20 Questions with Tony Layne
July / 2015
Tony is committed to constantly working on the quality and construction of his cues. He feels that anything can always get better no matter what it is. He never sacrifices anything in his constant quest for perfection. Most of his working background is in the food and beverage industry. He is a self-taught cue builder. He lives in Columbus Ohio where he and his wife own the “Front Row Sports Bar”; a nice little neighborhood gathering spot with 3 pool tables, a great crowd of regular customers and a few pool leagues. His Business “Cue Cave” shop, and home are all in close proximity. He shares his life with his wife and 3 children.
1: How did you get started making cues?
I was always getting my cues worked on. If I got a scratch in the forearm or a ding in the butt, I would want to get it fixed right away. I need to have my equipment (shafts, tips, butts) to be perfect. I still keep my personal cues in great shape, now I’m just not so nutty about it. Anyhow, as often as I was playing it seemed like I needed to have work done on my cues. I would have to wait while the work was being done or have to come back to get my cues. I’d come back and the work would not be done, or I could never get it done when I wanted to. I had an opportunity to buy a lathe, so I did. From there I did maintenance and repairs for quite a long time. A lot of it was done for free even though I was doing really quality work. Nobody really taught me. I just figured it out on my own. I would read a lot of forums here and there, but you can’t really get caught up in what works for other people. You have to find out what works for you. It didn’t matter what, broken ferrules, cracked butts, I felt 100% confident that I could do the repair. From there I got more and more into building.
2: How long have you been making your DymondWood Jump/Break cues?
One year and three months. I know every single cue out there, and I know when it was made. When I see one of my cues and its color; I can tell you who I made it for and pretty much when it was made. Some of my cues are dated under the butt cap.
3: How many colors of DymondWood are there, and who came up with the names?
Originally there were 51 different colors made by Rutland Ply. I think they were in business for 50 or 60 some years. They were a huge company. In 2013 I think they made close to 1.5 million cords. They were a big supplier to Burton Snow Boards, Martin Guitars, and gun stock companies. That’s why they had made so many colors. Rutland came up with their own names. I bought the product from Atlas and a couple of other distributors. Did I ever think that I would see a pink DymondWood Jump/Break cue? No. It amazes me that the Bubble Gum was so popular.
4: Are you taking orders right now for cues?
No. I am staying committed to all the orders I have right now, and then after that point I probably won’t take any orders at all. I still make cues and get them out there, but I have a pretty long list of playing and jump/break cues that I have to complete. I want to take my time in making those and get them right. There are a couple of guys who have waited a long time for playing cues. That’s just not the way I like to do business. I don’t like it when people over promise and under deliver. I like to keep a good line of communication open with my customers.
5: How do you feel about Facebook?
It’s a good thing to hear positive compliments. I’ve had an incredible amount of support from people who don’t even know me on a personal level, but they know me through my cues and that speaks volumes. It reiterates why I am doing it. Sometimes I have to lay off of Facebook all together, because I can’t get to all the questions. I was getting 50 to 100 messages a day. It’s rough trying to keep that organized along with taking orders and everything else. The support I get and the great comments, they really help me along when I’m in the cue cave. That’s what I call it. I’m in there 15 to 17 hours a day sometimes, and I don’t get to interact with people that much. So when I see some really nice comments and peoples friend requests and stuff like that, it’s a good feeling to have. It just makes me look so much more toward the future and what I want to build and put out.
6: Do you have a preference of joint?
I like anything big pin. I think the big pin is the next phase of pool. I’m a firm believer that back in the day when we played on certain tables, whether they were Valley’s or American’s, we had to hammer the ball. We had to hit the ball harder in order to get it to do what we wanted. Seems like back then everything was steel jointed and 5/16 pins. It seems like things are changing a little bit to the 3/8-10 modified. I think you get a lot better feel. I don’t think there is any void in contact on the pin with a 3/8 modified or a radial. I believe you get a lot better vibration coming down the cue, rather than a skinny pin that kind of deadens the feel. We’re playing on faster tables now too. The equipment has gotten better. The balls are cleaner. The rails are better, and the slates are thicker. It makes a huge difference in the game, and the way it is played. It doesn’t matter what kind of a player you are. If you want to compete on a Diamond table you have to hit the ball softer, I think. Aluminum, stainless steel, brass, titanium, G-10, they’re all going to have a pretty similar feel, just a difference in weight. My favorite pin, and for most of my playing cues in the future, I’m a huge fan of the big pins and radials.
7: What’s your opinion of the low deflection / composite shafts?
You know this question could open up a can of worms. If I have anything to say, you have to play with what you are comfortable with. When I play with one, I play with an “Edge Hybrid”, but I’d rather play with a one piece maple. The better my game has gotten, I seem to have weened my way off the low deflection shafts. I think that once you get to that point in your game a one piece maple shaft is going to play just as good as anything, depending on the player. If I have anything to say about the low deflection shafts it’s to each their own.
8: What type of wrap do you like best?
I’m a big fan of white ring tail lizard. However, I don’t think it is right for every cue. Lately it seems like everyone is putting them on everything. I like Spanish bull hide. I like to do leather wraps because I haven’t had a customer yet that hasn’t given me the liberty to pick the right one for their cue, and it always works out well.
9: Are there any tips that you like over others?
I have gone through every single kind of tip. I prefer playing with Ultra Skins. I’ve been selling and repairing cues with Ultra Skin tips since Tom started. They’re great tips. There overall quality of leather trumps Kamui a little bit. Kamui is a totally different product and I never down talk other products. I know what like. I know what works for me and what makes sense to me.
10: What is your favorite food or dish?
Italian. It doesn’t matter what it is. It could be manicotti, chicken parmesan, spaghetti, tortellini, or meatballs. Really pretty much anything Italian.
11: What was the first cue you ever owned?
My first production cue was a Meucci Sneaky Pete. Somebody sold it to me in a pool hall and it was cracked. That was way before I could fix it. I might have just left it in my garage or something. I didn’t try to sell it or anything. My first custom cue I ever had was a Richard Harris. I’m just a fan of other guys work; Brent Hartman, Andy Gilbert, Mottey, Harris, Josey, Jacoby. I like Jacoby cues, I think they look really nice.
12: What is your personal playing cue?
My main player is a Paul Mottey plain Jane with Ebony forearm and butt sleeve, 5/16-14 joint, 2 Mottey shafts, and a white ring tail lizard wrap. It’s a beautiful cue. I like it. I’ll play with just about anything I can get my hands on that’s different. I have everything from Josey’s to a Richard Harris. I like the Harris a lot.
13: Any games that you like to play more than others?
Rotation 8, 9, and 10 ball. I never really got into 1 pocket, although I have a 9 foot table at home. It’s just not a game I really got into. Straight pool interests me, but there again, I’ve never really been able to be in an atmosphere where I can play straight pool.
14: Do you have any favorite players you like?
Shane Van Boening. He’s a freak of nature, you know what I mean. When he was younger he would work 15 – 17 hours a day on the game. Not too many people have that opportunity. I would have to say that one of the players that I like the most and that I look up to the most is Dee Adkins. He’s just a super, great guy. He owns a pool hall here in Columbus. “Players Family Billiards”.
15: What kind of case do you have?
My playing case is a JB Rugged 4 X 8. It’s a great case. Usually, I play hear at my bar. I have a whole bin of stuff hear, whether its gloves, toys, trinquettes and everything. But I try to keep things simplified. I have learned over the years; I could have everything that I needed, but it always seemed to turn into some sort of distraction. Now a days I just play. I don’t get caught up in the psyche of stuff. You have to focus on what you are doing on the table instead of how many times you have to scuff your tip before you shoot next.
16: What’s in the case?
My Mottey and jump/break cue. Baby powder, I have to play with baby powder. I always have my old Willard tip tool, dime and nickel. Wherever I go, I have to have them. If have those, I think I can play pretty good anywhere. (For the record Tony plays with one of his own jump/break cues. It’s a modified 54 inch in Bahama Cherrywood.)
17: Is there any other cue makers that you ask for advice?
There are a few guys that I ask here and there. Back when I was starting to get more and more into the cue building I went to a cue show over in Dayton at Airway Billiards (back maybe 6 or 7 years ago), The Midwest Cue Show. I got to meet quite a few people and I met Brent Hartman. I’ve stayed in touch with him. He’s always willing to share and help. I try not to pester anybody. I try to figure things out on my own more so than bothering someone else.
18: What do you do in your spare time for recreation?
I coach little league baseball. I like to make sure the kids have the right instruction. It doesn’t matter what it is; if it’s pool, baseball, basketball, it doesn’t seem like the kids get enough instruction anymore. I take a lot of pride in baseball. I have two young sons and a daughter, and we have fun playing baseball. I love hanging out with my family; playing games, you know, in the yard with my wife and kids.
19: What is your dream car to own?
I’m pretty lucky, I owned two of my favorite cars. A 1977 regular cab, short bed, GMC K15 4 X 4 on 35” tires. The other car that I own is a 2005 H2 Hummer, and I don’t really leave this road. My shop is a mile down the road from here (His bar “The Front Row”) and my home is a mile in the other direction. I don’t drive much, especially this last year. It’s nice having everything so close. I’m here or at my shop or with my family. My favorite all time car is the 1957 Chevy Bel Air.
20: What advice would you give a pool player?
To each there own. This is a game that is so diverse as far as how people play it. There is no one dead set way as to how you should play something. I think that is why most people play the game or enjoy the game. They’re allowed to be creative to do whatever they want, and that goes right along with they’re equipment to. It doesn’t matter what you’re shooting with, as long as when you get back behind that cue ball you are 100% confident in what you are doing. Everybody has some lack of confidence in their game. So the more confidence you can gain in yourself, that’s all that matters. The better your game will be.
Here are some more pictures of Tony's great custom cues and few of his shop.
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We hope you enjoyed the interview and the photos.
Interview by Scot J. Lynne / All Rights Reserved