Silversmith’s hobby gone bad
Most see a rusty ole pair of cowboy spurs and a dusted up old bit as something to be thrown out or at least not given a second look.
What most don’t realize is the worth of that bit and those pair of spurs.
The hours that an individual, most the time known as a silversmith, has put into perfecting and executing that perfect bit or pair of spurs.
Pueblo West resident Tom Palmer preserves, promotes and enhances the art of bit and spur making and he does it right here in the heart of the community.
Palmer doesn’t just build bits and spurs, he crafts them with the kind of hands-on care and respect that a master silversmith would have done in the 1800’s and he has made this immaculate art his career for 19-years.
“When I first started making stuff, I was living in Longmont at the time. Years and years ago there used to be a school in Nampa, Idaho that long-time and one of the greatest silversmiths, Elmer Miller conducted. Elmer was one of the foremost bit and spur makers in the whole world and even to this day, his stuff is highly sought out and very collectible. If you happen to have one of his bits, you have a bit that is worth a lot,” explained Palmer. “When I made the decision that this is really what I want to do, I attended his school. I stayed in Idaho for about three months and then came home and started building.”
Palmer gained a world of knowledge from Miller but still was not satisfied with his finished product so he made the decision to go spend some time with Jeremiah Watt in California.
“Jeremiah taught me how to engrave. I just kept on building and one day it just all came together. I call it my hobby gone bad,” laughs Palmer. “I knew that if I was going to try to make a living doing this, I had to learn to do it the right way and without the help from both Elmer and Jeremiah I would not be the silversmith that I am today.”
Palmer admits he always had a bit of champagne taste when it came to bits and spurs.
“I always really liked the fancy bits and spurs but I could never really afford it. I started building and building and it just kind of snowballed on me from there.”
Since the snowstorm, Palmers bit and spur business has turned into a pretty viable business. He attends four major trade shows a year, his largest booth being at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in December.
“Vegas is definitely my busiest show. I also go to the Bit and Spur show held in Abilene, Texas every year during the Western Heritage Days. That show in itself is the largest bit and spur show in the world. Between Abilene and Vegas, I can’t really pick which one I like best. Both shows have been great to me. I also do a couple smaller shows which I also enjoy doing just as much as the bigger shows.”
When Palmer isn’t on the road traveling to his next show, he is staying just as busy at home working on custom orders.
“Throughout the years, I have done awards for over 20 different organizations, anywhere from local organizations to national organizations. A lot of my work is done for a variety of different disciplines from reining events, cutting events to roping’s and year-end rodeo finals.”
When asked what Palmer builds more, bits or spurs, he said it’s pretty much 50/50.
“For me personally, I would rather make spurs then bits just for the simple fact that most people have one or two sets of spurs they use, while the average equine professional has numerous bits they use. If I make something, I want to see it being used,” Palmer said.
And Palmer has something just for the ladies, too.
“I have been making a lot more jewelry then I have in the past. When I go to my four shows, the women are always asking me about making jewelry for them and since customized jewelry is so hard to find, I thought why not.”
Palmer had been doing so many custom orders and business that he had to build a new shop in 2007 at his home in Pueblo West.
“As for my future plans goes, I just want to keep doing what I am doing and increase my business as I go. I am always striving to make a better product and when you are in a business like this, you have got to stay up on the newest trends but I am a firm believer in keeping the old traditions alive.”
For more information on Tom Palmer’s Bit and Spur business, call 251-4188.