Preston Williams comes from a long line of ropers and grew up with a passion for roping, but along the way, he discovered an interest in the tools that a roper would need, like bits and spurs.
“My dad, uncles and grandfather all roped—they all had cattle,” said Williams, who now operates Preston Williams Hardware. “I grew up with a rope in my hand. I think I had a love for it since I was a kid. I never looked back. But I was always into tack, bits, saddles and headstalls. It always fascinated me.”
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Williams, 45, from Casa Grande, Arizona, received a degree in Elementary Education from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, but got his hands deep into the bit and spur business after befriending renowned cowboy craftsman Gordy Alderson.
“I became good friends with Gordy Alderson,” Williams said. “He taught me pretty much everything I know, as far as the construction of bits. I’ve probably been doing it for about 15 years now, but I haven’t been doing it steady for 15 years. When I first started, I just did a lot of horseshoe gag bits—basically just welding horseshoes together in pieces.”
Though Alderson’s teachings helped Williams become a successful bit and spur maker, Williams worked long hours learning to master bit making.
“I took a horse shoeing class in college and never paid attention, but once I got out of school, I tried to shoe my own horses and tried to build fences. You have to learn how to weld—learn how to do stuff. Gordy has helped me some, but you just have to do it. The more you do it, the better you get.”
In 2015, Williams married his wife, Garrell, who has taken part in the business with her artistic design.
“When I put someone’s initials or name on a bit, I started having my wife write it out and I’ll cut it,” Williams said. “We use her penmanship. It eventually turned into me telling her, ‘Why don’t you try to cut?’ I taught her how to cut, and she took over that part of it. She does the silver designs. We’ll brainstorm together, or a customer will tell us what they want, and she lays it out, cuts it out and solders the silver on and puts the finish on it. I finish with the engraving.”
Williams isn’t solely known for his hardware. He won the World’s Greatest Roper event in 2009 and the Cheyenne Frontier Days with Blair Burk back in 2001, the first year that team roping was introduced—and they roped muleys. He also trains rope horses and cow horses with his wife.
“She shows cow horses and has done it for a long time. I was introduced to it when I met her. I’ve shown a handful of times. I always have a young one that I kind of train and then end up selling. My goal is to show more in the cow horse. It’s fun to be around the trainers and learn the horsemanship that helps with roping.”
Williams strives to give his bits the perfect feel and learns from listening to what his customers have to say.
“I think my experience from training helps with knowing what works and what hasn’t worked for me. I always ask people for feedback. It doesn’t matter who it is, I take it.”