Maker of pool cues from 1982 to
present in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Jerry W. Franklin, founder of South West Cues,
was inducted posthumously into the American Cuemakers
Association Hall of Fame in March 2005.
Born in Great Bend, Kansas in 1953, Jerry came
from a classic Midwestern family. Hard work and hard play
brought them to a tiny desert boomtown in 1982: Las Vegas,
Mechanical aptitude surfaced early for Jerry. By
the time he was 10 years old, he was building go-carts from
scrap bicycle parts. The day his dad discovered the lawnmower
dismantled and the missing motor mounted on his son's
"dragster," he knew that the boy was an achiever.
While pursuing a college degree in accounting,
his talents and aspirations found a meeting place. In 1976, he
repaired David Kersenbrock's car in exchange for a custom pool
cue. Shortly thereafter, while setting up a bookkeeping system
for Kersenbrock Cue Service, Jerry became intrigued with the
machinations of building a pool cue. Soon, he was helping on the
machines and learning how to make cues. In 1978, Kersenbrock
briefly relocated to Arizona, and Jerry, remaining in Las Vegas,
worked in the refrigeration business for the next two years.
In 1980, Jerry started to do cue repairs on his
own, and began assembling the equipment necessary to make cues.
By 1982, South West Cues was founded. "South West Cues" was the
name Jerry selected because it was a collaboration of many
hands, minds and passions. From the early years, family members
pitched in intermittently. Jerry's nephew and successor Mike
Bunker explains, "He gave everyone input into the business. We
all had opportunity to develop."
As Franklin's shop in
Las Vegas grew, Kersenbrock returned to contribute inlaid
artwork while the two jointly developed a new cutting technique.
What began as an idea inspired by a hobby magazine became an
important innovation in the cuemaking industry. A table saw with
mounted jig for tapered cuts shortened a 20-minute job to five
minutes. There were many months of experimentation and
fine-tuning. Today those same machines still achieve a
phenomenally smooth cut, saving important time and labor while
avoiding human error in over-sanding.
As South West Cue's popularity grew,
so did the number of visitors to the shop. Often described as a
true gentleman, Jerry always took the time to stop and talk,
share and explain. He was equally forthcoming with information
for other cuemakers as well as cue enthusiasts.
Based on outward
appearance, there has been confusion between Kersenbrock cues
and early South West cues. Although Jerry maintained the
six-point and brass joint screw designs from David, he changed
the doweling technique of the butt section at his own shop in
1980. The grip section was extended three inches, doweling in
two directions; up into the nose and down into the base.
South West cues are easily identifiable by their
design and construction. The joint is the most recognizable
aspect of the cue. With its long brass 3/8-11 screw and 3/8 in.
micarta collar on both the butt and the shaft, it used to be
that you could identify a South West cue from across a room. Now
that several other makers have adopted the basic design,
identification requires closer inspection. For instance, South
West cues have a rubber bumper that pops in and out, as opposed
to many of the copies which have bumpers held in place with a
typical screw. Although the early cues are unmarked, cues made
since 1993 feature the cactus symbol stamped into the joint
screw, followed by the serial number (which begins each year
with 300) and the year of manufacture. The company recommends a
Certificate of Authenticity for pre-1993 cues.
On May 11, 1996, just
when Jerry was starting to get enough free time to do some of
the activities he really enjoyed, he died suddenly of a heart
attack, at the age of 42. His wife Laurie and the other workers
in the shop have continued making South West cues with the same
pursuit of excellence that Jerry started 14 years earlier.
If you order a South West cue today,
it will take approximately eight years to arrive. There are two
reasons for this. The first has to do with the time required for
the scientific approach used in making a South West cue. For
example, the shafts start as long, one-inch square pieces of
rock maple. They are turned down by a series of twelve cuts that
remove less than a sixteenth of an inch at a time, with a
minimum of two weeks between each cut. The densities of the
materials used in the three sections of the butt are calculated
with a computer to determine the weight and balance point of a
cue. Added weight or adjustment of balance comes from the
aluminum or steel threaded rods that connect the three sections
together. Once the butt is assembled, it is turned down with a
series of cuts that are several weeks apart.