rekoons wrote:Is it true you have to regularly replace your cue tip, even when there's still plenty left?
My tip has been on for over a year now, but someone said you have to replace it because it can degrade over time??
Professionalss probably use up a few tips a year I guess, so no issue for them, but what for the amateur playing like weekly or less?
Hi rekoons. It has been ages since I last posted on SI but I still check in on occasion. You have struck on one of the topics that tickles my fancy so I would like to contribute if I can. I am far, far from a professional but I still have hopes of running a century perhaps one day. Currently, I play snooker an average of about 5 or 6 hours a week. (Remember that for something I will say later.) That is not nearly enough time to get really good at the game; remember that a professional player in general rarely has a day go by without picking up the cue, usually quite a few hours a day. I find it odd that you say they "...probably use a few tips a year I guess...". I don't personally know any professionals or anyone who is all that good a player actually, (in case you didn't realize, I am American and resources and talent pool for Snooker over here is absolutely abysmal) but I do like to think that over my life, I have approached the game with much more of a "scientific method" than nearly any other player. From what I am about to say, I expect that pro players cannot possibly last more than a month on a single tip, possibly just a week or two. If anyone on the Island has acquaintance with a Pro (I'm looking at you, BadSnookerPlayer), maybe you can ask this question at some time.
Now the "old time" pros that I cut my teeth watching seemed to take care of their cue maintenance themselves, as do I. Modern players all seem to have a "cue guru" who takes care of this for them. Occasionally, you will see a player request a timeout during a tournament to have the tip replaced. I suspect that there is literally someone on standby in the dressing room that expertly takes care of this service for the player in a matter of just ten or fifteen minutes. Myself, I have the process down to 15 or 20 minutes; it really is no big deal to do a bang up job putting on a new tip. I am astounded at the players I have met who literally cannot remember the last time their tip was changed. These people usually have someone else do the job for them and they seem to be terrified at the prospect of trying to change out their own tip for fear their game will downturn as a result. Don't be one of these people. The process is easy, there are many useful YouTube tutorials, you don't even need any very special tools or equipment. Sure, you will probably bung up the first few attempts, but any talent requires a bit of practice before you can become proficient. One thing I will say that never, ever seems to be pointed out in these tutorials: ALWAYS use a brand new razor blade when you trim the tip down to be even with the ferrule. If you don't already have one, buy yourself one of those razor knife tools....the type that flips open and closed and can easily change out the trapezoid shaped blades in a matter of seconds. So to trim your tip, put a fresh blade in EVERY TIME.
(rekoons, if you didn't realize it, I seldom post but when I do, I am very long winded.) So let's try to get to your actual question. You asked, "Is it true....?" as if the statement is common knowledge, or you read it somewhere, or you were advised by someone that you consider to be an intelligent snooker player. I am curious as to where or how exactly you heard this piece of advice. As for the advice itself, I absolutely agree with it that you should be replacing your tip quite regularly. In my case (remember, 5 or 6 hours a week), I just changed tips about mid-October, and I fully expect to use this tip through the holidays and change it by mid-January. Perhaps sooner as I will probably get more table time over the holidays. That is three months. When I was playing quite a bit more often, say 12 or 14 hours a week, I would change every 6 to 8 weeks. This is the reason that I doubt that a Pro leaves on the same tip more than a couple weeks. Unlike yourself though, the reason that I change my tip so often is because by that time, the tip is well worn down from providing me many hours of joy and hopefully, more than a few good strokes. The point is that, if your tip has been on for over a year, then either: a) you don't play the game very often, or b) you are probably not doing it right (no offence intended).
The Life and Times of a Snooker Cue Tip is a topic about which I think that well over NINETY PERCENT of snooker players hold a grievous misconception. Most players I have met seem to believe that finding a tip they like is a difficult process and once they find that one special tip, they better take care of it so it will last as long as earthly possible so they don't need to go through the arduous process of trying to find another "perfect" tip. WRONG! A tip is a tool....like the razor blade you use to trim it. Use it for what it is worth, then BEFORE it has a chance to start causing trouble for you, change it out to a fresh one so you will continue to get the same great performance you have come to expect.
Nearly all players I have met are like you in the statement "...there's still plenty left". I can say with absolute authority, you will not need to change a tip out because it has degraded over time. If that were true, nearly every tip I ever put on my cue is degraded. I have bought numerous boxes of 50 tips at a time and some have been sitting in my cabinet literally for decades before I have put them on my cue. And when I do put that old tip on my cue, it reacts as perfectly as it would have the day it was born. So no, a tip that has been in use for a time will not degrade, unlike say, my back, my knees, and my eyesight.
What is more concerning to me is that your tip has been on for over a year and IT IS NOT WORN DOWN! That is actually nonsensical unless you only pick up the cue every couple months. In the normal course of play, your tip CAN AND SHOULD wear down relatively quickly. Most players that I have met have no idea that this is a true fact. Consider yourself now to be one of the privileged few. So why DOES a cue tip wear out? Sadly, ninety-nine percent of players cannot correctly answer this basic question. If asked, most people will probably answer in a very non-committal way...."It just wears down from use!" I suppose like the tires on your car wear down from being used rolling over the highway surface.
In fact, this is not at all true, there is a very specific reason why a tip can and SHOULD wear down relatively quickly. And that reason is the proper application of "chalk". We call it "chalk" but again, this is a misunderstood idea because it is not in fact "chalk" at all; that is just the name we call it and I won't bother putting it in "quotes" anymore. The chemical composition of chalk is two primary ingredients: silica, and aluminium oxide. These science-y sounding names may be somewhat familiar to you; certainly, you are aware of the substances to which these names refer. The first, silica, is basically a rock material, easiest to simply think of it as grains of sand. Tiny, gritty, sticks to you for days after you have visited the beach and makes you itchy. Then aluminium oxide you may know is an industrial abrasive commonly used to make some types of "sand paper". Yes, sand paper. Do you see a theme here?
When people first began playing billiards, we poked the balls around with a wooden stick. It was easy to miscue because the balls were hard and the wood stick was hard so the meeting surfaces were slippery. Then eventually, a Frenchman discovered that if he glued a bit of leather on the end of his wood stick, he didn't miscue as much. The balls were still hard but the leather was softer than wood to absorb the impact and "hold" the cue ball better. Miscues were less frequent. The problem was that the leather would quickly become shiny and rather firm and slippery from multiple impacts with the cue ball. So it constantly had to be "roughed up" and it wore away quickly (not from impacts with the cue ball but from the roughing up). Later, someone else came to realize that by applying an abrasive material to the leather, then the tip remained in its desired roughed up condition for much longer. So it acted much, much more consistently and predictably.
So long story short (I say with a sheepish grin, as obviously, above, I made a long story even longer and probably quite dull), when you apply chalk to your tip, what you are actually doing is ingraining the base components of sand paper into the leather. And now you know what actually causes your tip to wear out.....you are effectively sand papering the tip every time you apply chalk which you should be doing pretty much every single stroke. From a scientific view point, what happens is by scraping the chalk cube over the leather, the tiny little crystal particles remove from the cube and stick to the tip in a layer which will be the contact point with the cue ball. When you strike, these tiny jagged particles literally dig into the surface of the plastic cue ball increasing the friction. But of course, this effect is just very temporary. The tiny little crystals fall off the tip easily and so have to be replaced constantly. And every time you rub your chalk cube on your cue tip, you are sanding it down just a little bit. This is normal and natural, it will wear your tip out quite rapidly if you are doing it correctly.
Hope that may help. Good luck!