Keith Welling – a cowboy artisan | TheFencePost.com

Keith Welling – a cowboy artisan

Terri Lemmon
Chadron, Neb.

Cowboy artisan Keith Welling and his wife and partner, Jarene, work together creating and marketing hand-crafted bits and spurs.

In the late 1960s, a quiet and reserved cowboy from Crawford, Neb., started designing functional bits for his own use. Little did he know his ingenuity would one day be seen from the silver screen to just about every sale barn in the Midwest.

A horse trainer and trader, Keith Welling was looking for a bit that would work for a variety of horses at different levels of training. Not finding one on a store shelf, this self-taught cowboy with no formal instruction decided to just make his own. Armed only with his expert welding ability, Keith designed a bit that would fit his purpose using cob fork tines. He didn’t own it long, however, when another horse trader saw Keith’s inspiration and bought it right off his bridle.

“I sold it for $15,” grinned Keith. “That’s what it cost to fill the saddle tank on the truck.”

When this trend continued and Keith started going home after the sale with no bit on his bridle, he decided to make a few extras to take along.

Keith commented, “The horse traders would buy 4 or 5 bits so I would go home and make some more.”

With an income dependent upon the fluctuating horse market, this new business venture turned out to be financially rewarding.

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“When the horse market began to drop off, I started making more bits,” Keith remembers.

This increase in sales has been seen throughout the horse industry as well as on television, movies and advertisements.

“Darrel Winfield, the Marlboro Man, had one of my bits on his horse in many of his billboards,” said Keith.

Through the years, Keith has made some changes to his original design as well as adding more options. The cob fork tines have been replaced with mainly hot roll and some cold roll steel. Keeping things simple, Keith uses an acetylene torch for cutting, special jigs to bend the steel, and a general purpose welder. Due to some encouragement from his wife, a kiln finally replaced the family oven for heat bluing the bits and spurs.

Keith isn’t sold on the change adding, “I liked the oven better because it provided a more even temperature.”

Keith’s expertise as a bronzer really comes into play in the inlay work.

“I use German silver for the inlay and melt it into grooves in the metal.”

This takes special skill due to the fact that the silver has to be heated just enough to melt without oxidizing the steel thereby inhibiting fusion.

Being an accomplished horseman, Keith understands the importance of a properly made and fitted bit and has uniquely designed eight different mouthpieces which can be combined with a side piece ranging from simple to fancy. Along with functionality, the bits are also affordable making them extremely valued by cowboys as well as collectors. Keith’s bits are also popular awards for the high school rodeo, 4-H and Queen Pageants in the area. Whenever asked, Keith willingly provides one of his custom products for a prize or fundraising item.

Although preferring to make bits, Keith is also an accomplished spur maker.

“Spurs are a little trickier,” Keith says. “The long legged guy wants the rowels up and the short legged guy wants them down.”

Spurs are often customized with a brand, initial or names. Papa Keith’s spurs are also a family tradition, with each of the grandchildren receiving a special pair as soon as their boots fit.

Family is very important to Keith. His wife Jarene, sons Mikel and Lyle, and daughter Kari, along with stepsons Joe and Roy Lemmon have always been a part of his business helping with production, marketing and sales. Jarene is the main promoter, setting up booths at trade fairs and equine competitions as well as being the friendly voice on the telephone taking orders. Mikel and wife Tasha, Joe and wife Terri, and Roy and wife Brenda have their own horse breeding and training businesses, using and selling Keith’s bits. Kari and husband Marty are in the sales department, having an on-line tack store at http://www.karislittletackshack.com/. Lyle, an artist in his own right, designs spurs, home decor items and jewelry.

These close family ties were much needed when a fire consumed their manufacturing shop and home in October 2008. It was a total loss including all Keith’s tools, equipment and inventory. With his natural ingenuity and resourcefulness, Keith took this setback in stride and started sorting things out.

“I picked up a few tools here and there and made some new jigs,” he said.

With the help of family and friends, a new shop was constructed and it was back to business as usual.

Facing hard work and adversity with an open mind and “can do” attitude was deeply instilled in Keith. Growing up on a small farming/ranching operation seven miles South of Crawford, Neb., he understood that only perseverance and diligence would get the job done. He worked on the family operation as well as for neighboring ranches to earn money for his true desire – buying, training and selling horses. He even threw his hat in the rodeo arena, riding bareback horses and saddle broncs in the amateur associations.

Although very successful in his own right, Keith remains humble, reluctantly accepting praise. However, if you’ve ever owned a Keith Welling bit, your horse will thank you forever.

Bits and spurs can be ordered at: Keith Welling Bits & Spurs, PO Box 444, Crawford, NE 69339 or call (308) 665-2084. Custom orders are available. Every item is marked with the initials “KW” and carries a life-time guarantee.

In the late 1960s, a quiet and reserved cowboy from Crawford, Neb., started designing functional bits for his own use. Little did he know his ingenuity would one day be seen from the silver screen to just about every sale barn in the Midwest.

A horse trainer and trader, Keith Welling was looking for a bit that would work for a variety of horses at different levels of training. Not finding one on a store shelf, this self-taught cowboy with no formal instruction decided to just make his own. Armed only with his expert welding ability, Keith designed a bit that would fit his purpose using cob fork tines. He didn’t own it long, however, when another horse trader saw Keith’s inspiration and bought it right off his bridle.

“I sold it for $15,” grinned Keith. “That’s what it cost to fill the saddle tank on the truck.”

When this trend continued and Keith started going home after the sale with no bit on his bridle, he decided to make a few extras to take along.

Keith commented, “The horse traders would buy 4 or 5 bits so I would go home and make some more.”

With an income dependent upon the fluctuating horse market, this new business venture turned out to be financially rewarding.

“When the horse market began to drop off, I started making more bits,” Keith remembers.

This increase in sales has been seen throughout the horse industry as well as on television, movies and advertisements.

“Darrel Winfield, the Marlboro Man, had one of my bits on his horse in many of his billboards,” said Keith.

Through the years, Keith has made some changes to his original design as well as adding more options. The cob fork tines have been replaced with mainly hot roll and some cold roll steel. Keeping things simple, Keith uses an acetylene torch for cutting, special jigs to bend the steel, and a general purpose welder. Due to some encouragement from his wife, a kiln finally replaced the family oven for heat bluing the bits and spurs.

Keith isn’t sold on the change adding, “I liked the oven better because it provided a more even temperature.”

Keith’s expertise as a bronzer really comes into play in the inlay work.

“I use German silver for the inlay and melt it into grooves in the metal.”

This takes special skill due to the fact that the silver has to be heated just enough to melt without oxidizing the steel thereby inhibiting fusion.

Being an accomplished horseman, Keith understands the importance of a properly made and fitted bit and has uniquely designed eight different mouthpieces which can be combined with a side piece ranging from simple to fancy. Along with functionality, the bits are also affordable making them extremely valued by cowboys as well as collectors. Keith’s bits are also popular awards for the high school rodeo, 4-H and Queen Pageants in the area. Whenever asked, Keith willingly provides one of his custom products for a prize or fundraising item.

Although preferring to make bits, Keith is also an accomplished spur maker.

“Spurs are a little trickier,” Keith says. “The long legged guy wants the rowels up and the short legged guy wants them down.”

Spurs are often customized with a brand, initial or names. Papa Keith’s spurs are also a family tradition, with each of the grandchildren receiving a special pair as soon as their boots fit.

Family is very important to Keith. His wife Jarene, sons Mikel and Lyle, and daughter Kari, along with stepsons Joe and Roy Lemmon have always been a part of his business helping with production, marketing and sales. Jarene is the main promoter, setting up booths at trade fairs and equine competitions as well as being the friendly voice on the telephone taking orders. Mikel and wife Tasha, Joe and wife Terri, and Roy and wife Brenda have their own horse breeding and training businesses, using and selling Keith’s bits. Kari and husband Marty are in the sales department, having an on-line tack store at http://www.karislittletackshack.com/. Lyle, an artist in his own right, designs spurs, home decor items and jewelry.

These close family ties were much needed when a fire consumed their manufacturing shop and home in October 2008. It was a total loss including all Keith’s tools, equipment and inventory. With his natural ingenuity and resourcefulness, Keith took this setback in stride and started sorting things out.

“I picked up a few tools here and there and made some new jigs,” he said.

With the help of family and friends, a new shop was constructed and it was back to business as usual.

Facing hard work and adversity with an open mind and “can do” attitude was deeply instilled in Keith. Growing up on a small farming/ranching operation seven miles South of Crawford, Neb., he understood that only perseverance and diligence would get the job done. He worked on the family operation as well as for neighboring ranches to earn money for his true desire – buying, training and selling horses. He even threw his hat in the rodeo arena, riding bareback horses and saddle broncs in the amateur associations.

Although very successful in his own right, Keith remains humble, reluctantly accepting praise. However, if you’ve ever owned a Keith Welling bit, your horse will thank you forever.

Bits and spurs can be ordered at: Keith Welling Bits & Spurs, PO Box 444, Crawford, NE 69339 or call (308) 665-2084. Custom orders are available. Every item is marked with the initials “KW” and carries a life-time guarantee.

In the late 1960s, a quiet and reserved cowboy from Crawford, Neb., started designing functional bits for his own use. Little did he know his ingenuity would one day be seen from the silver screen to just about every sale barn in the Midwest.

A horse trainer and trader, Keith Welling was looking for a bit that would work for a variety of horses at different levels of training. Not finding one on a store shelf, this self-taught cowboy with no formal instruction decided to just make his own. Armed only with his expert welding ability, Keith designed a bit that would fit his purpose using cob fork tines. He didn’t own it long, however, when another horse trader saw Keith’s inspiration and bought it right off his bridle.

“I sold it for $15,” grinned Keith. “That’s what it cost to fill the saddle tank on the truck.”

When this trend continued and Keith started going home after the sale with no bit on his bridle, he decided to make a few extras to take along.

Keith commented, “The horse traders would buy 4 or 5 bits so I would go home and make some more.”

With an income dependent upon the fluctuating horse market, this new business venture turned out to be financially rewarding.

“When the horse market began to drop off, I started making more bits,” Keith remembers.

This increase in sales has been seen throughout the horse industry as well as on television, movies and advertisements.

“Darrel Winfield, the Marlboro Man, had one of my bits on his horse in many of his billboards,” said Keith.

Through the years, Keith has made some changes to his original design as well as adding more options. The cob fork tines have been replaced with mainly hot roll and some cold roll steel. Keeping things simple, Keith uses an acetylene torch for cutting, special jigs to bend the steel, and a general purpose welder. Due to some encouragement from his wife, a kiln finally replaced the family oven for heat bluing the bits and spurs.

Keith isn’t sold on the change adding, “I liked the oven better because it provided a more even temperature.”

Keith’s expertise as a bronzer really comes into play in the inlay work.

“I use German silver for the inlay and melt it into grooves in the metal.”

This takes special skill due to the fact that the silver has to be heated just enough to melt without oxidizing the steel thereby inhibiting fusion.

Being an accomplished horseman, Keith understands the importance of a properly made and fitted bit and has uniquely designed eight different mouthpieces which can be combined with a side piece ranging from simple to fancy. Along with functionality, the bits are also affordable making them extremely valued by cowboys as well as collectors. Keith’s bits are also popular awards for the high school rodeo, 4-H and Queen Pageants in the area. Whenever asked, Keith willingly provides one of his custom products for a prize or fundraising item.

Although preferring to make bits, Keith is also an accomplished spur maker.

“Spurs are a little trickier,” Keith says. “The long legged guy wants the rowels up and the short legged guy wants them down.”

Spurs are often customized with a brand, initial or names. Papa Keith’s spurs are also a family tradition, with each of the grandchildren receiving a special pair as soon as their boots fit.

Family is very important to Keith. His wife Jarene, sons Mikel and Lyle, and daughter Kari, along with stepsons Joe and Roy Lemmon have always been a part of his business helping with production, marketing and sales. Jarene is the main promoter, setting up booths at trade fairs and equine competitions as well as being the friendly voice on the telephone taking orders. Mikel and wife Tasha, Joe and wife Terri, and Roy and wife Brenda have their own horse breeding and training businesses, using and selling Keith’s bits. Kari and husband Marty are in the sales department, having an on-line tack store at http://www.karislittletackshack.com/. Lyle, an artist in his own right, designs spurs, home decor items and jewelry.

These close family ties were much needed when a fire consumed their manufacturing shop and home in October 2008. It was a total loss including all Keith’s tools, equipment and inventory. With his natural ingenuity and resourcefulness, Keith took this setback in stride and started sorting things out.

“I picked up a few tools here and there and made some new jigs,” he said.

With the help of family and friends, a new shop was constructed and it was back to business as usual.

Facing hard work and adversity with an open mind and “can do” attitude was deeply instilled in Keith. Growing up on a small farming/ranching operation seven miles South of Crawford, Neb., he understood that only perseverance and diligence would get the job done. He worked on the family operation as well as for neighboring ranches to earn money for his true desire – buying, training and selling horses. He even threw his hat in the rodeo arena, riding bareback horses and saddle broncs in the amateur associations.

Although very successful in his own right, Keith remains humble, reluctantly accepting praise. However, if you’ve ever owned a Keith Welling bit, your horse will thank you forever.

Bits and spurs can be ordered at: Keith Welling Bits & Spurs, PO Box 444, Crawford, NE 69339 or call (308) 665-2084. Custom orders are available. Every item is marked with the initials “KW” and carries a life-time guarantee.

In the late 1960s, a quiet and reserved cowboy from Crawford, Neb., started designing functional bits for his own use. Little did he know his ingenuity would one day be seen from the silver screen to just about every sale barn in the Midwest.

A horse trainer and trader, Keith Welling was looking for a bit that would work for a variety of horses at different levels of training. Not finding one on a store shelf, this self-taught cowboy with no formal instruction decided to just make his own. Armed only with his expert welding ability, Keith designed a bit that would fit his purpose using cob fork tines. He didn’t own it long, however, when another horse trader saw Keith’s inspiration and bought it right off his bridle.

“I sold it for $15,” grinned Keith. “That’s what it cost to fill the saddle tank on the truck.”

When this trend continued and Keith started going home after the sale with no bit on his bridle, he decided to make a few extras to take along.

Keith commented, “The horse traders would buy 4 or 5 bits so I would go home and make some more.”

With an income dependent upon the fluctuating horse market, this new business venture turned out to be financially rewarding.

“When the horse market began to drop off, I started making more bits,” Keith remembers.

This increase in sales has been seen throughout the horse industry as well as on television, movies and advertisements.

“Darrel Winfield, the Marlboro Man, had one of my bits on his horse in many of his billboards,” said Keith.

Through the years, Keith has made some changes to his original design as well as adding more options. The cob fork tines have been replaced with mainly hot roll and some cold roll steel. Keeping things simple, Keith uses an acetylene torch for cutting, special jigs to bend the steel, and a general purpose welder. Due to some encouragement from his wife, a kiln finally replaced the family oven for heat bluing the bits and spurs.

Keith isn’t sold on the change adding, “I liked the oven better because it provided a more even temperature.”

Keith’s expertise as a bronzer really comes into play in the inlay work.

“I use German silver for the inlay and melt it into grooves in the metal.”

This takes special skill due to the fact that the silver has to be heated just enough to melt without oxidizing the steel thereby inhibiting fusion.

Being an accomplished horseman, Keith understands the importance of a properly made and fitted bit and has uniquely designed eight different mouthpieces which can be combined with a side piece ranging from simple to fancy. Along with functionality, the bits are also affordable making them extremely valued by cowboys as well as collectors. Keith’s bits are also popular awards for the high school rodeo, 4-H and Queen Pageants in the area. Whenever asked, Keith willingly provides one of his custom products for a prize or fundraising item.

Although preferring to make bits, Keith is also an accomplished spur maker.

“Spurs are a little trickier,” Keith says. “The long legged guy wants the rowels up and the short legged guy wants them down.”

Spurs are often customized with a brand, initial or names. Papa Keith’s spurs are also a family tradition, with each of the grandchildren receiving a special pair as soon as their boots fit.

Family is very important to Keith. His wife Jarene, sons Mikel and Lyle, and daughter Kari, along with stepsons Joe and Roy Lemmon have always been a part of his business helping with production, marketing and sales. Jarene is the main promoter, setting up booths at trade fairs and equine competitions as well as being the friendly voice on the telephone taking orders. Mikel and wife Tasha, Joe and wife Terri, and Roy and wife Brenda have their own horse breeding and training businesses, using and selling Keith’s bits. Kari and husband Marty are in the sales department, having an on-line tack store at http://www.karislittletackshack.com/. Lyle, an artist in his own right, designs spurs, home decor items and jewelry.

These close family ties were much needed when a fire consumed their manufacturing shop and home in October 2008. It was a total loss including all Keith’s tools, equipment and inventory. With his natural ingenuity and resourcefulness, Keith took this setback in stride and started sorting things out.

“I picked up a few tools here and there and made some new jigs,” he said.

With the help of family and friends, a new shop was constructed and it was back to business as usual.

Facing hard work and adversity with an open mind and “can do” attitude was deeply instilled in Keith. Growing up on a small farming/ranching operation seven miles South of Crawford, Neb., he understood that only perseverance and diligence would get the job done. He worked on the family operation as well as for neighboring ranches to earn money for his true desire – buying, training and selling horses. He even threw his hat in the rodeo arena, riding bareback horses and saddle broncs in the amateur associations.

Although very successful in his own right, Keith remains humble, reluctantly accepting praise. However, if you’ve ever owned a Keith Welling bit, your horse will thank you forever.

Bits and spurs can be ordered at: Keith Welling Bits & Spurs, PO Box 444, Crawford, NE 69339 or call (308) 665-2084. Custom orders are available. Every item is marked with the initials “KW” and carries a life-time guarantee.