Rambow, Herman- The great cue maker - DOB-D: 1881 – 1967
Chicago, IL – The father of all cue-makers
“Gifted craftsman of custom Cue-Sports’ cues who perfected the jointed two-piece cue”
The secrets died with him
Herman Rambow made cues well into his 90's. I had many of them. I also spent a lot of time talking to the old man. He had a million stories of all the old great players, like Hoppe, Jake Schaefer, Cochrane, and others. He had made cues for all of them. I, like Artie Bodendorfer, was introduced to Rambow by his fellow German, Al Fuss. Even though I was just a ham n’ egger-speed pool player at the time, Fuss told Herman that I was a top player and that I needed a cue stick for an upcoming big tournament. That was the only way you could get Rambow to rush out a cue for you. He could knock two or three out in a week if he wanted to. The usual waiting time for a cue for an ordinary customer was from four to six months.
The price for a Rambow then (about 1965), was $39.95 for a cue with two shafts. He eventually kicked it up to $49.95. The thing was, once you had a new Rambow you could immediately turn it over for a quick profit, to a variety of aficionados, for a minimum of $100.
Rambow was very paranoid about his helpers ever discovering his secrets, and then quitting him and going out on their own. This had happened to him more than once. He only allowed his help to work on certain projects. When it came to balancing a cue, he would go in the back, lock the door, and do the balancing in secrecy. All I could ever get out of him about his balancing secrets was that he never used any metal to balance a cue, only different weight woods. There are no lead weights in the butt of an original Rambow cue.
Rambow only made one type joint, and it was brass. The billiard champions who played with Rambow cues all had to use a brass joint. His cues all played pretty much the same, since he used the old Brunswick Willie Hoppe Titlist house cue for his butts. About the only input you could put into your order was the millimeter of the shaft size and cue weight.
Unlike today, when Rambow was building cues, there were only 2 or 3 other cuemakers in the country. He had a corner on the market. I haven’t had a Rambow in my hand for over 30 years, so I can no longer venture an objective opinion on playability. However, he died never revealing his secret of cue balancing. He may have had an edge over the other cue makers there.
Another little bit of trivia: Rambow would engrave his name into your cue if you requested it, and the ones he signed are worth a little more today. However, the most valuable cues that show his signature were those actually done by Charles Kimmel. The difference is obvious. For years Charlie Kimmel was the official scorekeeper for the PGA tour. He kept up the official tournament scoreboards by posting the scores in his own hand. His Olde English handwriting was world- famous, and he got big money to personally write and print things.
Rambow died in the shop. He had no brethren, and most of the stuff in the shop got thrown into the garbage. A Chicago cop whom I met later had had a downtown beat on Wabash Ave where the shop was located, said he was called to the death scene. The building manager told him everything but the heavy equipment was headed to the dumpster. Mounted on the wall behind the counter were about 7 old monogrammed cues. They had belonged to Hoppe, Mosconi, Johnny Layton, Schaefer, etc. The manager told the cop if he wanted them, he could have them. However, all the priceless memorabilia that filled the glass case at the counter got heaved out.
About 20 years later I met the cop at the Billiard Cafe in Chicago, and he told me the story and said he was going to try and sell the collection, and how much did I think it was worth. I think he wanted about 7 thousand dollars, and that’s as far as I go with this story. I don’t know what happened to the cues after that. Today I would have to think those cues would be worth from 50 to 100k.
- Freddy 'the Beard' Bentivegna, The 'Encyclopedia' of Pool Hustlers