*INTERNATIONAL CUEMAKERS HALL OF FAME*
For their outstanding contributions to the cuemaking art and industry, the following individuals have been elected into the International Cuemakers Hall of Fame:
George C. Britner: Inducted 2004
George was building exquisite cues in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. His designs were ahead of his time. He was considered the premier cuemaker of the 19th century. Britner also went to work for Brunswick and there is speculation that he may have trained our next inductee, Herman Rambow. Britner and Rambow worked at the same location for 15 years. Britner was not only a master cuemaker, but also a master ivory ball turner. Many of your fancier Brunswick models from that time were built by Britner.
Herman Rambow: Inducted 2004
Born in 1880, Rambow worked off and on for Brunswick from the time he was 14 until 1950. He started out as a mail boy and turned Ivory Balls, working his way up. Rambow built cues all the way up to his passing away in 1967. Rambow is given credit with inventing the piloted joint. It had the screw in the butt and a brass insert with wood pilot tenon similar to the stainless steel jointed cues we see today. Rambow mainly used brass joints. He also patented an internal pool cue weight and balance method. Rambow had a lot of equipment that he built himself. He even had a homemade three jaw chuck that was completely made out of wood. Almost everything on his lathe was made out of wood. His cues normally did not have a rubber bumper and often had a thin ivory ring around the bottom above the short plastic butt plate. This ring is now referred to as the Rambow or Hoppe ring. It was a Rambow that Willie Mosconi ran his record 526 balls in a row with in 1956. In 1968 Herman Rambow was the first cuemaker ever inducted into the Billiard Congress of America’s Hall of Fame.
Harvey Martin: Inducted 2004
Martin started making cues in the 1920’s. Like Rambow and Britner he also turned Ivory Billiard balls earlier in his career. For decades more world champions played with Rambows and Martins than any other cues. While Rambows were ruling the east coast Harvey Martins were the favorite among the west coast players. He popularized the 3/8″ wood to wood flat faced joint. Martin did not do inlay work as he felt it weakened the cue. He would watch a customer play and try to build the cue to fit the customer’s style. You will often find Martin cues with several shafts. He would make shafts for the different type of game and equipment the player would play on. He continued building cues until 1984. That is six decades of his labor of love.
Frank Paradise: Inducted 2004
Frank started making cues in Brooklyn in 1948 and continued making cues there until 1958. From 1958 to 1968 he built his cues in Little Falls, New Jersey. His cues looked much like a Rambow but tended to be fancier. His cues were played with by a majority of the East Coast players in the late fifties. He made some of his ferrules removable just by screwing them on and off. This allowed a player to carry an extra ferrule with well shaped tip, so they could change it instantly if the tip came off or needed to be replaced. This eliminated the need for a second shaft.
George Balabushka: Inducted 2004
George started in 1959 and made about 30 cues per year. He used the Brunswick Titlist as the foundation for his earlier cues. In the mid 1960’s he started using some blanks made by Burton Spain. He also purchased blanks from John Davis and Bob Meucci. Around 1971 he started using blanks made by Gus Szamboti. He was up to about 75 cues per year when he passed away in 1975. A cue that he built for under $100 new might bring several thousand dollars today.
Gus Szamboti: Inducted 2004
Gus started making cues in 1969. His cues were as clean and well done as anyone’s were at the time. His work surpassed Balabushka’s just as Balabushka’s surpassed Rambow’s. It is said that Gus would discard about 80% of his shaft wood in order to use only the best. He was considered the premiere cuemaker of his day. When he passed away in September 1988 he left a standard that would really have to be reached for to achieve. His son Barry is now following in his footsteps.
Bert Schrager: Inducted 2005
Bert started building cues in the 1960’s and is credited with helping many up and coming cuemakers. We won’t list names, but it would be a who’s who list of higher end smaller cuemakers who spent time in Bert’s shop. Bert has always been very helpful to the beginning cuemakers and that is one thing the ICA stands for. Bert got his start in cuemaking from his close friend Harvey Martin who is also an ICA Hall of Fame member. Bert was one of the earlier cuemakers to break into the high end cue market and one of the first few to crack open the Japanese market. Many famous people have had Bert build cues for them. He never went the CNC route and has produced some very high end cue designs with just a pantograph. He is credited with popularizing the 6 point cue design. Bert was our first living member to be inducted. His wife Pat has done much of the beautiful pantograph inlay work on their cues. At 80 years of age he was still at his labor of love: Building Cues.
Burton Spain: Inducted 2005
Burton started building cues in 1965. Burton built great cues using full splice methods that often combined a standard full slice over the top of a butterfly full splice that was usually covered by the wrap. This allowed him to use any combination of woods without producing too heavy or too light of a cue. His method produced the most warp resistant butts around. The first thing that comes to most peoples minds when they hear the name Burton Spain is, “Point Blanks”. When cuemakers saw that Burton was making his own full splice point blanks they lined up to buy them from him. He made them for Gordon Hart, Craig Peterson, Frank Paradise and George Balabushka just to name a few. He was part of a club called Mensa that only allows people who have IQ’s in the top 2% of the population. Before he passed away in 1994 he trained and sold his business to Joel Hercek, who continues making cues with the same full splice method Burton made famous.
Bob Meucci: Inducted 2006
Bob started building cues in the early 1960’s. In 1968 he took over the cue department at National Tournament Chalk. He founded B.M.C. in Glenview, Illinois in 1969. He also helped set up the WICO cue making operation. He made some point blanks for Gus Szamboti, George Balabushka and for many other top cuemakers and perfected the seamless plastic veneer points that were popular on some older cues. He popularized the flat faced wood to wood joint with collars and the 58 inch length cues. He moved his cue making operation to the Memphis area in 1975 and changed the name to Meucci Originals. He was one of the first cuemakers to make points out of Mother Of Pearl and inlay pictures in 14-karat gold. He was one of the first modern cuemaker to use the forearm as a canvas with intricate inlaid scenes instead of traditional points or inlays. He popularized the sealed Irish linen wraps and was among the first to break into the 5 figure cue market.
He is credited with setting the standard for the major cue manufacturers of using metal working equipment instead of wood lathes to manufacture cues on. He helped modernize and establish some other cue making factories. He has given training to many of today’s top cuemakers and cue manufacturers. He popularized the use of really white maple and the longer pro taper on the shafts. He had more professional and semi-pro players playing with his cues in the late 70’s and 1980’s than any other cuemaker. He developed a precision robot called the Myth Destroyer to test the cue ball speed and deflection a cue gives when striking the cue ball. He has kept the industry focused on the hit of the cue. He developed materials and construction techniques in his cues that produced more cue ball English, draw and follow than any other major manufacturer. This is one reason why his cues ruled the pro circuit when they played on slower cloth. He has been at the top of the cue making industry for decades, and has had major influence on all aspects of our industry. He pushed the artistic designs and price value of the cues to levels that were cutting edge at the time and paved the way for the rest of us.
Jerry Franklin: Inducted 2006
Jerry founded South West Cues in 1982, which soon became one of the most sought after cues out there among serious players. The waiting list is and has been, not months, but years to get one of the SW cues. They developed a rock solid hit that is much sought after. The short joint rings design that you see on so many cues now was first made popular by SW. SW also popularized the very tight fitting wood to wood joint and very close joint size tolerances with interchangeable shafts.
It was at SW cues that Jerry and another cuemaker David Kersenbrock made the first table saw tapering machine. This type of machine can now be found in many cuemakers shops. Jerry was always open to showing other cuemakers his shop and once said, “If someone knows enough to ask the right question, they deserve an answer.” SW cues probably have influenced more of the newer cuemakers than any other cue out there. Jerry passed away in 1996 and is missed by all who knew him. His company is still going under his wife Laurie’s leadership. We think Jerry would be proud of that.
Tad Kohara: Inducted 2007
Tad was born in California and in the early 1940’s Tad went to Hiroshima, Japan to study cabinet making. In 1945 the school he was attending was destroyed by the Atomic bomb. He returned to the United States in 1949. When Tad started making cues in 1963, his first cues were based on Titlist blanks. Then he started making simple birdseye cues. When Harvey Martin retired he bought Harvey’s equipment. He developed the hit of his cues by relying on the advice of players like Willie Mosconi, Jimmy Caras and Joe Balsis. Tad moved far beyond just making great playing cues, but also made his unique cue designs that use a lot of fancy ring and slot work that include many dots inlaid inside of other dots. Tad currently uses 18 lathes and 3 pantographs to produce those unique designs that Tad has made so popular. He has stayed away from CNC equipment. Tad also developed his own tip that he uses on his cues. Besides building great cues for decades Tad is credited for opening up the Japan cue market for the American cuemakers. Schrager and others quickly followed his lead and got their cues into that market, but it was Tad who paved the way. Tad passed away in 2013 and his son Fred continues building Tad cues.
Alessandro Longoni: Inducted 2007
Alessandro got a great deal of experience as a young man while working for the prestigious Italian Billiards manufacture “F.lli Dalla Chiesa”. In 1945 he decided with the help of his wife Maria and children to start his own cue making company. Because of the hard economic times in Italy following World War Two, he often had to borrow the use of machinery and instruments from other local craftsmen just building lower volume custom cues. In the fifties he got his production cue business started. In the sixties his cues started gaining acceptance in the USA and today they are one of the most recognized European cues in the US market. Alessandro passed away in 1978, but his son Renzo kept the operation moving forward. Now Renzo’s son Pierluigi is also helping manage the business. They now have sister operations in Brno (Czech Republic) and Germany. They build some very unique cues. Some have hundreds of inlays that wrap around the cue making Knights and Jesters and other medieval figures.
In 1995 they stated using CNC machinery and have expanded to making many thousands of cues a year. They are most famous for their Pool and Carom cues but also make cues of other cue sports like: Russian Pyramid, Carolina, Five Skittles, Goriziana and Italians.
Dennis Dieckman: Inducted 2008
Richard Dennis Dieckman was born January 27, 1947 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. After two tours with the Air Force in Vietnam, Dennis started building cues in 1973. He is one of many quality cue builders who trained for a time in Bert Schrager’s shop, who is another Hall of Fame member. Although Dennis built a lot of pool cues in his lifetime, it was Carom Billiard Cues that he was most famous for. Playing Carom Billiards was Dennis’ love with golf also competing for his heart. Dennis was one of the few American cuemakers that kept the butterfly pointed carom cues with wood thread joints going in the USA for a couple of decades. That was a great contribution, but his greatest contribution to our industry has been teaching cuemaking with his videos that go back to the 1980’s and his Cueniversity where he taught in shop cuemaking. One of Dennis’ students invented the Predator shaft and Dennis was involved in that. Dennis shunned CNC machinery, and instead preferred old school points, butterflies and pantographed inlays. He was also a founding member of both the American and International Cuemakers Associations. He once gifted a cue for display to the Smithsonian Institution. Dennis served as assistant director in the ICA from 2004 until he passed away on July 27th, 2018 at age 71.
Verl Horn: Inducted 2008
Verl started making cues in 1961. He is considered the grandfather of cuemaking in the central Midwest. Many cuemakers owe their start to Verl, as he was always cheerfully sharing cuemaking techniques and other information and material sources. Verl would load a cue up with Ivory and still keep his prices very reasonable. He loved making the ivory V-points with veneers and his work was always sharp and clean. Verl’s Irish linen wraps were some of the best pressed and flush with the finish in the business. He was a master auto body repairman and his finish represented that in his cues. Verl was instrumental in getting the very famous Prather Custom Cue Parts supply business started in the 1970’s which continues to this day. Without Verl’s influence in that cue parts supply business, we probably would not have seen the 1980’s and early 90’s boom in our cuemaking industry. He continued building cues in Mooreland, Oklahoma until he passed away in 1999.
David Paul Kersenbrock: Inducted 2009
David started building cues in 1972. David has worked with several cuemakers including Hall of Fame members Bert Schrager and Jerry Franklin. He also built cues with Omega/DPK from 1990 to 1996. David popularized the 3/8-11 thread wood to wood joint. It had the flat bottom minor diameter thread like Harvey Martin had used, but David put a starter pilot and center hole on the end of the pin. David pushed manual pantograph inlaying cues to new levels by free handing inlays instead of using template patterns. He used high magnification optics and a very steady hand to accomplish this. David and Jerry Franklin developed the table saw tapering machines that are popular today. David also wrote a cue building manual and hired himself out as a trainer to many smaller cuemaking shops over the years. His cuemaking designs, styles and methods have greatly influenced the custom cuemaking industry across in the USA and around the world.
Abe Rich: Inducted 2009
Abe was born as Abraham Rutschaisky. He started building cues in 1962 at his cousin Saul’s “Rich Cue Company” in New York. In 1965 he and his brother Morris built cues as “Florida Cues” until Abe went out on his own as “Star Cues” in 1973. Abe had been a wood worker by trade and even carved wooden clogs and canteens while incarcerated in the Dachau death camp during World War II. Abe came from a family line of wood turners and prided himself on hand turning all of his cues. He did not use routers for tapering or pantographs for inlaying. He was truly one of the longest lasting old school cuemakers. He did not have any of the fancy equipment you might expect to find in a 21 st century cue shop. He had a simple wood turning lathe, a few pieces of wood working equipment and floor to ceiling shelves full of wood that he had been turning on for decades. Walking into his shop was like walking back in time a few decades. He kept turning cues by hand all the way up until he passed away at age 82 in 2008. Our industry not only lost a great cuemaker, but his passing closed out an era of cue making that had almost totally died out decades ago. Abe was the last of the popular cuemakers that turned all of his cues by hand on a wood lathe.
Paul Huebler: Inducted 2010
Paul has been involved in the billiard industry for decades. He has been a pool room owner and the national sales representative for the famous A. E. Schmidt billiard supply company. His experience in the billiard industry led him to found Huebler Industries in 1974 in Linn, Missouri. Huebler rapidly became one of the better known American-made cue brands. Although Paul’s company might be considered a mid-size production cue manufacturer, he also had what was known as The Custom Shop. Many of the cues coming out of the Custom Shop rivaled other higher-end custom cues and are highly sought after by collectors. Paul always favored V-Points and even made his own Full Splice blanks for his hustler style cues. Another feature that made Huebler Cues unique was the nylon insert in the shafts. Paul loved chess and you will find chess pieces and crosses as themes in many of his cues. Huebler was also one of the first to manufacture Jump/Break cues.
Leonard Bludworth: Inducted 2010
Leonard commonly referred to as BLUD, started doing cue repair in 1976. Around the same time he developed the Bludworth Ball Cleaner. Since then he has sold thousands of these machines. He was a master pool table mechanic and served as the equipment coordinator for both the men’s pro tour, as well as the senior tour, for about 15 years. He came up with the idea to take pool tables and travel the country setting them up for pool events. He gave the plans to Valley Tables and they ran with it. In the 1980’s he converted Sears wood lathes into a workable cue repair machine so others could make good money repairing cues. He sold over 400 of these machines around the world. He also made the first video showing how to do cue repairs on those modified wood lathes. After a few years, nearly every major tournament had a qualified repairman there repairing cues for the pros and spectators alike using one of his lathes.
Leonard started building cues in the 1980’s and many top pros rapidly started playing with his cues. The most notable was Leonard’s long time friend Buddy Hall. Leonard also built a line of cues for Buddy. Leonard became known for building very solid cues with a slightly thinner profile than most other cues. Leonard was probably the first cuemaker to sell a cue for $100,000. In 1992 Leonard founded the American Cuemakers Association and served as the president for a few years. His late wife Janice worked along side of him for decades and he also passed his vast cuemaking and machinery knowledge down to his son Donald.
Leonard went on to develop many other mechanical and CNC (Computer Numerical Controlled) cue building machines. Some were shaft tapering saw machines. Many were CNC cue lathe/milling machines, and some of those were combo’s, (saws and mills), from single cutting heads to multi-heads. The largest machine was a CNC mill with eight heads that went to Bangkok, Thailand. He traveled over 100,000 miles a years for about 22 years setting up tables and doing cue repairs at the pro events. So Leonard was indeed the pioneer of the travelling pro shop, and the one who made the first cue repair lathes available to the public in the modern era. It was Leonard being at all those tournaments and selling his cue machinery that inspired many others to get into cue repair and cue building.
Jim McDermott: Inducted 2011
Jim started repairing cues in the mid 1960’s around the Milwaukee area and started working for another cuemaker in 1966. After working there for several years and perfecting his cuemaking skills, he went out on his own and started the McDermott Cue Manufacturing company in 1975 in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. McDermott rapidly became one of the best known brands of cues. They were the first higher production cue manufacturer to almost exclusively use the 3/8-10 wood to wood joint. Although he was not the first to use that joint pin, it became so familiar to the public, that many still refer to the 3/8-10 pin as the “McDermott style” joint. They moved into their state of the art facilities in 1988 and were among the first to make the transition to CNC turning centers, 4-axis rotational milling capabilities, and automated electro-static UV urethane finish. Jim introduced many lines of cues through the years. One of the most popular was the D-Line from the mid 80’s. Many of these have already become sought after by collectors. Jim was always there to help grow the sport. These efforts included sponsoring players, developing the McDermott National 9-ball Tour, and even supplying McDermott cues for the movie “The Color of Money” released in 1986. Jim retired from cuemaking in the mid 90’s, but McDermott continues to be one of the top brands of cues worldwide and still uses many of the same methods Jim used in the 60’s.
Ray Schuler: Inducted 2011
As a young man Ray mentored with Herman Rambow and although his main occupation was as an engineer he did cue repairs on the side for years. Then Ray started making his own cues in 1975. The Schuler cues are most famous for their unique joint. Ray used a very thin wall short stainless steel joint collar and hollow brass joint pin in the butt along with an aluminum insert in the shaft. The hollow pin allowed Ray to glue the pin in with no air pockets. He was very meticulous to get the pin in his cues very precise in order to be able to interchange the shafts. He was the first cuemaker to make a major reputation for multiple tapers and interchangeable shafts. Any standard shaft will fit any standard butt. He made at least 8 different famous shaft tapers including his version of the pro taper and unique carom billiards taper. Carom players from all over the world fell in love with his carom shafts. Ray’s love for 3 Cushion Billiards was evident with the wide support he gave to promote that discipline. He had many of today’s well known cuemakers work in his shop for a time and he hand signed all of his cues. Ray passed away in 2002 and the Schuler Cue company continues today under new ownership.
Dan Janes: Inducted 2012
In 1968 Dan and good friend Bill Stroud started the Joss Cue Company. The word Joss means Luck. In 1972 Dan bought Bill out of the business and went into higher production. Joss rapidly became one of the best known brand of cues. Even in his earlier years Dan was among only a handful of cuemakers that made his shafts interchangeable with a standard joint size on his cues. He kept up with the market trends and developed one of the highest tech shops in the business. He transitioned from V-groove points and pantograph work into CNC (Computer Numerical Controlled) machined points and inlays. He pioneered some handle joining techniques that no other cuemakers were using. You could see his unique finger jointing method in some of his hustler type of cues. His cues have been considered to be one of the top brands of cues world wide for decades. Dan has also been a sponsor of some of the top pro players and has sponsored many tournaments. He has truly been an ambassador for the cue industry.
Thomas Wayne: Inducted 2012
Thomas started building cues in 1979. He has been a craftsman of some sort most of his life. He has made furniture, guitars, knives, jewelry, skateboards, etc. Although Thomas was not the first to use CNC (Computer Numerical Controlled) machinery to build cues, he pushed the CNC machining of inlays to levels that were unheard of before. He trademarked the term 4-D Inlay, which refers to designs he can achieve by using 4 axis machining with special programming. His designs literally wrap around the cue. Many of the designs keep even the most experienced collectors and cuemakers looking at his cues trying to figure out how he did it. Some of the designs look like they were impossible to build. Thomas was also among the first to build a cue in the six figure retail range. Even though he is famous for his CNC inlay work, he still incorporates V-groove points into many of his cues. Thomas is known as one of the top CNC experts in Alaska and is consulted by makers of many other items on how to machine their products. Thomas was also one of the founding members of the American Cuemakers Association. When one thinks of Thomas Wayne they should think: Pioneer of CNC cue art at its finest!
The Schmelke Family: Inducted 2013
Brothers Duard and Richard Schmelke started the Schmelke cue making business in 1947 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Within a few years Duard took over the Two Piece cue making operation and ran it as a one man shop until 1969 when his son Jim joined him. Richard took over the One Piece cue manufacturing and ran it himself before selling the one piece cuemaking operation to Valley Manufacturing company. Valley went on to become the best known USA made one piece cue in the industry for decades.
Through the 1980s and 1990s Jim and Judy managed the company while raising a family of one son and two daughters. Jim was one of the first to use the flat laminated shafts and introduced several different joint configurations. Their son David joined the company after college in 1997, and is now general manager. Daughter Carrie has worked at Schmelke part time since 1994. Her husband, Steve Johnson, joined the business in 1999, when Steve started making cues with David. Steve and David share production responsibilities, with Steve also serving as sales manager. Jim and Judy are now semi-retired. Richard passed away in 1987 and Duard passed away in 1995.
Schmelke Cues is a third generation family owned and operated business that has gone from a one-man shop to a manufacturing plant that employs over 20 people year-round in a 15,000+ square foot manufacturing facility in Rice Lake, Wisconsin. They are the oldest continual cuemaking company in the USA. Schmelke is known world wide for building some of the most affordable USA made cues that can be found. They are also famous for their exotic full splice one and two piece cues. They never pursued the high end cue market, but stuck with their original business plan, which was to offer quality affordable cues for the players and they are still doing that today!
Ernie Gutierrez: Inducted 2014
Ernie was born in 1941 in Bogota, Columbia and came to the USA in 1957. He started building cues in 1961. He pushed the artistic design of his earlier cues to levels unseen at the time. He named his cues after his daughter Gina and called them Ginacue. He introduced the use of Linen Phenolic for joint rings. He took a break from building cues from 1973 until 1988.
When he came back he did not disappoint as he started turning out some really high end cues and became famous for his super clean inlay and leather work. Ernie also re-popularized the butterflies between the points and mastered the use of flat bottom veneered points that look like v-groove points. Ernie’s North Hollywood shop is one of the nicest one man cue shops in the world and he has a dedicated machine or tool for just about every part of cuemaking. His cues are highly desired by both collectors and players.
Fred Mali: Inducted 2014
Rarely does a man of Fred’s educational background pursue cuemaking as a career. He was educated at Buckley, Groton, Yale and Harvard. He became the CEO of one of the oldest family run companies in New York, The Henry W.T. Mali & Co., Inc. (Mali Cloth) founded in 1826. Born in 1930 as Fredrick Johnston Mali, he was the fifth generation to be directly involved in the Billiard industry. He engineered many of the automated machines that manufactured the Mali brand of cues. His influence in the Billiard industry was wide spread as his company manufactured one of the most popular brands of table cloth and American made pool cues. He was also involved in the establishing of the Billiard Congress of America.
Fred first started manufacturing a line of cues for AE Schmidt Company in 1965 and named the cue manufacturing plant Cuesport. Shortly after this he started manufacturing his own line of cues under the Mali name. The Mali brand of cues never sought to enter the high end cue market, but always sought to provide quality cues in the player’s price range. They continued manufacturing the cues in the United States until 2001 when they closed the factory. The Mali brand name continued on with imported cues. Fred passed away in 2007 and his influence on our industry still continues today.
Bill Schick: Inducted 2015
Bill started building cues in 1970. His early cues were patterned after Balabushka, but he soon developed his own style. He always inlaid his cues using a pantograph instead of using Computer Controlled Machinery. But his skills did not stop there as he became a very good scrimshaw/engraving artist on his cues also. Bill set up the George pool cue company in the 1980s. Bill is one the few cuemakers who makes his own cue tips. Bill became the standard setter for southern cuemakers and is still kindly viewed as the grandfather of southern cuemakers. Bill is still building cues in the back room of his pool room in Shreveport, LA called Bill Schick Billiards.
Eugene Balner: Inducted 2015
Eugene was a wood turner in Hungary and immigrated to the USA in 1956. He took an interest in crafting pool cues and advanced his cue making skills working as partners with Frank Paradise from 1961 until 1964. Then he went out on his own with his son Peter and started the Palmer Custom Cues Company. Peter ran the company from an early age as Eugene did not speak as fluent English as Peter. Eugene ‘s wife Ilona ran the company after Peter left. Eugene was the master cue maker, but Ilona did a lot of the handiwork like inlays and wraps. Palmer became one of the top production cuemaking companies in the USA. Eugene passed away in 1972, but his family kept the business going until 1994. Since then the Palmer name has been used on some imported cues, but the USA cues are widely sought after by collectors, especially those with Spain or Szamboti forearms.
Gordon Hart: Inducted 2016
Gordon opened a pool room called The Viking in the early 1960’s in Stoughton, Wisconsin. He set up a small cue shop in the basement and began making cues. He named the cues Viking after his pool room. In time he moved his cue shop to Madison, Wisconsin and expanded the operation and went nationwide with sales. His company rapidly became one of the largest American cue manufacturers. They employed almost 100 people at once during their peek. Viking has built many private label brand cues for other resellers through the years. At one time they even had a whole line of cue parts that they offered to other cuemakers. Many of the early Viking cues had the Viking logo inside a clear plastic window in the butt sleeve. Viking used Burton Spain blanks in many of their early cues, but Gordon also popularized the three point cue with seamless veneers. They became famous for offering several different types of joints. This was because they wanted to be able to give the customer the hit they desired, instead of focusing on one particular joint. Viking has sponsored many professional and amateur tours and events. Although Gordon started out turning cues by hand on a wood lathe, Viking Cue Manufacturing grew with the times and started using some of the highest tech equipment of any of the cue companies. Gordon and his family continued to operate the Viking company well into the 21 st century, and the company continues now under different ownership.
Richard Helmstetter: Inducted 2016
In 1960 Richard Helmstetter made his first cue in a woodworking class. He then went on to apprentice with cuemaker Rollie Welch. In the early 60’s he helped Gordon Hart set up a cue shop in the basement of his new pool room in Stoughton, Wisconsin which became Viking Cues. Richard worked part time with Gordon there while earning a degree at the University of Wisconsin. Richard and Gordon used Burton Spain blanks in many of their early cues. In 1966 after graduating from college, Richard moved to Washington, D.C. to start his own company called Helmstetter Cues. A year later Richard helped set up a cuemaking factory for National Tournament Chalk Company in Chicago.
In October of 1969, Richard moved to Japan to help Dave Forman establish Adam Custom Cues which was named after Dave’s grandson. In 1970 they produced 12 models. In 1973 that had grown to 60 models. Adam went on to build several private label lines like Helmstetter, Stomboulini, Bob Weir, the Balabushka tribute series and others. They also became a top maker of Snooker and Carom Billiard cues.
Richard accomplished a great deal in the cuemaking industry, but is even more famous in the golfing world for inventing the Big Bertha driver.
Richard Black: Inducted 2017
Richard started building cues in 1974 and went full time in 1976. Richard patterned his cues after Balabushka as far as joint and taper goes. But he pushed the artistic level to heights that have earned him numerous awards including the best of show award at the International Cue Collectors Show in Houston in 1993. He has won many more awards since. His artistic silver work in his cues has been some of the best the industry has ever seen. It is reported that one of his master piece cues re-sold for $300,000. Richard’s artistic quality earned the right to gift a cue for display in the Smithsonian Museum of American History. Richard hosted the Cuestock cue collectors and cuemakers get together in 2014. At this time Richard is still building world class cues in Texas.
Tim Scruggs: Inducted 2017
Tim Scruggs brought his machinist skills to Joss cues in 1970 for a few months then went back to work at a pool hall. A couple of years later he rejoined Joss and worked there about six years before going out on his own to build cues. His early cues were very similar to the cues he made at Joss. He also was very famous for his Full Splice cues without joint rings that looked like a one-piece cue. His cues started to get more and more elaborate as years went on and he built many cues that would be considered masterpieces and are sought by many collectors today. Tim was a founding member of the American Cuemakers Association and won their Cuemaker of the Year award in 2009. He was active in the billiard industry and sponsored various pro players through the years. Tim passed away in June of 2015.
Dan Prather: Inducted 2018
Dan was born in 1940. As a youth, Dan began his love for woodworking, learning everything he could about wood, carving, and tools. At the age of 17, he proudly served his country in the U.S. Navy. He was honorably discharged in 1960. In 1972, Dan started learning the art of cue making with the help of longtime friend and Hall of Fame cue maker, Verl Horn, because of Verl’s need for cue parts himself. Dan mastered the art of making point blanks, and as a result, Prather Custom Cue Parts became the top supplier of these blanks even until this day. In 1982, Dan really got serious with the cue parts business and rapidly became the main source for everything from point blanks to taps, Irish linen, joint material, and so on. He also made available tapered shaft blanks. All of this made it very easy for a cue maker with little equipment to get started making cues. Cue makers all over the world still use Prather point blanks in their cues as the base for their forearm. The inlaid cue parts can go from very simple up to as fancy as the imagination allows. The family worked together in supplying countless custom orders. They have now also started making full length full-splice blanks with veneers.
Dan was passionate about expanding the reach of the Billiards industry. He visited Switzerland on behalf of the World Pool-Billiard Association to present billiards as a sport to the Olympic Committee. He often sponsored members of the National Wheelchair Pool Player’s Association. Dan also helped to start the world’s first college degree program majoring in billiards by donating 30 custom made pool cues to the National University of Physical Education and Sports of Ukraine in 1997.
Dan enjoyed sharing his craft with his children and grandchildren. His daughter, Jennifer, and his two sons, Jeff and Daniel, came to work with him in the mid 1980’s. Jennifer ran the office and specialized in customer service, Jeff mastered the cue building, while Daniel mastered the CNC (Computer Numerical Controlled) artistic inlays. Throughout the years, every grandchild has worked in the family business too! The Prather family business has continued to be a top supplier of cue parts for decades but has become a top custom cue making shop also. The Prather family was awarded the Cue Maker of the Year award by the American Cue maker’s Association in 2010.
Dan turned the cue parts business over to the family in 2014, but still came in regularly to build one-of-a-kind Dan Prather Custom Cues until he passed away in November 2016.
Chris Hightower: Inducted 2018
Chris was born in 1961 and played pool from his childhood and grew up working for his dad in the television business. Doing cabinet repairs on console televisions was his first wood working experience. He started playing pool tournaments and doing simple cue repairs and selling other brands of cues in the 1980’s and picked up the nick name The Cue Man. He got serious about building cues in the late 80’s and he repaired and built cues in Woodstock, Georgia from 1988 to 1993 and from 1993 until 2002 in Buffalo and Goodson, Missouri and from 2002 until present in Aragon, Georgia.
He got a lot of inspiration from hall of fame cuemaker Leonard Bludworth and in 1988 followed in Leonard’s footsteps and put together a mobile cue repair shop and started working on cues at the professional and top amateur pool events in the Atlanta and surrounding areas. He started building cue repair lathes in 1988 which were modified wood lathes and started the Cue Man Billiards supply business and opened a pool room with the same name the following year.
He introduced the Cue Smith line of lathes in 1991. These were the first light weight cue lathes that had the full cue length precision cutting capability which made them able to build cues from scratch. In 1994 he developed the Cue Smith Inlay Machine which made the small cue shop able to build fancy cues. That is also the year he introduced the large spindle bore lathe with taper bars. The following year saw the first Deluxe Cue Smith lathes with dual chuck headstocks go into production. Through the years he has developed many things for the cuemaking industry from the simple lathe pin, to tenon threaders, auto tip shapers, thread milling tools, leather installation tools, and much more. In 2001 he published the first edition of The Cue Building Book: From Tree, To Tip, To Tradeshow! to go along with his Video Cue Building and Repair teaching series. In 2004 along with a few other cuemakers he founded the International Cuemakers Association and has served as International Director ever since. Chris was also a two time International 9-Ball Champion of Cuemakers in 2012 and 2016.
While Chris is most famous for his cue machinery business, he has also made some contributions to the cuemaking industry with Hightower Custom Cues. He started marketing the first Jump Break cues with a longer jump section than the normal forearm in 1989 under the brand name Sceptre. Chris popularized Purple Heart shaft blanks for the break cue market in the early 90s. He also pioneered the 5/16-14 and 5/16-10 pin flat faced joint with choice of hardened wood shaft threads, brass or phenolic insert and popularized the larger .850” joint diameter. He popularized the completely sealed snake skin wraps in the 90’s. He developed a method for using Native American bead work and completely sealing it as inlay work and handle wraps. He also does the same with precious gem stones. He introduced bleached camel bone as an inlay substitute for Ivory. Along with his son Israel he has built extensively inlaid artistic cues that sold for thousands of dollars each, yet continues to build players level cues also. His shop is one of a handful that currently produces cues with both manual machined inlays as well as state of the art CNC inlay work.
Doc Frye: Inducted 2019
Doc started building cues in the early 1960’s and continued until his passing in 1978. He made pool cues in the Philadelphia area (Feasterville) and was a Pharmacist as his main occupation and picked up the nickname Doc from that. Most of his cues were fairly simple with colorful sleeve rings. He inspired Gus Szamboti who was from the Philadelphia area also to start building cues. Any pointed cues from Doc were most likely using Gus forearms. He was famous for putting a shiny new penny inside the butt plate with the year the cue was made on it. This makes his cues easier to identify.
Pete Tascarella Sr: Inducted 2019
Pete bought his first cue from George Balabushka and used to hang out in George’s shop watching him work. His fascination with cuemaking developed to the point that he bought George’s shop in 1975 after George passed away. Some months later he produced his first cue. Although he builds cues with various joints, his traditional style pointed cue with veneers and piloted joint are his main claim to fame. He has become one of the most sought after traditional style cuemakers in the world. He still uses the same equipment he bought from the Balabushka family to build his cues today.
Pete is considered to be one of the foremost authorities on Balabushka cues and his letters of authentication are a must for many collectors. Pete is a retired police officer and his son Pete Jr. has also followed him in serving his state in that capacity. Pete Jr. also joined Pete in the cue shop and they have been building cues together for over 30 years. Many proclaim their Tascarella cues to be among the best playing cues around.
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For more information on the above cuemakers please see the Blue Book of Pool Cues by Brad Simpson and the Billiard Encyclopedia by Victor Stein.