Cue Manufacturing




Cue Manufacturers & Manufacturing
By Andy Hunter & David Smith

Cue manufacturers such as Thurston, Burroughes & Watts, Ashcroft and Padmore, would often personalise cues for their customers. This could be applied to any of their range of cues; for example John Roberts, Joseph Bennett, William Cook and Charles Dawson.

This personalisation would take the form of an additional badge with the individual’s signature or initials. Typically, these may he in the form of a silver diamond, or a piece of ivory placed above the normal badge, or as a full silver plate. Such cues where often made for the wealthy, and are now quite rare. 

At a customer’s request, modifications could also be made to the length of a cue, so that they were constructed to other than the recognised standard, which on early cues was 55¾” and from the 1920’s became 58″.

When the overall length was reduced, the butt length would also adjusted so that it remained in proportion to the cue, a normal butt being 17½”-18″ long. We have seen a 53″-54″ cue with a 15″ butt, and being in proportion, (about 30% of the overall length) would have been made this way. This provides a good test to determine whether a shaft has been shortened, and therefore of reduced value to a collector. 

Pear Shafted Cues 

Between the early 1870s and 1930s top of the range cues would be made with a “steamed” pear shaft, which has a reddish colour. The wealthy would buy a pear shafted Peall, Ashcroft or Willie Cook, or they could have been made as prizes in a major tournament.

You couldn’t get better than a good Pear shafted cue, it is better than ash or Maple to use. Pear has a tendency to warp so it is hard to get a stable Cue. If you do get a stable, old, pear shafted cue that plays well, never part with it, as you will not easily be able to find another. Because of this, pear shafted cues are more valuable than ash or maple, with one exception the J P Mannock.

The majority of Mannock cues were made from pear and this devalues them with the result that the ash or Maple shafted Mannock is rarer and more valuable. 

The Cue-Butt 

Cue-butts were generally made with a larger diameter than an ordinary cue and about 5ft in length. They could be used in the same way as a cue, with a rest, for balls otherwise out of reach, or by using the butt to strike the ball.

Long after the cue was the accepted implement for billiards, the butt was still being used for playing a ball up the table to strike another in baulk. The true central striking greatly increasing the accuracy of such strokes.

This implement only disappeared after 1885 when the rules where changed so that all stokes must be made with the tip of the cue.

The “half-butt” a longer example of the “cue-butt” remains in current terminology as a legacy of these early days. 

We have recently seen two early examples of a “cue-butt”. Both made by Thurston, one was in pear wood with a 24″ bog-oak splice in the front. It was in a hand-made wooden case, which had been made to the exact size of the cue. This is very rare, and because of it’s rarity valued at whatever price is asked, and the purchaser is prepared to pay. The other butt-cue was made from mahogany and not quite so rare. 

People can confuse a butt-cue with the later rack butt-cue, which is made from ash with a Thurston & Co badge. It is knowledge and experience, which allows you to discern between the two.

A cue which has “Thurston, 14 Catherine Street” is dated before 1850. The design and records of these two butt-cues date them to around the 1820s. After 1850 the badge would read “Thurston & Co.” After 1879 the address changed to “14-16 Catherine Street”.

The pear shafted butt-cue is probably an example of one of the first cues that is now used for billiards and snooker. A lot of people who buy and sell cues do not go into this sort of depth when dating them. If you are buying a cue or wish someone to look at one, seek the advice of the right people or the cue may be incorrectly valued. 

Andy Hunter & David Smith