A few words on shaft Taper

18 January 2017

Taper refers to how the shaft of the cue becomes thicker towards the joint of the cue. In general, there are two types of taper: conical and pro. Conical taper means the shaft smoothly tapers from the fat end to the skinny end, like a cone. Most “house cues” have a conical taper. Pro taper means the shaft is one constant diameter 12 to 14 inches from the tip and and then begins to cone out toward the joint. This allows the player to have a bridge that doesn't interfere with the stroke or the tip position at impact. A conical taper shaft will cause the tip to rise a bit as it moves forward and thicker portions of the shaft cross the bridge.

Generally speaking, house cues are conical whereas most two-piece pool cues and after-market pool shafts are some variation of pro taper. Many players believe that a fast taper (one that expands more quickly from the tip) is more effective in transferring force to the cueball. Though, pro taper is favored by most professional pool players, hence the name.

Custom cuemakers experiment with subtle variations in taper. How far from the tip does the shaft diameter remain constant? How fast or slow does it expand out from there? Shaft diameter, wood quality, wood grain, and and wood density are all variable that are considered and combined. Some shaft manufacturers build 10-piece shafts to "average out" the vagaries of organic, grained material, so the shaft bends the same in all directions. One one extreme, the new Jacoby Edge Hybrid shafts are built with 64 pieces.

However, the most important aspect of a shaft from a performance perspective is it's ability to reduce “squirt” (cueball deflection). When using sidespin the cueball is hit on the side and veers a few degrees off the stick line (left spin squirts the cueball to the right). This is an angle change at the moment of tip-cueball impact. Roughly, the shaft deflects (bends) off the side of the cueball and squirts the cueball in the other direction. Players must adjust their aim accordingly.

All shafts cause squirt. Less squirt translates to less aim adjustment, so most players contend that "low squirt" shafts are better.

One important fact for controlling squirt is to reduce the weight towards the tip of the shaft “shaft end-mass." Less weight means less squirt which translates into less aim adjustment. Mass can be reduced in many ways: skinnier shaft diameter, shorter ferrule as plastic weighs more than wood, lighter ferrule material, wooden ferrules, pinhole drilling of the ferrule, hollowing out of the tip end of the shaft, etc.

So, with that explained, the question is how does taper relate to squirt? The most obvious aspect is shaft diameter; since thinner shafts weigh less there is less mass out at the tip end and therefore less squirt. This is why the there are a variety of low squirt shafts such as the Predator Z series, the OB-2, the McDermott I-3.

But skinny shafts are not for everyone and there are trade-offs with these shafts. There are many choices out there and, when possible, players should try many different shafts to see which performs best for them. Different tapers can affect the way the shock of the tip-ball impact feels in the hand. This is a precise sport and small improvements in equipment can make a big change in player success.