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H.M. “Herman” Wells recently found one of the first spurs he made. At the bottom of a crate with logging chains, the spur was rusty and missing its mate.
The intricately engraved spurs and bits H.M. builds today are more likely to enjoy a much nicer fate, such as in a collector’s or gallery’s display. His work has been included in the Trappings in Texas show at the Museum of the Big Bend in Alpine, Texas, and he recently was invited to display gear in the 21st Annual Trappings of the American West Exhibit at the Phippen Museum in Prescott, Arizona.
“When I started building this stuff, it was out of necessity because I couldn’t afford to go to town to buy what I needed,” H.M. said.
He worked at several ranches throughout West Texas and fashioned his first set of spurs in 1978 using tools in the ranch shop. Six years later, he built a saddle and eventually opened a saddle shop. By 2000 he had transitioned from leather to metals to build custom bits and spurs.
Having cowboyed at many outfits, H.M. was able to test the functionality of his designs. Despite the show quality of his current gear, they are all crafted to work too.
Today he works during the day as a metal fabricator and considers himself a part-time builder, mostly of spurs and bits noted for their high relief firearms style of engraving.
H.M. is a self-taught builder who also received helpful advice from several bit and spur makers through the years and from master engraver Johny Weyerts in Alpine, Texas. He also credits the support of his fiancé Joyce Ladner, a western photographer, with helping him keep his perspective and focus on what he wants to accomplish professionally.
He teaches engraving classes periodically and admires the work of today’s builders, who inspire him to push his creativity.
“The quality of work today is amazing. You really have to stay ahead of your game. I’m glad it’s that way because it’s made me a better builder,” H.M. said.