I met Scott some time back and was overwhelmed by the quality of pool cues he was making, so I asked him if he could do a video tour, and a bit of an overview of his process, to which he agreed. Pool cues are inherently difficult to photograph because they are long narrow pieces, and I can say without a doubt that they are far more impressive in person than what the camera can capture.
Watch it on Youtube: https://youtu.be/NGJloHOUvCc
When I arrived, Scott had already set out some examples of how the process worked and had cleared other work so he could concentrate on showing me how hand made pool cues are constructed.
We started off with the bare wood, and Scott showed me some of the Eastern Maple he uses, and the process of drying it even further, to get it down to 6% moisture content. When the blanks have reached the 6%, Scott will do some preliminary turning on them, then set them up to hang and stabilize in his workshop, which could take weeks or even months, depending on the wood. During this time he may take some of them and turn them down the tiniest amount to help them in their process of stabilizing. The goal here is to get the wood to a point where there is as little movement as possible because any movement in the wood can mean the pool cue might not turn out perfectly straight and that is a key requirement.
He always has some pool cues in the works, so while some are drying and stabilizing, others are in the process of being built and they could be at any stage in the build process. There is a flow of wood and pool cues at almost every stage. The parts of the pool cues that are the most attractive are the butt and the forearm, the "shaft" which is the part of the cue that is closer to the ball, often has little or no embellishments. The decorative woods, the inlays, and wrap (which could be leather or Irish linen) and other features of the pool cues are created in the forearm and butt of the pool cue. as you can see in the pictures.
One of the main features of many pool cues are the "points" that are created with wood and veneers that are inlaid into the forearm pieces. Getting these woods to align so that once they are turned is where much of the work can come from in the build and the more points there are the more expensive the pool cue. There could be a few as 3 points and 6 and 8 point pool cues are not uncommon, and the more points, the higher the price of the pool cue.
There are other techniques for decorating the pool cues as well, like inlays, which requires the carving of a hole in the butt or forearm of the pool cue, then cutting a matching piece to go into those holes, and be glued in, then rounded and polished.
What amazed me most is how many times a custom pool cue is re-mounted into a lathe, and Scott has 7 different lathes that he uses, and all of them have different jobs. He also has a Pantograph machine that he as custom fitted a Dremel tool to, for cutting the small inlays. The Dremel tool cuts the holes that will be later fitted with small pieces of wood, ivory or mother of pearl that is also cut out using the same tool and this way the hole and the insert will match precisely.
I love how Scott has learned to use both contrasting woods and gradient colored woods to enhance his pool cues.
Scott is always looking for smaller quantities special hardwoods, and especially those that have some figure in them to help him continue to create those unique, one-of-a-kind pool cues, if you are aware of something, he would be happy to hear from you.
For more information on Pool Cues, you can contact Scott Zachow through his website www.zaccues.com
Scott puts as much time and effort into finishing the pool cues as he does during their construction. He has built a self-contained spray booth into his workshop where he sprays the pool cues with an automotive clear-coat to get a high gloss, very hard wearing and durable finish. It is not unusual for his cues to undergo 8 to 12 coatings depending on the wood and the spray conditions that can vary how the material lays down on the cues. Multiple thin coats means excellent durability and stability in the wood.
I have been in many, many workshops and have seen a multitude of excellent work, but seeing pool cues being made was a first for me and watching how detailed and meticulous Scott is in making these pool cues, I can see why each one is special. I was completely in awe as to the number of steps and number of repeat processes that Scott goes through in making his cues, far more than I could cover in a video or in this article.
Thanks, Scott for taking the time for all of us to get some idea of the processes that go into making custom wooden pool cues ...
Copyright Colin Knecht