That is what happened to father/son team Tom and Jimmy Haskin, when professional pool player Stefano Pelinga won the Trick Shot Magic final in 2005, to become the champion for that year.
The father/son team call it one of the most memorable pool experiences they have had.
The two started The Cue Masters, a company that makes custom pool cues, in 2003, in their since-converted garage and patio. Retired machinist Tom was looking for something to do that would keep him close to the ranch and, after another family member met someone who handmade pool cues in the Texas Hill Country, he knew he found that something. Tom has been playing pool since he was big enough to reach the table and, with his son being the same way, it was the perfect business for the two of them to enter.
They made several trips to Hill Country to learn and observe before kicking off their business. The first piece of equipment that was purchased was a C.N.C. machine that cuts the inlays. The team built a stand for the machine and then had to hand-assemble it before work could begin. The machine cuts the inlays by converting the drawing that Jimmy makes using a special computer program into code that the machine understands. The code tells the machine where and how to cut the wood.
When making a custom pool cue, the customer first picks the woods and draws the design that he wants on the inlays.
The wood for the butt and shaft of the stick are separate pieces of wood that start as sticks and have to be carved into the round shape by lathes and saw/lathes.
“We make cues out of sticks,” Tom said. “There is a lot of work that goes into these sticks to make cues.”
Each time a piece of wood is carved down, it is then dipped in a special solution to help relax the wood and then hung to dry in the drying closet. The solution that relaxes the wood essentially speeds up the wood warping process. Once the wood hangs to dry for a week, it is taken out and shaved down so that it’s no longer warped. Then it is dipped in the wood-relaxing solution again, and again hung the closet to warp and dry for a week before the process is repeated. Tommy said the process is repeated about eight times for each cue to ensure that, after it is sealed, it will no longer warp.
Once a piece of wood has gone through the dipping and drying process, it is ready to have the space cut out where the inlay designs will later be hammered in.
The wood is secured the machine, and then the machine goes to work, cutting out the space for the inlays. The drill that cuts the wood is .032 of a inch in diameter. It is hard to see the grooves on the bit with the naked eye, but they are there. Once the space for the inlays is removed, it is time to cut the inlays. Inlays can be made from wood, turquoise, red coral, ivory or a variety of other materials – depending on the likes of the customer. Silver rings and stones can also be added to the cue if desired.
Besides the design, there are several other parts of the cue that are customizable, including the weight, taper of shaft, tip size and wrap material.
Haskin cues have the weight placed more in the middle than in the butt of the cue, as some companies do. They said after talking to professional players they found that it was preferred that the weight be near where their hands grip the cue. The weight can vary between 15 and 22 ounces, and Jimmy said that is all a personal choice.
The wrap of a cue is also another choice that gives the person a more personal-looking cue. The wrap can be made of Irish line, leather or it can be left as bare wood.
The pair said they make about 15 to 20 custom cues a year but also sell a great many Sneaky Pete cues, which are cues in which only the weight portion is an option.
When they first started making cues, they traveled to trade shows to help get the word out about their cues, meet players and learn more about what people want. As the years have gone by and they have become more well known, they slowed down in attending shows to only every other year or so.
“We never want to go into mass production, because you do not get the quality of cue,” Tom said.
The cue making is a part-time venture for Tom and Jimmy. Tom spends much of his retired time tending to his 700-acre ranch, while Jimmy, who still works a full-time job, said he spends about four days a week working on the cues and will start making them full time when he retires in a couple years.
The two men, who might not play as much as they used to, still have a love for the game and what they do. Both men were more than enthusiastic to show tricks shots that they had learned from the professionals over the years.