Dave Kikel builds cues in Pueblo, Colorado, and in my opinion, is one of the best. His cues hit consistently well, and his work is virtually flawless. The vast majority of his cues would be considered "player" cues, and consist of simple designs that are not costly. He typically does not use a lot of expensive materials, and prefers to work in lots of different and rare woods, utilizing the natural colors of the woods to add life and vibrance to the look of the cue.
I love his cues because I know the quality is always there, and they almost all hit very similarly. He's an "old school" kind of guy most of his cues are very traditional. However, when he ventures into the "high end" designs on occasion, he quickly proves he can compete with anyone.
Dave makes probably less than 30 cues a year, and even his best years typically made no more than 35 or so. This insures that their value will hold up over time.
I think there are a couple of reasons Dave's cues play so well. First, Dave is a strong player, so he knows how a cue should hit, and makes cues that meet his standards. Second, his construction techniques allow him to make a very "tight" cue that is extremely solid.
Finally, I think one of the key components of why his cues play so consistently well is the attention he pays to building his shafts. Over ten years ago he found a supplier who was providing what he believed to be an exceptional quality wood, and bought over 4000 blanks over a period of time. He began putting that wood away for the future. Now, each year he selects 300 pieces to begin turning down for shafts, and ends up with 125-150 after he culls out those he's not satisfied with, based on grain, color, etc. He takes his time and stays about two seasons ahead so that the process is not rushed. So, all his shafts are the best of the best, and all have aged at least ten years - some several years longer - before he ever makes his first cut.
He can make cues with any joint combination, but prefers 5/16 X 14 pins, or a radial joint. He also likes Sumo tips, and unless requested otherwise, uses them exclusively on any new cues. I first started playing with Dave's cues back in the early '90s and have liked them ever since.