If you’re looking to purchase a pool cue, then the first thing you need to decide is if you need an American or English Pool cue. In this article, I’ll explain the differences between them and address whether or not you can use them interchangeably.
American vs English Pool Cue
American cues have a larger 13 mm diameter tip compared to English cues which have a tip diameter of around 8-10 mm to make them more suitable for the larger cue ball. American cues are made from maple and use a plastic ferrule, whilst English cues are usually made from ash and use a brass ferrule.
|American Pool Cue||English Pool Cue|
|13 mm diameter tip||8-10 mm diameter tip|
|Plastic ferrule||Brass ferrule|
|Maple wood||Ash wood|
Cue Tip Size
The biggest difference between American and English Pool cues is the size of the tip. American pool cues require a larger tip due to the larger and heavier ball used.
- English pool cue tips are usually between 8-10 mm (0.31-0.39 inches).
- American pool cue tips are usually 13 mm (0.51 inches).
English pool cue tips are generally around 9-10 mm, however some professionals prefer to use 8-8.5 mm tips as these provide more control. There usually isn’t much variation with American pool cue tips, with most manufacturers opting for a standard 13 mm.
This makes American pool cue tips around 35-40% larger than English pool cue tips on average. The reason is due to the size of the cue ball.
- In English pool, the cue ball has a diameter of 1 7/8 inches (47.63 mm).
- In American pool, the cue ball has a diameter of 2 1/4 inches (57.15 mm).
This makes the American pool cue ball 20% larger than the English cue ball.
You may have expected the American cue ball to be around 35-40% larger, to match the cue tip differences. However, in English pool, the cue ball has a diameter that is usually around 4x larger than the cue tip, whereas in American pool, the cue ball has a diameter of around 3.4x larger than the cue tip.
Check out this article to learn about the pros and cons of different cue tip sizes.
Materials (Wood and Ferrule)
The materials used to construct American and English pool cues also allows you to distinguish between them. Let’s start off with the wood.
- American pool cues are made from maple
- English pool cues are made from ash
Ash has a prominent grain rather than a smooth looking appearance like maple which has a much lighter gain. Some players prefer the look of the grain whilst others find it distracting
Apart from that there isn’t much of a difference. Maple is a denser and heavier wood than ash, which means American cues often weight a couple of ounces more than English cues, but in a practical sense this doesn’t make a huge deal of difference.
Check out the images below to see a comparison. You can get different colour cues but these show the grain differences quite clearly. Both images link to the relevant products on Amazon.
Looking at the ferrule also allows you to easily identify an American cue from an English one. The ferrule is the part that connects the leather tip to the wood shaft.
- American pool cues have a plastic (usually white) ferrule
- English pool cues have a brass ferrule
As well as affecting the appearance, the ferrule material plays a key role in the functionality of both cues. As mentioned before, American pool cue balls are around 20% larger than English cue balls. This of course impacts the weight of the ball as well.
American cue balls have a diameter of 2 1/4 inches which corresponds to a weight of 5.5-6 ounces (160-170 g). English cue balls have a diameter of 1 7/8 inches which correlates to a weight of around 3.35-3.5 ounces (95-100 g). This makes American cue balls around 70% heavier than English cue balls.
The plastic ferrule on an American cue is longer and more capable of handling more force than the smaller brass ferrule on an English cue. The plastic ferrule helps to cushion the blow of hitting a larger and heavier cue ball to give you more control.
If you were to hit an American pool cue ball with an English cue, the shot would feel very harsh and harder to control. Also, if you were to do this repeatedly, you could end up damaging the tip by splitting either the ferrule or the wood itself.
Some players actually prefer to use an American cue for breaking when playing with an English cue ball. This is because it provides more power, and some players notice that the leather tip can become squashed, or that the ferrule or wood may become damaged when used for breaking, particularly when using a very small tip.
Some pool cues come with carbon fibre ferrules and are used for breaking because they are capable of handling the extra pressure being exerted.
Many players choose to have a cue which splits into two pieces that can be screwed together. This allows the cue to fit in a smaller case making it easier to transport. These are known as 2 piece pool cues.
- American cues almost always split in the centre.
- English cues usually split in the centre but some may split at the 3/4 point (furthest from the tip).
The 3/4 joined cues are becoming more popular in English Pool and Snooker. Some players simply prefer the look of the 3/4 joint, whilst others find it easier to play with. The 3/4 joint causes the weight of the cue to be balanced further back (closer to the player).
It’s all personal preference though and you should try one-piece and two-piece cues (both split in the middle and 3/4) in your price range to see which feels best to you.
Check out my article comparing one, two and three piece cues to learn more.
We’ve been through the key differences, but what are the similarities between the two types of cue?
- Both American and English pool cues usually have leather tips.
- You can get various lengths of cue within each type. Full size cues are 57″ or 58″, but more commonly 58″ in American pool and 57″ in English pool. Another popular size is 48″ which may be more manageable for smaller players, or more suitable for use in smaller venues. You can also find 36″ cues which are often used by children or when travelling.
- The prices are similar for both types of cue with options available to suit all budgets.
Check out my complete guide to pool equipment to make sure you get everything you need to get the best playing experience.
Can You Use The Cues Interchangeably?
So can you use an English pool cue to play American pool and vice versa?
It is possible to use an American pool cue to play English pool, however, the tip of the American cue is large in comparison to the cue ball, meaning you will have less control and finesse. Using an English cue to play American pool is not recommended, because the cue ball is much larger and heavier and risks damaging the cue tip.
It’s generally best to stick to the type of pool you’re playing when selecting a cue, and consider investing in two cues if you’re going to be playing both. If this is not an option, then go for an American cue, as this will not result in damage. Although most American cues have a 13 mm diameter tip, you can get slightly smaller ones (11-12 mm) which may be more suitable when playing both games.
Some newer players benefit from the larger cue tip found on American cues as it’s easier to hit the ball, although professional often find that it limits the precision at which they are able to strike the cue ball.
Check out this article comparing pool and snooker cues.