WITH ANDY GILBERT,
(C) Copyright 2011 by Recollection Cues
|Following is an interview conducted February 5, 2011, with Andy Gilbert. Andy is a well-known cuemaker and his cues are very much in demand. I hope these comments help you to get to know Andy and understand more about why his cues are among the best made today.
Recollection Cues (RC): Andy, when did you start making cues?
Andy (AG): I made my first cues in 1989 when living in Traverse City, Michigan.
RC: Where do you live now?
AG: In a rural area in Clever, Missouri, about 25 miles southwest of Springfield.
RC: Is cuemaking a fulltime enterprise for you, or do you have another job?
AG: Iím definitely fulltime.
RC: How much time do you put in at it?
AG: I work a minimum of 50 hours a week, sometimes 60 or so, but I like to take a few days off now and then, so Iíd say over a year I average 50 hours a week.
RC: How many cues do you make a year?
AG: About 75-80 a year. And I make about 50 jump-break cues. Theyíve been really popular for me through the years.
RC: How many high-end versus player cues?
AG: About ten high end cues a year, maybe $3500 and above, and the rest are more inexpensive players.
RC: Describe your shop.
AG: About six years ago, we built a stand-alone building a couple of hundred feet from our house thatís 40X80 feet. We spent a lot of time making it very cue friendly.
RC: Cue friendly?
AG: We put a lot of thought into getting all the machines into the right spots, where the work would flow logically. We designed things so it would be easy to keep clean, like putting as much as we could on wheels so we could move them to clean, and we installed a high quality dust collection system. We also have a 4-1/2í X 9í Gold Crown Four right in the shop so we can test hit cues.
RC: You started as a player. How did that influence your philosophy about making cues?
AG: I started as a kid, and by the time I was 15, I was doing tips for the locals. I was a serious pool player by the time I was 18-20, and always knew what a good cue felt like, and I already knew what I wanted to build. I think being a serious player gave me an edge as far as being able to construct a good cue.
RC: I know the answer to this next question, since you and I have played a number of times. But, do you still play?
AG: Yes, recreationally.
RC: Whatís your preferred game?
AG: One pocket. Until about five years ago, I would have said nineball, but I really enjoy one pocket these days.
RC: Bar box or big table?
AG: Again, five years ago, I would have said bar box, but now, big table. I was raised on big tables,, but then when all the tournaments and action moved to the bar boxes fifteen or twenty years ago, I played mostly bar box. Now, I enjoy big table play.
RC: What cue makers most influenced you?
AG: Bill Schick.
RC: You said that pretty quickly. In what way?
AG: I was raised in Monroe, Louisiana, and Bill was just over in Shreveport. We used to go over there every weekend. In late 70ís there werenít a lot of well-known cuemakers. And I never saw a cue of his I didnít like. I couldnít afford them but I liked them.
RC: You said ďweĒ used to go over there. Who was we?
AG: Me, a couple of buddies, and Scotty Townsend.
RC: Scotty Townsend was a top player. That must have been good competition for you.
AG: Scotty was my first cousin. We were raised together, and ran together for a long time.
RC: Tell me how you select your shaft wood?
AG: Unlike a lot of cuemakers, I donít cull before cutting. I like to get a good look at the wood and I think you get a better look after itís been cut. I match it by color and ring growth. I grade it, and put what I call my AAA shafts on my high end cues, use the AA shafts on good player cues, and then A shafts on less expensive cues. But even my A shafts are good. I just think somebody who pays four or five thousand dollars for a cue deserves the very best. I have a thousand shafts at any time, and I donít grade them until right before their final pass.
RC: How long is the process beginning to end?
AG: In early years, it took me about five months, but now I know that was rushed. In the last five to seven years, Iím using year old shafts. I make eight cuts, or passes, on all shafts.
RC: What is your favorite wood for use in butts?
RC: You said that without any hesitation.
AG: Iíve always liked its look, but I saw a Ron Haley cue back in Ď96 or Ď97 and it was one of the prettiest cues I ever saw. Ever since then Iíve loved purpleheart. Not many people know it, but I have a Purpleheart collection of all purpleheart cues by different cuemakers. It was something I started that got a little out-of-hand. Most of them I commissioned I have 28 total. Iíve got a Schick, a Haley, a í94 Jerry Franklin, a Verl HornÖ I could go on and on.
RC: What kinds of pin & joint combinations do you use?
AG: I use a 3/8 X 10 pin. I experiemented with radials and unilocks, but didnít see any difference in the way they played. Iím not the kind of guy who tries to reinvent the wheel. The 3/8 X 10 is proven.
RC: What kinds of tips do you use?
AG: LePros on my playing cues, and hard buffaloe on my jump-breaks.
RC: What is your preferred taper?
AG: I use my own custom taper thatís fairly stiff. The first six inches down from the tip stays the same, then gains .003 per inch for 12-13 inches, and itís feathered from there down to the joint.
RC: How would you describe the ďhitĒ of your cues?
AG: Stiff and crisp.
RC: When it comes to making good cues, I believe most knowledgeable buyers are looking for three things -- playability, design and execution. How would you rank the importance of those three issues?
AG: Playability first, then execution, and then design. I take as much pride in building a playerís cue as I do in building a cue like the Lord of the Rings cue that I built for you. Design is important, but play and execution are key. A $500 cue should go together as precisely as a $10,000 cue.
RC: Do you do anything that you think is unique just to your cues?
AG: Some call me a dinosaur, but I still use a manual pantograph and itís all by hand. Not knocking others, but I take pride in that. I take pride in doing things the way Burton Spain, Balabushka, Szamboti and Schick did it. Itís a proven system and I like the old school, traditional way.
RC: Is there one cue that you can single out as the best cue youíve made?
AG: Thatís a touchy one. There are probably ten or so that I really like. Iíve made a couple of nice ones for Will Prout in Kansas City, and a couple for the guys at Cue Addicts, a couple of Starburst cues and the Lord of the Rings cue I made for you. But there is one cue that fit my fancy the most, Dr Wooís ivory handled ďViking ShipĒ cue. I built it in Ď97 or so, and for some reason that one always stood out in my mind.
RC: Do you still take orders?
AG: Yes. Iím running about 4-5 months for basic player cues, and a year or so for higher end cues.
RC: Thanks, Andy. I think people will really enjoy learning a little bit more about you. Iím happy to be one of your dealers and to sell your cues. Theyíre definitely among my favorites.