Snooker Rest & Spider Bridge Hand Attachments for Greater Flexibility Comfort & Accuracy when Bridging over Multiple Balls
Identifying the Need & Defining the Problem
To play snooker successfully at any level, it is essential to develop a stable and adaptable bridge hand. This allows a snooker player to execute a wide range of shots from deep screw to acute swerves and everything in between, including cushion shots and bridging over intermediate balls to reach the cue ball.
However, a player's bridge hand has limits and when these are reached, some form of artificial bridge/rest is required to extend the player's range, elevation or angle in order to continue with the shot.
The problem with these artificial bridges/rests is that they take the player away from close contact with the cue ball and a fair amount of 'touch' or control can be lost due to the distance i.e. the length (and weight) of the rest/spider handle. Also, rests require a different cueing technique which has to be practiced and developed in its own right, in fact many professional players continue to have problems using rests and will often do everything they can in a match to avoid using them, including alternative shot selection.
Meeting the Need & Providing a Solution
My idea to help overcome the loss of control caused by the use of rests is to simply remove the 'business end' of rests and provide them as an attachment/glove that can be used/worn directly on the player's bridge hand.
This would help the player to maintain closer contact with the cue ball and would allow the player to continue using their normal cueing action - with some slight adaptation. Also, the player's normal line of sight could be maintained leading to greater accuracy.
The accessory would consist of two parts; a base unit/glove which would provide the stable platform, and various attachments for the base unit to facilitate a wide range of extended shots.
The base unit/glove (see photo galleries below) would sit flat on the snooker table with the player's bridge hand inside, holding the base in position. The player's cue would then rest on and run through the chosen attachment. I believe a wide range of attachments could be designed to accommodate most of the shots currently only reachable with the use of a normal snooker rest or spider.
Of course, there will be a limit to the stability of my hand-based accessory idea, and for extreme reach over large areas of the snooker table, a normal rest with an extended cue would still be required. However, I estimate that my accessory idea would be stable with up to a 0.5 metre reach at least, and even quite extreme elevation & angle changes could be handled with ease.
The materials used for my accessory idea could be chosen according to the market, price range and final quality. Plastics for the budget, club-based versions and possibly carbon fibre or aluminium for the more professional versions. To reach a final production design would require some experimentation and trials, with some ergonomic modifications, but I've drawn some 3D models below to indicate the basic idea.
Uses / Applications
I've tested this idea with some crude mock-ups, just enough to gauge whether I would be comfortable using such a device. The results were excellent, especially for the most common situations when I would normally have to use a rest or spider. The mock-ups also proved to be useful when bridging from the cushions, allowing me to relax my neck and shoulders more than with my normal fingertip cushion bridge hand.
- When bridging over an intermediate ball to strike down on the cue ball, the device was more comfortable than using my normal high fingertip bridge hand, which has always been a little wobbly at best. :-)
- Also, one of the most difficult shots for me is when having to bridge over a large part of the pack to reach the cue ball, I just can't get enough elevation to strike the cue ball dead centre. With my crude but effective mock-up bridge hand spider, I was easily able to span over the pack and strike the centre of the cue ball; only raising my cue butt slightly higher than normal. When I played the same shot with the spider (and I also tried two rests, one on top of the other) I definitely felt less confident about striking the cue ball, I just couldn't follow through with the same optimism - basically, it felt much better having my bridge hand on the table, albeit inside the mock-up device.
- One of the most effective uses I found whilst experimenting was one of the most basic; when the cue ball is out of reach, or when you have to really overstretch yourself to reach it, which affects the quality of your shot. Normally you would have to use a rest and a short cue extension, which is fine of course but you have to change your technique to suit, striking the ball with your cue arm out to the side at right-angles, with a less controllable follow through than when using the normal pendulum cue arm technique. With my mock-up I just added a 300mm straight-out extension piece, which allowed me to keep my hand on the table and use my normal cueing technique.
- There were lots of other minor situations where the device helped and one in particular which involved moving the cue run-through out to the side of my bridge hand. I found situations where I couldn't get my bridge hand fully on the table where I would like it to be and still strike the cue ball correctly. Then as I moved to a position for correct striking, I would end up only being able to get a couple of fingers on the table due to avoiding the surrounding balls; one of those 'in between' situations. I made a sliding attachment for the device so I could place my hand in my preferred location, flat on the table, then slid the cue guide out to the side to line up the shot - perfect!
- Some further development is required though, to make the device more practical and more versatile, for example it may be helpful to hinge the base unit in the centre or near to the fingertip end in order to provide more control and allow the player to raise their stance for comfort. Also the exact 'splay' of the base unit finger flutes needs to be determined and may require a couple of different versions; maybe one for children and one for adults for example.
I can think of at least a dozen more attachments and variations on this product idea and I hope someone will develop the concept further. I think with a bit of development work and trialling (leave a prototype or two with a few professional snooker players, then use their feedback to adapt and refine the design accordingly - they may even provide endorsements for a percentage share) this could be made into a viable product for the snooker industry.
I have produced a few 3D models/drawings which I have included in the galleries below. However, I have not had time to develop a proper prototype so I can only offer my descriptions above coupled with 3D drawings as a representation of my invention. Please feel free to take the idea and develop it into a product, with my best wishes :-)
p.s. Prior to writing this post, I realised I needed a method of drawing/rendering my ideas for this product, since I didn't have a proper prototype to photograph and the visual design was too complex to describe adequately in words alone (a picture paints a thousand words).
Although I use various CAD and pcb design software regularly, these tools are limited from an aesthetic point of view, being aimed more at schematic and engineering drawing/modelling.
I wanted something more visually descriptive and graphical like Fireworks or Photoshop but with proper 3D capabilities. I researched, downloaded, installed and tried around thirty different open-source 3D packages, eventually settling on Blender (a marvelous software with a very steep learning curve, for an engineer). So all the images/models in these galleries represent my first attempts at using Blender as a design tool :-) I will also make use of it to help convey many of my other inventions and design ideas in future posts - hopefully my skill will improve a little ;-)
Photo Gallery 1 - Hand Mounted Snooker Spider
These images represent my initial design thoughts - a hand mounted spider attachment to help when bridging over multiple balls such as sections of the pack. My elevated bridge hand is quite good and I can reach over quite a few balls, but I always feel uncomfortable and a bit shaky, and it's difficult to maintain line-of-sight and a decent follow through.
This hand attached spider is short and sweet! The very crude mock-up I built brought me a lot closer to the cue ball, reduced my striking angle to a more horizontal plane, and overall, I felt I had more control over the strike. Much better than a long wooden stick with a brass claw on the end.
Photo Gallery 2 - Hand Mounted Offset Snooker Spider
This was an adaptation of my first design idea; a hand mounted spider but offset at an angle of about 30 degrees. If you've played any snooker you'll know why this is useful. Often, the balls are placed such that you can't get your bridge hand or enough fingertips on the table in line with the shot in order to bridge over the intervening balls. However, it is sometimes possible to place your bridge hand on the table, to the side of the balls.
Using the offset attachment allows you to get your hand on the table and still have the spider V in line with the shot offset to the right (or left) bridging over the awkward balls.
Photo Gallery 3 - Hand Mounted Adjustable Snooker Spider
The adjustable hand mounted spider attachment is a natural progression from the offset spider. A 30 degree offset is useful and can be 'jiggled' into a suitable position, however, a range of preset offsets would be more practical. I think 15 degree increments would be ideal, with a click-stop mechanism to lock the spider arm into place.
Photo Gallery 4 - Hand Mounted Snooker Rest
I believe this may be the most useful adaptation of this product idea. How often have you approached a shot only to find that it is just out of reach or just too much of a stretch? These are the diagonal - across the table - type shots, or the shots where being opposite handed would enable you to reach.
Normally when a shot is just out of reach, you have to use a rest and maybe a small cue extension which immediately pushes you much further away from the cue and object ball; it also requires a complete change of cueing action, something with which many players never feel completely comfortable.
The hand mounted rest attachment (bridge hand extension) effectively enables you to extend your bridge arm a few hundred millimetres thus bringing many more shots within range. With the hand rest and a cue extension, I believe almost all shots would be within range of the player enabling the use of a near normal cueing action. Only the more distant or awkward shots would still require a traditional rest or extended rest.
Photo Gallery 5 - Hand Mounted Snooker Spider-Rest Design Concepts
This gallery contains the product design models only, without all the clutter of the table demonstration setting. These close-up views give a better idea of the concept and mechanics of the design.
Photo Gallery 6 - Hand Mounted Snooker Spider-Rest - Two Finger Version
No, I'm not being facetious ;-) While I was playing around with the design of the four-fingered base unit ('glove'), it occurred to me that a two-fingered base unit may be perfectly adequate as a stable platform for the spider and rest attachments; it may even be possible to design a base unit with a single-finger and thumb hook - it depends on the stability.
Obviously, a smaller profile for the base unit would be beneficial, enabling more scope for bridge hand positioning on the table, less manufacturing cost, and easier transport of part of a player's snooker kit.