How to Build Cowboy Spurs

Written by jen davis
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How to Build Cowboy Spurs
Western cowboy spurs come in a variety of styles. (spur image by CraterValley Photo from

Western-style, or cowboy spurs are a carefully crafted piece of equipment made for the purpose of encouraging the horse to move in a certain way. Different types of spurs are designed with different purposes in mind. Spurs can be used to give a rider with a weak leg a little extra power in his cues or to encourage a lazy horse to move. Professional riders and cowboys often have spurs custom made to meet their needs. Spurs can be built in a variety of ways with a number of customising options.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Metal
  • Saw
  • Drill
  • Engraving tool
  • Metal pin or bolt
  • Small rotary tool for smoothing rough edges
  • Welder or soldering iron for heating metal
  • Leather strap (optional)
  • 2 small screws (optional)

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  1. 1

    Review the different types of spurs and determine your needs in a spur. You will need to consider both your horse's needs and your own.

    Spurs have two main working parts, the rowel and the shank. The rowel is the small, spinning piece, the actual "spur" that comes in contact with the horse's body. The size of the rowel, the number of tips it has and the sharpness of those tips will all affect how your spur works on your horse.

    The shank of the spur is the long piece coming off the back of the rider's heel. The shank is supposed to be long enough that the spur can touch the horse's side without the rider's leg moving noticeably. A rider with long legs and a narrow barrelled horse will need a longer shank than a short-legged rider on a wide barrelled horse.

  2. 2

    Choose the type of metal you want to use to make your spur. Spurs are commonly made from silver, stainless steel or iron, but can be made of almost any metal. Malleable metals like silver can be more easy to work with than stronger metals like iron, but the easier a metal is to bend and shape, the more likely it is to become dented or damaged during use.

    It is important to consider the malleability of the metals when you select materials to work with. Some metals can be reshaped over and over, while others are less forgiving of errors.

  3. 3

    Measure the width at the widest part of your heel with your boot on using a tape measure.

    Cut a piece of your chosen metal that is an inch to an inch and a half wide and several inches longer than what you need to fit your heel. The extra metal will be used to form the shank. Note that the thicker the piece of metal is, the harder it will be to mould. However, thicker metals are also harder to damage and will make your spur sturdier.

  4. 4

    Heat the metal almost to its melting point and then carefully moulding the base of the spur, the heel band, into a "U" to fit your heel.

    Leave a strip of metal coming off the back of the heel band as if your U has developed a tail, similar to a "Y" shape. Make sure the heel band and shank conform to your measurements before the metal cools.

  5. 5

    Make a pattern or template for the rowel you have selected. One way to do this is to remove the rowel from an existing spur and lay it out on the metal you are planning on using to make your new rowel.

    Trace the outline of the rowel onto the metal then cut it out. Use a grinder or small rotary tool to smooth any rough edges.

    If you like, you can design your own rowel by sketching a design on a piece of cardboard and then tracing it out and cutting it onto the metal.

  6. 6

    Drill a small hole in the shank near the end and then drill a small hole in the centre of the rowel. Line up the holes and then use a small bolt or other piece of metal to attach the rowel to the spur. The rowel should spin freely.

  7. 7

    Use metal engraving tool to add detail to the spurs, if desired. Smooth out any rough edges with the rotary tool.

    Attach a leather strap to the front ends of your heel band, if desired, to secure the device to your foot. To attach a strap, drill two more small holes, this time on either edge of the "U" shaped heel band, and use small screws to secure the strap to the heel band.

Tips and warnings

  • This process requires use and skill with tools and other dangerous equipment. Improper use of the tools can result in injuries or death.

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