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Choosing A Pool Cue Tip

The leather cue tip has been around for over 100 years now. Francois Mingaud is credited with creating the modern leather cue tip while in a French prison, sometime in the late 1700's. Upon his release in 1807, he began to demonstrate his ability to put spin on a ball, something not previously accomplished with wooden cues. He is also credited with inventing the Masse shot.

Since then, leather tips have become the standard in the billiards industry. They are generally referred to as "Soft", Medium" and "Hard" based on their density. Keep in mind these are relative terms, and while there are some who have measured densities of different brands, there is still no regulation or standardization of different densities. One manufacturer's hard tip might not be exactly the same as a different manufacturer's hard tip. For this reason, it is best to try different tip brands and strengths until you find one that works best you.

  • Soft tips are recognized as offering beginners the best chance to impart proper english. The overall "feel" of the shot may be softer as well. Soft tips, however, will mushroom quickly and need to be replaced more often than medium and hard tips.
  • Medium tips are exactly what they sound like, a comprise between the soft and hard densities. These are the most common tip found on cues today. They tend to hold their shape better than soft tips, and will easily hold chalk.
  • Hard tips are preferred by most professional and higher level players because of the control that it offered. Keep in mind though that their control comes from years and years of practice and tournament play. Hard tips will require less frequent changing, and will keep their shape longer than medium and soft tips.

In addition to the density of tip, layering also has an affect on the playability and durability of a cue tip. There are essentially two types of leather cue tips, layered and non-layered. They come in a wide variety of materials, from pigskin to cowhide, but they will all be made from some sort of leather. A non-layered tip, while very common and inexpensive, is prone to inconsistency and mushrooming. Mushrooming is where the tip balloons over the edges of the ferrule at the point the two come together. If this happens, trimming is usually required. A layered tip, usually comprised of ten ore more thin layers of leather laminated together, is less likely to mushroom and more likely to hold its shape consistently, however they are also more expensive. Layered tips are also said to be more consistent from tip to tip, which means less variation in the feel and performance of the tip when changing them.

Shaping a tip is important to maintaining consistent control. There are a number of handy tip tools that will help keep your tip in good playing condition, and shape them to the preferred nickel or die radius.

Some things to remember about leather cue tips:

  • Shape them to either a nickel or dime radius depending on your personal preference, especially when new
  • Scuff and "pik" them so they will hold chalk better, again, especially when new
  • Trim them when they mushroom out at the ferrule
  • Try lots of different ones until you find what suits your personal tastes best

The last decade has also seen growth in the number of non-organic tips made from a variety of composite hard plastics. Phenolic, G-10, and Carbon Fiber have all been introduced as materials for cue tips, generally on break cues, as a permanent solution to tip replacement. Since the best of these materials is harder than any leather tip, they supposedly can last much longer without cracking or breaking, saving the consumer money in the long run. They also deliver a good deal more power in the break shot since there is less absorption of energy than with a leather tip.