I'm a terrible procrastinator, in truth I'm a bit lazy, so when I promised Jeff Olney that I would take pics of my new cue after Mike Pancerny installed one of his flawless Teju Lizard wraps, it didn't have to happen very soon. After all, almost a year has passed since I got my first Olney wrapped by Mike, and I've been telling Jeff how great it looks and he hasn't seen it till now. I put off the picture session until yesterday!
But that isn't the story here. Jeff's cues are my subject, and you can't talk about the cues without taking a look at the man who creates them. Jeff is a humble, kinda quiet, small town boy from Boone, Iowa. He played a lot of pool when he was in the Navy. I think that's all he did when he was in port in San Diego, and apparently he did it pretty well because he has a couple of state championships to his credit. Cues became Jeff's obsession. They still are. He spends 100 hours a week or more trying, and succeeding in my opinion, to make a cue that is as close to perfect as he can make at a reasonable price. Yes, I said 100 hours. He sleeps when he can't keep his eyes open any more, but often works 16-18 hours a day, 7 days a week. He's currently trying desperately to fill orders that he has stacked up that he figures will take him 3 years to finish, if not more. He's just decided not to take any more orders until he can see daylight. Would you believe that in all the time he's taken all those orders he hasn't had a price raise? His basic six point cue with one shaft has been $750, but he's starting to make more cues with ringwork at all positions so there will be a slight increase.
Jeff's main cues are primarily a six point cue that we think of as a Southwest style cue. There are many similarities and a few major differences. Jeff's goal is to make a cue that not only plays and hits great and balances perfectly but also one that should never need repair. Although he makes merry widow cues, sneaky petes, Bushka style cues, and others, he's known for his six point cues. He really likes to make these cues in the manner that he has come to believe in. It starts with the best wood, well chosen and well aged. Jeff knows what combinations hit best and what weights can be achieved without any compromise. For example, on my '08 Olney, he told me that the cocobolo nose with BEM points would balance perfectly at 19.5 oz, my preferred weight. That at 58.5" with a 12.75mm shaft. The first shaft came at 12.84mm, the second at 13mm as promised. I honestly think that Jeff believes that his cues hit best at 13mm, and anything else is a compromise. His taper is a very stiff conical angle. Not as thick as a European taper but very much like a Southwest standard taper. I requested a long pro taper and I think I got a compromise. Jeff doesn't like to make it too long I think. God forbid that an Olney cue was ever whippy...lol. I honestly think that considering the quality of the hit, it's sort of a "thunk", that I should spend a little more time adjusting to it rather than lengthening it. I'm already starting to play better.
There are a few more characteristics of any Olney cue that I should mention. He likes LBM ferrules, and he epoxies them on. He says he has never had to replace one, and in case you don't know, they hit like a Mack truck. Hard and solid ! Jeff made me an ivory ferruled shaft last year but I don't think he liked doing it. Like his taper. He believes in it and hates to deviate. Jeff's cues don't often have many veneers, except his Bushka cues. Not the six point cues anyway. One black one will suffice, sometimes two. But the woods are spectacular as I hope you can see in the pictures. Most of the ringwork now is wood, and all the blocks all the way down the cue line up...PERFECTLY, even the shaft when it's tightened down! Jeff doesn't like to put metal rings in his cues that can allow you to feel it years down the road. Jeff still wants the cue to be perfect. Like his finish...ABSOLUTELY PERFECT! Like the transition of the shaft to the joint collar on the butt. You can't feel anything but a slight recess. He likes to make a cue with just one shaft. Of course he'll make two but you won't need it. The first one is perfect and it'll never fail you. After all, it's carefully chosen from the best aged wood. It is left thick enough to play stiffly and not warp. It has the toughest ferrule and even the best tip known to Jeff, a Moori Medium, but he'll put on anything you want. Jeff only uses Irish linen wraps so far. They come out perfect don't ya' know, but word has it that Jeff has a leather wrap gizmo, so after he figures out how to install a perfect leather wrap he'll probably offer one.
It's worth mentioning that Jeff uses a 3/8 X 10 flat nosed brass pin, a wood to wood joint with a phenolic collar. You had better eat your Wheaties before screwing an Olney cue together. Jeff thinks that contributes to the hit, and I would never argue with him. It's VERY tight. Some cuemakers think it's too tight, but it'll never get loose and again, THAT HIT !
Olney cues have my highest endorsement. I've tried many other cues, and I've never found a better hit at any price. I don't think you'll find a cue within $1000 of it's price that is anywhere near as perfectly made, and I know there isn't a harder working, more conscientious cuemaker anywhere. I'm pleased to own three Olney cues, and proud to call Jeff Olney a friend...Tom