What is a low-deflection (LD) shaft, and can it help my game?

A low-deflection (LD) shaft has less endmass than a regular shaft. As a result, it creates less “cue ball deflection” or squirt, so the CB heads closer to the line of aim when hitting off-center to impart sidespin. LD or low-squirt shafts have both advantages and disadvantages for different players.

Squirt – Part V: low-squirt cues” (BD, December, 2007) summarizes the results of a poll concerning whether or not a low-squirt shaft helps and who it helps. The article also presents a logical analysis with a graphical interpretation explaining how a low-squirt shaft can help.

BTW, here’s the last line of the BD squirt article: my answer to the question of whether a low-squirt shaft can help is: yes, especially if you believe it can help you. The mind is a powerful thing. I use a low-squirt cue and I think I play better with it; therefore, I probably do. I wrote this because the analysis shows only a small expected increase in accuracy with a low-squirt cue for a player with decent squirt knowledge/intuition. Although, a novice player who knows nothing about squirt and how to compensate for it can definitely benefit (a small amount) from a low-squirt shaft, especially when they use english (intentionally or not). The CB will go closer to where they are aiming. That’s usually a good thing. Now, if the tip is aligned center-ball to begin with and the unintentional english is applied with a “swoop” (non straight) stroke, whichever cue has a natural pivot length (or effective pivot length) best matched to the player’s bridge length will be the best at reducing the effects of squirt (or the net result of squirt, swerve, and throw).

There are many myths and misconceptions concerning LD shafts. For more info, see “Pool Myths – Part 4: LD Shafts” (BD, September, 2017).

Here is a summary of possible advantages of low-squirt (LD) shafts:

  • With less CB deflection, you are less likely to miss short shots into big pockets if you don’t compensate your aim when using sidespin.
  • The CB will come off the cue tip closer to the aiming line when using sidespin. Therefore, not as much aim adjustment or compensation is required when using sidespin. For people who aren’t good at compensating for squirt, this can be very helpful. Also, with less compensation, there will be less error. For more info, see Diagram 2 and the surrounding discussion in “Squirt – Part V: low-squirt cues” (BD, December, 2007). A good analogy for squirt in pool is a crosswind in archery. Less is better for aiming over a wide range of distances. Another good analogy for greater error with larger adjustment is estimating a length to within a given accuracy. It is much easier to estimate an inch (or 2.5 cm) to within 1/8″ (3 mm) than it is to estimate a yard (meter) to within 1/8″ (3 mm).
  • A player might be more consistent with shots with sidespin since the possible range of squirt is smaller than with regular shafts. Basically, if there is less squirt then less aiming adjustment is required. For more info, see “Squirt – Part V: low-squirt cues” (BD, December, 2007).
  • Back-hand and/or front-hand english (BHE and FHE) aim-and-pivot aim compensation methods might be more suited to a player’s natural bridge length with a low-squirt shaft.
  • With a bridge length well matched to the natural pivot length of a shaft, the effects of any stroke swoop (intentional or unintentional) will be canceled for short and fast shots. This can be particularly useful with a break cue, where stroking errors are more likely. For more info, see Diagram 4 in “Squirt – Part IV: BHE, FHE, and pivot-length calibration” (BD, November, 2007).
  • Squirt resulting from unintentional english due to slight errors in off-center alignment will be minimized.
  • It can be possible to get slightly more spin on the CB for a given tip offset from center with a low-squirt shaft, but this effect is very small. For more info, see getting more spin.
  • Many low-squirt shafts are constructed with carbon fiber, or as a radial laminate (long wedge-shaped sections glued together and then turned down on a lathe), so they are more likely to hold their straightness over time (i.e., they are less likely to warp). If the wood laminates are chosen carefully (e.g., with a certain grain orientations), this might help improve strength. Also, this could help with consistency from one shaft to another of the same model. Some people think the radial consistency also helps create a more consistent “hit,” regardless of the orientation (twist angle) of the cue, but this effect is questionable. Some people think radial consistency also helps create more consistent squirt, but that effect is also questionable (see “Squirt – Part VII: cue test machine results” – BD, February, 2008).
  • If you prefer a long bridge length, an LD shaft will be a better choice when using the System for Aiming With Sidespin (SAWS). If a shaft’s natural pivot length is much shorter than your preferred bridge length, even 100% BHE won’t provide enough aiming correction for short and fast shots.

But, per the disadvantages below, LD shafts might not be the best choice for everybody.

Here are some possible disadvantages of low-squirt (LD) shafts for some people:

  • Low-squirt (LD) shafts currently available can be expensive.
  • If somebody is used to compensating aim when using sidespin with a higher-squirt cue, it might be difficult to adjust to a lower-squirt cue.
  • Some people might not like the “feel” or “hit” or “sound” or “look” of a low-squirt shaft.
  • It can be more difficult to massé or jump the CB (e.g., when wanting to jump over just the edge of a ball with your playing cue) with some LD shafts (especially maple), especially if a soft tip is used. For more info, see the video below and the jump cue resource page.
  • Some people might not like the small shaft diameter or taper of some low-squirt shafts, especially if a closed bridge is used.
  • A low-squirt maple shaft might not be as mechanically sound over long-term use (i.e., the shaft end is not as strong and tough).
  • The natural pivot length of the shaft might not be well matched to your bridge length, which can cause greater errors with fast-speed shots (see natural pivot length).
  • If you have a short bridge length, a low squirt cue could result in more directional error (as compared to a regular squirt cue with a shorter pivot length) due to any unintentional pivot or swoop during your stroke.
  • If you are used to a low-squirt cue, and you find yourself in a place without your cue, where only regular-squirt cues are available, you might not play very well (until you can adjust).
  • A low-squirt cue will not make it easier to compensate for swerve and throw over a wide range of shots. To aim shots with sidespin, many factors need to be taken into consideration. For more info, see aim compensation for squirt, swerve, and throw.

The following video includes a section demonstrated the jump differences between LD and other shaft types, including carbon fiber shafts:

What is the difference between a low-deflection shaft and a low-squirt shaft?

Nothing. They are the same. A low-squirt shaft creates less (“low”) cue-ball squirt but actually results in large (“high”) cue deflection (because the end of the shaft is lighter and usually more flexible … so it deflects away from the CB more with an off-center hit). So a “low”-deflection shaft actually has “high” deflection!!!

This is why I and others prefer the term: “low-squirt shaft” because it results in less CB squirt. A “low”-deflection shaft has low CB deflection, but high cue deflection. Also, what the shaft is doing (deflecting) is not important. What the CB is doing is what counts. The CB squirts less with a low-squirt shaft.

For more info, see “squirt,” “deflection,” “stiffness.”

Does an LD shaft allow me to put more spin on the cue ball?

The short answer is: No.

Here’s a longer answer:

Per “Squirt – Part II: experimental results” (BD, September, 2007), a common low-squirt shaft has a squirt angle of about 1.8° at close to maximum tip offset, as compared to 2.5° for a typical regular-squirt cue. So a low-squirt shaft offers only about 30% less squirt than a typical regular-squirt cue. Per TP B.7, if you calculate the effective offsets using the squirt angles above, the percentage change in effective tip offset and the resulting spin for a given actual tip offset is 2-3%, so this effect is small. The diagram at the top of TP B.7 shows an exaggerated illustration of how the “effective tip offset” differs from the “actual tip offset,” and how this depends on squirt. With an LD shaft, to get the same amount of spin (i.e., the same effective tip offset), the actual tip offset will be slightly less than with a non-LD shaft. But, again, this difference is very slight in a comparison of typical LD vs. non-LD equipment. Also, if a shaft had much more endmass (much more than a slight amount more), you would be able to hit farther out on the CB, with a larger actual tip offset, to get the same effective tip offset (and spin) produced with the LD shaft. Therefore, an LD shaft cannot produce more spin; although, the aim and tip offset will be slightly different to get the same amount of spin. For an extreme example of this, see the video and info on the miscue-limit squirt effects page.

For more information and illustrations see: “Pool Myths – Part 4: LD Shafts” (BD, September, 2017).

Now, when comparing cues and/or tips, it is important that the tip offset is the same for both. If the tip size and shape are different, and one uses “tips of english” as a measure, perceived tip offset can be very different than actual offset, resulting in significant differences in the amount of spin. See the “tips” of english resource page for more illustrations and explanations.

LD shafts typically have smaller-diameter tips than non-LD shafts. Because of this, a person might tend to place the tip farther from center than with a thicker non-LD shaft. Obviously, this would apply more spin to the CB (as long as the tip contact point is within the miscue limit).

The shape of the tip can also make a difference. For more info, see the illustration on the cue tip size and shape effects resource page.

Also, with draw shots, if someone is accustomed to a larger shaft that is close to touching the cloth at CB address, and they place a smaller-diameter shaft in that same apparent position (close to the cloth), the effective tip contact point offset on the ball will be lower.

For more info on LD shaft spin effects, see:

Also, tip hardness can have a slight effect on the amount of spin that can be applied for a given tip offset. For more info, see the cue tip hardness effects and cue efficiency resource pages.

Also, cue weight can affect one’s stroke, so it is important to consider cue weight in any comparison. For a given stroke, a heavier cue will deliver more speed to the CB and less spin will wear off on the way to the OB (especially with a draw shot, due to drag) or to a cushion. Also, with a draw shot, a faster CB will also have more backspin (for a given tip contact point), creating more draw after the hit.

The quote below is a good test to prove that any cue produces the same amount of spin for a given tip offset from center. For an example of how to do this sort of test carefully, see the 6:34 point of this video.

from Patrick Johnson (in AZB post):

1. Use a striped ball as your “CB” with the stripe vertical and facing you.

2. Hit the ball on the edge of the stripe (maximum side spin), aiming it straight across the table (diamond to diamond) – put a target, like a piece of chalk, on the far rail to easily see if you’re hitting straight across.

4. Hit it just hard enough to rebound to the near rail. Mark the spot it hits on the near rail.

5. Check the chalk mark after each shot to be sure you hit right on the edge of the stripe.

4. Don’t count any shot if (1) you didn’t hit the far rail target, (2) the chalk mark isn’t exactly on the edge of the stripe, or (3) the speed is different.

from Patrick Johnson:

Can one cue stick produce more spin than another? No.

The force of a stick’s momentum and the force produced by its squirt are combined into a single “force vector” that points through the CB in the direction the CB will travel. So when a stick is pivoted at its Squirt Pivot Point to hit the CB at a given spot, it produces the same “force vector” as any other stick doing the same thing, no matter what its angle of approach (the same as a theoretical unpivoted “no-squirt” cue).

The CB can’t tell which direction a stick is pointed – it can only “feel” the direction and magnitude of this “force vector”. And since every stick produces the same “force vector”, every stick “feels” the same to the CB and the CB reacts the same way to each.

squirt pivot point effects

Should I switch to an LD shaft?

… not if you have played effectively with an non-LD shaft for a long time. Using a shaft with a different amount of deflection will require adjustments in how you aim shots with sidespin, per the info on the sidespin aim compensation resource page.

LD shafts are generally recommended because they do offer tangible advantages. However, an LD shaft might not be the best choice for everybody based on the potential disadvantages.

Whatever shaft you choose, you will need to practice and play with it to learn how to adjust for the amount of deflection. The best thing to do concerning a shaft, is to choose one you like and stick with it. The longer you play wit a given cue, the more effective you will become over time.

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