INTERVIEW WITH DAVID ELLIOTT
NOVEMBER 2, 2020
RECOLLECTION CUES (RC): David, I want to start by telling you I spent about two hours yesterday playing with one of your new merry widows, and I was really impressed with it. It had a nice firm hit that was very soft, and within five minutes I was very comfortable with it. I’ve been playing with a McWorter low deflection shaft and I really didn’t notice much difference as opposed to yours, so I liked that as well. It really played nice.
So, you live in Casselberry, Florida, right?
DAVID (DE): I do, but my shop is in Orlando, where I share space with Chris Nitti.
RC: When did you start making cues?
DE: For a little over a year on my own. For years I’ve been helping Chris with all the different steps, from construction to finish; I just wasn’t completing any all on my own.
RC: Are you still helping Chris with his cues? How much time are you spending on your own cues?
DE: The last few months, I’ve only been working primarily on my own cues. I’m not really helping Chris much anymore. I’m pretty much full time for Elliott cues.
RC: I know you have a lot of your own machinery, but describe your shop for me.
DE: I have most of my own machinery. I’m using two lathes, including a CNC lathe. We share a sanding lathe. We’re actually looking for a new shop that we can continue to share, because I need a little more room. I have a third lathe that we don’t have room for. And I’ve been making a lot of new pattern inlays for Chris on my CNC, so there’s still a few things we share.
RC: Do you have any thoughts about going your own direction with regard to designs? Do you think your cues will eventually take on their own look?
DE: I think yes, but the traditional look is really embedded in me. But over time, I think yes. As to construction, no.
RC: I’ve always believed that the best cue makers’ cues have a certain distinct look to them, and you can often spot them across the room. You often can’t really describe the look, but you just somehow know their cues when you see them.
DE: I know what you mean. I hope over time my cues take on their own look.
RC: How many cues do you usually make a year?
DE: Probably about a rate of 20 or so a year, but plan to start making more, maybe 40 or so.
RC: How many “players” cues versus high end cues?
DE: Almost all players cues, right now. All are very traditional.
DE: Are you taking special orders?
DE: Yes. Very specific.
RC: What’s your “wait time?”
DE: Eight months to a year, depending on the complexity.
RC: Are you a player?
DE: I love to play. I play regularly, and twice a week in league.
RC: What is your preferred game?
DE: Eight ball, probably. I play mainly on eight footers, since that’s what our leagues use, but I have a nine footer at home.
RC: How does being a player affect your philosophy about building cues?
DE: It helps me to be able to identity how a cue hits and feels, and to distinquish between a good hitting cue and a poor one.
RC: Which cue makers have most influenced you and your work? And how?
DE: Chris (Nitti), of course, since I’ve worked with him for years. He’s taught me a great deal, and just being here in the shop with him a been a big influence. And Ron Haley. He’s a great guy and I talk to him often. He’s a great mentor. Paul Drexler has helped me a lot also, especially on the CNC. He visited our shop one day and gave me a crash course. But overall, Chris has been the major influence.
RC: Of course, Recollection Cues is representing your cues now. Are you working with any other dealers?
DE: Not as yet. You’re the only one now. I’m really not making enough cues right now to need more.
RC: Tell me about your process of selecting shaft wood and making shafts. How long does it take you?
DE: A year to a year and a half. I make six or seven passes. I buy my wood from Champo in Canada, the same as Chris, but I do my own cutting. I have more of a pro taper; it’s a little longer and straighter. I do them on a CNC machine. I finish them at a full 13mm, and if someone wants less I can always take them down. Or, if they want a custom taper I make it, or they can send me a shaft and I can copy it. Our policy here at the shop has always been we’ll adjust a shaft at no cost, just the cost of shipping.
RC: What is your favorite wood for use in cues?
DE: I love purpleheart. I just love the natural color. I also really like pretty birdseye maple. And l like burls.
RC: Do you core all your cues?
DE: Yes. It tends to make all my cues play the same.
RC: Do you use radial pins exclusively?
RC: What kind of white material are you using for inlays?
RC: For butt caps and joints?
DE: For white, I use elforyn. For black, I use Double- black phenolic.
RC: How about for ferrules?
DE: Linen based melamine.
RC: What kind of tips?
DE: Soft Wizards.
RC: I know all of Chris’ cues were always drilled for weight bolts, whether they had on or not. Are you following the same practice?
DE: Yes. If someone wants to make a cue heavier, or sometimes lighter, I can send them the appropriate bolt.
RC: Are you doing anything special with your shafts to cut down deflection?
DE: No, but if a customer is concerned we can accommodate most of the popular low deflection shafts.
RC: Are there particular areas or regions where your cues sell best?
DE: Not really.
RC: How would you describe the hit of your cues?
DE: A nice firm hit.
RC: Most cue enthusiasts are looking for a combination of playability, design and execution. How would you rank the importance of each? 1. Playability 2. execution second.
DE: Playability is foremost. And a design has to be properly executed. I think execution is probably second.
RC: Is there anything you think is unusual or unique about your cues or your cuemaking?
DE: Maybe not unusual, but I want attention to detail, and perfect execution of every cue to be more important to me than anything else.
RC: Are you a member of the American Cuemakers Association?
DE: That’s in process right now. I’m waiting to submit a cue for approval at the next Board meeting. Assuming it’s approved, I’ll be a member at the conclusion of that meeting, I hope.
RC: Any big cues in the works? Anything you might be building as an entry for the next Hopkins “People’s Choice” competition?
DE: Yes, I’ll have a cue in that booth.
RC: I know you’ve attended the SBE at Valley Forge each year for quite awhile, and know you’ve displayed a few of your own cues there in the past. How important do you see that show being to the future of your business?
DE: It’s very important. It’s the place where you get to show a selection of your best work. I’ll continue to have a booth jointly with Chris.
RC: Thanks, David. We’re looking forward to seeing you there in March.