The most popular wood for cue shafts for the game of snooker or of UK 8 Ball Pool is for an ash shaft, in the USA most prefer maple and this is now catching on catching on greatly in the UK as the game of American 9 Ball is catching on, but as with everything else it is a matter of personal taste.
People often have the misconception that ash is stiffer and maple more bendy but wood varies enormously and some maple can be stiffer than ash, and some maple have more “whip” than ash, they do however look differently. As a general rule maple is usually stiifer and harder than ash but this is not always the case and maple will not necessarily make you play better.
Both will vary enormously in colour, some light and other being vary dark in colour. All woods are natural and colour primarily is depend on atmospheric condition when the tree grows. Colour of graining can be dependant on the age of the cue but is not always the case, the grain often goes darker with age, but some manufacturers of ash cues use dye to artificially create the antique look.
Both ash and maple are perfectly able to provide you with a full range of shots and also vary in terms of weight, as with everything else, when it comes to choice it is a personal thing, some thing maple is better, other prefer ash.
Ash has clear grain patterns and is some times preferred by players as it has arrows or chevrons which players sometime sue to line up shots. It can also provide problems as often although the grain looks straight it is rare that they are perfect and therefore causes the player not to play the shot straight.
It is also the case that grains are very wide and random, but this does not mean that the cue is not straight or inferior. It should also be bourn in mind that some say that when lining up a shot you should be looking at the silhouette of the cue shaft, cue ball and object ball and not the grain on the shaft. An uneven grained cue can be as good or better as one perfectly even and straight grained.
Maple is usually more yellow in colour than ash and does not have the prominent graining. If it’s plain shaft that you want then maple is probably better for you.
Like ash, colours of maple vary enormously and depend largely on atmospheric conditions; you can have maple cues very light in colour and other very dark.
On both one piece and jointed cue they are normally all spliced with a different heavier wood such as ebony as it provides a beautiful contrast against the ash or maple. There are also a number of other woods now used for the butt splice like rosewood.
Traditionally spliced cue are “four point” in that the ebony or other wood is blended and merged into the shaft in four points. There are now a number of different splices including 8 point, 10 point and butterfly point. A number of cue manufacturers who make 9 ball cues use 8 or 10 point as it is believed that they provide stronger, stiffer and therefore more accurate cues.
On Cheaper cues the splice is sometimes referred to as “four point simulated” this usually means that the four point has been pained one and that the cue is not spliced at all. Some other also refers to “decals” in the butt section which shows that the wood referred to is not actually real. i.e. a “snakewood decal” is likely to be a transfer or paint job which looks like snakewood, but which is not. Whilst it may be the case that the cue is clearly cheaper to produce, they are cheaper to buy and do not necessarily mean that they will play any worse that a genuine ebony and snakewood spliced cue. The one downside with this type of cue is that if you do scratch the surface you will reveal the cheaper wood underneath.