A question that often comes up is "How do I change my tip?". If you play billiards regularly, you will most likely need to change the tip at one time or another. The leather tip on a pool cue is designed to maximize impact with the cue ball while providing various levels of cushioning and control. Over time, the tips will wear out and need replacement.
On cheaper pool cues, you may have a removable, or screw-on, tip. This makes changing the tip as easy as buying the replacement and pressing or screwing it on. Unfortunately, these are not the best tips to use if you are serious about your game. While they may be fine for the casual player, they do not provide the quality and ball control of a standard leather tip.
Should I Replace The Tip Myself?
When it comes time to replace the tip on your cue, you need to ask yourself a simple question: "Should I replace the tip myself?". The answer to this question can vary, based upon your circumstances. In most cases, you are usually better off bringing the cue in to your local pro shop to have them professionally replace the tip. This is especially true if your cue is expensive, and you are inexperienced at the task. A professional has the correct tools and experience to replace the tip correctly, without damaging the cue (or themselves!).
In some cases, you may want, or need, to replace the tip yourself. You may be at a tournament and need to repair your tip on the spot. Or, you may simply be the independent adventurous type that likes to do things themselves. The good news is that you can do this, you just want to make sure you have the tools, equipment and practice before trying it under pressure.
Step 1: Before You Start
Before you start trying to repair your cue tip, you need to make sure you have all of the necessary equipment. Here is a short list of things you will need.
- Replacement Tip: This should go without saying, but you will need to have the replacement tip you plan on installing. Pool cue tips come in a variety of sizes, styles and hardness. You need to know which are appropriate for you.
- Tip Size: Cue tips are generally available in sizes ranging from 11mm to 13mm. The size you need depends upon the size of the ferrule on your pool cue. Most production cues come standard with a 13mm ferrule, but you may sometimes order a smaller size tip based on your preference and style. You need to make sure that the tip you plan on using is at least as large as your ferrule, or you risk damaging the cue. You should probably shoot for the same size if doing it yourself as that will cut down the effort needed during installation to size the tip.
- Tip Hardness: The next step is to determine how hard of a tip you want. This depends a lot on your playing style, and whether this cue is used specifically for breaking or specialty shots.
- Soft Tips: A softer tip will allow a better feel for the hit, allow you to get more cue ball spin (English) and will be more forgiving on miscues when striking the cue ball off-center. They will also wear out faster, require more maintenance and need to be replaced more frequently.
- Medium Tips: These are the tips that are typically installed on factory cues when you purchase them. They are usually the best bet for most pool players since they provide a good combination of consistency and ball control. While they will provide for an adequate amount of ball spin, they won't get misshaped as often and won't need as much maintenance or replacement as their softer counterparts.
- Hard Tips: A harder tip won't absorb as much impact on the cue ball, and won't stay in contact with it as long. This means that you will not be able to create as much spin on the cue ball. This also means that you are more likely to miscue the ball if you hit it off-center. The good news is that these tips will be much more consistent, and require much less maintenance than the soft or medium tips.
- Phenolic Tips: If you use the cue for breaking, and nothing else, you want the hardest tip possible. Phenolic tips are designed just for that, breaking balls! This is the tip that will come standard on most production break cues. These tips are just about as hard as the balls themselves and transfer the most power from the cue to the ball. They also require little or no maintenance. Some leagues, tournaments or halls do not allow phenolic tips, so be sure to check before using them. Recently, CSI and the BCA pool league lifted the ban on phenolic tips on break cues.
- Tip Manufacturer/Model: There are many high quality billiards cue tips available on the market. Your choice comes down to a preference or cost. Manufacturers such as Kamui, Moori, Hirano, Tiger, LePro and more are available. It is best to do some research to find out which you prefer.
- Sharp Knife or Blade: In order to replace a pool cue tip yourself, you will need a very sharp razor blade or knife to remove the old tip and scrape off any remaining glue. It should go without saying to be very careful when using a sharp knife.
- Sandpaper, Leather Burnisher: You will need a few pieces of sandpaper of varying grits from fine to very fine and may want to have a leather burnishing pad to finish your cue off. You may also want to have a standard dishwashing Brillo pad available.
- Glue: You will need some appropriate glue to attach the tip to the ferrule/shaft. Gel-type glues will give you more time to center the tip correctly while the liquid-type glues will dry faster. You can use a Loctite or SuperGlue, or find something that is made specifically for pool cue tips.
- Shaft Conditioner: You may want to use a shaft conditioner to seal the shaft and protect it after installing your cue tip. During the process, you may rub the finish and protective coating off the end of your shaft.
- Tip Clamp: You may want to have a tip clamp to hold the tip on the cue while it is drying.
- Tip Shaper:You will need a tip shaper tool to finish the job and get the tip to the shape you like before adding chalk.
You should be able to keep all of these items in your case, ready to use when needed.
Step 2: Preparing the Cue
Once you have all of the supplies, you will need to prepare the cue to accept the new tip. This includes removing the old tip, and all of the old glue, cleanly from the pool cue shaft. Using the sharp knife, cut the tip off the end of the cue. Be careful when using a sharp knife and always make sure your hands are in a safe position. Once the old tip is removed, use the knife to scrape off any remaining glue residue from the top of the ferrule. Be careful not to gouge into the ferrule and be sure that you finish with a nice clean, even surface for the new tip. You may want to sand the top of the shaft to get the surface a even as possible. You may also want to apply a small bit of nail polish remover on a paper towel to help clean up the tip and shaft.
Step 3: Prepare the Tip
Take the new tip and lay it flat side down on a piece of fine grit sandpaper. Using slight but even pressure, sand the tip until it is smooth on the back side. This will usually just take a few seconds to do properly. You may want to score the bottom of the tip using the edge of your knife. This may help the glue adhere firmly. Make sure to place the tip on the end of the cue before gluing, just to make sure everything looks good. The tip should lay flat and should fit the top of the ferrule/shaft nicely.
Step 4: Attach the Tip
Now, apply a few small dabs of glue to the top of the shaft in a circular motion. Don't apply too much, but make sure there is enough to cover the shaft when the tip is applied. Apply the tip to the shaft, flat side down, and quickly get it lined up in center. Use a little pressure to smear the glue underneath the tip to even it out and provide consistent coverage. Check to make sure the tip is straight and centered and make any adjustments quickly before the glue sets. It is normal for a little glue to ooze out of the edges at this point. You can use a paper towel with a bit of nail polish remover to clean up around the edges and shaft. Be careful not to touch the top of the tip with the nail polisher remover.
You may want to apply the tip clamp at this time to hold the tip steady while the glue dries. If possible, you should let the shaft sit for an hour or more to make sure the glue is completely dry before proceeding.
Step 5: Finishing Up
Once the glue has dried properly, you will want to finish up to leave the cure with a clean and protected finish. Lightly check the joint to make sure the glue is dry. The tip should not move, or rock. If it does, you may need to go back a few steps and do it again.
Using the sandpaper, gently sand the edges of the tip and joint to make it smooth. If you used a slightly larger tip, you may need to do a little more work to even it out with the shaft. Rotate the shaft slowly while holding the sandpaper over the ferrule and tip to get it smooth. Change to the finer grit sandpaper as need, and finish with the burnishing leather or Brillo pad. You may also use a little nail polish remover to remove any glue that has found its way out. The leather burnishing pad is great for finishing the cue and tip as it will seal the edges of the tip and help protect against mushrooming. You may also want to apply some shaft conditioner at this point to add a protective coating to the shaft.
The last step is to shape the tip. Using a tip shaping tool, knock off the hard edges of the tip and shape it to your liking. Be sure to add plenty of chalk to the tip when you are finished, before playing with it.
Some Final Thoughts
As you can see, there is a bit of art involved in replacing a pool cue tip. While you clearly can do this yourself, you may want to simply let a professional take care of it for you. In any case, it is an important skill to have, especially if you play in many tournaments. You may just need to replace a tip on the fly without a pro around to help you. You may want to grab yourself a cheap cue, possibly a second-hand house cue, and practice the procedure a few times until you are confident.