Meet the cue makers

In 1990, Jeff Fugal and Bruce Kuhn, long-time friends, started doing repair work on cues. Bruce Kuhn had spent much time, while growing up, in the woodworking and machine shop of his father’s. He later was a manager in a couple of large corporations while continuing to do custom woodworking and playing pool as a hobby. Jeff spent his early career as a machinist and tool maker. He has a long history of pool playing going back to the early 1970’s. By 1992, the two had made and refined their first cues. They soon began to gain recognition in the Colorado area and acquired more equipment for making cues. In 1994, they started making cues full-time and began to achieve national recognition.

AE Cues are easily recognizable by the “AE” logo on the butt cap, which has remained the same since 1992. A few of their early custom cues were ordered with an aardvark design opposite this logo. All AE cues have had points which are cut with a C.N.C. mill but done with very small cutters which results in sharp, even points. AE Cues are known for their multi-level inlays with thin outlines, as well as inlaid ring work. 

See cue maker’s cues

Source – Blue Book of Pool Cues, www.bluebookinc.com

Michael Capone began playing pool as a teenager. While he was in college studying mechanical engineering, he helped his cousins start a pool room in the late 1980s. While working at the pool room, he would often send cues out for repairs, but he was unhappy with the amount of time this took.

Michael had a woodworking hobby since he was a kid and had an old lathe in the basement, so he decided to start doing some basic repairs himself. He rebuilt the old lather and began doing more difficult work, eventually making hustler cues by putting joints in house cues. Soon he was ordering blanks and components and making his own cues.

When he graduated from college, he became more serious, learning how to make his own blanks in 1994. He soon learned how to make a full splice for the special order custom hustler cue he makes.

Capone cues have gone through many improvements in design. Michael likes to make cues to specific requirements using wood selection, as opposed to adding metal screws. Although he prefers to make cues with wood handles, he uses purpleheart under his wraps instead of maple because of its density and playability. All inlays are done by hand, and Michael has no plans of getting a C.N.C. machine.

 

Joe Gold has been known as one of the top pool players in the Chicago area for years. On the weekends for 10-15 years, Joe would go to some of the top tournaments in the country to gamble at pool. As a hobby, Joe did some gunsmithing and made parts for the motorcycles he raced. With his background in making things and his ability as a player, Joe believed that he could make cues that would look and play better than anything that was available.

In 1988, Joe went to his friend, Craig Petersen, and ordered a custom cue with the agreement that Joe could watch every step of its construction. After learning the basics of cue construction by watching his cue being built, Joe started accumulating the equipment necessary to make cues. Joe hired an engineering firm in Chicago to help with the development of his cue design. He chose the name “Cognoscenti”, which is a term used to describe a person who recognizes and appreciates the finest.

That same year, the first Cognoscenti cue was completed. Although most are not marked, Cognoscenti cues have always been easy to recognize. They are the only cues that feature a G-10 glass epoxy joint screw. This material flexes more in harmony with, and is closer in weight to, wood rather than steel or brass. At the same time, it is as strong as steel and gives the cues a very unique look.

See cue maker’s cues

Source – Blue Book of Pool Cues, www.bluebookinc.com

Born in Chicago in 1880, Herman Rambow began working for Brunswick at the age of fourteen. Starting out as the mail boy, Herman was attracted to cuemaking. Soon he quit being a mail boy and was working on Brunswick’s cuemaking assembly line. Before long, Herman was familiar with every aspect of making a cue. He started a repair department at Brunswick, and, while fixing old cues, he was also adjusting their specifications to suit their owners. Eventually, his talents at customizing cues became well-known, and he was making Brunswick cues for many of the top professionals at the time.

In 1921, Herman left Brunswick to start his own company, the Superior Cue Company. It was during this time that he was awarded a patent for his new balancing system that involved cutting a cue in half near the balance point, and inserting a threaded rod of brass or steel. The length and weight of this rod were calculated to ensure the proper weight and balance of the finished cue. Unfortunately, the Superior Cue Co. did not last long. It is believed that the professional players Rambow was counting on to use his cues and services were unable to do business with him because of endorsement contracts with Brunswick.

In 1925, Rambow signed over his patent rights to Brunswick, and by 1927, he was working for them again, this time as the head foreman of cue operations. Brunswick used Herman’s balancing system on a model called the “Hub” cue.

Rambow continued to work for Brunswick until 1950, when he was forced to retire. Brunswick offered to let him take some of his cuemaking equipment and materials home with him, as they had no future plans to use them, and he accepted. Rambow soon began making cues on his own, although he still used Brunswick Titlist blanks for almost all of his cues.

Rambow joined the Keefe & Hamer Co. in downtown Chicago, and soon had so many orders that he needed someone to help. In 1956, Herman hired Steve Bihun, and started him on simple tasks.

Many famous players used Herman Rambow cues during the fifties and sixties. The most notable was Willie Mosconi. He had played with virtually every cue available and his favorite cue was a Rambow. It was probably the fanciest cue he ever made, and was very similar to the Rambow he used when he ran a record 526 balls in a row in Sprigfield, Ohio in 1956. Herman Rambow also made the cues used by Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason in “The Hustler”. By the mid-sixties, Keefe & Hamer was a very busy place. Herman and Steve were making about forty cues a week, and also doing repairs.

In 1967, Herman Rambow died at home after complaining of stomach pains and lying down to rest. He left behind the longest legacy of custom cuemaking known to this day.

See cue maker’s cues

Source – Blue Book of Pool Cues, www.bluebookinc.com

In 1982, David Jacoby began doing cue repair and selling cues out of his home under the name “Dave’s Cue Service”. The following year, David and his son, Brandon, started making cues after visiting Viking Cue Mfg. to pick up a lather he bought from Gordon Hart.

During the early years, David made many trips to Marshfield, WI to visit Herbert Eckes, who was immensely important to Dave’s cuemaking skills. In 1988, David changed the name of his business to Jacoby Custom Cues and began to attend billiard trade shows. David became a member of the American Cuemakers Association the year it was formed, which has increased his business ever since.

David’s cues are easily identifiable by his signature on the forearm. They have undergone many improvements in design to arrive at their current specifications. For example, the very first few cues David made were identified by the Jacoby logo of the pool player chalking his cue decal on the butt sleeves. Cues made before 1991 had a lacquer finish instead of the polyurethane now used. In addition, cues made after 1995 feature a bumper with a threaded stem. These improvements have been geared towards players rather than collectors, as Jacoby cues are designed specifically to be used.

Source – Blue Book of Pool Cues, www.bluebookinc.com

Bill Stroud learned to play pool while growing up on a farm in Missouri. At the age of fourteen, he moved to Dallas, Texas to live with his sister. It was there that he began to play pool more seriously. Bill spent his evenings in the pool room frequented by “Titanic Thompson,” who was soon teaching Bill about pool, and about life. By the age of seventeen, Bill went on to the road and began playing pool for a living. Starting in the late fifties, Bill covered the United States playing in virtually every part of the country. During this time, Bill traveled with, and learned from Eddie Taylor and UJ Pucket.

Believing there was a market for quality custom cues, friend Dan Janes, and Stroud founded Joss Cues in 1968. The name Joss was chosen from an oriental word that loosely translates to “good luck”. Although the two knew very little about making cues, they knew a lot about how great cues played. Soon, they became very successful in the custom cue making business. In 1972, Janes bought out Bill’s share of Joss Cues and Bill began operating under the name of Josswest.

Bill feels playability is the most important factor in a custom cue, and he believes that his road experience gives him an advantage over many other cuemakers in this area. He is willing to make virtually anything a customer desires, and will change any of the standard specifications as requested.

See cue maker’s cues

See cue maker’s cues

Jerry Pechauer began playing pool at the age of seventeen. He quickly became known as one of the better pool players in his hometown of Green Bay, WI. In 1960, he began working for the International Harvester Company, and started to learn about the business world. Jerry spent four years there as an apprentice truck mechanic, where he learned many of his mechanical skills. He repaired a Willie Hoppe cue in his basement of his home in 1963, and began making cues as a hobby in 1965. His son, Joe, made his first cue at the age of 12, and soon they were both taking evening and weekend shop classes to perfect their skills and equipment. Cuemaking was a hobby that began to take over Jerry’s basement and two-car garage with machinery and cue parts.

In 1975, Jerry left his sales job at International Harvester to found J. Pechauer Custom Cues. Jerry and Joe began designing much of the equipment they use to make cues, including one of the most sophisticated tapering machines in the industry. This machine allows them to custom taper shafts to suit each customer’s preference, and store dimensions in memory so they can be used again. Because of these machining skills, all parts are made in house, including stainless steel and duralite joints, ferrules, weight screws, joint screws, inserts, butt caps, etc. The “snow white” shaft wood used on J. Pechauer cues is recognized as among the best in the industry. They start with logs, cut them on their own saw mill, then dry the lumber in their own special kiln.

It would be impossible for the two of them to do all of this work on their own, so they developed a custom shop. Now, employees machine parts, cut logs, and rough cut blanks, allowing Jerry and Joe the time necessary to be more creative and do the final detail work. Jerry’s wife Karen also plays a major role In the day-to-day operations of the business.

See cue maker’s cues

Source – Blue Book of Pool Cues, www.bluebookinc.com

Custom cue maker Sheldon Lebow was born and raised in Oregon. His family settled in the Eugene area where he grew up, went to school and ultimately found himself working in the construction field in his twenties.

His start in pool was unlike other typical stories about starting young and table at home type of thing.

Sheldon’s sister actually worked at a bar near the U of O campus and Sheldon started out playing once in a while. It was here, in the mid-to-late 90’s that Sheldon found himself bit by the pool bug; as he was motivated to “hold the table” against all-comers! Not too long after picking up a cue he joined a league, took a lesson, and the rest is history.

In the early days of his start to cue making, just a few short years after taking up the game, he bought a repair lathe from “Arizona Lee” which wasn’t much more than a tip machine with a drill motor on the end of it! But Sheldon built his very first cue entirely on that machine.

Divine intervention may have played a factor in nudging Sheldon into custom cue making because in a round-about way his friend needed a place to house a set up that any cue maker would envy, and Sheldon had the space. It was a natural progression for Sheldon to learn how to use the equipment, so he bought a computer and set out to do just that.

While Sheldon is self-taught in most areas, he credits Dave Jones of Seattle, WA for helping him when he’s needed it and appreciates the friendship he has built with Dave over the years. Sheldon makes about 20 cues a year, and does not make any “spec” cues, saying he’s not very artistic being more of a utilitarian type of person.

He has no plans of stopping or retiring as of yet but enjoys playing pool and being a part of the community.

Jim Pierce grew up playing pool. Inspired by his uncle, five-time world champion Jimmy Caras, Jim started to take his game more seriously during his teenage years, and began steadily improving. When he wasn’t playing pool, Jim often worked for his family’s business, gaining valuable experience with carpentry, cabinet making and building custom wood shutters. Eventually, Jim became fascinated with how pool cues were constructed and often wondered if he could make a cue that would be better than the one he was using. 

In 1997 Jim built his first cue, out of pre-made parts, with help and instruction from Mike Givens of Michaelangelo Custom Cues. Jim continued to play pool, placing 4th and 5th in the 1998 Idaho state 8-ball and 9-ball tournaments, but he still wanted to further his cue making experience. In 1999, Jim moved to California, where he was introduced to Tom Coker of Coker Custom Cues. Tom recognized Jim’s interest in cue making and they quickly became friends. Under Tom Coker’s tutelage, Jim’s cue making skills quickly progressed as he learned how to build every component that goes into a cue. 

Jim Pierce makes fewer than 75 cues a year. All of Jim’s cues are made from the highest quality materials available, with every component, except the tips, screws and bumpers, made by Jim himself in his one-man shop. Playability is Jim’s #1 priority for his cues, but he is constantly striving to make a cue that not only looks great but plays great as well.

Predator cues are the result of the collaboration of two men using scientific research for the first time to develop the best hitting cue they could. Allan McCarty, the president of Clawson Cues in Michigan, teamed up with cuemaker Steve Titus, in 1992, to create a cue with minimal deflection.

Allan had experimented with spliced shafts in the past, but he had never seen one as well executed as the one Steve was playing with when they met. Allan immediately hired Steve as a technician to head up the necessary scientific testing on cues. Allan had been planning on creating a robot to test cues. He knew that Steve had the technical ability to pull it off. They designed and built a robot, which they named Iron Willie, to stroke shots with perfect consistency. With the cue being the only variable in the testing, they began to determine what factors reduced deflection and increased power. They found that the ferrule was the one variable that had the most effect on deflection, so they concentrated their efforts on the first ten inches of the cue. By scientifically developing a special ferrule and a composite insert inside the first five inches of the shaft, they were able to get the front of the cue to deflect off of the ball instead of the ball deflecting off the cue. This meant that the tip actually stayed on the ball longer on contact, resulting in more power. According to tests using Iron Willie, the Predator cues had 25% less deflection than any other cue tested. To increase radial consistency and decrease the likelihood of warpage, they developed spliced shafts. Although many people believe that the spliced shafts are the secret behind the Predator’s playability, the engineering at the front end of the shaft is the real secret. Jim Lucas later joined the team to provide manufacturers for the butts and to offer his distribution channels.

Source – Blue Book of Pool Cues, www.bluebookinc.com

How Bill Schick found himself building cues is quite an interesting story! He grew up playing pool in Shreveport, Louisiana and shot with a Balabushka. After experiencing some disappointment upon receiving a different custom cue he ordered, Bill set out to make his own (possibly egged on by his good friend Buddy Hall).

Bill patterned the style of his initial cues after the Balabushka he liked. He admittedly regrets never really discussing cue making with George Balabuska who was a personal friend as well. Throughout his career, Bill worked hard to develop and master a variety of touches that now make his cues a class unto themselves! As an example, Master Engraver Jack Prudhomme taught Bill the craft, and Bill integrated it and perfected it in his cue-building. Bill makes every piece and component in his cues without the use of computers. Over the years, it just happened that way where if he didn’t like the quality of this or that, he set out to do it himself. The only caveats are the screws which he has made for him and the rubber bumpers. Today Bill owns and operates his own pool room with his cue making shop in back. He makes around 75 cues per year with emphasis on playability, although the artwork is impossible to deny!

See cue maker’s cue

The first cue-making seeds of interest sprouted in Larry Vigus at the young age of 12 when he was gifted an Adams cue. As a young man whose military family moved around frequently it seemed like Larry found 2 constant loves: Mustangs and Pool (cue building?)! Admittedly, the 2 competing passions often took over the driver’s seat or sat quietly in the back alternately.

Larry called South Carolina his childhood home despite moving around a lot; but when he graduated from school he headed west where job prospects looked more promising. He worked at Peterbilt Motor Company for 14 years before pursuing his own new venture in drilling/construction.

Larry’s involvement in and love of cue making resurfaced when his desire to have a longer than standard cue pushed him to build what he wanted. From there, his brother wanted one and then his 20-something year old daughter Dani got into pool and asked him to make her a cue. His foret into cue making seemed to take on a very organic life: one was made, so another friend asked, “Can you make me one?” and everything grew from there. He ended up, through the twists and turns of life, taking a weekend crash course in cue building from Paul Drexler and credits Drexler for taking his craft to a new level. He credits a tight-knit group of cue makers for being confidants and helping to continue to push the envelope with new techniques. He takes a great deal of pride in and was incredibly honored to win a “full splice” contest held at Derby City. We anticipate seeing more and more innovative cues coming out of Larry’s shop, although as of this writing, he makes about 12 annually.

Shelby Custom Cues

At the young age of 30 with just over one year of full-time cue making under his belt, Shelby Williams is creating quite a buzz in the pool world about the work he’s doing. Originally from Amarillo, TX, now calling Sherman, TX home, this former Vape-shop owner and former semi pro guitar player has set his sights on standing out in the cue industry.

Shelby’s education is actually based in graphic design, although at the heart of it, he is a self-proclaimed entrepreneur, stating that he “has always just kind of done my own thing.” Shelby considers himself OCD and admittedly gets obsessed with his interests.

Just a short 4 years ago, him and his partners bought a 9′ Diamond pool table to put in their Vape shop and Shelby found himself bit by the pool bug.

Early on, his interest in cue making took a strong hold when he purchased a Larry Vigus cue (a highly sought-after cue maker with a reputation for excellence in his own workmanship and style). Larry helped set a solid foundation for Shelby’s cue-making future, including introducing him to John Nemec, responsible for teaching Shelby the art of a full-splice. Overall, Shelby has found the cue-making community very welcoming attributing tips and help from several cue makers including Larry Vigus, Eddie Cohen, Bob Dzuricky of DZ Custom Cues, Andrew Rounceville, and others. In addition, he has collaboration projects in the works and is excited to grow his abilities to working with rare materials, doing more intricate ring work, and honing skills on 360 cues.

The sky appears to be the limit for the up-and-comer, with a current wait list of about 2years, that number will most likely grow fast.

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