Louisiana bit and spurmaker Barry Guillory uses metal pins out of bulldozers to craft sought-after one-piece spurs.
Outside of his workshop next to his house in Pine Prairie, Louisiana, about 80 miles west of Baton Rouge on the Crooked Creek Reservoir, Barry Guillory heats coals in his driveway using a hoodless forge until the coals are a glowing, molten red.
He keeps the forge outside, which he says keeps his workspace cleaner. He doesn’t take a temperature of the coals—everything he does when building a set of one-piece spurs is done by feel. He estimates the temperature to be 1700 degrees, but he determines when the forge is hot enough by reading the color of the coal.
Guillory started making spurs in 1998 when he was loping horses for local cutting horse trainers. He couldn’t afford of pair of Billy Klapper spurs, which at the time were running for $400.
“I told myself, ‘I’m going to learn to build some one-piece spurs.’ I got the [Adolph] Bayers books, and I went through all the pictures,” he says. Bayers was a custom bit and spurmaker from Gilliland, Texas, from the 1930s until the ‘70s. He was known for his one-piece spurs in which the heel band and shank were formed from a single piece of metal, as opposed to two pieces welded together. Klapper uses Model T axles and the same method to craft his spurs.
Using pins for the base of the spurs wasn’t by choice; it was out of necessity. ““It was the only thing I had,” he says. He and his partner, C Cee Elliot, often rummage and pry for pins in a bulldozer graveyard. It’s hard work that leaves them with tired, greasy hands and clothes.
“You have to forage for them because it’s getting to where they don’t make solid ones [to use] in bulldozers anymore,” he explains. “Now they use what they call wet pins. They’re hollow in the center and have grease in them, so they last longer in the bulldozer.”
But the pins make an ideal medium for one-piece spurs, he says, because the metal can be transformed into a durable, wearable piece of equipment.
Once the pins are “a molten temp,” he says he uses a power hammer and starts “knocking them down” into a flattened piece. Then, he hot splits the flattened metal about halfway down using a wedge, which creates the heel bands. The unsplit part will be the shank.
Guillory cleans and sands the unfinished spurs, fine-tunes the shape of them, then drills holes in the shank to hold the handmade rowels. After all that, he engraves and silver to them with intricate artistry.
“I’ve always wanted to build something that was considered junk iron from the start, but it’s good metal, and I wanted to turn something that was being thrown away into something that nobody else can do,” he says.