In 2013, Casey Tew, from Weatherford, Texas, had his sights set on attending Weatherford College and competing for the rodeo team in the team roping. That was until 2014, when he found a passion for leatherwork.
“I started doing the leather work my freshman year,” Tew said. “I figured that’s what I wanted to do—and roping.”
Tew, 25, has since graduated with his associate’s degree in liberal science in 2016, and now owns and operates his leather work company—Casey Tew Custom Leather. The young header found a passion for the craftsmanship after watching his best friend Clay Robertson’s mother, who worked with leather goods as a hobby.
“They had some tools and leather around there,” said Tew, who set the 3.9-second College National Finals Rodeo arena record in 2016. “None of them really did a lot with it, but they had some hobby tools. I would stay at their place in the summer and just kind of tinkered around with it a little bit and really didn’t know what I was doing.”
After Tew started working with leather more on his own, he received some insight about what he was doing wrong from a man who had his own saddle shop nearby.
“He was laughing at me because I was soaking my leather in a horse trough,” Tew said, laughing. “That’s where I started out. I didn’t have any idea what I was doing, so he got me pointed the right way.”
Tew first built a belt for his mom that he now has hanging in his shop as a reminder of where he began.
“It is terrible,” he admitted. “Once in a while I’ll look at it, since it’s hanging in the shop. It was pretty rough. We’ve come a long ways.”
Learning what would work for him took some time, but Tew has never been one to shy away from asking for the help he needs from professionals like Billy Hogg, owner of Hogg Saddlery.
“I always asked a lot of questions to everybody that would tell me something about how to get a little bit better,” Tew said.
The 8.5 header, who works on his own, finds time to build custom leather, team rope, ProRodeo and train horses.
“I’m still roping all the time. I roped this past summer with Jared Fillmore (who placed at RFD-TV’s The American with NFR qualifier Colby Lovell). I’ve had a few people that I’ve hired on here and there, but it’s just really hard for me to keep a good product coming along. You hear people say, ‘If you want something done right, then do it yourself.’ That’s kind of how it has to be for me right now. I don’t know if I’ll always do it by myself but, for now, that’s what I’m doing.”
Tew’s main orders are items like rope bags and rope cans, belts and tack, with the exception of a few saddles. He’ll admit that his favorite piece is a saddle he recently built for himself.
“That’s probably my favorite one because I actually got to keep it,” he said. “The bummer is that it’s awesome when you’re getting to build things and you’re really proud of them, but the sad part is when you’re done with them and you want to keep them for yourself, you can’t. They have to go down the road.”
If you watched the 2020 NFR, you saw some of Tew’s builds, like with header Levi Simpson and calf-roper Haven Meged.
“It’s a compliment,” Tew stated. “There’s a lot of people to order from, so when they’re ordering from me, it is pretty neat. I’ve gotten a lot of people this year that I’m getting to build things for. Every year it has grown. I think at the  NFR, I had 41 customers that hadn’t previously ordered from me. Sometimes you’ll see them down the road.”