Chipped your tip? Or are you looking to get more control from your pool cue?
In this buyer’s guide, we’ll take a look at 5 of the best pool cue tips on the market right now.
But before that, we’ll discuss some key things to consider when buying, helping you pick the perfect tip for your specific needs.
No time to spare? Use this table to quickly compare our top picks:
Phenolic resin & leather
What you need to know
There’s a lot of variation in how cue tips are made, and what they are made of. As a result, it’s important that you research what you’re getting before you buy.
If you’ve been following the sport for a while, you’ll have noticed that pros always have a couple of different cues on hand at each match, so they can choose the perfect weight, length and, most importantly, tip for each and every shot they take.
There’s no point having a tip that doesn’t fit!
Before we look at other factors, you’ll need to make sure you get the right diameter of cue tip. Most pool cue heads are 13mm in diameter, but snooker and billiards tips can often go down to as low as 9mm.
Make sure to find the diameter of your own cue before buying. It should be marked on the shaft, but if it isn’t you’ll have to get your calipers out.
Note: in general, you’re fine to get a tip that’s a millimeter too big – you can always sand it down. Never get a tip that’s too small though, or you won’t have enough coverage.
Most cue tips are made of pig or cowhide. Leather is the traditional option, and it’s still considered to be the best material possible in terms of overall performance.
However, in the last few decades synthetic tips have begun popping up. These modern options offer better durability and power (making them great for breaking/jumping), but do come with the trade-off of slightly reduced control. For your game cue, go for leather, but if you just want something to use at home with your buddies or on a bar table, synthetic is definitely worth looking at for its better durability.
There are also tips out there made from a synthetic polymer known as phenolic resin. As you may have heard, this stuff is incredibly tough – it’s so hard in fact, it can damage your pool balls on particularly powerful shots. Assuming your local pool hall hasn’t banned these tips, going phenolic can be worth considering for break/jump cues.
If you’ve decided on leather, you also need to choose whether you’re going for a tip that’s layered, or made of a single piece of hide. Layered can be beneficial in that this process gives the manufacturer more control over exactly how firm the tip is, ensuring each tip plays consistently. Single-piece tips are often much cheaper and don’t quite have the same control that layered options provide.
What are you looking for in a cue tip?
Different billiard cue tips excel in different areas. When choosing what to buy, you’ll need to consider your style of play and what sort of cue the tip will be installed on.
1. Breaking and power shots
Let’s start by looking at what you’ll want for your break/jump cue. Since you’ll be trying to transfer the most power possible to the cue ball, you’ll want a harder, denser tip. You’ll also want something with less curvature, to ensure you can hit the ball dead straight and avoid introducing unwanted English.
You should also consider phenolic tips, which are very firm (as we just discussed), giving them great power transfer. They require next to no maintenance, but are not recommended for normal shots because they’re not precise enough. It should also be noted that some competitions/leagues won’t allow phenolic tips, so make sure to check the rules before buying.
2. Spin & control
Ball control is one of the most important parts of a good pool player’s game. Without it, you’ll end up snookering yourself, and will find it hard to clear the table, even when there’s only a few balls left to sink.
Tips for better ball control are normally more curved, and have a softer texture to them. These properties reduce the chances of shaft deflection, allowing you to impart more spin on the cue ball. Along with this comes poorer durability, so you’ll need to scuff the tip occasionally to keep it soft.
3. The middle ground
We’ve spoken about what you’ll be looking for if you have multiple cues, but what most people need from their cue stick is the ability to do it all.
For that, you’ll want a tip somewhere in the middle ground. Not too hard, not too soft, not too round, not too flat. Look for something labeled “medium” – either medium-soft or medium-hard.
How much should I pay for new cue tips?
What exactly do you get if you splash out for a Kamui tip? While an Elk Master tip can cost as little as 75 cents each, a tip from the infamous Japanese company can be upwards of $20 a pop.
The difference between cheap and expensive tips will be the way they’re made, and the material used to make them. Kamui tips are made from layers of genuine Japanese pig skin leather, meaning their craftsmen have complete control over the consistency of the tip. Meanwhile, an Elk Master tip is made from a single piece of Elk leather, giving the manufacturer slightly less control over how the tip actually performs and feels to use.
So, if you pay less, the tip is going to play a little less consistently, and may not last as long. Inexpensive options don’t tend to feel as nice to play with either.
Ultimately, if you paid $200 for your cue when it was new or you’re really serious about your billiards, it’s definitely worth spending an extra $20 on a really good cue tip. But if you’re buying for cues used on a public table, budget options are perfectly fine.
How to install a cue tip
Installing a cue tip can be a delicate process, but it’s actually quite straightforward. First, here’s a list of what you’ll need:
- A Stanley knife or another sharp blade.
- Super glue (preferably specialized tip glue).
- Coarse sandpaper (around 100 grit).
- Fine sandpaper (around 500 grit).
- Paper towel.
- A cue clamp (optional).
What glue should I get?
Generally, any type of super glue will work – Gorilla Glue is a good choice.
Specialized billiard cue tip glue (like Tiger Glue) is generally a better option though. This stuff offers a better long-term hold and sets in 5-15 seconds, meaning you won’t have to worry about the tip moving as the glue dries. However, it can be difficult to apply properly if you’ve never installed a tip before.
Having a cue clamp is also useful to ensure that the glue sets straight.
- Cut off your old tip. Place the Stanley knife as close to the shaft of the cue as possible, making sure not to cut through the ferrule (the white part of the cue). Make a forceful but controlled cut, avoiding damaging the actual cue.
- Sand the head of the pool cue, using your coarse grit sandpaper. This will remove any leftover tip fragments from the cue, and also prepare the ferrule for the glue. You should aim to have a flat but rough surface, allowing the glue to bind properly and the new tip to sit evenly. There should be no residue or glue left from the old tip when you’re done.
- Sand the bottom of your new tip with the finer sandpaper. This is to give the tip a slightly rough texture, allowing the glue to hold. Some tips (particularly cheaper ones) may come ready-to-play, so check and make sure you actually need to sand the tip before doing this.
- Place the tip on the head of the shaft, making sure it isn’t tilted and that it sits flush (meaning it’s the right size). If it sits at an angle, you’ll need to continue sanding until you get a completely flat surface.
- Apply glue to the end of the shaft. Use enough to cover the whole end of the cue – remember that the tip will push the glue to the sides as you press it down. Don’t use too much glue though, as you don’t want it dripping down your cue too much.
- Attach the cue tip. Make sure to line it up correctly, before pushing it down hard for 5-10 seconds.
- Use a paper towel to wipe off the excess glue from the sides of the shaft before it dries.
- Leave the cue to dry. If you’re using a cue clamp, attach it now. Most super glues will need at least an hour. If you used Tiger Glue, it will only need a minute or so, but leaving it for longer won’t do any harm.
- Sand down your newly-attached tip. Use the 500 grit to achieve your desired shape. For most pool tips, you should look to achieve a slightly rounded edge with a little bit of roughness to it.
- Chalk your new cue tip and sink some shots!
Maintaining your pool cue tip
You’ve got your brand-new tip installed, but how do you maintain it and prevent it wearing down?
To ensure that your chalk stays on your tip, and that your tip can grip the cue ball (to impart spin), you’ll need to scuff it up as soon as it begins to flatten out. You can use a specialized scuffer to achieve the best results – some have features to help you poke the surface to make holes for the chalk to settle. Obviously you can only scuff a limited number of times before you run out of tip – so only do this when you need to.
Apart from that, you just need to make sure that the tip is securely attached to the ferrule. But if you glued it properly in the first place, you shouldn’t have any problems.
Best Pool Cue Tips
Let’s begin our reviews!
1. Kamui Clear Black Pool Cue Tip (14mm)
Money no object, this is basically the best tip out there.
It comes in super soft, soft, medium and hard options, meaning you can get the best-possible control, or opt for a more balanced tip which offers better durability. Kamui have achieved this through their specialized laminate production method, which gives them the ability to define exactly how firm each tip plays as it comes out of the factory.
The best thing about the Clear Black though is its material. This is the only tip out there made of premium Japanese pig leather, which is why it’s so expensive. But the benefits are astounding – with a good cue, you can really feel each and every shot, giving you the ability to play awesome English and perfect positional shots without deflecting. Plus, the pigskin is incredibly consistent, meaning you never have to worry about how your tip is going to perform each match. Ultimately, this is what you want – being distracted by your gear during a crucial game is never a good thing.
Kamui’s product also has a shield at the bottom of the tip, protecting the leather from being contaminated by the glue used to attach it to the cue. This also means that you don’t need to sand it as you install it, which is great.
Here’s a quick summary of the different types of Clear Black you can buy:
- Super soft: great control, limited power transmission (good for English).
- Soft: good control, reasonable power transmission (nice all-around option).
- Medium: reasonable control, good power transmission (nice all-around option).
- Hard: limited control: great power transmission (good for breaking/jump cues).
2. Tiger Emerald Laminated Pool Cue Tip (13/14mm)
This is another pigskin tip. However, the Tiger Emerald is designed to be an excellent all-around option – they don’t make it in different levels of firmness.
Tiger crafts this tip from layers of pig hide, which is slow-tanned in a chemical-free process at their all-American factory in Burbank, CA. They then use a special vacuum laminate process to lock in the feel of the tip and keep the layers together. The end result: an incredibly durable but very consistent tip.
The Emerald is another slightly more expensive option, but you get two in each pack, making it cheaper than the Kamui Clear Black. Plus, there are 13mm and 14mm options available, meaning you can pick the perfect size and avoid having to do too much trimming/sanding when you install your new tip.
On the whole, Tiger’s tip has a medium/hard feel to it, but still offers excellent English. If you need the best of both worlds, the Emerald is a great pick.
3. Tweeten Elk Master Pool Cue Tip (12/13/14mm)
The Elk Master tip from Tweeten has been tried and tested for decades. It’s been around for so long, in fact, that it was designed before the invention of layered tips, so it’s made from a single piece of premium Elk leather.
Used in pool halls across the country, this is another great all-around option. While the Tiger Emerald is a medium-hard tip, the Elk Master is more on the soft side, but still in the middle ground. As a result, it offers great control but a good amount of power as well – it would be fantastic for a Sneaky Pete billiards cue.
They are made in the USA, a sign of their quality and, looked after properly, will last almost forever. Tweeten also impregnates the Elk Master with chalk, to avoid miscuing.
So why exactly are these tips so cheap?
Simply put: Elk hide doesn’t feel as nice as pigskin or cow leather. Although it’s incredibly durable (meaning it’s great for bar cues) it’s not as consistent as a more expensive material. As a result, pros don’t really use it.
4. Tiger Icebreaker Phenolic Pool Cue Tip (14.25mm)
Make no mistake, this is not a tip you wanna use for normal play.
Made of phenolic resin, the Icebreaker allows for lightning-fast breaks and near-vertical elevation on your jump shots. However, unlike most phenolic options, this tip has a hardened leather core, which allows for better chalk adhesion and greater cue ball control, reducing the chance of a miscue or deflection.
Even with this hardened leather core, the Icebreaker maintains the added power transfer of a phenolic tip. This is due to the hardened outer shell, which prevents the leather from expanding as you shoot.
It’s definitely a power-oriented tip though, and has the toughness you’d expect from phenolic resin. But it still offers the precision you need to hit the right spot on the pack, enabling you to make consistently lethal breaks which sink a ball or three.
Tiger’s Icebreaker is another pretty expensive option. But it’s sure to last you for a long time – especially since your breaker is unlikely to see as much action as your main cues. Remember to check with your local pool hall to ensure you can use phenolic tips there, as many don’t allow products which aren’t made from all-natural materials.
5. Honbay Pool Cue Tips (13mm)
Sometimes, simple is best. I know I wouldn’t go putting $20 tips on a cue for a public table, or a stick the kids were going to use.
If you need the best-possible value, Honbay’s pack of 10 13mm tips is a great pick. Not only are they very reasonably priced, they’re incredibly tough, meaning you won’t need to go and scuff them up very often.
Surprisingly, this durability isn’t achieved with synthetics like plastic or phenolic resin. Instead, Honbay have used regular old leather to produce these tips. As a result, they have a medium-hard feel to them, and offer pretty great cue ball control considering what they cost. Although they’re probably not quite good enough for hustling or semi-pro tournaments, these tips are perfect for beginner and intermediate-level players.
Overall, we can’t really fault Honbay here. For the price, these tips are an incredible deal.
Ultimately, you’ve got to consider what you’re using your tip for.
If you spent a few hundred bucks on an awesome main cue or a breaker/jumper and its tip has now worn out, it’s definitely worth revitalizing it with a $20-$30 tip – the difference is incredible. But the opposite is also true – it’s not worth buying expensive tips for an average cue, especially if you’re going to be upgrading soon. There are plenty of really good cheap tips on the market which are perfect for shared cues, casual players, and beginners alike.
Still not sure what to buy? Leave a comment below and we’ll get right back to you.