Preservation vs. Restoration

My MOTO

PRESERVE WHERE POSSIBLE, RESTORE WHEN NECESSARY

 

Should I have my billiard cue restored or is it of more value if left as it was found?

The age old dilemma for anyone who owns antiques is – “Should I restore my antique?” The answer to this question requires that one answer other questions. First of all, if you do nothing, will the condition of the antique continue to deteriorate? If the intended use of the antique is as a display item, will you enjoy the item as much in its worn condition or would you enjoy it more if it were restored to its original fit and finish? Finally, is the market value of the restored antique at least equal to the purchase price plus the cost to restore the item?

There are those who believe all antiques should be left as found to preserve the value of the item. Yet anyone who watches Antique Road Show knows the appraisers more often than not say “your item is worth $xxx but if you were to have it professionally restored it would be worth $YYY”. Do a web site search and you will find conservators of everything from print material, to oil paintings and even to antique furniture. Those businesses would not exist if everyone felt that antiques should not be conserved.

Here is a bit of personal anecdotal evidence to frame the discussion of “Preservation vs. Restoration.” Over the years I have owned a number of collector cars. Here are pictures of two of the cars I have owned.


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When I purchased the 1963 Corvette it was in need of a major restoration. The outcome of a year in the shop and many checks written is reflected in the picture to the left above. It won many awards at shows and when it was sold ten years later to a person in Australia, the value certainly exceeded the amount invested. During those ten years, I received much enjoyment from driving it on special occasions.

I also owned a 1958 corvette that you can see in the picture above. I was the third owner of that car. It was for the most part an unmolested original car as seen in the picture. With its provenance the car was worth more unrestored except for an engine rebuild. It was sold to a person in Germany with a similar return on investment as the 1963 Corvette.

The corvettes are an example of restoring one collector item to increases its value and enjoyment and leaving another collector item as is to maintain its value. So there is no hard and fast rule when answering the question, should I restore my antique?

Let’s bring the discussion back to preservation vs. restoration of billiard cues. Over the years I have met a number of billiard cue collectors who are adamant that an antique cue should be left as it is found. They feel the value of the cue is lessened if restored. When you look in their cue racks you see cues without the mother of pearl signature plates, cues with the twine wrap in a tangled mess, ferrules and tip broken off and little or none of the decal left to even identify the cue. Two of these collectors have beautifully restore Brunswick tables in the room and feel it is correct to restore the table but not the cues. The disconnect, restore this table but not this cue is interesting to say the least.

 

Why do Billiard Cues Warp?

There is one very good reason why all antique billiard cues should be restored. If you have ever watched an antique billiard cue being sold on eBay, you may have noticed that the seller will note, or potential buyers will ask, “Is the billiard cue warped?” Why do billiard cues warp when most likely they were straight when they came from the Brunswick factory in the early 1900s? How old cues are stored (Not lying flat or standing vertically) could be a factor causing them to warp. However, the primary reason an antique pool cue will warp is because the shaft or butt of the cue is not sealed and the wood absorbs moisture from the air even when stored properly.

If you were to look at a cross section of a cue shaft under a microscope you would see the collapsed ends of the tubular structure of the wood as it was when it was a living plant. Kiln drying wood takes the moisture out of the vertical tubes in the wood and stabilizes it, but if one reintroduces water to the dried wood the tubes will take in the moisture and expand. If the wood, say in a shaft of a cue, takes in moisture unevenly around its outer surface then it will warp. It is also interesting to note, two different woods on the same cue will absorb moisture at different rates thus wood in the shaft may warp while the butt wood does not appear to have warped.

I am fascinated to watch some amateur tournament billiard player, actually use fine sand paper or steel wool on their cue during a tournament to get that slick smooth feel when they are playing. If that player’s cue is not properly sealed before it is put in its case and taken outside it will sooner or later warp.

Early 1900’s billiard cues came from the factory with a lacquer finish. If the cue had been played with for any length of time the lacquer would have worn, exposing the raw wood and the wood will begin to warp. Shafts of antique cues are found to have warped more often than the butts because the lacquer on the butt is still intact while there is no moisture barrier on the shaft.

If you are fortunate to find a straight 100 year old antique cue, it needs to be refinished to avoid the potential for warping . You could use a cue sealer on the cue but you are already changing the looks of the cue. The problem with sealers is that they dry out and the wood in the cue is once again exposed to moisture. The certain fix to make sure your antique cue does not warp for another 100 plus years is to have it re-lacquered.   That is the service I provide.

 

Vintage Cues for you: Specializing In The Faithful And Accurate Restoration of Vintage Billiard Cues

 

I restore antique billiard cues which are family heirlooms or cues that were purchased to be displayed in a billiard room along with a restored antique billiard table. For the most part, these are cues that were made before 1930. It is unlikely that many of these older restored cues will be actually played with on a regular basis. I do not work on the modern high tech billiard cues that are being produced in shops around the country today. If you have one of these modern cues, I would suggest you seek out one the master cue makers listed in Brad Simpson’s book “The Blue Book of Pool Cues” . Just Google, http://www.google.com/ , the name.

 

The only exception of my rule of only working on older cues is I do restore a fair number of Brunswick, Willie Hoppe cues made into the 1970’s. In fact, these are my favorite cues to restore. The Hoppe cue is arguably one of the finest cues ever produced in large volume that is both beautiful to look at and great to play with even today. There is nothing prettier than a rack of restored Willie Hoppe’s like those show in the pictures below. These have all been refinished, brass joint ring polished; new ferrules, new leather and very correct computer scanned and screened decals.

 


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If you are fortunate enough to have an early European highly ornate cue like one found on this web site ( http://users.skynet.be/billard.billiards/index.htm ) and it is of museum quality, you most likely would want to display it as is. Just be certain the finish is still intact. Consider, however, that in the early 1900’s Brunswick was manufacturing over 400,000 cues a year. Thurston in England was making a similar number. Annually, there were likely over a million cues being made around the world when billiard playing was at it is height of popularity. With few exceptions, old Brunswick cues are not rare in the same sense as a signed work of art. Restoring an old mass produced billiard cue from the early 1900’s will likely increase the value by more than the cost to have it restored. In the process you will have preserved the cue for future generations.

 

If you have an old cue that looks like the before picture below and you want them to look like the after restoration pictures please contact me (you can see more before and after pictures by going to the Before and After Section:

 

BEFORE:

 

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AFTER RESTORATION:

 

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If you have a family heirloom or an antique billiard table and you want your cue rack to be full of antique billiard cues like the ones shown below please contact me.

 

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I am in a wonderful position in life. I am retired and frankly I restore cues as a passion rather than a need to make a living. Anyone who has a work shop, be it for cars or for wood working, knows what I am talking about. You are in your own little world where time passes almost unnoticed when you are immersed in a project. I love what I do and I am appreciative of the feedback I receive when I restore special cues for others. I will restore your cues with the passion for bringing back to their original condition the old cues that were produced by great companies like Brunswick. These cues are amazingly beautiful when restored. I will treat your cue with the same love and admiration that I do with my own cues. I will only do what is necessary so that your cue is a work of art that you will enjoy yourself as well as proudly show others.

 

PRESERVE WHERE POSSIBLE, RESTORE WHEN NECESSARY