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An Interview with Jim Murnak – Custom Cue Case Artisan
 Posted on Thursday, August 21 2008 @ 10:12:18 UTCby admin
Cue Corner www.JimMurnakCueCases.com
Jim Murnak
Custom Cue Case Artisan
FIST Incorporated
20 Jay Street
New York
NY 11201
TEL: 800-443-3478

August 2008


An Interview with Jim Murnak – Custom Cue Case Artisan

Cue cases are something that is often overlooked in the UK. Up to press, there hasn’t been a great demand for high quality cue cases whilst there is on the Continent and in America. The general feeling among British players is a case is merely a utilitarian device. Well I come from a different school. If I spend good hard cash on a cue, then I want something to protect it to the max……AND the protection needs to look the part. There is one thing about a high quality case that just isn’t true of a high quality cue……they look better and better as they get older! When you walk into a strange pool hall….an old, leather cue case has a story to tell and people are just waiting to see what that story is…..so best bring your game with you! A high quality leather case can last you a lifetime…..and then someone else’s lifetime. It may even be the last case you ever buy. Works out cheaper than the ten cheap cases you have bought over the years that have fallen to pieces.

Click on "Read More..." for the details by Simon D'Vali.


Simon D'Vali with Jim Murnak at the Valley Forge Convention Center.

Custom case makers spend years learning the craft. It is not something a person picks up in a short span of time. The quality must speak for itself if the maker is to be a success at the craft. Then the cases need to find there way into the hands of professional players who can spread the word. Again, only if the product can withstand the rigours of constant touring, road trips and baggage handlers at airports, will the case maker find any degree of acceptance among the populous.


Sanjay Varma's Custom Cue Case by Jim Murnak Cue Cases.


Sanjay Varma's Custom Cue Case by Jim Murnak Cue Cases.


Fine detail of Sanjay Varma's Custom Cue Case by Jim Murnak Cue Cases.

One such maker that has achieved this accolade is Jim Murnak. Jim has been making high quality cue cases for a few years but has been working with leather for over 30 years. I first knew about his products when I went to visit Sanjay Varma in Scotland. Sanjay is a custom cue and case collector. He showed me an incredible cue case that Jim had made him. It was a very fancy affair with lots of leather tooling. The straps and zips were of the highest quality and not only did the case look good, you felt it could withstand an assault from an A-10 Tank Buster. I inquired a bit more after that visit. A few months before Valley Forge (Super Billiards Expo, Philadelphia), I ordered my own case from Jim with the intention of picking it up at Valley Forge in person. This is an exclusive interview with Jim Murnak for Pro9 after my visit to VF……..

Jim, welcome to Pro9 and thank you for agreeing to do the interview.
Thank you, I'm very happy to be on Pro9.

How long have you been making cases and how did you end up in the custom case business?
I've been making cue cases for about 5 years now. I made a case for my father in 1970, who was a professional pool player, a few years before he died. I was making custom leather goods then, one of a kind items, and never thought that I would make cue cases as a business, but I always wanted to get back to them and try it. I seemed make and sell leather goods that have been connected to my hobbies.

What kind of leather goods?
I have been making holsters for about 8 years. And archery quivers for probably 6 years. Most of the time it was a response to what was out there when I went looking for one for myself.





I see, so you clearly wanted the best product and couldn’t find anything of suitable quality…..so you made it yourself! Briefly, could you take us through the process of how one of your cases is made.
Our leather is natural when we start. It is the type of leather that is used for saddles and shoes. It moulds with water and has to be dyed to whatever colour the customer wants. If we are carving the case it has to be carved before it is dyed. We then hand dye the leather and start on the tubes. After the pieces are sewn flat we hand sew the strip down the back. The cap and handle are made and attached. After the tubes are put in I sign it. Well, there is a lot more than that but that is the general idea. Everything is hand done. We do use sewing machines but all of the leather is hand dyed and hand waxed until we get the look we like. You will notice that sometimes the colours aren't perfectly matched. I realized that the only way that this can happen is if it is hand dyed, so I began using it as a sign of the hand work as well as it is quite beautiful on the case.

Whilst at VF, I noticed a large number of US players using your cases from all different price bands. I saw the great George San Souci had purchased a case similar to my own. What other big players use your cases around the globe?
Tony Robles, Jennifer Barretta, Earl Strickland, Caroline Pao and probably a few more. I have to say that even though I am very proud to have professionals carry my cases, I get a lot of satisfaction out of a regular pool player who wants a case that means something to him or her personally.


What do you do when you are not building cases and what are your other interests?
I used to do a lot of martial arts, such as knife fighting, but it has given way to less strenuous hobbies. I just started a video web site which will have all different kinds of videos. Since my dad had only limited ways to make money as a pro player, I realised that having videos of players and charging a few dollars could be a way to get money flowing back to the players. Most videos only help the advertisers. Giving your image away on youtube may make you famous for a few minutes, but it doesn't put food on the table.


Borana Andoni's photo is on your website, how did you come to using her in your ads?
When I met Borana she was playing in a league in New York’s Amsterdam Billiards. Besides the fact that I thought that she was much more attractive than any female pool player that I had ever seen (Agreed…..sdv), there was something in her that made me feel that she was going to be something in the game, and the pool world needed her. Her form and resolve when she played was pro like even at that time and as it turns out she has become one of the fastest improving players ever. It has been interesting to watch someone who has such drive for perfection. I am very proud of her and what she has accomplished. I wish her much success.

I know you play pool because we did a deal on my second Murnak case for one of my custom cues at Valley Forge. What level do you play at?
I play at a C+ to B level. I have pulled off a few wins in some local tournaments. I have no ambition to become a professional, but if I happen to break and run 15 racks someday, I will reconsider.




When I ordered my case, I found it was a similar process to ordering a custom cue. Communication is the key and your communication is second to none. It made the process very easy and my finished product was exactly what I wanted. Are there any tips you can give to the Pro9 viewers about ordering a case and how hard is it to interpret a design a customer might have?
Well, I don't have too many guidelines. If you find a basic design on my website, that will make it easier. Making a totally new structure is usually what brings the highest prices, but if you want it, I will usually try to do it. Mostly people have something that is dear to them that want to put on the case. Their name, nickname, personal logo, drawing, or anything else that can be included with any style of carving. I have done depictions of ceremonial knives, company logos, and even a painting of gladiators. The one thing to remember is that if you can get it to me, I can put it on the case. I'm usually fairly good at understanding what the customer wants, so it just takes a few conversations before I am sure of what they want.

Have you made any new ground with cases as far as design or construction that you have not seen on any of your peers cases or indeed cases of the past?
Actually I have made a style or two that I haven't shown because I'm too busy trying to fill orders with the current styles. Also, I have figured how to make the cases surprisingly light and still keep the PVC tubes.

The tooling on the cases looks hand carved. How exactly is that achieved and what happens if you make a mistake half way through??
We use a carving knife (swivel knife) and stamping and modelling tools, but it is all totally by hand. If I make a mistake, which has happened, I do it over again. These cases entail so much work that moving forward after a mistake would be a serious waste of time because I wouldn't feel comfortable s ending it out and I would waste all of the work after the mistake not to mention the sleep I would lose over it.

Jim, thank you so much for your time and I hope to see you at VF next year. Drinks are on you when I land.
Thank you, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the pro9 viewers and I'll be saving up for those drinks.


Jim’s products are some of the best I have encountered in the Billiard’s industry and he has rightly gained the recognition of his peers and players alike. I have noticed players in the UK are spending more and more on cues as time goes on. I think it’s only a matter of time before those same players will come round to the idea of a good case that protects their investment. I hope after reading this those players will understand the merits of a high quality custom case. Check out Jim’s website for more details. Remember, a custom cue case isn’t just for Christmas…..it’s for LIFE……..SDV.



  Cue Corner


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