9. flyguyMitch Alsup on 11/15/2009 11:41:20 PM

    Given a tip of a certain hardness, and a cue stick moving at a certain speed, a soft tip compresses to a larger contact area than does a hard tip. Soft tips compress more. This compression leaves a larger surface between the tip and the CB. Given that there is the same amount of force being transmitted, there is lower pressure with that softer tip (force is distributed over a larger area, therefore the force per unit area is lower).

    Chalk crystals need a certain pressure in order to bite into the cue ball surface. And they actually do bite into the surface by a couple of microns. If the pressure is too great the crystals fracture on the surface and fail to grip. If the pressure is too little, the crystals do not bite into the surface and cannot create the friction.

    It ends up that for something like Master Blue chalk and the hardness of Aramith balls, you want something in the 78-85 range on the durrometer.

  10. flyguyaz9baller on 7/8/2010 9:46:17 AM

    @Mitch Alsup and others:

    Let me first say thank you very much for your insightful comments. I have wondered for a long time about the physics behind such hardness decisions. However, I'm a little confused by the logic, so I registered to the forums specifically to ask for clarification. . Please correct me if I mis-summarize:

    1. chalk "bites" within a certain pressure range.
    2. harder tips deform less than softer tips and therefore contact area is smaller with harder tips
    3. given same total force being applied by cue stick, pressure from smaller contact area is greater than from larger contact area
    4. pressure is therefore higher from harder tips than smaller tips (stilettos vs flats)

    This all makes sense, and so does the durability issue with respect to permanent deformation in softer tips.
    The deformation issue being more of a concern to those that stroke the ball harder (i.e. 9 ball vs 14.1).

    What doesn't make sense is the statement that those shooting more finesse shots than hard shots should use the softer variety of tip for control reasons (or maybe I'm misunderstanding the context of the argument).

    Shoot with touch and delicacy (14.1) and you should be in the medium range. shoot any harder (8-ball, 9-ball) and you should be in the hard range.

    The reason this doesn't make sense to me is that regardless of how much total force you use I would expect you would want the same pressure upon contact, yet the recommendation contradicts this. From my understanding, the following analogy would hold: the delicate shots with a medium tip would be a lightweight girl in flats, and the harder shooter with a hard tip would be a hefty woman in stiletto heels. Very low pressure versus very high pressure.

    It seems the conclusions are only based on durability, not playability. Am I missing something? I'm struggling to get over the hump and looking to lower the obstacles by re-evaluating my equipment.

    Again, thanks for your taking the time and sharing your thoughts.

  11. flyguyMitch Alsup on 7/8/2010 5:04:31 PM

    A lot of the time when you are playing delicate shots (where the CB moves only an inch or so, and the OB only moves a few more) all you need is for the cue tip not to slide on the CB during the moment of impact. The pressures are low enough that the chalk does not mater (a whole lot) and could not 'bite' into the CB in any event. In this one realm, the soft cue tip is still deforming by the end of the impact, while the harder tip has slid across the CB surface. Remember we are dealing with a stroke where if the CB hit nothing it would still not move more than 1 diamond.

    To prove this to yourself, try to hit a follow shot that only moves 1 diamond in distance (no rails or ball impacts) versus hitting the same shot at mid CB (no english) and feel how the tip skids on the surface of the CB as you near the point of miscue. See how chalking the cue has little effect, here. {There are ways to bridge the cue (and commit the stroke) so that the slide is ameliorated with a hard tip, and this is part of the different stroke techniques one learns when adapting from one tip hardness to another.}

    Once the CB moves more the 3-4 diamonds, this effect is lost in the chalk bites CB surface physics.

    Most of the difference in tip with hardness is way down in the very delicate end of the force spectrum where the energy of the impact is insufficient for the chalk crystals to bite into the surface of the pretty hard cue ball plastic.

  12. flyguyuser1495003363 on 5/17/2017 2:42:44 AM

    Triangle is by far a more consistent pool cue tip. It's hardness does not vary from tip to tip and many well known cue makers use Triangle tips.

    I will also point out that precise point to point contact is way more accurate. Not a spongy tip that offers little english response when needed. When using a soft tip you are more or less cupping the ball. You hit concave vs. convex because once the two make contact it conforms to what it strikes. Now you try cupping a ball and aim at a precise point on the table or at another ball like a cut shot then you take just your finger and try the same action.

    Oh and back to Le-Pro pool cue tips. I tried several of them, and their hardness varies from tip to tip - inconsistent. Twice I have broke the rack using Le-Pro tips and nearly ruined my cue when nearly a 1/3 or 1/4 of the tip tore away exposing a portion of my ferrule. I used Le-Pro because a friend recommended them never again.

    Triangle or Kamui clear hard black and Triangle green chalk or blue Diamond or Predator chalk? Triangle has never let me down and I have one of the hardest breaks around. My cut shots are legendary. My Joss came with a Triangle Tip and if you look closely, opposite the Joss logo you will see my name "Jimmy Gillette".

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Cue Tips - recommendations?

  • Title: Cue Tips - recommendations?
  • Author: (Mark Mahler)
  • Published: 11/15/2009 8:42:54 AM