Ariel Carmeli

The best part about being a cue maker? The ability to “be a stay-at-home dad.” Ariel Carmeli of Carmeli Custom Cues appreciates the finer things in life and is this month’s feature of “Meet the Cue Maker.”

Ariel Carmeli, 52, resides in Eastvale, California with his wife Debra and their family. Prior to becoming a cue maker, Ariel developed his wood-working skills while building furniture under his brother’s high-end sign shop called “Carmeli Design Group”. He also retained employment as a plumber, but it was when the next recession hit that he was forced to pursue another career path. In 1991, Ariel began working at a billiard supply company called Best Billiards in Santa Ana, California. In the shop they also had furniture repair, which is where Ariel started. While he had a strong background in making and repairing furniture, it wasn’t long until he was asked to use his skills for cue repair. He had never used a lathe before but was confident that if he could see the different parts of a cue, then he could effectively put one together. Ariel laughs about his “extensive” lesson on the lathe from the venue’s manager, Robert Wong: He received all of about seven minutes of instructions and then spent the next two days getting comfortable using the lathe. Fortunately, the venue’s owner, Rick Landsburg also happened to be a sales representative for Hall of Fame cue maker, Tad Kohara (TAD Cues). He asked Tad to give Ariel some pointers and for the next year Tad would come in for an hour every other weekend and give Ariel lessons on building cues. Ariel was a quick learner, and it wasn’t long before he began receiving his own orders to fill from people wanting a cue from him. Inspired by this, his friend Del Ramos surprised Ariel with a logo he’d created for the new cue maker. Ariel decided to keep it and in 1992 established Carmeli Custom Cues.

Ariel has been a full-time cue maker since 1994. For the past 20 years, he has worked out of his 700 sq ft shop near his house in Eastvale, California. Although he describes his shop looking as though a “nuclear bomb went off” he manages to produce some incredible playing cues out of the chaos. Ariel states the hardest part about being a cue maker is first “finding customers; getting someone to try your product without dismissing you.” Now after being a long-established cue maker, the most challenging part is producing what everyone wants. He says it’s difficult to get enough quality materials to match product designs to fill orders. He enlightens us that production has been slowed lately due to Covid as many materials have been difficult to come by. He couldn’t get phenolic for seven months and the company in Canada where he gets his shaft wood, was shut down for five months. He states that being on the West coast often creates a challenge as well because as product becomes available, the East coast typically has first access due to being three hours ahead. Once materials are located, then after the wood stops moving and is cored, Ariel says production takes about one year from start to finish. While he typically creates six custom cue designs per year for dealers, they are highly customizable by changing up the wood and other components of the cue as well as adding more detail. Although he’s used the full splice technique in the past, currently he’s choosing to finish the ones already in production and then continue with short splice only. His favorite woods to use are snakewood, ebony, cocobolo, purple heart and birdseye maple. All components are made in house except for the tips. Lastly, you’ll typically find his signature at the butt of the cue on the lightest part of the wood.

Besides Tad Kohara, Ariel states he’s also had a few other cue makers roll through his shop showing him a couple techniques along the way. A few of those include Jim Buss, Thomas Wayne and Mike Bender. He says his influences include TAD Cues as well as Southwest Cues. Regarding Southwest, Ariel states he has a strong relationship with Lori Franklin and he’s essentially just filling a void due to their infamous waitlist. He notes that while influenced, he does use slightly different sized trim rings and he would never incorporate a brass pin. When it comes to admiring the work of his peers, Ariel states a couple of his favorite cue makers have been longtime friend Barry Szamboti as well as John Robinson (since passed). TAD cues were always a favorite as well because of their solid playability which is also Ariel’s focus in cue building. He aims to create cues that build confidence in the player’s ability and feel like an extension of themselves. It’s no wonder someone such as pro player Alex Pagulayan would choose to use a Carmeli cue and was even previously sponsored by Ariel for several years. Ariel states it’s his career highlight and is proud that Alex was able to win several tournaments using his cues.

When it comes to getting your own Carmeli custom cue, the waitlist has been recently reduced from three years down to 30 months. Be prepared to pay $1,500 for a Merry Widow and prices can increase up to $10,000 depending on design and build. The best way to procure one of your own is to reach out to one of his dealers: Seyberts, J & J America, Recollection Cues, Cornerstone Custom Cues or Biggelbachs. If you’re looking for a custom order, you’ll want to contact Von Ryan Mendoza on Facebook and once build is determined, pay a deposit. If you’d like to catch the cue maker in person, he plans to attend more cue shows in the future and confirmed he will be at the 2023 Super Billiards Expo.