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regular cue tip replacement

Postby rekoons

Is it true you have to regularly replace your cue tip, even when there's still plenty left?
My tip has been on for over a year now, but someone said you have to replace it because it can degrade over time??
Professionalss probably use up a few tips a year I guess, so no issue for them, but what for the amateur playing like weekly or less?

Re: regular cue tip replacement

Postby rekoons

it's not too thin, plenty left, I use a bit of fine sanding paper from time to time to keep the shape and allow to apply more chalk.

It's just I don't really know how to determine if the tip is too hard (can it be 'too' hard?), and what are the effects of playing with a tip too old or too hard? :shrug:

Re: regular cue tip replacement

Postby acesinc

rekoons wrote:Is it true you have to regularly replace your cue tip, even when there's still plenty left?
My tip has been on for over a year now, but someone said you have to replace it because it can degrade over time??
Professionalss probably use up a few tips a year I guess, so no issue for them, but what for the amateur playing like weekly or less?


Hi rekoons. It has been ages since I last posted on SI but I still check in on occasion. You have struck on one of the topics that tickles my fancy so I would like to contribute if I can. I am far, far from a professional but I still have hopes of running a century perhaps one day. Currently, I play snooker an average of about 5 or 6 hours a week. (Remember that for something I will say later.) That is not nearly enough time to get really good at the game; remember that a professional player in general rarely has a day go by without picking up the cue, usually quite a few hours a day. I find it odd that you say they "...probably use a few tips a year I guess...". I don't personally know any professionals or anyone who is all that good a player actually, (in case you didn't realize, I am American and resources and talent pool for Snooker over here is absolutely abysmal) but I do like to think that over my life, I have approached the game with much more of a "scientific method" than nearly any other player. From what I am about to say, I expect that pro players cannot possibly last more than a month on a single tip, possibly just a week or two. If anyone on the Island has acquaintance with a Pro (I'm looking at you, BadSnookerPlayer), maybe you can ask this question at some time.

Now the "old time" pros that I cut my teeth watching seemed to take care of their cue maintenance themselves, as do I. Modern players all seem to have a "cue guru" who takes care of this for them. Occasionally, you will see a player request a timeout during a tournament to have the tip replaced. I suspect that there is literally someone on standby in the dressing room that expertly takes care of this service for the player in a matter of just ten or fifteen minutes. Myself, I have the process down to 15 or 20 minutes; it really is no big deal to do a bang up job putting on a new tip. I am astounded at the players I have met who literally cannot remember the last time their tip was changed. These people usually have someone else do the job for them and they seem to be terrified at the prospect of trying to change out their own tip for fear their game will downturn as a result. Don't be one of these people. The process is easy, there are many useful YouTube tutorials, you don't even need any very special tools or equipment. Sure, you will probably bung up the first few attempts, but any talent requires a bit of practice before you can become proficient. One thing I will say that never, ever seems to be pointed out in these tutorials: ALWAYS use a brand new razor blade when you trim the tip down to be even with the ferrule. If you don't already have one, buy yourself one of those razor knife tools....the type that flips open and closed and can easily change out the trapezoid shaped blades in a matter of seconds. So to trim your tip, put a fresh blade in EVERY TIME.

(rekoons, if you didn't realize it, I seldom post but when I do, I am very long winded.) So let's try to get to your actual question. You asked, "Is it true....?" as if the statement is common knowledge, or you read it somewhere, or you were advised by someone that you consider to be an intelligent snooker player. I am curious as to where or how exactly you heard this piece of advice. As for the advice itself, I absolutely agree with it that you should be replacing your tip quite regularly. In my case (remember, 5 or 6 hours a week), I just changed tips about mid-October, and I fully expect to use this tip through the holidays and change it by mid-January. Perhaps sooner as I will probably get more table time over the holidays. That is three months. When I was playing quite a bit more often, say 12 or 14 hours a week, I would change every 6 to 8 weeks. This is the reason that I doubt that a Pro leaves on the same tip more than a couple weeks. Unlike yourself though, the reason that I change my tip so often is because by that time, the tip is well worn down from providing me many hours of joy and hopefully, more than a few good strokes. The point is that, if your tip has been on for over a year, then either: a) you don't play the game very often, or b) you are probably not doing it right (no offence intended).

The Life and Times of a Snooker Cue Tip is a topic about which I think that well over NINETY PERCENT of snooker players hold a grievous misconception. Most players I have met seem to believe that finding a tip they like is a difficult process and once they find that one special tip, they better take care of it so it will last as long as earthly possible so they don't need to go through the arduous process of trying to find another "perfect" tip. WRONG! A tip is a tool....like the razor blade you use to trim it. Use it for what it is worth, then BEFORE it has a chance to start causing trouble for you, change it out to a fresh one so you will continue to get the same great performance you have come to expect.

Nearly all players I have met are like you in the statement "...there's still plenty left". I can say with absolute authority, you will not need to change a tip out because it has degraded over time. If that were true, nearly every tip I ever put on my cue is degraded. I have bought numerous boxes of 50 tips at a time and some have been sitting in my cabinet literally for decades before I have put them on my cue. And when I do put that old tip on my cue, it reacts as perfectly as it would have the day it was born. So no, a tip that has been in use for a time will not degrade, unlike say, my back, my knees, and my eyesight.

What is more concerning to me is that your tip has been on for over a year and IT IS NOT WORN DOWN! That is actually nonsensical unless you only pick up the cue every couple months. In the normal course of play, your tip CAN AND SHOULD wear down relatively quickly. Most players that I have met have no idea that this is a true fact. Consider yourself now to be one of the privileged few. So why DOES a cue tip wear out? Sadly, ninety-nine percent of players cannot correctly answer this basic question. If asked, most people will probably answer in a very non-committal way...."It just wears down from use!" I suppose like the tires on your car wear down from being used rolling over the highway surface.

In fact, this is not at all true, there is a very specific reason why a tip can and SHOULD wear down relatively quickly. And that reason is the proper application of "chalk". We call it "chalk" but again, this is a misunderstood idea because it is not in fact "chalk" at all; that is just the name we call it and I won't bother putting it in "quotes" anymore. The chemical composition of chalk is two primary ingredients: silica, and aluminium oxide. These science-y sounding names may be somewhat familiar to you; certainly, you are aware of the substances to which these names refer. The first, silica, is basically a rock material, easiest to simply think of it as grains of sand. Tiny, gritty, sticks to you for days after you have visited the beach and makes you itchy. Then aluminium oxide you may know is an industrial abrasive commonly used to make some types of "sand paper". Yes, sand paper. Do you see a theme here?

When people first began playing billiards, we poked the balls around with a wooden stick. It was easy to miscue because the balls were hard and the wood stick was hard so the meeting surfaces were slippery. Then eventually, a Frenchman discovered that if he glued a bit of leather on the end of his wood stick, he didn't miscue as much. The balls were still hard but the leather was softer than wood to absorb the impact and "hold" the cue ball better. Miscues were less frequent. The problem was that the leather would quickly become shiny and rather firm and slippery from multiple impacts with the cue ball. So it constantly had to be "roughed up" and it wore away quickly (not from impacts with the cue ball but from the roughing up). Later, someone else came to realize that by applying an abrasive material to the leather, then the tip remained in its desired roughed up condition for much longer. So it acted much, much more consistently and predictably.

So long story short (I say with a sheepish grin, as obviously, above, I made a long story even longer and probably quite dull), when you apply chalk to your tip, what you are actually doing is ingraining the base components of sand paper into the leather. And now you know what actually causes your tip to wear out.....you are effectively sand papering the tip every time you apply chalk which you should be doing pretty much every single stroke. From a scientific view point, what happens is by scraping the chalk cube over the leather, the tiny little crystal particles remove from the cube and stick to the tip in a layer which will be the contact point with the cue ball. When you strike, these tiny jagged particles literally dig into the surface of the plastic cue ball increasing the friction. But of course, this effect is just very temporary. The tiny little crystals fall off the tip easily and so have to be replaced constantly. And every time you rub your chalk cube on your cue tip, you are sanding it down just a little bit. This is normal and natural, it will wear your tip out quite rapidly if you are doing it correctly.

Hope that may help. Good luck!

Re: regular cue tip replacement

Postby rekoons

Quite an elaborate reply acesinc :goodpost: , I will try to give an as coherent reply as possible while sipping my morning coffee at work to clear the brain fog, so this could get rambly.

Indeed I thought wrongly that the degrading of the tip was due more to the repeated cue ball impact, thus somewhat compacting the tip and making it less spongy, increasing chances of miscue etc. I’ve now learned it’s rather the abrasive action of the chalk which turns the tip shiny and slippery, thus allowing the tip to hold less chalk --> increasing miscue chance.

The title of my post may have been a bit misleading; it’s not about being afraid to change the tip, I’ve done that myself a couple of times, and there’s nothing to it. the question should rather have been: 'do cue tips degrade over time, just because of time'. And you’ve made it perfectly clear the answer is no. :-)

Does this mean I’ve misunderstood this all the time? I thought you were supposed to sand paper the tip regularly to
A) keep the tip/dome in the desired shape and
B) to rough it up a little for the chalk.

and that you could like keep filing away until the tip is like over halfway gone, and then replace the tip?
Because the shape on my tip doesn’t really need a lot of work, I thought best not to mess with it too much, and only sand paper it when I notice it can’t hold enough chalk. And even then I only scrape of the bare minimum I can while I probably should take of more, say at least millimeter or so?
Is this the reason why pros change their tips every few weeks then:
A) they scrape/file more often because they play a lot more, and
B) they take more of the tip when they scrape/file.


What is more concerning to me is that your tip has been on for over a year and IT IS NOT WORN DOWN! That is actually nonsensical unless you only pick up the cue every couple months.


Looking at my tip it indeed is very smooth, shiny and slippery. Probably way too much...

Fwiw: I find this very useful to roughly shape the tip, before using fine sand paper.

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Portable-Bil ... 3242402588

I am curious as to where or how exactly you heard this piece of advice


I’m not quite sure, but I guess I probably heard it from Eurosport or BBC commentary. I remember the Belgian commentator calling the majority of the pro snooker players a bit ‘amateurish’ when it comes to having a spare tip ready to play in their box so they could just change it when the in use tip should come off during a tourney, as it sometimes happens, and can play on with a ready tip. IIRC I guess something like this happened to Kyren Wilson lately? He had to change the tip during a match and had to put on a brand new one which he needed to adapt to in-match…

So last question then: should I be less conservative when sand papering the tip, and take of more than I think, say at least a millimeter each time? :chin:

I’m back to playing like 3 hours a week for the last 2 or 3 months, the last couple of years it was more like 3 hours a month, and before that I was playing like 6 hours a week

Time to change the tip over the weekend, or give the one that’s on a good roughing. :-D

Re: regular cue tip replacement

Postby acesinc

rekoons wrote:Quite an elaborate reply acesinc :goodpost:


Yes, the technical posts require some elaboration, but I am afraid this also means that sometimes salient points can be buried amongst the inane drivel so sometimes my meaning may be lost. When I was writing that post, I had a vague sense of deja vu. I looked at some history and noticed that I had responded to a similar post much earlier this year, a lot of the same information. In fact, I referenced a Barry Stark video. Good stuff, I think anything he says, you should treat like gospel. That post is here:

viewtopic.php?f=607&t=7933

and Barry's tipping video is here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UW2J_0fFyqA

Re-watching that Barry Stark tipping video has me thinking that may as well be me on the screen, pretty much exactly the way I do it. I may have a little more hair than Barry but I don't have his silky complexion and his soothing voice. :-)

rekoons wrote:Indeed I thought wrongly that the degrading of the tip was due more to the repeated cue ball impact, thus somewhat compacting the tip and making it less spongy, increasing chances of miscue etc. I’ve now learned it’s rather the abrasive action of the chalk which turns the tip shiny and slippery, thus allowing the tip to hold less chalk --> increasing miscue chance.


No, no, no. This is the bit that I must not have made clear at all because this was not my intended meaning. So I will try a different approach. In an earlier post, you had asked about a tip being "too hard". In this post, you seem to express a desire for a tip to be "spongy". In my opinion, this is incorrect thinking. First, I want to take you to the Barry Stark video above and watch from 3:15 to 4:10. Here is the thing, a weaker player tends to prefer a "spongy" tip. The softer the tip is, the more it is going to grip the cue ball so the more "action" you will get (primarily meaning that you can screw the cue ball further but this same concept applies for all cue ball spins of course). But that is not necessarily a good thing. We watch pros generate incredible amounts of spin on the cue ball and we wish that we could do the same thing. Softer tips allow us to get closer to a pro's massive spin generation. But here is the catch.....with a softer tip, you have much less CONTROL of the spin. Before installing the tip, Barry squeezes the bajeezus out of it OVERNIGHT in that tip clamp in order to make it very compressed, very firm, VERY STABLE. A softer tip is going to be changing characteristics on you all the time, you can never control it.....sometimes you will get six inches of screw, sometimes a foot or eighteen inches. It all just depends on how much your spongy tip happens to compress on that particular stroke.

All pros prefer very firm tips. Firm tips just remain the same and react the same with every stroke, very repeatable. If the pro needs a foot of screw, he will get a foot of screw plus or minus maybe a half inch. With a softer tip, that plus or minus number might be four or five inches, depending on how well the tip happens to grip on that particular stroke. So it is more difficult to get "action" with a firm tip, but the action is consistent and predictable and that is what you want. You have to improve your technique (and your chalking habit!) to get the proper action.

Now, my big problem with what you said here is "...it’s rather the abrasive action of the chalk which turns the tip shiny and slippery...". This is 180 degrees opposite of correct. If your tip is getting shiny and will not hold chalk, it is because you are not chalking often enough or (much more likely), you are not chalking CORRECTLY. The shininess is caused by the impacts of the cue ball compressing the leather exactly like that tip clamp Barry uses. Look at that tip at the 3:55 mark....(other than being flat,) it looks exactly like your tip when it won't hold chalk. The tip clamp compresses the tip exactly the same as the cue ball impact tries to compress the tip but your consistent PROPER chalking action keeps the tip surface roughened up so the individual cue ball impacts in summation cannot create the shininess. So if you are getting the shininess, you are not chalking correctly. Simple.

It is the chalk itself that you should be using as a sort of sand paper. PROPER chalking will prevent that shininess because FIRMLY grinding chalk into the leather tip is an abrasive action in itself. Most people just do very light swipes and if the tip looks green, all is well. Then when it is shiny, touch it up with sand paper then make it green again. THIS IS NOT CORRECT! Your chalk isn't doing anything except acting like paint to colour your tip green. The green colour is just a binding agent that holds together those tiny abrasive crystals that you are TRYING to embed into the leather. (This is also why you can get chalk in any colour you want.....they just colour that binding agent with no effect on the IMPORTANT ingredients of the chalk.) The scraping action of chalking should be acting to rough up the leather, preventing it from becoming shiny, and also embedding some of the abrasive crystals into the leather to help the tip hold onto the cue ball. And this is the reason why your tip can and should be wearing down continuously....the continuous PROPER chalking action is sanding that tip down, preventing shininess, and maintaining consistency with every single stroke. If your tip doesn't wear down, you are not doing it right.

rekoons wrote:Does this mean I’ve misunderstood this all the time? I thought you were supposed to sand paper the tip regularly to
A) keep the tip/dome in the desired shape and
B) to rough it up a little for the chalk.

and that you could like keep filing away until the tip is like over halfway gone, and then replace the tip?
Because the shape on my tip doesn’t really need a lot of work, I thought best not to mess with it too much, and only sand paper it when I notice it can’t hold enough chalk. And even then I only scrape of the bare minimum I can while I probably should take of more, say at least millimeter or so?
Is this the reason why pros change their tips every few weeks then:
A) they scrape/file more often because they play a lot more, and
B) they take more of the tip when they scrape/file.


Except the last bit about pro change frequency, yes, I agree with all of this. I don't have a tip clamp like Mr. Stark so when I change tips, I play it in. After about the first hour or two, the tip will mushroom and overhang the ferrule a bit. This is what the tip clamp helps prevent. So at that time, I will take it to the razor knife again and trim that overhang the same way, and shape and rough with sand paper again just as you describe. After that, it stays stable for a long time. Over time, I occasionally need to re-shape because I always hold the cue in the same orientation and I strike cue ball below center for about 70 percent of my strokes so the tip will tend to flatten in that one area and it will need attention with the sand paper again. I can say with confidence that I NEVER need to take sand paper to my tip due to it being shiny. Proper, frequent chalking prevents it ever getting to that point. Which brings me to my disagreement with your last A/B supposition....my opinion is a pro needs to change tips frequently (watch the very first minutes of Barry's video....at 1:02: "Now, I change Kyren Wilson's tip all the time". To me, that implies that Kyren probably puts on a new tip maybe a day or two before every tournament. That day or two allows enough time for him to decide if he likes the tip (because sometimes you just get a bad one) but with just a day or two of practice, he won't wear it out before the tournament.) So my point is, a professional player is practicing say 8 hours a day, constantly chalking with the thousands of strokes he is taking every single day and that chalking action is continuously wearing down the tip. So he needs a new tip frequently. Recreational players might not play a thousand strokes in a year so they don't need a tip very often.

Hopefully, that clears up some of the points I failed on earlier.

Re: regular cue tip replacement

Postby acesinc

Let me try to sum up in a short, coherent post for once...

I think it is fair to say that most recreational players get most of their knowledge by watching the professional players at their craft. We may read a book, or watch an instructional video, or discuss with other player friends, but most of what we try to do is mimic the actions of the pros we watch. We see them swipe a cube of chalk on their tip; we swipe a cube of chalk on our tip. But few recreational players seem to actually understand that chalking the tip is an integral part of the maintenance of your cue, and specifically, the continuous maintenance of your cue tip. It is extremely important to understand what you are doing and why you are doing it.



Barry mentions in passing Kamui tips in the video. They are extremely expensive, maybe $20 a tip, but purported to last a very long time. Kyren uses Elkmaster. Buy a box and they cost about 50 cents each. There are a few companies selling ridiculously expensive chalks, I think like $12 a cube, that make the claim that they stick better to the tip so you don't need to chalk so often. Are you kidding me? Look at practically every professional at any tournament and you will see him pull a little yellow cube out of his waistcoat. Triangle chalk. Buy a gross and it costs a quarter a cube. When these items are used correctly, they produce magic. If their proper use is not understood, a snake oil salesman can sell you a magic potion instead.

Ironically, I have tried Elkmasters in the distant past and they are probably the single most popular brand of tip used in the snooker universe. For me, they feel too soft, too "spongy" actually. Then again, I don't have the tip clamp as shown in Barry's video to compress them prior to installing. If I did, they would probably play much like my Triumphs do.

Re: regular cue tip replacement

Postby rekoons

Oh man I've got this thing all wrong then... :emb:

This is exactly me:

Most people just do very light swipes and if the tip looks green, all is well. Then when it is shiny, touch it up with sand paper then make it green again. THIS IS NOT CORRECT!


I can say with confidence that I NEVER need to take sand paper to my tip due to it being shiny. Proper, frequent chalking prevents it ever getting to that point.


the moment I read this the image of Stuart Bingham chalking his cue while pondering over a difficult safety sprang to mind, come to think of it, i have noticed he chalks his cuetip very thoroughly (more so than other players i have the impression), but failed to think it through...


I applaud you for trying to educate the masses :gramp: :clap: or me, at least!


Sooooooooooooooo if my cuetip is on at least a year, due to very infrequent playing over the last years, and I feel it's not holding enough chalk I can at this point do the following:

A) rough it up now once with sand paper to restore it's 'chalk retaining capacity'
B) for the first time in my life start chalking correctly, as in more swipes and with more pressure

or

C) replace the tip altogether and do B)

Re: regular cue tip replacement

Postby acesinc

:spot on:
You are now truly on a path to enlightenment, my friend.



I will now tell you something that you will probably already know, but you will not realize that you already know and so it will probably come as a surprise to you.

If you think back to the times that you noticed that your cue tip has been shiny, and you thought to yourself, "I need to scuff that up a bit," whether you use sand paper or that tip maintenance tool, you probably did not discover the problem with your eyes. Instead, you rubbed the chalk across the tip and noted that it didn't feel right. You looked and your eyes confirmed that the tip was not right and needed work. But it was likely your fingers that first discovered the problem.

You will notice that as the pros chalk, they rarely even need to look at the tip. That is why spectators simply get the impression that swiping a green cube across the tip is just what you do and that is all there is to it. But the feedback of feel is very perceptive. Think of the race car driver who can feel every little vibration, or hear the faintest little unusual noise, or smell the tiniest whiff of a chemical leak coming from the massive, powerful machine beneath him and he has to relay that feedback to the mechanic whose own specialty is to repair whatever the problem may be. That is what Stuart Bingham is doing when he chalks his cue. And Barry has 15 minutes in Kyren's dressing room to do his repairs rather than 12 seconds in the pit.


Okay, maybe I embellish just a little bit. But not all that much.

You can buy a thousand quid cue from the most esteemed cue maker but the most important part will remain the tiny 50 pence speck of leather at one end. It needs to be exploited, tended, then discarded at your own discretion and expertise. It is meant to be used to maximum benefit for tens of hours at the table, not tens of months.

Re: regular cue tip replacement

Postby Badsnookerplayer

simonofthepiemans wrote:I am fulfiled and enlightened in ways I hadn't expected at the start of this thread. If Buddha played snooker...

Buddha played three cushion carom with a cue fashioned from a banyan tree.

If he played snooker, his deep contemplation would have led to warnings for his extended AST.