We are reader supported. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Also, as an Amazon affiliate, we earn from qualifying purchases.
Time and use can frequently cause your pool cue shaft to become porous and sticky, depriving it of its slick and smooth finish. This affects your ease of playing and you’ll start noticing that the shaft does not seem to work as smoothly in your hand. It will feel sticky and rough to the touch. Ideally, a cue should glide effortlessly through your fingers, but it you feel a tug or a slight pull on your skin when you shoot, it’s a sign your cue needs maintenance or burnishing!
How to burnish a pool cue shaft? Use a piece of leather, a cloth, or a dollar bill to rub your pool cue very fast while rotating it with your hand. If your cue has a varnished shaft, you will also need to use sandpaper to remove the sticky varnish. After that you can oil the cue.
What is burnishing though and why does it work? What are some other maintenance tips you could use for your pool cue? We will talk in length about these details next.
Why does a pool cue shaft need maintenance?
Pool cue shafts are made of wood, which is naturally a porous material. Although a brand new cue would feel completely smooth, after playing for a while, it can start to feel sticky. This is because dust, sweat and oil get trapped in the pores of the wooden shaft.
To prevent the stickiness, you can close the pores by a method called burnishing.
What is burnishing?
Burnishing is a technique used on wood to give it a smooth and polished finish. It involves polishing the wood by rubbing it against another surface. The friction and stress from rubbing causes the wood to heat up and expand, closing the pores. The outer layer that has softened and dried with time is also rubbed off, revealing the hard, glossy layer underneath.
How to burnish the pool cue shaft?
Burnishing a pool cue shaft is very easy and does not strictly require specialist equipment. However, there are some popular products available in the market which are good to use and recommended by pool experts such as a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, McDermott Cue Shaft Slicker, or a PoolDawg Leather Burnishing Pad. Cue slickers from different manufacturers are also available on Amazon.
Even without buying a burnishing pad or paper, it is very easy to do this with materials at home. Soft leather works best for burnishing your pool cue shaft. You can cut off a soft piece from an old belt or even a shoe!
On second thought you can use a piece of paper (a dollar bill like old time pool players were known to do!) or cloth. A cotton cloth or towel would work just fine. Especially designed and washable cue shaft slicker cloths are available on Amazon by manufacturers like TIHOOD and Ogrmar.
How to use a cue slicker or burnishing pad?
Using a slicker is very simple. You just wrap it around your cue with your hands and rub it up and down against the cue very fast, while turning the cue in your hand. This will remove all dirt and oil from the shaft and seal the pores of the wood so that dust and chalk cannot stick to it. After you’re done, you should wipe the shaft clean with a cloth to remove the grime that has come off while rubbing.
Doing this burnishing process regularly not only keeps the shaft clean, but it also prolongs its life.
Oiling your wood once in a while is considered good for its health and it gives it a shiny finish.
You should avoid using abrasive materials like sandpaper for burnishing your cue. However, if your cue stick is of a cheaper quality and has a varnished finish, you will need to use sandpaper once to remove the tacky substance for good.
Using sandpaper to remove varnish
If you have a cheaper cue with a varnished shaft, instead of buying a new one that doesn’t feel sticky, you can just remove the varnish using sandpaper. This is a one-time and lengthier process after which you will only need regular quick burnishing as explained above.
You must do this with care and use the right grade of sandpaper to ensure you don’t chip off or warp the wood itself in the process.
Start cleaning with a 240-grade sandpaper, then a 600-grade one, and finish off with a 1200-grade one. Once you are done, you will need to oil the shaft. This oiling can take up to 3 days, because you will find that the oil absorbs very quickly leaving the shaft looking dry again. You may need around 10 coats till you get the shiny look permanently.
Although this requires a lot of rubbing and takes time, once done you will not need to repeat the process.
Other maintenance tips for your cue
Bear in mind the following if you wish to extend the life of your cue:
- Do not leave your cue out in the sun or anywhere where it is hot and humid (or too cold even). This can cause the wood to warp or deform.
- Do not lean on the stick or prop it against a wall.
- For storage when not in use, it is best to get a hard, well-insulated cue case. This will keep your cue in shape. If you do not wish to invest money on a good case, then you should hang the cue vertically using a cue hanger or place it in an upright rack. Don’t leave it lying down or leaning.
- It is best to clean the shaft after every few games. Regular burnishing and maintenance will keep it looking slick for longer and let you get your money’s worth out of it.
- You can prevent the cue tip from “mushrooming” by the same burnishing method using a cue slicker.
And that’s really all there is to it!
How do you check if your cue is straight?
Hold the cue up from the butt end and look down the length of the cue by placing your eye level right at the end of the stick (just like you would look down the barrel of a rifle or gun while shooting).
Rotate the cue and keep looking along the length. If there is any deformation or bending you will see it.
Can you straighten a pool cue shaft?
Yes, you can straighten the shaft at home simply using your hands if it is only slightly bent. Stand the cue down on the floor at an angle of 60 degrees with the surface, then use the palm of your hand to press against the bend. Keep spinning the cue and doing the same until it looks completely straight again.
What should the tip of a pool cue look like?
The tip of the pool cue is made of leather and is convex shaped. It is also supposed to look rough and not smooth so that the chalk can adhere to the tip.