A PICTURE IS WORTH 1000 WORDS - MAKING A PALHAM BIT
We hope you enjoy our take on visual story telling! This story features the intricate process of crafting a Palham Bit, beginning to end.
Your Shopping Cart
Bits and Pieces from Tom Balding Bits & Spurs
Anytime we share photos of Holly's work we receive overwhelming positive feedback. Her eye for the spectacular and attention to detail lend to mind blowing designs. She crafts many different items including jewelry and buckles using precious metal and stones. We often have people contact us wanting to order the spurs we've shared photos of; however we provide Holly with the spurs and she handles the design and transaction directly with the customer. If you are interested in having Holly design a set of spurs for you or would just like to visit with her about possible projects please contact her at: Phone: 203-219-8457 or contact form. To see more of Holly's design work please visit her webpage.
The way a spur hugs your heel can make or break your day. We bend each heel band to its wearer for a firm hold that does not pinch or rub your foot. We ask for a specific measurement to ensure this fit is correct. Below is step by step instruction on getting this measurement with your current pair of spurs or your boot.
Measuring your fit from a current set of spurs
If you have a pair of spurs that you love the fit on, you can get that same feel by measuring them as per below.
1) trace the inside of your current spur as close to the heel band as possible
2) measure the width of the opening
3) draw a line where the measurement was taken and note the width
4) put your name and the date on the top of the drawing and fax/email/post it to us
Measuring your fit from your boot
If there is a pair of boots you love or if you don't have another set of spurs to measure from, please use the following method to ensure the perfect fit.
1) get a piece of stiff wire and wear the boot that you want to measure from
2) wrap the wire around your heel where the spur will ride (molding the shape)
3) make sure the wire is holding its shape and can be slid on and off your boot
4) trace the inside of the wire shape as close to the wire as possible
5) measure the width of the opening
6) draw a line where the measurement was taken and note the width
7) put your name and the date on the top of the drawing and fax/email/post it to us
If you have any questions about this process please contact us and we will get your on the right path. We look forward to making your spurs and your day perfect!
Tom’s reputation for superior craftsmanship has spread worldwide. In 2011 the film crew for Discovery Channels How It’s Made documented the elaborate process of hand-crafting a belt buckle, bit and spurs. Three segments were captured on film and have been aired within the United States. The segments are slowly being released worldwide in a multitude of translations. The segments are currently up on You Tube and can be viewed on our Video Tour page.
After we received confirmation the film crew from Discover Channel would be visiting us, we drew up some designs and started creating 'step' pieces. Since the film crew would only be with us a short time, these pieces would be used to show each step of the process as quickly as possible.
They arrived in a small white van, that was deceivingly spacious, and unloaded a large about of expertly packed equipment. The crew was efficient and extremely professional as they captured each process in HD. Every detail from lighting to angle was skillfully adjusted to perfection. The work spaces were tight so we all became friends fairly quickly. They even humored us taking photos of them during the whole process!
We catered a large meal and get together in honor of the opportunity and the hard work of the crews. It was set at Tom's home and was a beautiful ending to the filming phase.
In the following months we worked with the editing crew to finalize footage and dialog for each of the three segments. This was a extensive phase of the process, but was crucial to the accuracy of the show. We were asked specific tool names and reasoning for each process so the segment would be as educational as possible. We had to be careful not to be to technical or industry specific as the audience is large and diverse.
We had fun during the process and hope you enjoy the segments created. If you are ever in the Sheridan Wyoming area please stop in the shop for a personal tour from Tom and see the process first hand!
Tom has been building Tom Balding Bits & Spurs for half his life! It was not always an easy path to forge. You can learn the basic history of the company at COMPANY HISTORY. This blog entry is dedicated to the little known stories that paint the picture of Tom's journey and background.
Tom's family was full of outdoor enthusiasts and he was raised backpacking, camping, and immersing himself in mother nature. His uncle would take him and his cousins up into the California wilderness for weeks at a time. His immediate family traveled all over camping from their car, catching fish, and enjoying each new adventure that came their way. This is the base that has created Tom's desire to backpack, hike, mountain bike, and snowboard that to this day is a center point of his life.
As a young man he delivered papers in Ontario California to raise a little pocket money. He would slowly peddle by while delivering the morning paper to Hooker Headers (now owned by Holley) and dreamed of the day he could work there. He practiced welding in the family garage, using his fathers work equipment, and has since said he was surprised he did not blow himself sky high. The day he turned eighteen he stopped in Hooker and applied for a position. He was hired and started his official welding career.
Tom's first car was a 33 Plymouth that he revived from the ground up. He laughs when he describes his many mistakes along the way including a mix up with the steering that resulted in having to turn the steering wheel left to go right and vise versa. Later in his life he purchased his 65 K code Mustang that he still drives to this day. It was a pace car that had been parked and become a rodent hotel. A lot of love and elbow grease in both cars turned out something to be proud of!
One of Tom's early welding jobs included welding Hobie Cat sailboat parts for his cousin, Hobie Alter. Hobie Cat, like so many start ups during the 60's and 70's was not given much hope by outsiders. Tom watched his cousins passion sell surfboard after surfboard and later catamarans. Hobie's first passion was surfing and he came up with lighter more efficient boards that he would use personally. Tom learned passion could be the difference between failure and success. He also honed his precision welding ability that he would later use to handle government contract work from his own shop. His first bit, many years later, was actually made from scrap sailboat parts.
Tom's drive for adventure and life experience sent him from his comfortable life owning his own welding business on the California coast in the 80's. He was thinking about where his life was heading, to the house on the hill and days of welding high paying jobs, and found there was no luster left. His neighbor owned a rarely ridden horse next door and Tom decided to try his hand at riding, hoping to cure his boredom. The neighbor warned him it would be a wild ride, but Tom was up for the challenge. He was promptly bucked off. At that moment he decided cowboy life would be a welcome change of pace and offer the much needed challenge he was yearning for. He packed up everything and moved to Wyoming where he bought a horse and trained it by reading a how-to book. He found work as a Wyoming ranch hand and put his full attention into learning every aspect of his new life.
Money was tight and Tom, in his passion for new experiences, took a traveling salesman position. He went door to door across the expanse of Wyoming peddling outdoor thermometers to housewives and hardened ranch owners. He refers to this span of his life with love, "If you don't have anything, you have nothing to loose... I learned many things during my hardships in the early days".
After his neighbor approached him and he built his first bit from scrap sailboat parts, Tom called his family to tell them he had found something that was easy to do and would be his new career. He went to town and had business cards made the next day. He later revoked the comment that it would be easy. After several attempts at building unique bits, not wanting to copy other makers, he found out he would need to gain a greater understanding of bits to build his business. He drove all over the country learning as much as he could from renowned trainers and horsemen. He always asked for the most honest feedback and would at times have to start a design almost back at the beginning to make sure it was right. These early connections would later launch his business into success, but before that break he drove to shows setting up booths and peddling his creations. Times were very tight and he often went with only enough money to get him there, fully dependent on sales to get him home. He almost lost his property during a particularly rough spell and loaded all his product up and drove to a large show with only the fuel in his tank, not a penny more to his name. This was a very risky move that could have left him stranded with out a home, money, or food. It paid off and he sold enough bits and spurs to get home and save his property.
He started building bits out of a mobile home he rescued from the landfill and experienced both freezing cold and fires from the propane space heaters. One of the fires was more of a smoldering hole in the floor that occurred overnight and filled the trailer with smoke to greet him the next morning. The smoldering hole was only feet away from a gas can full of fuel that could have been the early demise of the shop if luck had not been on his side. In the 90's Tom built a home outside of Sheridan, doing most of the work himself, that he later sold to build the current location of Tom Balding Bits & Spurs. He loved the layout of the mobile home, using each room for a specific purpose and based the new shop to mimic that layout.
We hope you enjoyed this look into the man behind Tom Balding Bits & Spurs!
We just stumbled across this beautiful interview story from Rebecca Colnar at WYLR (email@example.com). We hope you enjoy it!
"Tom Balding’s list of customers include famous rodeo names like Larry Mahan and trainer Bob Avila. It’s the Wyoming ranchers, the artisan credits, with the inspiration behind his successful bit and spur business today.
“I grew up in California, and back in the late 1970s, I had a welding business, mainly welding specialty parts for both the aerospace and sailboat industries,” Balding explains. “Where I lived, when I looked out my window, I could see a horse in a pen. One day, I looked at that horse and decided I wanted to ride him. I met the owner, and he gave me permission to ride the horse. I think I was on that horse less than five minutes when he bucked me off, but I was hooked on horses. As a kid, we used to come to Wyoming and camp; I loved it out here. I decided to move to Ucross in 1980 and worked on ranches, moving cattle, stacking hay and building fence—all of those ranch chores.”
Balding was still using his welding skills while he was ranching, primarily welding on trailers. “One day a lady knocked on my door and she had a broken bit, she knew I did welding, and could I fix it. That night I looked around at what scrap sailboat parts I had, and actually made my first bit. When I got this idea of making bits, I called my brother and said I had this great idea, and that making bits would be ‘real easy.’ I really was wrong on that,” he laughs.
He started asking for input from local ranchers about what qualities they liked in a good bit. “So I then started making bits, but wasn’t sure how to go about selling them. I decided to set up a table at a horse show in Gillette and suddenly there were people lined up at my table wanting what I had to sell.”
The entrepreneur moved his business from Ucross to an area outside of Sheridan. “I found an old mobile home that I dragged in as my workshop. I liked the fact there were several separate rooms to use which made it a lot more comfortable than a big open space.”
Balding says first he concentrated on producing spurs. “They’re mechanical and it’s easy to understand their function. Learning to make a good bit was a longer learning process. I started with the basic ranch design, which was primarily influenced by cavalry bits. Those bits were designed to work on many different horses, not just one horse. Even today, ranchers want a bit that’s simple, strong and functional, and can be used on several different horses.”
Today, the workshop/store is located on Riverside Drive in Sheridan where he has been for twelve years. It’s a new building, designed with the multiple small-rooms philosophy in mind. There is a separate room for each step of the bit-making process. Balding employs six people, with all of the bit and spur making done on site. They produce their own mouthpieces, rollers, shanks...everything.
All of the employees vote on bit design. “I’ll work on an idea, and we’ll vote on it. Once one of my designs is accepted, we’ll do all the tooling needed for it. Then we will be able to make that bit forever.”
It’s impressive as one wanders around the shop to see the unique machinery. “I got that on EBay, that at an auction,” Tom says pointing to each piece of equipment. There is one narrow room with ceiling-high shelves holding small yellow bins containing every part imaginable for a bit. There is an area for making bit rollers, a station for engraving, and so on. He even has a photo booth set up to take perfect pictures of his products.
He admits the bits could be made for less money if he “jobbed them out” (such as using a different company to make different bit parts) but he wants to keep the jobs and money in Sheridan. Plus, this way he can guarantee their high quality.
Balding’s hard work and creativity over the past 30 years has paid off. He’s been featured in many publications and his bits are popular with many disciplines, including reining, reined cow horse and cutting. He’s even started a line of bits for polo players. His spurs and bits are shipped to the European market including France, Germany and Italy, and he’s getting requests from Australia and The Netherlands.
His most recent coup was being featured in the series “How It’s Made” being filmed by The Discovery Channel. The segment on Spurs will be airing on the Science Channel."
In 2012 Lyle Lovett approached Tom about making a very unique buckle for his girlfriend April. Tom took this challenge to heart and developed a steel buckle he could tie into the distinctive look of his bits and spurs. He played with different shapes, finishes, and overlay concepts and came up with a squared buckle in his signature brown finish featuring his stainless dots in a progressively smaller corner orientation. Lyle further customized the buckle with a personal message stamped on the backside and presented it to a very happy April. Since then Tom has built different orientations of this steel buckle concept for several customers including a guest ranch. This blog is the step by step walk through of the process it takes to complete these beautiful buckles. Please note that these are broad steps that hold many small steps within. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
Step one: The name, logo, or initials are determined.
Step two: The overlay is hand cut from sterling silver or alternatively chosen material.
Step three: The back of the buckle is welded as per the fastening preference.
Step four: Embellishments (dots, etc) are welded in place and the overlays are soldered on.
Step five: The buckle is smoothed out and high polished.
Step six: The colored finish is applied and baked or cured onto the steel.
Step seven: If applicable the overlay is hand engraved for extra flash.
Step eight: If applicable a message is hand stamped and then filled with red paint to accentuate the letters.
Step nine: The silver overlay is hand polished and the buckle is ready to wear!
To see some of the 'buy it now' options we have adapted into our website please click here.
Thank you for checking out our blog! ~ Tom Balding Team
We have been very fortunate to have many articles written about our company. Sometimes we have found others can say it better then we can. We recently had the following article published in Western & English today. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
We also have many of the articles here on our site: http://tombalding.com/index.php/articles
"I have read Amy's article on bits and was wondering (much contention in the household) about the correct fitting of a curb shank bit in the horse's mouth. How tight or loose should it sit. Are there different rules for different types of mounts i.e. soft, heavy, pushy. If you can advise it would be very much appreciated. I am in Australia so email would be your best way of communication. I would also really like to put the answer in Reining Australia's Slider newsletter so if you would like to write an article of any length that would be awesome.
A general rule of thumb when correctly fitting a bit to a horse's mouth snaffle or curb would be to look for one wrinkle in corner of the mouth/lips. Occasionally, a horse that has a very soft mouth may need no wrinkle meaning you loose the bit to one hole or both but it still sits firmly in the corners. The same philosophy maybe used for se cathedral bits or bits with high ports because ideally these bits should be used on a very well broke horse that needs little pressure placed in its mouth for direction or guidance. Some of these bits are often seen in Vaquero or cow horses and again are intended for broke horses that are guided by the rider's seat and legs. The higher port also maybe used to help "set" the horses headed meaning a small amount of pressure is placed on the reins and the horses flexes at the poll, then the withers the croup and has a rounded appearance.
However, please keep in mind allowing a horse to wear a bit that is to low or to high in its mouth may promote an uncomfortable feeling and the horse may exhibit signs of discomfort such as tossing its head, shaking its head and even trying to place it's tongue over the top of the port or mouthpiece.
Also, horses prefer different mouthpieces just like we all prefer different shoes. What's comfortable for one person may not feel good for another. We also want to make sure that the bars fit the horse properly (the mouthpiece) and again like a pair of shoes this piece of the bit is not to wide or narrow in the horses mouth.
I hope this has helped with your questions and please feel free up send pictures and or videos if needed.
Amy K. McLean, PhD
North Carolina State University"
Look for the "Tom Balding" stamp on every bit and spur, and be confident it's the mark of an original. All looks, designs, names, and website content TM and © by Tom Balding Bits and Spurs. All Rights Reserved. The Balding looks, names and designs are protected under US Trademark law, US Copyright law and/or International Treaty. Reproduction or imitation is prohibited by law.