What are differences among solid, layered, and milk dud tip, and how do you know which is best?

There are many different tip brands, types, and hardnesses. The choice you make isn’t really that important as long as you chalk properly. The type and brand of chalk doesn’t really matter either. As with the cue you select, the most important thing is chooe a tip you like and stick with it. Different tips will have slightly difference hit efficiency and slightly different sound and feel, but this is something you can easily get used to. There really isn’t any significant performance difference concerning miscue limit and maximum spin (see tip hardness effects). As long as a tip holds chalk, you can play well with it.

from Chris Renfro (in Facebook post):

What makes a good tip? The short answer would be Durability, Consistency, Ability to Hold Chalk. There are other factors that come into personal choice such as elasticity, hardness, appearance.

Durability comes down to how long with the tip play like it is graded.. Generally if you start out with a soft or medium tip the days are numbered until the tip ends up moving up the scale in hardness. Most tips will end up around 76 on a shore D over a period of time. Since the changes happen gradually most people don’t really notice the changes unless they are paying very close attention and have the ability/playing level to detect subtle differences in spin and speed. Generally when most people notice is when they swap out to a new tip and go “Wow!!” and have to adjust to how it plays. Many pros are now changing tips on a schedule and not waiting until they have changed drastically so they are always going to be playing with a tip that is in a very narrow range. Many pros also are playing harder tips for the same reason.. Hard tips are already 76 or higher. They may glaze or they may lose some elasticity but overall they will stay the same longer.

Durability is an area where a single layered tip generally will win out over a layered tip. Soft and Medium single layered rely not only on how hard they are pressed but also the size of the fibers in the leather selected. This is why even if you over press something like an elk master you will never get it to be a true hard tip.

Consistency is pretty much being able to count on each and every tip being the same as it’s brothers and sisters and being the same from batch to batch year to year. This is where most people assume that layered tips have the edge and for the most part that is a true statement for the PREMIUM layered tips.

To make a premium layered tip the first step has to be layer matching the leather. Each layer needs to be the same thickness, same hardness and the same elasticity for the tip to be consistent. If you wonder why Navigator uses the vivid colors it is 2 fold… They catch you eye but the colors help them group the different layers together for assembly. No danger of having soft layers mixed in with hard layers and vice versa. You do not see this form of consistency in non-premium layered. If you are dealing with a tip that is coming off the line in different hardness grades so they have to grade after the fact it is because the layers were not matched and yo may find that after trimming the hardness was not as advertised. After testing many tips I can honestly say that many tips on the market come in at different hardness grades than they are sold as. This is why some times you can get the exact same tip and not like it or if it is a premium you can likely assume that your source may be compromised and you got a fake.

The second most important part of the layered tip is the adhesive selected. As most people know when Navigator came to the market they were infamous for delaminating. Once they corrected the issue they have garnered a large following.. Think about the layer matching next time you see one and you might understand a little more about the thought process behind their colors. Also think about that the next time you see a tip with different layer thickness. coloring between layers, inconsistent glue lines, or furrowed dome. If the layers are not consistent then tips cannot be.

The consistency of a single layered really depends on the leather that was used to make the single layered.. Where the layered tips use layers that are skived to a specific thickness plus or minus a very small amount because of the scarcity of thick enough hides to make single layered they are not generally skived that consistently. When you get a single layered that popcorns on install or refuses to hold shape you have gotten a single layered that was likely made from a section of hide that was not uniform and one side was thicker than the other before they roll pressed the hide to prep it. We can usually identify these tips when we fat liquor the leather but other makers do not fat liquor as part of the processing so while we have a few still escape into the wild they have a larger percentage sold. During QC we toss out about 20-25% of the tips we start with because of consistency problems.

Holding chalk. LOL well that should be a no brainer but it is not. Most layered tips are made from pigskin which is a very tight leather grain to start with. Making a layered tip out of other leathers is done but most other leathers are looser grained and lower in elasticity so using them makes little sense.. Japanese Pigskin being the Cadillac so much that many tips being made from baked Chinese pigskin pretend to be Japanese but they harden so fast that you likely will know and the jig is up which leads to chemical treatments so that doesn’t happen. While improving the COR and durability this makes for a tip that is very tight grained when talking about pigskin and as such will not take a bunch of chalk as the surface is relatively smooth compared to other tips and glazes fast. This can be handled either thru maintenance or by using a premium grade of chalk as it will slow down the glazing that occurs from the tip slipping during contact with the cueball. Basically glazing is the same thing as burnishing the sides of a tip you are just burnishing the top with the cueball.

As far as single layered you can have those glaze as well over time. Water Buffalo is the tightest grained leather used in a single layer and as such is the most likely to glaze. With single layered and layered using a small piece of fine sand paper or a maintenance tool that is not overly abrasive should be all that is required to keep a tip accepting chalk and gripping the cueball… In the other aspects of a tip Elasticity has been mentioned. Think of it as bounce. Tips are nature’s springs. Tips with more Elasticity play faster and in some instances you can actually feel the cueball jumping off the tip. For some people that is what they are looking for, while other players may hate that characteristic and feel like those tips are harder to control.

Appearance. Yeah buddy. Layered tips knock that one right out of the park with the pinnacles being the Kamui Clear and the Navigator alphas. Not only do they look great but you can see them from across the room. Marketing genius which has led to the skittles onslaught in the break tip market. We will discuss break tips next time.

Hardness. There are scales out on the internet that show Shore Hardness. Sadly they are most always in Shore A so they border on useless as the tip has to be prepped before it can be tested. Hardness generally cannot tell the tale completely by itself when using a measurement like Shore D which is the appropriate scale. I can hand you 3 different tips that all test as a 70 on Shore D and when you hit them each you would quickly realize one is a soft one is a medium and one is a hard tip. This come from the COR of the tip which is greatly determined by the leather chosen but that can also be impacted by the chemical treatments discussed earlier. Anytime you are trying to match a tip by a Shore number first thing you need to do is make sure the 2 tips are made from the same leather type. We use Shore D as a QC tool. We do not make a tip to a specific durometer rating but to a specific COR %. Generally speaking tho for layered tips since most are pigskin mediums are around 68-70 Shore D. The cueball is 100. Phenolic tips like on the BK2 are around 90, the Samsara is around 83 and ye old Elk Masters should be low 60s just to get and Idea. Generally the hardest leather tip that can be pressed is going the WB Black and it will top out close to 80 unless it has been soaked in something like an epoxy.

So what tip is best? The answer pretty much is a consistent one that lasts more than a week and doesn’t glaze every hour on the hour. The rest is determined by your shaft and by your confidence in tip.

from PoolDawg (from link):

Solid leather tips are the most traditional style of tip. Popular examples include Le Pro, ElkMaster, and Triangle. Basically, they take a large piece of leather and punch a solid tip shaped cylinder out of it. Because they come from a real piece of leather, minor blemishes and defects in the leather itself can cause these tips to be a little inconsistent, and tiny gaps in the leather can cause issues like mushrooming, which can then lead to miscues. Regardless of that, these tips are incredibly popular, usually inexpensive, and they’re still preferred by a lot of old-school shooters to this day.

Because of the inconsistencies in solid leather tips, companies developed layered leather tips in the 1990s and tips from companies like Tiger, Kamui, and Moori have been popular ever since. Layered tips are made by stacking anywhere between six and ten thin sheets of leather on top of one another and then punching out 14mm cylindrical tips. This modern process has greatly increased the durability and consistency of tips, and layered leather tips are the most popular style today.

Milk duds are soft solid leather tips, usually ElkMasters, that have been soaked in milk and then compressed to a certain thickness or hardness. The amount of soaking time varies, but it seems like most people do it for around 24 hours. The idea is that by soaking these tips in milk, the fats in the milk are absorbed evenly by the tip, bonding to the leather causing it to swell up. Once the tips have been thoroughly soaked, they are then compressed, often between two steel plates or in a vice-like cue tip press. The compression dries out the tips, makes them denser, and hopefully gives them a more uniform hardness and feel. In short, you take soft tips and make them harder with milk and compression.

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