Sticking With Perfection: Savannah’s pool cue craftsman Keith Josey

Players from around the world seek out the one-of-a-kind cues created by hand in Josey’s workshop

As a young boy, Keith Josey received two incredible gifts from his father, but they didn’t include a new car or anything else that could be bought with 
money. The first—a perfectionist’s eye—was given to Keith and his four brothers as they helped their father in his woodworking shop and on the site of his custom-built homes. The second—a love of the game of pool—was instilled after the work was done and the father and sons had a chance to cruise over to the local pool hall.
Later on, Josey played in a league and had even won third place in a tournament in Atlanta. But it was the time that he was unable to play that helped shaped his future.

“I needed my cue repaired,” Josey recalls. “So I found a local guy to do it. When he brought it back, there was a big gouge in the ferrule (the sleeve that fits around the cue tip to protect the shaft from splitting).”

“The repair guy said, ‘When you do this kind of work, stuff like that is gonna happen,’” Josey says. “And I thought, ‘No, it’s not!’”

Josey’s commitment to having the job done right led him to establish his own business of cue repair, while still working during the day at Savannah Electric and Power. As his business grew, Josey was able invest in the creation of his own cues.

His wife Sherri, who today is his business partner in Josey Custom Cues, was already a skilled player when they started dating. Impressed with his craftsmanship, Sherri’s father helped Josey buy his first lathe, the machine on which he shapes and creates his cues.

“People started seeing my work, and my reputation for quality craftsmanship spread by word of mouth,” Josey says. “It took time, but things started growing. I met a dealer from Japan who loved the way my cues played. Because of him, my cues became popular there as well.”

“I started getting very busy with orders from both the U.S. and Japanese markets,” Josey says. “So I decided to go full-time with my cue business in 1998.”

Josey’s passage to perfection begins with the cue’s playability.

“The cue has to serve its purpose before it can look good,” Josey says. “You can build a $10,000 cue that is still no good if the player can’t get it to do what he wants. My cues are forward-balanced and there’s no vibrations when you shoot with it, so it‘s almost like it’s part of your arm.”

Luckily for Josey, the aesthetics of his cues were already on the mind of Tim Lilek, an artist in Indiana who approached Josey with stunning medieval and gothic designs.

“As soon as I saw his work, I said ‘this guy is bad to the bone,’” Josey recalls. “He’s like my brother now, like a part of the family.”

After more than two decades of building and repairing cues exclusively from his own workshop, Josey was officially recognized for his workmanship by being named Cue Maker of the Year for 2011 by the American Cuemaker’s Association.

“I was very humbled and also very excited to get that award,” Josey says. For him, the award simply affirmed what his father had taught him and his brothers years ago—do it right the first time. But Josey’s father wasn’t his only influence growing up.

“My mom would always say, ‘Be proud enough to sign your name to everything you do,’” Josey says. “And now I do.”

MATCH PLAY – Balancing stationary work with certain exercises can help prevent pain

 To make his custom cues, Keith Josey often stands for hours at one machine. To help with the strain this causes on his knees and lower back, Josey uses soft rubber mats and thick-soled shoes. But he also benefits from his practice and training at the Savannah Taekwondo Academy.

Taekwondo is a martial art that may seem unrelated to Josey’s full day of standing on his feet and working with his hands, but actually, the loose translation of the word taekwondo is “the way of the hand and feet.”

“Every sport has a conditioning aspect, and in taekwondo, participants learn how to squat, push-up, sit-up, and practice proper general conditioning,” says Drew McKenzie, an exercise physiologist in The Wellness Center at St. Joseph’s/Candler. “This kind of physical preparedness is the key to helping prevent pain in the knees and back. Taekwondo is also one of the exercise programs that uses a mental calming approach in its practice. Beyond the benefits for stress reduction, the calming approach helps to decrease inflammation.”  
  • St. Joseph's Hospital Campus: 11705 Mercy Blvd., Savannah, GA 31419, (p) 912-819-4100
  • Candler Hospital Campus: 5353 Reynolds St., Savannah, GA 31405, (p) 912-819-6000
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St.Joseph's Hospital Campus: 912-819-4100

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