ABS is a very common plastic that is found in cues. It is in the multi-polymer thermoplastic family. This means that it becomes soft when heated and hardens when cooled. It is a softer plastic and is somewhat prone to cracking. It is also best wet sanded to keep it from melting into the sandpaper. It takes a finish okay and glues up well.
Delrin or Acetal is another plastic that has been used in cues for many years. It is mostly used for butt plates because of its strength. Within the boundaries of thermoplastic chemistry it is considered to be virtually a flawless material. It should be threaded on because it does not glue very well. Therefore, it should not be used for ferrules because it might reject the tip glue. It does not take a finish very well, so I only recommend it for butt plates and joint protectors. It is also an excellent collet material.
PVC is another softer plastic than can be obtained in an array of colors. It works almost identical to ABS and is best wet sanded. If you don’t like to wet sand your plastics because you get the wood next to it wet then slow the lathe down some and get on and off of it quickly so as not to build up heat. PVC and ABS both make okay parts for ferrules, joints and butt plates.
Some of them have a spring reaction when compressed which actually increases the action in a cue. They also work as shock absorbers. Now you are starting to see why the Meucci and Predator robots like similar materials. If you drop a cue ball on the floor it will bounce slightly. Cue balls are very similar in material to some of the harder joint and ferrule materials. Drop a softer plastic ball on the floor and you get a bigger bounce. Hit a ball with a softer joint and or softer ferrule and you get that spring action and increase the power in the cue. But go too soft and the hit is worse than too hard.
There are a few set backs with the softer materials, though. The finish normally lifts from them with the slightest ding. They are also more prone to cracking. They are more sensitive to heat as well. This means you might get some swelling if you bake it in the trunk of your car on a hot day. They will be more brittle when brought in from the cold also.
None of those are the main reason I quit using them very much in my cues however. I now use them very little because I would try to draw the ball two feet and draw it six feet or try to draw it six and draw it two. If you want to load it up and get all you could on a ball, they are great for that. They also moved the ball effortlessly, but they were too unpredictable for tight shape play. I might try a softer ferrule again sometime, now that there are some solid capped ferrules out there that play softer.
Some would never believe a cue could have too much action. The reason why you can have too much action is that the game of pool is going to faster cloth. Back in the 80’s, when the cloth was slower at most tournaments the Meucci cues ruled the felt. Now that super fast cloth is what is being played on, the super high action cues are not what the majority or the pros are playing with. Remember most of them already have super strokes.
High Impact plastics is a general term for various plastics that are not as prone to cracking when struck or pressed. Some are similar to ABS and PVC, but many secret formulas have been introduced into the cue market today as so many are trying to produce Low Deflection shafts. We have a High Action Low Deflection ferrule material that has become our number one selling ferrule material to our cuemaker customers. White Linen is our second best seller.
Juma is a modern material that is becoming popular for ferrules and other rings and butt plates in cues. It holds a finish better than ABS or PVC. It gives kind of a natural hit and is available in a few colors. The black color is more consistent than most modern Linen Phenolic.
Linen Fiber or Linen Phenolic has become the number one choice for joint and butt material among American cue makers. This is a linen reinforced resin material. Because it has cloth run through it, this makes it a very tough and stable material. Atlas Billiard Supply introduced a double black version of this material many years ago and it was the standard for a long time. The original type was made for the electrical industry and the weave in the linen was coarse and the color was greenish-black. The dust is supposed be to really bad for you and you should wear a respirator or use an exhaust fan to carry the dust away from you. This material glues well, takes a finish well and is very strong.
Linen Based Melamine, Aegis II, and Ivorine-3, all linen reinforced material similar to the linen phenolic. They are white to off-white in color. They can be used for joints, butt plates and ferrules. Ferrules are best solid capped when using them. I have played with White Linen-Base ferrules for years and have used them almost exclusively on my cues. The only exceptions would be Ivory on high end shafts and softer High-Action ferrules for the mile long draw shot guys who requested it on their cue. Of the three listed above, I feel Aegis II plays the hardest. Then comes LBM, and Ivorine-3 is the softest. They are all far from being soft, however.
Micarta is a popular ferrule material. The really old Westing House material is still sought after and people are willing to pay big bucks for it. The modern Micarta is a little different from the older stuff, but still has a yellow tint to it and gives a medium hard hit that is very unique.
Polyester Pearl is a plastic that can be almost any color and has the swirled pearl look to. The modern material is not as pretty as the older stuff. It is too brittle for ferrules.
Cotton Fiber was the standard ferrule material you see on older house cues. It is really strong and almost never breaks. It does get dirty easier and tends to swell when it comes into contact with excess moisture. Many pre-made decorative rings were made out of this. It is no longer being made.
Carbon Fiber has become the latest craze for shafts. I have been told by a manufacturer of the material that it is only a matter of time until the right formula gets developed and makes wood shafts obsolete like they have done with the tennis rackets and golf clubs.
Elephant Ivory ferrules are the best looking and easiest to keep clean. They play with a harder hit that some love and others hate. They are prone to cracking.
Stag horn makes good ferrules and hits softer than Ivory.
Buffalo horn is pretty strong and hits similar to Ivory but a little softer. The main draw back with it is that it is a black material.
Moose horn tips make good playing strong ferrule.
Deer and elk make decent ferrules if you can get non pithy pieces.
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