Michael Wagner, cuemaker and owner of RAVEN Custom Cues, has varied interests and aptitudes. From an early age he immersed himself in the things that interested him. He was always naturally athletic. Through high school he excelled in baseball, football, track and wrestling. His other interests included art, drama, chess, swimming and of course one of his first loves, playing pool. In the summers he worked for a local shoe store, the local newspaper and when he was 16 he began to work at a local bowling alley that had the largest poolroom in town. That is when his pool playing really got its biggest boost.
In college he studied Philosophy, Theology and Psychology at Mercer University (Macon, Georgia) and the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia). To support himself he worked at local hospitals first as an attendant on medical and surgical floors as well as the intensive care unit. Later he worked as a technician in Psychiatric units.
It was while he was in college in Athens, Georgia, that he started playing golf he learned to scuba dive. He enjoyed golf but was fascinated with scuba diving. In typical fashion he read everything he could on the subject, took advanced courses and quickly logged hundreds of hours underwater. Within a matter of months he was assisting local instructors in teaching their classes. In just over a year from his very first class he passed the NAUI scuba diving Instructors training course in Palm Beach, Florida. Later he went on to own a successful scuba diving business and teach over 500 students to dive.
After college Michael moved briefly again to Florida and then to Galveston, Texas. It was in Galveston he worked on a crew building sailing yachts. There he apprenticed to master craftsmen and got his first serious exposure to building as an art form. He then spent a year in the Colorado Mountains snow skiing and teaching scuba diving at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge. From Colorado he traveled to most of the Western United States and into Mexico.
After his time out West, he returned to Athens, Georgia where he began a Scuba Diving business. He taught basic and advanced dive classes and conducted scuba diving trips and tours to Florida and the Caribbean. Somehow he always found time to play pool.
When he married his wife Diane and he suddenly had a wife and 10-year-old daughter the scuba business, which was great for a young single man, no longer fit his married life style. So, he took a job as a district manager in the circulation department at one of the local newspapers. From there he quickly progressed to newspaper management positions in Florida, Vermont, Alabama, Georgia, Minnesota and Iowa. During those years he settled into a routine of playing golf in the warmer months and pool in the colder months. After the conclusion of this 20-year career in the newspaper business, Michael and Diane moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and then purchased their home in Marion, Iowa. That is where RAVEN Custom Cues was founded.
"I've been playing pool for more than 40 years. I'm not professional
quality, but I am a good local player. I quit counting long ago, but
I've won well over a hundred local tournaments through the years. During
that time I've played with or tested almost every brand of cue made. I've experimented
with different tips, ferrules, shafts, shaft tapers and the weight of my own
cues during that time. I've done most of the modifications on my own cues for quite a few years
now. Before building cues to sell, I did repair work for other people and built
cues just to test structural designs."
"I've always been artistic and creative. I've painted, sketched, sculpted and written factual articles, short stories and poetry since I was a young child. Both my father and one of my brothers are artists, too. When I got out of college I worked for a while building custom sailing yachts. There I learned about exotic woodworking as well as various bonding, wood preservation and finishing techniques. That was also one of my best exposures to real craftsmen. I was apprentice to men who had been woodworking since before I was born. I didn't know it then but their use of tools and techniques as well as the quality aspects of the work they did would become part of the foundation for my cue building."
"I'm also a golfer. For the last 27 years I've built and repaired golf clubs. That is where I really honed my own art of craftsmanship. There are far more similarities between golf clubs and pool cues than one might initially think. Each club has a look, a feel, a specific length, a specific weight and it's own playing characteristics. It is one of a set and has to be matched to the others in the set as far as performance is concerned. By building golf clubs that fit my hands, physical build, swing and style of play I significantly lowered my own handicap. I found I could do that for others as well. My other passion was pool. So I started to experiment with my cues and found I could make them play better just like I had with the golf clubs. I started RAVEN custom cues to build cues that played better. Raven Custom Cues is a former member of The American Cuemakers Association."
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