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About Schuler Cues

reprinted from All About Pool June 1998, expanded and updated

By Stephen Mayhew

Raymond Charles Schuler, Jr. was born in Evanston, Illinois on March 11, 1931. He grew up in the Rogers Park district of Chicago. At the age of 14, Ray was introduced to the game of billiards. "It caught me by the throat," says Ray, "and became a life-long passion."

By his early 20's, Ray was an accomplished all-round player, averaging over .70 billiards per inning in 3-cushion billiards and running up to 60 balls in straight pool. His interest in cuemaking grew out of his love for the game.

Ray was a long-time customer and friend of legendary Chicago cuemaker Herman Rambow. Ray bought his first Rambow cue in 1949. Says Ray, "In those days, Herman was still operating his custom shop out of the Brunswick building at 630 South Michigan Avenue. I'd saved money for a long time to be able to afford a Rambow cue, which was the only cue for a serious player to own, at least in the Midwest. The cue came with two shafts and weighed 21 ounces (that seems heavy today, but back then, 21 or 22 ounces was the standard). It cost $18.75. I still have it."

When Rambow died in 1967, a need arose for quality cue repair work in and around Chicago. Ray began doing repairs - tips, ferrules, refinishing, and restoring - for friends and players in the area. Ray shifted from repair work into cuemaking in the mid-1970's. Ray explains that transition:

"I was at a billiards tournament in Minneapolis and a friend of mine, a player from Louisville, asked me to do some work on his cue. While we were discussing the repair job and my interest in cues, he suggested that one day I would be making cues, and that when I did, he would like to buy the first one. Then he handed me a fifty-dollar bill as a deposit.

"Taking that $50 changed my life. It meant that I was committed to making a cue. I had thought about making cues - even working out an idea for a new type of joint - but now I had agreed to actually make one. So I went out and bought a lathe and some other equipment, and then I got to work. Nine frustrating, challenging, exhilarating months later, I delivered my first cue."

The transition from part-time to full-time cuemaking took about two years. Ray had always had an entrepreneurial streak, and once he'd made that first cue, he knew he had a new career on his hands. As for how he learned to make cues, Ray says:"It was an exercise in self-teaching. I have always felt, however, that starting from scratch as I did offered at least one important advantage: it allowed me to avoid repeating certain design mistakesáof the past.

"I came into cuemaking from an engineering background; I studied pre-engineering at John Carroll University and took a degree in engineering from the University of Detroit. I was able to draw heavily on my engineering background to accumulate a body of information and techniques that ultimately resulted in a cue stick with exceptionally-good playing characteristics."

Integrity

The keys to a good-hitting cue, according to Ray, can be summed up in one word: integrity. "The performance and durability of a cue derive from the integrity of its structural design and construction, and from the choice of materials used in it," says Ray. "Integrity is the key to building a jointed cue that will hit and feel more like a one-piece cue. Those three basic elements - design, materials, and construction - all go together. They're interdependent."

Ray Schuler on Structural Design

"Cuemaking is an endeavor of applied science. It requires in-depth knowledge of the materials - woods, metals, synthetics, adhesives, finishes - as well as skill at metal and woodworking techniques. But it also requires the ability to apply that knowledge and those skills to a specific end: making a functional tool, the cue.

"A cue is a tool for striking a ball, and like any tool, it needs to be well engineered if it is going to perform with certainty over a long period of time. The design of the Schuler cue offers many benefits and includes a number of innovations."

The Schuler Joint - "The first challenge I faced as a cuemaker was to develop a better joint. The ideal joint is 'nature's joint,' that is, no joint at all, as in a one-piece cue. My goal in designing the Schuler joint was to duplicate, insofar as possible, the hit, the hit transmission, and the weight distribution of a one-piece cue. Hit transmission is defined as the vibrations that move up the cue to the player's hand to give him feedback on each shot.

"Several joint designs were in use when I started making cues: piloted, flat-faced, and the all-wood joint that had long been popular in Europe and the Orient. The piloted, stainless steel joints were strong, but very heavy. That extra weight in the form of a large hunk of metal in the middle of the cue acts as an inertial stop to the dynamics of the hit and its transmission. It also poses serious problems for properly balancing the cue [See Weight Distribution and Balance below].

"The few flat-faced joints that were both relatively light and designed with wood-to-wood contact offered good hit transmission, as did the all-wood joint. They were, however, not strong or durable enough, at least to my mind. The all-wood design is also the most climate-sensitive joint because the threads will always expand and contract in response to changes in relative humidity and temperature.

"What I wanted was a combination of a piloted and a flat-faced joint, offering the advantages of both and the disadvantages of neither. And after a good deal of research and development, that is what I ended up with. The Schuler joint is piloted, but it has even more wood-to-wood contact surface than the best flat-faced joints. The piloted design assures structural integrity and durability, while the wood-to-wood contact optimizes hit transmission.

"The Schuler joint is also very lightweight, thanks in part to using aircraft aluminum for the shaft insert and drilling outáthe brass joint pin. A lightweight joint enhances hit transmission while contributing importantly to the balance of the cue.

"The Schuler joint was the first interference fit joint in a cue. Interference fit means that the pilot on the shaft fits into the corresponding cavity in the butt tightly enough to create friction, or interference, between the two components. This ensures that the cue will never loosen during play. An interference fit joint is harder to build because of the tight tolerances required, but the benefits in terms of strength, performance, and durability are well worth the extra work.

"Aesthetically, the Schuler joint affords the ability to use any decorative material at the joint - ivory, buckhorn, exotic wood, brass, stainless steel, plastic, et cetera - without affecting theáperformance or balance of the cue. The 'work' the joint does takes place internally, so the material used for the outside sleeve of the joint coupling is essentiallyáa cosmetic consideration.

"When a stainless steel or brass joint 'look' is desired, my design allows the outside metal sleeve to be quite thin. Thus we are able to provide the look that many players prefer, without the penalties of extra weight and poor hit transmission that are typical of metal-jointed cues."

Weight Distribution and Balance - "The entire Schuler joint adds at most only 13 grams to the weight of the cue. And because I've never used a weight bolt in the butt, the weight of the cue is distributed along its entire length. This contributes significantly to the balance of the cue. A well-balanced cue will feel lighter in the player's hands than it really is. It will also feel and perform more like a one-piece cue."

Ray Schuler on Design Innovations

The Schuler Joint - "The Schuler joint - over 25 years after its introduction - remains unique in the cuemaking industry. My cues are best known for this unique joint (it is so different from other designs), but one must remember that it takes more than a superior joint to make a superior cue. The joint is just one design element of the Schuler cue. It did, however, lead to several other innovations and benefits, including interchangeable shafts and a choice of standard shaft tapers."

Interchangeable Shafts - "I was the first cuemaker to offer interchangeable shafts on cues. Every Schuler shaft has always fit every

Schuler butt. This allows players to order a new shaft at any time without having to relinquish the butt of the cue. Only in recent years have a few other cuemakers begun to follow my lead on interchangeable shafts, an advantage that I have been offering my customers for over a quarter of a century."

A Choice of Standard Shaft Tapers - "I was also the first cuemaker to offer players a choice of standard shaft tapers. Most cuemakers offer a choice of tip diameters, but very few, if any, offer a variety of standard shaft tapers.

Other Innovations - "I was the first cuemaker, or one of the first, to use unbreakable Delrin® for butt caps. This fits with my philosophy that the cue should have all the integrity you can put into it. It should last for as long as you take care of it.

"There are a number of other innovations that are available in the Schuler cue and nowhere else - such as the way the forewrap is internally joined to the gripping area of the cue - but I consider these trade secrets. Suffice it to say that every modification made to the design of the Schuler cue over the years, and there have been many, was introduced to improve either the performance or the durability of the cue."

Copyright 2000 by Stephen Mayhew/TMC

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