Cory Barnhart

From custom homes to custom cues, this guy can do it all. Today we say hello to Cory Barnhart of Barnhart Cues in this month’s “Meet the Cue Maker”

Cory Barnhart, 51, is a lifelong resident of Martinsburg, West Virginia. There he resides with his wife Michelle and their 2 children; daughter Morgan and son Alex, ages 16 and 14. When he was young and before Cory ever even touched a cue, he had the dream of becoming a commercial diver. Sadly, it wasn’t in the cards for him due to medical issues with his inner ear and he was forced to pursue another direction. With a father that owned a construction business, a mother that sold real estate and a sister as a mortgage lender, it made sense to stay in the same field opting to go into construction. He obtained both an electrician’s and plumber’s license and became proficient in cabinet making along with anything else that involved wood working. These skills would lead to a successful career in building custom homes and eventually owning his own construction company.

Cory’s introduction to pool began in his 20’s when he started playing in local leagues and tournaments. He quickly got hooked but it wasn’t until the 2nd annual Super Billiards Expo in 1994 that he first decided to try his hand in cue building. It was there, he purchased materials from Prather to build his own jump cue. Due to his background, he already had experience in woodwork along with all the tools required to build the cue. He even had a workspace available in his detached garage at home. After the jump cue turned out a success, he decided he wanted to pursue the hobby further. In 1995, Cory established Barnhart Cues with a goal in mind of joining the American Cuemakers Association (ACA). He began accumulating all the necessary equipment, most of which was acquired from short term cue makers that came and went. For a few years, cue building was just something Cory did after work instead of watching TV. Remaining just a hobby, he didn’t have much free time after spending 60-80 hours each week building custom homes. The cues he did build were then mostly gifted to friends. As time went on and the quality of his cues became more well known, he began devoting more time to the growing business. It was after meeting legendary cue maker Tim Scruggs that validated Cory was heading in the right direction. As it was his first time visiting another’s workshop, he asked Tim for advice on builds and technique. As it turned out, Tim was already a fan of the new cue maker and advised, “I like your cues, just do the same thing you’re doing.” A large compliment that he clearly meant, because it was Cory that Tim ended up passing along his equipment to after he retired. Cory continued to build cues in his spare time and even accomplished his goal of joining the ACA in the early 2000s. In 2005 he transitioned to a full-time cue maker, and it was custom homes that became just something he did on the side. His largest award to date came in 2009 at Valley Forge, where Cory received 2nd runner up for “People’s Choice Cue of the Year” for a 30-point re-cut cue with a frog skin wrap. This award winner ended up going to Eric Schleich out of Connecticut and to this day remains part of the infamous cue collector’s extensive Barnhart collection.

When it comes to technique, Cory traditionally uses the half splice method over full splice, but can do both. He then prefers to venture outside of traditional specifications and says he’d like to see more cues done with variety in length and diameter of shaft: “58 inches may be the standard cue length, but it doesn’t have to be”. He says there is so much room for individuality he doesn’t see why others stick to the same basic specs. Because of this, you’ll often find Barnhart cues with variations in shaft length as well as diameter, wider butts and even have a farther back wrap placement. Cory’s designs are typically made into a series of 10 to 15 finding it more efficient than designing each cue individually as each cue takes about 40-60 hours of work. His bumpers and joint pins are tailor made to his preferred specs and for the last 5 years, he has even had his own tips made. He likes to have at least a couple hundred forearms around the shop at all times. Because he doesn’t like to mail order wood, Cory makes special trips each year to personally visit all the big wood suppliers to make his purchases. While he doesn’t have a preferred build, he does prefer to work with coco bola, ebony or any nicely figured wood. Cory says the most challenging part of building cues is working with the wood itself while using a precision machine. He explains that you can’t expect the same tolerance you get from working with metal as the wood is constantly moving, “even more so for dense, exotic woods”. Besides his choices in wood, one way to spot a Barnhart is his signature dotted ring design commonly found on many of the collars. You’ll also see his name signed in pencil hidden in the handle of the cue. Gone are the days when he engraved his name saying he learned an expensive lesson having a fancy cue eaten up with the engraving machine. It was after that he took the advice of Ray Schuller to keep it simple and sign in pencil. He’s now been a full-time cue maker for the last 15 years and continues to build around 50 to 100 cues per year out of his 800 sq ft shop in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

Cory says he didn’t really have any mentors prior to jumping in the business and mainly learned by trial and error. However, one of the first people he compared notes with after starting up was Ray Schuller. He also noted it was Chester Krick who showed him how to use a CNC machine and says he spent a week learning from Dennis Dieckman as well. Some of Cory’s favorite cue makers are Paul Drexler and Thomas Wayne stating, “Artistically, no one will probably ever do what they have done.” He also really likes Jerry McWorter and Richard Chudy because they take simple elements and put them together in a way that he finds super artistic. Aside from the flexibility it allows to spend more time with his children, Cory says the best part about building cues are the people he meets. Along with meeting other cue makers, he also enjoys meeting pool players from all over the country as well as outside the US. If you are wanting to get a Barnhart of your very own, Cory doesn’t have an official waitlist, nor does he take deposits. His cues range in price starting at $850 for a basic merry widow and increase depending on build. For many years, most Barnhart cues were sent to buyers overseas in China and Japan. However due to Covid, for the last 2 years he has taken orders directly from customers. The best way to procure a Barnhart cue of your very own is to email him directly at You can also find current Barnhart cues at However, if you’d like to see the man of many talents in person, you’ll be able to catch him in April at the Super Billiard’s Expo in Philadelphia. Make sure to stop by and say hello.