WITH JOSH TREADWAY OF
TREADWAY CUSTOM CUES
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
RECOLLECTION CUES (RC): So, Josh, when did you begin making cues?
JOSH TREADWAY (JT): I started in early 2010, working in Jim Buss’ shop in St. Louis. It’s kind of a funny story – I started to try doing house cue tips by hand in the back of my local pool room. Then I started cutting my own tips off or find excuses to take things to Jim to watch him work. After he got to know me, he invited me to go with him to the Allen Hopkins Super Billiards Expo in Pennsylvania, and I found out later he was trying to get to know me and see if I was serious about cues. After that, he asked me to apprentice under him. It was a good way to get started and it really put me ahead of the game. It helped me avoid a lot of the “beginner” mistakes others have to learn by trial and error.
RC: Are you a member of the American Cuemakers Association?
JT: Yes. I joined in 2012. I think I was their third youngest member to join. I think Mike Capone and or Travis Niklich were the youngest and second youngest. I may have them in the wrong order but, I'm pretty sure they were the two youngest. Right now, I’m the youngest active member.
RC: Where do you live?
JT: St. Louis.
RC: I know you're a pretty good player. Do you still play?
JT: Yes, not as much as before, but I used to play a lot. I played seven days a week for several years. Now I'm lucky to play a few hours a month. I try to hit balls on the table in the shop for a couple minutes every night after I'm done working and before I go home. But, that doesn't always happen. I’ve always played big tables, and I feel like I know more now, even though I’m not playing as much. You learn a lot just by being around the game so much.
RC: Are you making cues full time now?
JT: No, not yet, but I’m looking at doing that in the future. Right now, I still work at Cue & Cushion here in St. Louis, and it’s nice to have a guaranteed paycheck at the end of every week. But, I'm eventually going to make the switch.
RC: How many hours a week do you work on cues? I know you work through the night a lot.
JT: About 70-80 hours. I do a lot of repairs now, too … tips, ferrules, replacing handles, refinishes, etc. I get repair work sent from all over the country. So I do much more that just build cues. I’m in the shop seven days a week so I don’t get much sleep. But, I like to stay busy.
RC: Back to playing … what’s your preferred game?
JT: Still nineball, but I enjoy three-cushion a lot. And I like one pocket - when I go to shows and tournaments, I love to watch it. If there's time, I really enjoy getting involved in a doubles one pocket game with other cuemakers or collectors at tournaments and shows. When I do get time to play, it takes a while for the finesse to come back and it's frustrating. But, the love of the game is still there.
RC: How does being a player affect your philosophy about building cues?
JT: I think to build a good playing cue, you have to know what a cue should sound like, how it should feel , and how it should play. My biggest two pet peeves about a cue's playability are the balance and the sound. If you don’t play you don’t really know that. Then you need to know how to manipulate a cue's construction so that it performs the way it should. It’s like anything else -- if you want to be a world class chef, you have to know what good food tastes like.
RC: What cuemakers most influenced you and your work, and how?
JT: Obviously, Jim Buss. I am very appreciative and lucky for all he did for me. He is the one that really gave me the push and gave me this great opportunity. But, there have been so many cuemakers that have helped as well. I have to mention Andy Gilbert, Mike Durbin, Travis Niklich, Pete Tonkin, Jerry McWorter, Chris Byrne, and Richard Chudy. I know I'm forgetting several names and it's hard to come up with all the names on the spur of the moment. So I'm sorry if I didn't mention someone. But, they all helped me with various things over time and it's wasn't always about just how to make a cue. For example. Richard Chudy has helped me a lot in learning how to deal with customers and selling at shows. And in an indirect way, Thomas Wayne influenced me. When I held his famous St. Patrick’s Nightmare cue in my hands and had a chance to study it, it made me want to make cues. Also, I guess Gina cues. His designs are so timeless, and his work is something to aspire to. I've also had lots of help and advice from you and other collectors.
RC: How many cues do you usually make a year?
JT: Up until now about 35 a year. This year, I’m going to make 50 or so, because I have so many orders. I had a great show at the Hopkins event this year, and not only sold out, but took a lot of orders. But don’t want to make more than fifty. I don’t want to stretch myself so thin than something might go out the door that I’m not happy with.
RC: How many of these are player cues versus high end, more collectible cues?
JT: They’re mostly player cues, but a lot of what I have on order now are not necessarily high end, but they’re more than just plain players. A lot of them are running between $1000 and $2000. I make some high end cues through the year that are orders and will make a few to take with me to shows.
RC: So, obviously, you do take special orders?
JT: I do, and right now my wait time is 8-10 months. I'm getting really close to extending that time frame. I really don't want to, but we'll see what happens.
RC: Tell us about your shop.
JT: It’s Jim's shop, but I’ve got a lot of my own equipment and all my own materials. I have my own lathe, and looking at buying a CNC lathe. I have my own tooling and other things. I've got a few sanding lathes and other things that are in storage at the moment. The shop only has so much room. I may be able to buy Jim out someday. He still works full time, so most of the time I’m here by myself. I've turned into a night owl working on cues. But, Treadway cues are all my work from start to finish. They have my tapers, my construction techniques, my design, my finish, etc.
RC: It didn’t take long for your cues to start having their own look. You seem to have a good eye for designs. I notice especially that you’ve already come up with a lot of unique ring designs.
JT: I use a lot of books on graphic art, stencils, and other things, but sometimes I put headphones on with music and just sit for hours and draw designs. When I hit on something that catches my interest, I will keep making adjustments until I find something I'm really proud of. Unless it is a cue that is specifically designed - a lot of the cues that I make kind of design themselves. I will start with a general idea and make additions as the cue begins to take shape.
RC: Tell me about your process of selecting shaft wood and making shafts. How long, etc.?
JT: My shafts have been sitting for a year and a half. I don’t pay a lot of attention to the grain or color until the very last cut. I make six cuts, with at least two months between every cut. Actually, it’s running a little longer now. I do a lot of culling along the way for straightness. I try to match shafts by weight, grain count, color and sound (I drop them on a table). My big thing is to have them clean … I like a good straight grain.
RC: What is your favorite wood for use in cues?
JT: My favorite is Camatillo Rosewood. You’ve got one on your website. It has nice tone, beautiful grain and color. I'm having several cues built for myself by other cuemakers with that wood. If I ever do an anniversary cue it will definitely be Camatillo. I also love Snakewood in a cue. Ebony seems to be popular right now and I like it. In fact, most of the cues that I have on order right now have ebony forearms. I’ve also been using a lot of Birdseye maple recently.
RC: What pin and joint combinations do you use? Which is your favorite?
JT: I use the radial pin. I like the connection – there’s more wood to pin contact, and I like the radius minor diameter of the pin. I undersize tap the shafts so they’re good and tight. I use a flat faced configuration. If the joint is not ivory, or white juma, then it’s double black linen phenolic. I have done very few steel joints. But I do plan to start doing some cues with a 5/16 X14 pin – it’s a classic pin that a lot of people like and I'm getting requests for them. But, I'm going to acquire the right tooling before I make that an available option.
RC: What kind of tips do you put on?
JT: I use double pressed LePros on cues as a standard tip. A lot of people have their own preferences, so many people take them off anyway and everybody has played with a Lepro before. So it's a good place to start when trying out a cue. Personally I like Kamui, Black King, and the newer Zan tips. There are a lot of good layered tips out there and a lot of them are not mainstream. I think it's important for people to try different tips and search for the one that is kind of the holy grail for their game. But, on orders I'll put on what the customer wants unless it's a tip that I don't carry.
RC: Are there particular areas or regions of the country where your cues sell best?
JT: It’s odd, but right around here, locally, was one of the last markets where my cues started selling. There are several top notch cuemakers within a few hours of me so it's been the toughest market. I originally had a good start in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and then California, but right now most orders are from the East coast. The Hopkins shows have really jump started it out there. I'm starting to get more orders from overseas as well. Croatia is probably the hot spot for my cues overseas at the moment.
RC: What is your preferred taper?
JT: It’s not a true "pro" taper; it’s a modified pro taper. In the first 10” the diameter increases .002 an inch, then the next six inches it increases .005 of an inch, and then tapers again before it angles to the joint to match the butt. I experimented with tapers a lot in the beginning, and even copied Jim’s early on, but found that by having multiple tapers I can really change the way a cue hits and flexes. I used to play a lot of golf, and I knew that golf club shafts have multiple tapers. Even though you strike the ball in different fashions I’ve tried to bring that logic to cues by putting the stiffness of the shaft in different places.
RC: How would you describe the hit of your cues?
JT: It’s not a hard hit, but it’s not soft either; it’s right in the middle. I just want them to feel solid. Perhaps a little stiffer than average. I’m not a fan of whippy shafts. A stiffer shaft is easier to make balls with – they have less deflection, but you give up feel and flexibility. It's always possible to fine tune a cue by retapering the shaft to fit your game. But, you obviously can't put wood back on to stiffen them up. Also, I use ¾ inch Juma ferrules normally. That helps with deflection as well without losing flexibility. McWorter and Chudy, for example, are doing their own thing to offset deflection without making the shafts too stiff and losing a good “feel.” Most veteran players feel some deflection is important. Too much can be tough to deal with, but I feel that it's important to have some deflection.
RC: Is there anything you think is unique about your cues or your cuemaking?
JT: I thread every joint collar, butt cap, joint, etc. Also, all my cues are cored from end to end with laminated maple. It's not a once piece core but, I feel that it adds stability and allows me to play with the weight and balance of a cue more. It also makes the hit more consistent from cue to cue. I also don’t use any quick curing epoxy in my cues anywhere except at the joint pin. I use it there because it’s easier later if you have to get it out for a repair without destroying the cue. I also like leather wraps – about 99% of my cues are leather. I just don’t like linens, don’t like doing them, and don’t like the way they feel. I get tired of seeing so many cues with black and white speck linen.
RC: And I know from experience that you do one of the best leather wraps around. Your seams are almost impossible to find. Are there one or two cues that you believe are the best you’ve made?
JT: The Assassin cue that I made and sold this year at the Hopkins show was different and unique. I got the idea while Christmas shopping and saw a martial arts throwing star that got me thinking. I tried to convert the idea to a cue design. I also love the Camatillo Rosewood cue you have on your website. And I really liked a cue I made with a lot of copper in it that I took to Hopkins this year and sold. Also, I loved the Amboyna Burl “art deco” box cue that I entered in the People’s Choice award competition this year at the Super Billiards Expo. It was different than anything that I've done to date.
RC: What are you currently working on?
JT: I’m working on several big cues for collectors. As you know, I’m building a Pink Ivorywood cue with silver veneered bridge points for you. I'll always make traditional cues that everybody loves, but I feel it's important to do things that are outside of the box. It keeps things fresh and allows you to tap into your creativity. I've got some really cool ideas for cues that I'm going to try to have at the Hopkins next year.
RC: You’ve mentioned the Hopkins Super Billiards Expo on the east coast, and I know you regularly show cues at the big Shooters tournaments in Olathe, Kansas. I also know that you regularly attend the International Cue Collectors Show. How important are those shows to your business?
JT: I’ve been going to the Expo for five years, and displaying cues the last two. The shows allow me to build relationships with customers and get my work out for people to see it. I think it's important to get out to shows and see what the market is doing and being able to get feedback from players. After all, a pool cue is meant to be played with. I don't care if a cue has every precious metal or other material in it. It has to be made to perform. I love to go to the International Cue Collectors show. It's a chance to see friends that I may only see once a year. But, also it is very inspiring to see the work of the best of the very best.
RC: I know you had maybe the best year of anybody this year. If I remember well, you took 20 cues and sold them all. I imagine that was a big boost in your confidence.
JT: Sure, it makes me believe that my work is being accepted. But I think only about 60% of my success is the cue -- a big part of the success has to do with going to shows and tournaments and talking with people about my cues, and building relationships by being myself. I've made a lot of friends doing this. A part of me goes with every cue. I have heard a few people say that once you sell a cue that you need to disconnect yourself from it. But after all the hard work on a cue and by me putting my name on it, it's not easy. I love every cue I sell, so a part of me is out there ...
RC: Most players are looking for a combination of playability and design. How do you reconcile those three factors when designing and building your cues?
JT: Playability and quality construction is the most important thing to me. No matter how good it looks, it has to play well and have quality construction techniques. I want my cues to last more than a lifetime. Also, design and execution have to go together. A cue can have a great design but if it’s not properly executed, it doesn’t work. I have to know when to add a detail, an inlay or veneers. And, I have to know when to stop. More is not always better. Even a wrap is very important. And the finish can make or break it.
RC: Last question. Where do you see your cuemaking going in the next few years?
JT: I hope to eventually make the switch to cuemaking full time. We'll have to see how that goes. It's a big step to make that switch. But, the main thing is to keep making cues, improving, and working on my own specific designs. I'm still young so I have lots of years ahead of me. It's funny to go to a show or meet someone and they look at my cues then they look at me. Since I look about 10 years younger than I really am I get some funny reactions. But, this is not just a passion of mine it's turned into an outright obsession. So, I'm in this for the long haul and I will keep making cues until I can't physically do it anymore.
RC: Thanks, Josh. It's been great talking to you. I'm sure a lot of the followers of Recollection Cues will be very interested in what you've had to say. Good luck!