Dan Prather and Chris Hightower inducted into the International Cuemakers Hall of Fame
Dan Prather was inducted into the deceased category of the International Cuemakers Hall of Fame. Dan was born in 1940. As a youth, Dan began his love for woodworking, learning everything he could about wood, carving, and tools. At the age of 17, he proudly served his country in the U.S. Navy. He was honorably discharged in 1960. In 1972, Dan started learning the art of cue making with the help of longtime friend and Hall of Fame cue maker, Verl Horn, because of Verl’s need for cue parts himself. Dan mastered the art of making point blanks, and as a result, Prather Custom Cue Parts became the top supplier of these blanks even until this day. In 1982, Dan really got serious with the cue parts business and rapidly became the main source for everything from point blanks to taps, Irish linen, joint material, and so on. He also made available tapered shaft blanks. All of this made it very easy for a cue maker with little equipment to get started making cues. Cue makers all over the world still use Prather point blanks in their cues as the base for their forearm. The inlaid cue parts can go from very simple up to as fancy as the imagination allows. The family worked together in supplying countless custom orders. They have now also started making full length full-splice blanks with veneers.
Dan was passionate about expanding the reach of the Billiards industry. He visited Switzerland on behalf of the World Pool-Billiard Association to present billiards as a sport to the Olympic Committee. He often sponsored members of the National Wheelchair Pool Player’s Association. Dan also helped to start the world’s first college degree program majoring in billiards by donating 30 custom made pool cues to the National University of Physical Education and Sports of Ukraine in 1997.
Dan enjoyed sharing his craft with his children and grandchildren. His daughter, Jennifer, and his two sons, Jeff and Daniel, came to work with him in the mid 1980’s. Jennifer ran the office and specialized in customer service, Jeff mastered the cue building, while Daniel mastered the CNC (Computer Numerical Controlled) artistic inlays. Throughout the years, every grandchild has worked in the family business too! The Prather family business has continued to be a top supplier of cue parts for decades but has become a top custom cue making shop also. The Prather family was awarded the Cue Maker of the Year award by the American Cue maker’s Association in 2010.
Dan turned the cue parts business over to the family in 2014, but still came in regularly to build one-of-a-kind Dan Prather Custom Cues until he passed away in November 2016.
Picture: Dan and Anne Prather (beloved wife of 57 years)Chris Hightower was inducted into the living category of the International Cuemakers Hall oF Fame. Chris was born in 1961 and played pool from his childhood and grew up working for his dad in the television business. Doing cabinet repairs on console televisions was his first wood working experience. He started playing pool tournaments and doing simple cue repairs and selling other brands of cues in the 1980’s and picked up the nick name The Cue Man. He got serious about building cues in the late 80’s and he repaired and built cues in Woodstock, Georgia from 1988 to 1993 and from 1993 until 2002 in Buffalo and Goodson, Missouri and from 2002 until present in Aragon, Georgia. He got a lot of inspiration from hall of fame cuemaker Leonard Bludworth and in 1988 followed in Leonard’s footsteps and put together a mobile cue repair shop and started working on cues at the professional and top amateur pool events in the Atlanta and surrounding areas. He started building cue repair lathes in 1988 which were modified wood lathes and started the Cue Man Billiards supply business and opened a pool room with the same name the following year. He introduced the Cue Smith line of lathes in 1991. These were the first light weight cue lathes that had the full cue length cutting capability which made them able to build cues from scratch. In 1994 he developed the Cue Smith Inlay Machine which made the small cue shop able to build fancy cues. That is also the year he introduced the large spindle bore lathe with taper bars. The following year saw the first Deluxe Cue Smith lathes with dual chuck headstocks go into production. Through the years he has developed many things for the cuemaking industry from the simple lathe pin, to tenon threaders, auto tip shapers, thread milling tools, leather installation tools, and much more. In 2001 he published the first edition of The Cue Building Book: From Tree, To Tip, To Tradeshow! to go along with his Video Cue Building and Repair teaching series. In 2004 along with a few other cuemakers he founded the International Cuemakers Association and has served as International Director ever since. Chris was also a two time International 9-Ball Champion of Cuemakers in 2012 and 2016. While Chris is most famous for his cue machinery business, he has also made some contributions to the cuemaking industry with Hightower Custom Cues. He started marketing the first Jump Break cues with a longer jump section than the normal forearm in 1989 under the brand name Sceptre. Chris popularized Purple Heart shaft blanks for the break cue market in the early 90s. He also pioneered the 5/16-14 and 5/16-10 pin flat faced joint with choice of hardened wood shaft threads, brass or phenolic insert and popularized the larger .850” joint diameter. He popularized the completely sealed snake skin wraps in the 90’s. He developed a method for using Native American bead work and completely sealing it as inlay work and handle wraps. He also does the same with precious gem stones. He introduced bleached camel bone as an inlay substitute for Ivory. Along with his son Israel he has built extensively inlaid artistic cues that sold for thousands of dollars each, yet continues to build players level cues also. His shop is one of a handful that currently produces cues with both manual machined inlays as well as state of the art CNC inlay work.