Many people are unfamiliar with the different varieties of pool cue tips. A good, well-maintained pool cue tip holds chalk better and lessens the chance of a miscue. Whatever a player's skill level, it is often the cue tip that will determine how well his stick performs during each shot. Different tips work better for different games, sticks and players.
Soft tips are thin and highly domed. Their large surface area grips the ball and works well for finesse games and for applying sidespin to balls. Soft tips have a tendency to deform or mushroom if used for breaking fifteen-ball racks. Use light and narrow cues with soft tips, as they do not often break. Snooker cues for games like golf and three ball need soft tips, unless you shoot unusually hard.
Hard tips are compacted tips that are thicker and more layered than soft tips. They are kept shaped like a slightly flattened dome and don't help as much with English as the tip doesn't mould to fit the cue ball like a soft tip. Hard tips should be used for heavier sticks and breaking sticks. For games with a lot of pocketed balls like eight ball, nine ball, straight pool and one pocket, hard tips work best for your main cue stick.
Higher quality tips are almost always made of leather, but as technology improves, that may change. For soft tips, only a layer of two of animal skin composes the tip while hard tips are made of multiple, thinner layers of skin. Tip makers use the skin of various animals like elk, cow and buffalo. Leather tips are fitted onto a thin piece of circular wood at the end of the ferrule and are shaped to suit.
Laminate tips use a heavy-duty plastic-type polymer to make mostly hard tips. Laminate or composite materials consist of thin layers pressed together to form a sort of polymer plywood. Sometimes laminate tips come with leather on the tip for a softer result. Laminate tips last longer than wood and leather tips but don't function as well as soft tips.
Screw-on tips have a black plastic ring on the bottom which screws into the ferrule with an attached screw. The tips are often made of fake leather. Low-quality and low-price cue sticks sport these screw-on tips for convenience and expense. They can be replaced quickly and fairly cheaply, but they don't last as long as a professionally-installed leather or laminate tip.
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