Pool-Cue Hit Quality
The single most-important criterion for selecting a pool cue is the pool cue's hit quality. Most pool players prefer that the impact of the cue tip with the cue ball is a crisp, solid "plink" sound. If the leather (or other material) of the cue's tip is soft or flattened, the hit can produce a mushy feel and produce more of a "thunk" than a "plink" sound.
Solid Construction for Hit Quality
A one-piece pool cue has the capacity to produce the best hit quality. A one-piece cue could come from a single piece of wood, thus eliminating any joints where a loose fitting can dissipate power. The best custom cue manufacturers recognize the potential of one-piece cues and try to create two-piece cues with the same quality.
A Multi-Piece Cue is Convenient
If a one-piece cue is so solid, why build two-piece, three-piece, four-piece or five-piece cues? The answer is portability. It's very awkward to carry around a five-foot long stick; even a two-and-a-half foot cue case can be cumbersome. Some companies produce three- and four-piece cues for the handful of players smitten by briefcase-sized cue cases. Don't be smitten.
Each Joint in a Pool Stick is Potential for Failure
When someone cuts a one-piece pool cue into pieces and adds hardware to hold those pieces together, the finished product can't be a perfect reproduction of the original cue. The best manufacturers get two pieces, the shaft and the butt, to line up and hold together remarkably well--but these are people whose passion has turned them into master craftspeople. A company that simply manufactures sticks cannot do as good a job.
Over time, every joint on the pool cue can loosen or shift on the wood, resulting in a mushy hit, a rattle or an unwanted bend in the stick. Worse, if you or your friends are careless when assembling the cue, you can loosen threads or even strip them beyond use.
Some argue that having a pool cue with a screw-on tip is helpful when a tip wears out since you can unscrew it and immediately replace it (if you have another screw-on tip handy). But what if you happen to lose the screw-on tip? Until you can order a replacement, the cue is useless.
In contrast, it takes about three minutes to prepare a cue for a new tip, 15 minutes for contact cement to cure, and another five minutes or less to shape and burnish a newly mounted tip. If you carry your own tip-replacement gear and learn how to use it, you can have any pool stick ready for use 23 minutes after its tip fails.
Don't Buy a Pool Cue with a Screw Tip
According to Sandy Monoski, owner of Monoski's Gameroom Supplies in Montoursville, Pennsylvania, makers of fine, custom-pool cues simply do not make them with screw-on tips. You can find inexpensive two-piece cues starting around $50 (as of August 2009). Don't settle for a cheaper stick (or a more expensive stick) that incorporates a screw-on tip.