Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Voices from the Past: Split Bamboo Pool Cues (1908)

I have always been interested in billiards (having run a pool hall for three years in college), and I've broached the subject of split bamboo pool cues with noted rodmaker Bob Nunley, author of the new book The Snake Rod and Other Stories from the Rodmaker's Bench and a professional pool player in his spare time. I'd never seen or heard of one before, but the 28 November 1908 Forest & Stream conclusively proves that somewhere, there is a eighteen-strip (double built) bamboo pool cue lying around. Anyone seen one before?

Split Bamboo Cues

The exceedingly heavy, thick, short rods used by bank fishermen are often referred to as billiard-cue rods, but so far as we know, it remains for an English firm to reverse the order and manufacture billiard cues from so-called split bamboo. It is also stated that golf club shafts and stays for water balloons are made from this material. Whip stocks have long been made in America from split bamboo, and these are also made in England.

It seems that the billiard cues of sawed cane are built up from nine strips, double enameled, making eighteen strips in all, and this method readily admits the introduction of heavier material of such wood as walnut, rosewood, juniper, purpleheart, etc., between the cane strips or inlaid in the strips.

A billiard cue of cane alone would scarcely be heavy enough to serve its purpose, so these are fitted with a weighting arrangement which is adjustable to place the balance where it should be. In the cues which are fitted with a bone joint and screw of steel, to reduce their length for carrying, it is likely the tips are made of built cane and the butts of cane and heavier wood, such as maple or beech.

American golf clubs are generally fitted with hickory shafts, but the objection to these is that they are likely to break at the smallest part, just above the head. Bamboo, being springy and strong, should serve well for this purpose, as well as to impart ginger to the stroke. We have never seen a golf club so made, although there may be plenty of them in America.

-- Dr. Todd

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