Below we have detailed the various attributes of a snooker cue, what the different options are, how they affect the cue and what you should take into consideration when buying a new cue. This is not an exhaustive list but it should cover most of the options.
Snooker cues can be one piece, 1/2 jointed (commonly known as 2 piece cues) or 3/4 jointed (commonly known as 3 piece cues). The 1/2 joint and 3/4 joint refer to how far down the cue has been cut and had a brass joint inserted to make the cue more practical to carry around. One piece cues are thought to be better than 3/4 jointed cues which are thought to be better than 1/2 jointed cues due to the cut being made in the denser hardwood butt (all to do with how the vibrations transmit through the cue). Again how much of a difference the average player will notice is another matter but obviously the 1/2 jointed cue is the more practical one. 1/2 jointed cues and 3/4 jointed cues do feel quite different from a playing point of view due to the different position of the denser brass joint. So when choosing a 1/2 or 3/4 jointed cue we would normally recommend going for the cue you are already used to playing with. No two cues will ever feel the same as they are made from natural materials and the feel is down to the pattern of density throughout the cue. We usually say it takes two or three weeks of constant playing to get your body used to a cue, so with this in mind you could possibly try a new cue configuration as your body will eventually get used to it.
The butt can either be hand spliced to the shaft, machine spliced or straight cut and painted to look hand or machine spliced. Prices increase from painted to machine spliced to hand spliced due to the amount of work involved in making the cue and the cue is supposed to have a better feel as you go up this price range. Beginners are unlikely to notice the difference from a playing point of view for the different quality cues and some professional players have been quoted as saying that they did not notice any difference between machine spliced and hand spliced snooker cues from a playing point of view. Hand spliced cues with their slightly curved points (as apposed to the sharp points of machine splicing) are meant to have a higher surface area of contact between the hardwood butt and the Ash shaft which allows for a better transmission of the vibrations in the cue and thus gives a better feel. Hand spliced snooker cues are also more aesthetically pleasing and this will also be a consideration for which cue to buy. Most people will be happy with a painted cue (cues are painted black to look like Ebony which is a lot more expensive) but you will need to pick a cue based on your budget, how nice you want the cue to look and how well you want the cue to play.
Snooker cues are usually made from Ash for the shaft and a hardwood for the butt, although some cheaper club cues will be made from Ramin. Machine spliced and hand spliced butts are commonly made from Rosewood which needs to be weighted with lead (so the cue doesn't have to be so thick that you can't grip it comfortably, to give the same weight) and Ebony which doesn't usually need weights as it is such a dense and heavy wood. The Ebony cues having less or no lead weights added gives then a more even density and a more natural feel to the cue that is desired by a lot of players. The Ebony wood with its very dark brown (under most lights looking black) is also aesthetically pleasing. Because of it's rarity Ebony is a very expensive wood and thus normally only used on the finest cues. You can also have decorative wood splices on the cue but these add nothing from a playing point of view and will only add to the price. The coloured splices are usually coloured Sycamore. Other hardwoods can also be used for the butt like Thuya Burr wood or Walnut and other exotic woods (like the very expensive Snakewood) can be used for decorative splices or inlays. Painted cues have a cheaper low quality hardwood for the butt (which doesn't matter as the wood is painted) and Ash for the shaft.
The recommended tip size for snooker cues is 10 mm and tips can go down to 8.5 mm but we wouldn't recommend going below that for two reasons (1. The cue becomes too whippy 2. The cue shaft could break with a miscue). The smaller tip you have the harder it is to play but if you can control the cue you will have more control over the cue ball with spin. We normally recommend doming your tip to get more spin before moving to a cue with a smaller tip.
With the weight of the cue 17 oz to 20 oz is the normal range of weights with 18 oz to 19 oz approximately being a medium weight, 16 oz to 17 oz being light and 20 oz upwards being heavy. The heavier the cue is the easier it is to play with (like a larger tip) and the lighter the cue is the more control you have over the power you put in to the shot (although it is easier to miscue). We normal say stick to a weight you are used to but with all changes your body will eventually get used to it.
Other options would then be cues with butt joints for screw-on extensions or cues that come with screw-on extensions that can attach to the centre joint.
The main consideration to make when choosing a new cue for use on snooker tables is budget, then balancing how you want the cue to look compared to how you want it to play. You basically get what you pay for with a snooker cue and you need to choose which features you want and which features you don't need.
Copyright Royal Snooker 2011