Ted Harris Cues
A Business in Repair
by Freddie Agnir photos courtesy of Raymond Linares
Quite often, the start for a budding cue maker is in cue repair. Repeated repair business then often leads to cue building. However, when a cue maker establishes himself as a builder of cues, normally the repair business becomes secondary.
Ted Harris, though he builds world-class cues for players, has long been primarily known as one of the elite cue repairmen in the U.S. and one of the very few who travels to tournament venues. So when tournaments across the country began to dwindle, so, too, did his business, which then found itself in dire need of repair as well. However, thanks to his partnership with pool player and long-time friend Danny Green, Harris has bounced back, putting his cue business back on the map.
Harris fell in love with pool as a young adult while living in Florida with his father, unfortunately spelling doom to his collegiate career. Bitten deeply by the pool bug, Ted took moved to Ocean City, MD, near his mother and took a job in a poolroom. The room was full of action and management allowed Ted to partake.
On the road to becoming one of the better players in the area, Ted also learned all that he could about the pool industry, including setting up tables and replacing cue tips. Since no cue repairmen worked in his im- mediate area, he would often take cues to Tim Scruggs in Baltimore. While waiting for Tim to do the repairs, Harris would be in action at the local pool hall. However, after a disagreement with Scruggs, Ted Harris decided that he would learn how to do the repairs himself.
Ted purchased a cue lathe from famed cue maker Leonard Bludworth, one of the very few at the time who would do any kind of traveling for cue repair. In addition, most considered Bludworth the best repairman in the country. In a recurring theme, Harris had a disagreement with Bludworth, resulting in Ted vowing to become a cue repair expert who would end up taking up all of Bludworth’s work. “And that’s exactly what happened,” joked Harris. Today Harris remains friends with both Scruggs and Bludworth.
The Road to Repair
After a year of saving his money and collecting enough equipment, Ted Harris took his repair work on the road. Armed with his intrepid perso- na yet lacking a long-term plan, Harris traveled across the country to Reno, NV, in 1991 for the Sands Regency 9-ball event. He hoped to jump start his traveling cue repair business, get into action, and make a little money. The
I was fearless! I would work on any cue no matter how much it was worth.
event already had a cue mechanic, but the event organizers allowed Ted to set up shop as well. He had hoped to make maybe $200 a day, but the successful event earned him over $10,000!
During a time when a player needed to either send their cues to a cue builder to get even the most basic tip change or learn to do it himself, Harris took his repair work from tournament to tournament. He became the most prolific at his trade while his Airstream RV served as his home and workshop. “I started on the road on Thanksgiving in 1991,” recalled Harris. “And I didn’t go back home for seven years!”
Though the money from his early Reno success came and went, as is the common story in a gambler’s life, the revelation came to Harris that he loved performing his craft in front of people. While cue builders of that era would shut their machines down if visitors came to their shops, he thrived on pulling aside the curtains and showing the insides of a player’s most prized magic wand. “Early on I was such a hack,” said Harris. “But I was fear- less! I would work on any cue no matter how much it was worth, and I didn’t care who was watching!”
Although he honed his craft through repeated execution of repairs, Harris quickly acknowledged the help and influence of established cue makers and repairmen, including Mike Capone, Dave Bollman, Dennis Searing, Jerry McWorter, and many others. In fact, Ted Harris built his first cue at Jerry McWorter’s shop during part of his seven-year odyssey. When some German enthusiasts had requested McWorter to build some plain Sneaky Pete cues, Jerry declined, as he did not make Sneaky Petes. How- ever, he agreed to let Ted build them on his equipment, allowing Harris a financial avenue to continue his travels. Though known primarily as a cue repairman extraordinaire, the cues Ted built had gained a reputation for being real players’ cues built by a real player.
His journey took him to every part of the country, setting up shop at over 400 events. Eventually, however, the road led him back to the Mary- land area and a more settled existence. But as the pool boom ran its course, fewer and fewer pool tournaments materialized. Additionally, personal problems led to depression as his work subsequently suffered. Already known to be a slow-paced worker apart from his road show, Ted’s produc- tivity, as well as his reputation, began a downward spiral.
Playing off the Green
Danny Green was one of the top players in the Baltimore area. Like Ted Harris, he fell in love with pool during college, which not so coincidentally ended his collegiate career as well. Schooled by some of the local pool sharps, Danny took to pool like fish to water. When the game included ac- tion, magic happened for Danny. Win or lose, the game became a greater love. Though losing rarely happened, any loss would drive Danny into a trance-like state, determined to practice until his fingers bled and until whoever beat him did not have a prayer of doing it again.
On one of his early match-ups, Danny played and lost to a local pool- room worker—Ted Harris. True to his spirit, Danny returned a few months later to return the favor. Rather than beat each other up on the table, the two became best friends, started traveling together, and would often dis- cuss possibilities of working together. However, any idea of working together normally fell through as both acknowledged being too hardheaded to work as partners.
When author David McCumber penned Playing off the Rail, his cross- country action tour with California’s Tony Annigoni, a chapter included Annigoni’s run-in with Maryland’s Danny Green.1 His reputation had grown such that when road players came through, they were steered towards him.
Danny worked as a house pro at various poolrooms, and as the Inter- net gained a head of steam, Green started the Planet Pool Tour using the World Wide Web, recognizing it as a powerful advertising tool. He started the website www.planet-pool.com and broke new ground by streaming live video pool matches to the world out of Fast Eddie’s Billiards in 1999. Unfortunately, this idea came too soon, as bandwidth issues meant that viewers had a difficult time following the action, as the sound never coincided with the video. Nevertheless, the tour thrived, bringing an average of over 100 players per event, which even today’s tours rarely match.
However, with great ideas and great success come enough complaints that eventually any love soon is lost. And so it was with Green and the tour. Two years in, he left control of the tour and pool in general, deciding on a full-time union job. He went on to have a successful career as a stagehand for the Verizon Center in Washington, DC. However, a back injury in 2011 forced him to quit that profession.
Business is Turning
In an effort to revitalize his business, Harris took on a partner and moved to Georgia, but the partnership failed abruptly. Ted fell deeper into depression. He borrowed from family members and friends in order to move again, this time to Hollywood, FL.
However, things only seemed to get worse. He rebuilt his shop rather slowly and inefficiently. While working, he confessed to frequently being confused, dis- organized, and simply mad at the world. Then Green came to the rescue.
Danny had sold his house after a series of downturns himself and had thought about getting back into pool. He considered possibly buying a poolroom after leaving his union job. However, after talking with Ted and seeing his friend in need, Danny and his fiancée, Janet Causey-Bruce, opted to move to Florida and put a stake into Ted’s business. Danny’s work ethic and organization skills, combined with Janet’s support and communication savvy, transformed Harris and his floundering workshop into a well-oiled machine.
Today, Ted Harris Cues is a streamlined shop that has both building and repair as its primary business. Danny does much of the pre-construction and assembly, while Ted provides the bulk of the detailed finishing work. This division of the workload allows Ted the time to perform his renowned cue repair, as Danny processes the initial stages of the custom orders. Though not much of the technical details of a Ted Harris Cue have changed, Harris acknowledges that the improvements in the shop have lead to an improve- ment in the quality of the work. As an endorsement of just how good the cues play, look no further than the recent ESPN.com article on Filipino great Dennis Orcollo. After searching for a cue he can “believe in,” Orcollo found it in a Ted Harris Cue.2
With Danny Green as his partner, Ted now has the opportunity to give thanks to those who stuck with him through his lows and at the same time be able to make amends to those that his earlier decline had caused dismay. “I’m just so grateful,” stated Harris emphatically. “I just love everyone. And I’m not mad anymore!”
Danny and Ted have managed the backlog of cues through better organization and have made every effort to repair the business and the name. So if a player is in need of a cue or repair, he should consider looking to Hollywood, FL, and Ted Harris Cues. After all, their business in repair is back in action.
To order Ted Harris Cues – 754-246-6366
1 David McCumber, Playing off the Rail: A Pool Hustler’s Journey (Random House, 1996), 230-249
2 Brett Forrest, “Running the Tables,” ESPN the Magazine (May 2012): 100
About Fred Agnir
A mechanical engineer by trade, Freddie Agnir from Treasure Island, FL, has been playing pool for over 30 years and has several league and amateur state titles to his credit in singles, partners, and team competition. He is a former New Hampshire State Amateur 8-ball champion.