Ok, let's talk about what "protection" means to me and you will see my reasons for being such a stickler in this area.
A pool cue is a
fairly fragile instrument as far as sports equipment goes. It's
long and thin and held together in three pieces or more by glue and
pins. Cuemakers go to great lengths to make all those parts fit
together with close tolerances. They spend a lot of time figuring
out ways to make all those parts stay together as well. Wood
likes to move, it's a natural cellular thing that expands when it's hot
and contracts when it's cold. It doesn't play well when glued to
metal and plastic which are all elements of most cues. A modern
pool cue is in fact a well engineered piece of equipment.
So naturally it's
not a good thing when this fairly fragile piece of equipment with it's
three or four joints is banged around like drumsticks. When a cue
case is not padded inside to prevent excess movement it means that
every time the case is jostled then the cue hits the walls of the tube
or other cue parts. Imagine hitting a pothole while driving and
your cue is in the case in the back seat of the car. Your cue
just bounced hard against the tube walls several times. So don't
be surprised when it develops a little noise here and there from the
hairline cracks at the joints.
So the first thing
I do is wrap the cue in padding that keeps it from moving
excessively. So the cue and the case move in unison and the cue
stays firmly in place when the case is moved.
Now some folks
maintain that protection doesn't matter - looks of the case are more
important as long as the case does an adequate job of holding the
cue. Well we defintely disagree on what "adequate" is. In
my mind when you are building a cue case and you can make sure that the
cue is held securely then you SHOULD do it. Some of my case
making colleagues who build stunning works of art don't really pay that
much attention to the interior. For some reason a lot of case
makers consider it a real chore to build the interiors and so
consequently they don't put a lot of effort into it. Then they go
on to justify the way they make the interiors as either "good enough"
or invent reasons why they do this way or that way. Things like
the cue should breath so that's why we let it rattle. - Yeah, that's
why cases for violins and guitars are always form fitted right?
That's why the best cue makers transport their cues in flight cases
where each cue is sitting in form-fitted layers of foam rubber.
Try telling a person who owns a high end camera that it's ok if his
camera bounces against the hard walls of a box while the car is
bouncing down a dirt road.
I find it funny
that people will buy and use padded cases for gear that costs a lot
less than high end cues and then turn around and put their very
expensive cues in a case that allows it to rattle around and fall out
if the case is inverted with the lid open. I think that they do
this for two reasons, one is that they assume that the case maker
thought about this and provided proper protection, and two they don't
make the connection between finish problems, hairline cracks, and
warpage with their case. They never look at the case with a truly
critical eye and ask themselves, is this case really protecting my cue
as well as it should?
Ok so what kinds of things does a cue case need to protect a cue from? To me these are the main things;
Impact - fairly
simple here, you can't play well or at all with a broken cue. So
a case should provide padding around the cue to make sure it has some
- sudden exposure to different temperatures can wreak havoc on a
cue. The last thing you want is the cue rapidly expanding or
contracting due to sudden exposure to heat or cold. A good case
provides some insulation against sudden temperature change.
Humidty - This one
operates in conjunture with temperature change. You want to keep
your cue at a constant humidity level, not too dry, not too wet.
When you put your cue into your case at room temperature you want it to
retain enough humidty to stay stable, not take on excess humidty and
not lose much either.
- this is my pet peeve. I like the cue to be held snugly in the case
so that it won't come out until you deliberately pull it out. In
the event that you case should become inverted you don't want all your
cues clattering on the ground. Of course this doesn't happen
often but when it does and your case doesn't stop it you will think
about what I said here as you are looking at a major ding or scratch or
joint pin damage, etc.....
So, if you really
value your cue and want to keep it in pristine condition, internally
and externally, then you will take a moment to inspect the cue cases
you own and see if they really are taking care of your cues in all
Matters. There are tons of pretty cases out there. Very few
of them protect cues as well as they should and a lot of them actually
harm the cue.
On that note let me
put this warning out to those of you who are considering buying
knockoffs of major brands. I am speaking of knockoffs of
Instroke, Whitten, and Justis specifically. The people who make
these knockoffs don't care about your cue at all. Their focus is
to make a knockoff at the lowest possible price so that they can sell
them far cheaper than the orginals. This is alright for the buyer
when they are buying a knockoff T-shirt. The shirt might be a
little uncomfortable and might fall apart in the wash after five
washings but it isn't going damage anything unless the color bleeds
all over your best jeans...... but a poorly made cue case can do
some real damage to your cue internally and to the finish.
On a top-loading
cue case you cannot see below the surface and you can't see past the
first couple inches of the interior. The way they are built it is
quite easy for the manufacturer to take all kinds of shortcuts and be
negligent in the construction and you won't see it until your cue is
damaged and you happen to make the connection that the case might be at
fault. You won't know that the handles are poorly done until the
rivets begin to give way because the manufactuer does not realize that
they need to reinforce those stress points and knows how to do it in the correct way.
You won't see a
line of hard beads where the foam squeezed through the liner until you
notice a funny series of dings in your finish. The scratches on
the finish could be caused by broken pieces of foam floating
freely in the case.
I had a beautiful
unique Joss cue. This was a cue made by Danny Janes just for
me. I wanted to take it to Mark Smith Cues to be refiinished. I
grabbed the nearest case to me which happened to be a Vincintore (Bentley)
Whitten knockoff that I had taken in on trade. This was a brand
new, never used case. I put my Joss butt into the case and the
bottom came off and the cue slid through the open hole at the bottom
through a ring of nail points, scratching it up from the buttcap over
the wrap and into the forearm. The bottom of the case was made
with cheap particle board that had splintered from the nails being
driven into it.
In contrast for
example, we insure that the bottom of each cavity has EVA foam rubber
in it to cushion the cue when it's inserted into the case. The
bottom caps are form fitted so that they make a nice seal with the
tubes. Then we glue the bottom into the case. Then we drill
pilot holes and use barbed nails to hold the bottom in place. By
making it a solid unit we insure that it will not fail and will not
work it's way loose. This is something that you do not have to
worry about with cases which have earned a reputation for high quality.
With knockoffs you
can be 100% certain that the makers have done as little as they can get
away with to satisfy their customers, the importers who then prey on
the ignorant. At the end of the day you may save some money up
front by purchasing a knockoff but sooner or later you will regret it
with a repair bill for either the cues or the case. With a
quality orginal you get the protection and top quality workmanship from
day one of ownership through the lifetime of the case.
It's a fact that
whatever we build starts disintegrating from the moment we finish
it. Material is expanding and contracting and getting tugged on -
stress points are being stressed - hinges are creasing - sewn parts are
trying to come apart -
So we and all top
quality case makers go to extra lengths to insure that the case can
withstand all the stress that regular and even irregular use puts on
it. Knockoff makers don't do this. They build cheap because
they don't have a reputation to uphold, they don't have a
responsibility to the consumer or his cues.
Okay, fine so what do we do exactly that makes JB Cases and JB designed cases "so much better" than everyone else's?
That's pretty much it in a nutshell. We care about your cue, we
care about your comfort, we care that you don't want to worry about
your cue or your case. Other high end case makers care too, but we
really care. :-)
We reinforce all the stress points, we use soft but strong fabric that won't wear out and won't scratch or ding your cue.
We put high density EVA foam rubber in the bottoms of the interiors to insure no damage
We make all the handles and straps comfortable to hold and easy to wear.
We put grippy pads on the shoulder straps so the case stays in place on your shoulder.
Our fabric doesn't absorb moisture like felt does.
Our foam rubber is high grade and doesn't crumble and disintegrate.
We make our own interiors from top to bottom and so we control the whole process.
Our tubes are of a much higher grade than other case maker's tubes.
We constantly are inventing new and better ways to make every aspect of the cue case.
So that's pretty much it for my view on how a cue case should be
built. I am not in this to win beauty contests. If you flip
your car and are lucky enough to walk away from it I want your cues to
survive it as well. If you forget to latch your case and drop
slip on ice outside the poolroom your cues should not fly out of the
case into the snowbank. If you forget to put the case in the car
and leave it on the roof and it falls off and get run over then your
cues should be ok. If you get caught in the rain then your cues
should stay dry. If your 300lb wife gets upset and dropkicks your
case as it is leaning against the wall you should expect that your cues
will live through it. These are all situations that are real and
have happened to either my cases or my competitor's cases.
So although protection is relative and each person has different
expectations of what is adequate there are clear differences in cue
cases and those differences are worth learning about in my opinion.
What would I carry if I didn't build cue cases? If Instroke had never
existed then I probably would be carrying either my old Porper or a
J.EF Q Case (also known as Jay Flowers). Of course I woudn't turn down
a Murnak, Justis, Whitten, Bonner, or any number of other great cases
No matter what you buy at least you know what I think is important and if you agree then you can make an informed choice.
Thanks for reading,