How do you replace a cue tip?

Here’s a detailed 10-step procedure to replace a tip with no special tools required and and here’s a video demonstration:

For more information, see “DIY Tip Replacement” (BD, May, 2021).

The following additional videos demonstrations show variations and options:

from WildWing (in AZB post):

I take off a tip like you do, but I prefer to finish the top of the ferrule with a file, being very careful to keep it square on the ferrule.

I put the new tip on about like you do, but I don’t tape the sides of the ferrule. I use a gel super glue, which gives plenty of time to get the excess off. Also, I always glue a red fiber pad on the tip, as it makes finishing subsequent tips easier.

The difference is, I don’t use a razor or other knives. I put masking tape on the ferrule, and use a portable vise, with the shaft inside a nice thick towel. I put enough pressure on the shaft to keep it stable, but loose enough for me to turn the shaft in the towel. Freezer tape works best on the ferrule, as it doesn’t leave residue as much as standard masking tape.

I cut strips of 320 grit sandpaper, and trim the excess tip using a shoe shine motion, turning the tip every 15 seconds or so. This admittedly takes longer than cutting with a knife, but it’s my preferred way. I never touch the ferrule with the sandpaper. Using this method, you’re sanding over the freezer tape as well as the excess tip, so you replace the tape often, don’t go through the tape.

Here’s the slightly tricky part. When you’ve got the tip almost flush with the ferrule, but you can’t go any farther because of the tape, you put another wrap of tape on the ferrule, but leave a millimeter or two of ferrule showing. Keep on sanding the tip, turning the shaft, but check quite often to see when you’re perfectly flush with the ferrule. You won’t go into the ferrule if you’re careful. That little space between tape and tip allows you to flush the tip without going into the ferrule. You may want to use 400 grit for that last little bit.

Once perfect, burnish the sides of the tip with wet thumb and paper towel. I don’t recommend those plastic burnishing tools that taper on the inside, because I’ve heard of too many tips popping off with it.

Then shape the tip with your choice of tip shaper, or medium-fine cross cut file. Once shaped I like to burnish the sides again. That’s it. Although a bit time consuming, this method ensures that you don’t decrease the diameter of the ferrule, or scratch or gouge it.

from ShootingArts (in AZB post):

If using a utility knife, go buy one of the fixed blade knives. You may still need to shim a little to have a very tight grip on the blade. If there is any wiggle in the blade I put on some eye protection and snap off an old blade even with the handle and use it as a shim. With enough handle to hold the blade exactly where you want it, the blade is much less likely to do damage. Study the bevel angle, you want to come close to matching it but a bit too much gets that big ugly! The main reason people damage ferrules and tips with a utility knife is that they are using the handles with a retractable blade. These flop around and there is no way to control the blade.

One thing, the premium blades are worth the money. Bi-metal, Kobalt or Tit, they are all much sharper than standard blades. The worst blades of all are the heavy duty blades. They have a steeper bevel. They start off duller and dull faster. Before every tip install find a sharpie and put a mark on the blade. Three tips with a standard blade or premium and I toss it in the drawer to replace a rough blade. The premium blades could probably go to five or six tip installs but I’m not blowing a tip install to save a few cents. Notice I said mark first! We all are going to do things like marking a blade afterwards, we all forget. I make it the first step in my process so the blade always gets marked.

Rather than sanding anything, I cut a few extra laps around the tip with my sharp tool until I can burnish it, no sanding required. One thing about burnishing, the only proper thing to burnish with is a new hundred dollar bill. Any new bill would work for some but I want the tip to learn early what things are all about!

I did things a bit differently for the glue up. Built the tape up to the same diameter as the tip, then made a couple of laps sticking about an eighth inch higher than the end of the ferrule so it formed a guide and cup to hold the glue to be absolutely sure that it went where I wanted it and nowhere else. A couple rubber bands give me all the pressure I want. I Stretched them and wrapped another rubber band around the rubber bands and shaft to hold tension on them.

from Garrett Williams (via e-mail):

Every time I have ever seen a demonstration of installing a tip and every tip I’ve ever installed (hundreds of them). I have sanded the tip flat with between 400 to 800 sandpaper in a figure 8 pattern to flatten the surface and help with mechanical adhesion by providing a more uniformly porous surface. I check the flatness by setting the tip on my L.S. Starrett machinist square beam and looking for light passing underneath. The beam on my square is extremely flat. I then place a drip of loctite on a piece of paper and rub the flattened surface of the tip on the super glue and on the flat surface and I allow that super glue to dry. This makes sure that if the tip is particularly dry it does not absorb most of the super glue and fail to glue to the ferule. I then lightly sand the super glue surface again to finally flatten for gluing. I then position the tip in my Delrin centering tool and breathe on the surfaces (with “foggy breath”). Kind of like when you clean your glasses to provide a small amount of humidity to the surfaces. I live in New Mexico and we have very low humidity CA glue requires moisture to bond. Then I press the surfaces together.

I used to use loctite professional now I use loctite ultra-gel control in the tiny multi tube pack to help with freshness. I made the change after calling loctite and speaking with a engineer in the commercial adhesive division. He recommended loctite 435 for gluing leather tips to thermoplastics melamine phenolic polycarbonate or micarta. I looked up loctite 435 and it was about $200 a tube. The description said it was a low viscosity rubber toughened surface and sensitive instant adhesive with increased flexibility and peel strength along with increased resistance to shock so I suspect that it’s the same product as ultra gel control just in a commercial bottle.

from logical (in AZB post):

I have a block of hardwood with a half dozen perpendicular 12-14 mm holes drilled in it that I use to help keep the edge square when I clean up and prep the face of the ferrule. Lay the block on the sand paper, tape up a few inches of the shaft – I actually like blue painters tape – and drop it thru the smallest hole it will go in and give it a few twists.

from Bob Jewett (in AZB post):

I’ve been re-tipping cues by hand since 1967. My technique gradually evolved to what is shown in the video.

The block I use to position the shaft/sandpaper/cover sheet is a rectangular sharpening stone. That serves double duty when I use a pocket knife to do the trimming.

When or how often should you replace a cue tip?

Usually, a tip is replaced either when you want to try something new or if your current tip has worn down too low, where there is almost no tip material left on the shoulder of the ferrule. Although, if your tip is not holding chalk well and scuffing won’t solve the problem, that would be a good reason to replace it. However, as long as you chalk before every shot like you should, the tip surface should stay in good condition (because chalk is slightly abrasive).

If you use a hard tip, chalk properly, and resist scuffing or shaping your tip (unless it is absolutely necessary), a tip can last a really long time, even several years with regular use.

What glue is best?

Any cyanoacrylate (CA or super glue) gel (e.g., Loctite brand) is fine, assuming it isn’t too old. It is best to buy multi-packs of single-use tubes from a busy retailer (like Walmart or Home Depot), where the packages don’t sit on the shelves too long.

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