Pool Cue Doctor
A testimonial by Carlo
Is that about and old person who fixes pool cues? Naw.
I am referring to someone who can provide an effective
bedside manner for the rejuvenation of an old pool cue. An old cue
is a cue who’s day has come and probably gone, who has sweltered in the
trunk of a car for 5 years, was moved to the back of the closet for
another 10 years, then migrated to the garage floor or attic for yet
another 10 years.
Its owner moves away in body, mind and spirit. The cue waits patiently for another opportunity to strike out at its mortal enemy, the spheres. Its only shield, a tiny pellet of leather, dries and rots away. The rubber bumper hardens and cracks, and the protective finish turns yellow to hide the wonderful woods below.
Maybe grandson finds it and uses it for swordplay or granddaughter uses it as a magic wand in a vain attempt of turning her brother into a toad. Daughter props open a window with it or son-in-law uses it to bat wasp’s nests from the
Then along comes the garage sale. Treasures and trash pour out of every nook and cranny of the house. Neighbors truck it in from miles around. Stuff that has been manufactured solely for the purpose of fueling garage sales is unloaded at ports-of-call and mystically appears on the garage sale tables. Fools put $10 tags on empty jelly jars and $5 tags on bent spoons. The junky old cue? Two bucks. Fools.
An astute buyer recognizes that the old cue, priced $2, is a treasure worth many times that, maybe even $25 or $30; snaps it up and puts in on the Internet auction block. Along comes Carlo, eyeballing all older cues and willing to fire a few bucks into the sky in hopes of getting a pretty cue.
One sure way to know that your mini-obsession is out of hand is when your love-interest asks you "How many cues do you own?" and your only response includes a few grunts, some head-scratching and an answer of "20 or 30." Then you foolishly add "But that doesn’t include the ones I actually shoot with, or the house cues for guests, or any that are in transit or in for repair. Or the ones I’ve just bid on."
Bad answer, big boy, for the real question was "How come you
don't have bucks for a cruise type hot vacation?" Your answer flunked badly. You’ve slit your own throat with a pool cue, something you never expected to do with a cue.
Some of the cues are fun to look at but will never hit a ball the remainder of their current existence on this planet. They might whack a ball or two, but only to show a fellow player that some old cues really hit badly and how could Willie or Luther or Boston or Cowboy or Squirrel run that many balls using such junk?
Some cues, once they see the light of day, are so bad as to warrant being put out of their misery. Why allow an ugly, crooked cue to languish in such torment when the best solution would be to torch the beast, send the carbon particles flying into the air where they have a chance of being reincarnated as an end table or a 2x4. Granted, it might take 1,000 years, but send the little molecules on their way and save the planet from an ugly cue.
Some cues, however, have a charm that sticks. For me, no longer being called one of the Young-Guys, many of the older cues, albeit outstripped by the quality and artistry of many newer cues, are beee-ooooo-teee-full to me.
One of my favorites is an Adams about 35 years old. It kind of looks like a furniture leg. It’s carved, inlayed, and downright ugly. But years ago I drooled and lusted after it almost as I did my eventual wife. I might have gotten a better deal if I had held out for the cue. The wife is gone, but I ran across the cue and swapped a brand new middle dollar Bludworth cue for the old cue that cost about $40 new. Granted it is worth quite a bit more now but I probably could have gotten 3 or 4 cues instead of the engagement ring. (Hey, it was 35 years ago, ok? It was a lot of money. Lighten up.)
Other old cues have come under my spell, several old Adams, a Willie Hoppe, a Palmer,
a Schick, some Brunswicks, some mutts, etc. If a cue joins the exclusive Carlo family, I commonly treat it to a shampoo and a new wrap. Some of the old wraps were nasty rough nylon, unlike the great linens of today. The greater variety of colors allow me to get a wrap that fits the character of the cue better than the sickly green or pukey yellows of years gone by. I feel like the pound for pool cue mongrels.
Some of the finishes that were available back then were enough to make both chemists and environmentalists gag. The stuff yellowed, cracked, and flaked and otherwise self-destructed. Add dings from sword fighting and wasp swatting and a simple shampoo is not going to clean up some of them. Now we are talking about having the cue taken down, refinished with 5 or 10 coats of super stuff, wrapped, tightened and tipped.
A nasty ol’ piece of wood masquerading as a pool cue can often be a Princess in hiding. With a new wardrobe, it just might not have to take that ride home in the pumpkin!
Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, WHOA dammit! The last thing you’d want to do with a classic cue that has survived Bobby, Suzy, Granny, and Yellow Jackets is to let me use tools and chemicals on it! This takes somebody who knows what they’re doing. Even if they don’t know what they’re doing, as long as they don’t do permanent damage and fix it before I see it, I’m happy.
It was now the right time to find a cue Doctor. If you need a Dentist, ask a friend. If you need a medical Doctor, ask a friend, check with your insurance coverage. If you need a cue Doctor, where do you look? Many of the cue makers will repair their own work, but are overworked and not interested in working on one of your hobby cues.
What if there is some odd condition with the old beater? What if some maniac decided to wrap over a perfectly good butterfly splice (something that went out of fashion, and then came back.) Or what if a great looking cue from some unknown cue maker has been repaired with the wrong part? Or if a cracked joint makes the cue unplayable? What if, what if, and a resounding what if?
Well, ideally, the Doctor should be someone with a great deal of experience with cue making, a love of the unusual and homeless cues, and someone not pressed with a financial weight so great that nobody eats if 25 new cues don’t go out the door today. It should be someone who thinks like a pool cue.
It would help if they had the right equipment, a place to shoot the new wonder-finishes, and a junk drawer from hell of old cue parts. They must be a pack rat of cue cadavers. They must remember that old broken shaft lying on the shelf behind the old magazine, for that may be the only matching shaft ring to be found in a 500-mile radius.
So I check the yellow pages for a Cue Doctor. Nada. Doctor of Cues? Nope-ski.
So, I’m hanging around pool school one weekend and I asked one of the instructors "who fixes old cues?" "I do" pops off this one vertically challenged instructor. "Yeah, sure, Jerry, quit jerking my chain." The other instructors start showing me the various cues he has made, repaired, refinished or rebuilt. Hey, Carlo got lucky! He found a Cue Doc!
I first had him repair a few cues that if he were to destroy, steal, lose, burn, mess-up or punish, I’d live and so would he. No way in **** would I allow him to touch my Shooter, a 1986 vintage Billy Schick work of art that had a little buzz in it now and then.
Hey, he cleaned them up darn good! OK, now he gets a shot at my next wave of cues, some which were somewhat important to me. Whoa, he did just fine! OK, nervously I said that he could do the deed to the Shooter as soon as BCA Nationals were over.
BCA is over. Jerry asks, "want me to work on the Schick?" I cringe in terror. MY mind screams "RUN AWAY WITH MY LADY, LEAVE MY POOL CUE ALONE!" but my lips say OK and I slip him the cue. I don’t sleep that night.
I know in my heart that he will toss it in the trunk of his car along with the tire iron, two jacks, and a table saw. He will then road race on country roads for a weekend. When the cue makes it to the shop it will have a crummy old piece of masking tape with my name misspelled stuck on it, which will proceed to fall off on the floor with 100 other lost names. The cue will have vanished from the face of the earth! I’ll drive out that way 2 years later to hunt him down, only to find that his widow had a fire and lost everything. Paranoia is a scary thing.
Well, Jerry refinished, re-wrapped and rejuvenated my shooter so well I had him make a special shaft and have one more in the pipe.
I send him odds and ends I find for him to fondle and fix. He’ll talk your ear off if you catch him at the right time, but it shows a love of cues that even exceeds that of the owner. It is as if he loves your cue more than you do.
Above is a picture of several of Jerry’s original and rejuvenation projects. The second from the right is one of my rescues (the red oval butt) from the scrap heap. It had been cracked, fixed with mismatched parts, and had a slip-on tip.
The third from the left is a cue that originally had a butterfly splice. It had been lathe’d down and had the butterfly over-wrapped. I asked if there was any way to free it up, Jerry came up with this unusual way of showing the splice.
Jerry Powers, you pool-cue toad you, thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking care of my toys. They are part of me, just like the parts of me my Medical Doctor attends.
Jerry Powers is my Pool-Cue Doctor. Hiya, Doc! If a Doctor is a specialist, in say, ONCs, then he’d be your Oncologist. Or your OPTOMs, then he’d be your Optometrist. Jerry specializes in Butts, Joints and Shafts. You figure out what to call him ‘cause he still has a few cues of mine I’d like to get back. I won’t go there.
I’ll be sending you a new patient. A referral. From a friend. His cue was stolen from under his nose 8 years ago. His was another 1986 Billy Schick, distinctive logo and oil well, marked with Schick ’86, and well known in town. The owner, a Postman known as "The King," would make friends by going through strangers’ cue cases looking for his cue. After a few years and a few close calls with fisticuffs, he wrote the cue off as gone.
Last week one of the pool hall employees came out of a back room with a cue that had a crude "Bob" label stuck to it. "Hey, Bob, is this yours?" Somebody had dumped it off.
Bob’s blood went cold as his eyes spotted it at a distance. Goose bumps popped up, just as it has on friends that have heard the story of the return of the wayward cue.
Somebody had sanded the "Schick ‘86" off the Delrin butt piece and had damaged the finish elsewhere. Extra nicks and dings abound, but the cue has returned home. The thief figured out that this distinctive cue was on the "Most Wanted" list and dumped it off rather than dumpster it.
A friend of the King, Big John M, a former biker and current pool tournament promoter, had once spotted a similar looking cue at a hall out of state. John walked over, picked up the cue from the shooter and looked at it much to the shooter’s hostile dislike.
"Hey, whatayoudoin?" John just looked back and said (editorial license inserted here) something to the effect of "If it is Bob’s cue, I’ll return it to him; if is not, you get to keep it, OK?" It wasn’t King’s cue, the shooter got to keep the cue and did not suffer the pain of having John turn around and unscrew the shooter in the middle.
Miracles do happen. Now if I could only do something about these goose bumps. HEY DOC, I need to be refinished and rewrapped!