Jerrold A. Phillips, 77, of Nunn; died Sunday June 26, 2022, in Wellington, Colorado. He was born January 8, 1945, to Jack A. Phillips and […]
Art of Rodeo: Scott Ironworks
Written by: Darlene Craven< Back to Articles
In a perfect world, Gregory Scott would have the ideal life balance between work and play. But he knows this isn’t a perfect world so he strives to make his bits look like they just grew out of the metal, without any sign that it is man-made. It’s almost as if, like Michelangelo, he’s freeing the bit from the raw metal. And that artistry translates into a substantial waiting list for his entirely custom-made, hand-crafted bits. Craftsmanship takes time and a bucket load of patience, especially working in the blazing heat of Arizona summers.
Born and raised in Arizona, Greg and his brothers were on chore duty that included feeding horses, milking cows and chopping firewood while their widowed mother worked a variety of jobs to keep her growing family in jeans and food. When Greg was 15, his mother remarried and moved to Verde Valley, Arizona where Greg and his brothers caught roping fever. Without benefit of any formal coaching or teaching, the Scott brothers threw loops at dummies and competed amongst themselves for hours in the evenings, often into the wee hours. Greg even recalls a time when his brother roped an unprecedented 10 sets of hind feet in one round, a rare occurrence in the 70’s.
Greg’s roping career gave way to the workaday world of earning a living after high school. For 36 years, Greg and his brothers built and worked a successful drywall business. In 2000, Greg wanted something different that didn’t take such a physical toll on the body, so he went into the remodeling business, indulging in his fascination with metal by playing around with twisting horseshoes on the side. Making crosses led to perfecting the twist that led to crafting spurs and bits.
2005 was the year playing around with rasp spurs and horseshoe bits officially became Scott Ironworks. Greg made his first set of spurs and a couple of chain bits that he showed to roping buddies in the area. As Greg recalls, feedback from ropers who used those early bits compelled him put a port in the bit chain to add more “purchase” to the bit.
Those initial bits were not perfected, remembers Greg. In fact, they were pretty rough. But Greg worked on the necessary innovation for producing bits that were the right weight with the right balance by listening to the feedback he got from ropers using his bits. Having roped as a kid, Greg knew that a successful roping horse needs to be comfortable with a nice, relaxed mouth. And the #2 port bit was born. Greg sold the spurs at ropings as fast as he could make them. The word spread amongst competitive ropers always looking for the next best thing. Given that the bits take about ten hours of work to make, including endless grinding, polishing and forging every piece except the chains, the waiting list continued to grow.
With Greg’s passion for experimentation, what he calls “playing around with a piece to get the feel of it,” it wasn’t long before he started creating bits and spurs that went beyond functional to unique style and personality. While many bit makers were incorporating pistols into the shanks of their bits, Greg took it one step further by applying real bullets.
Greg attributes much of his inspiration to God because no one has ever done what he’s done before. The spectacular snake bit, because the diamond pattern looked “snaky” to Greg, complete with 14K gold and real ruby jewel eyes, is a tribute to that inspiration. Those snake bits were so distinctive that Greg sold four of them right away.
But that does not mean his customers get them right away. A custom-made bit with multiple hand-forged pieces takes painstaking hours of concentration throughout the entire process. While he might have started more than one piece, Greg can only finish one piece at a time. Because Greg is a one-man shop and there is no one else doing the work, he has to pace himself. At each step, Greg hand polishes every edge and curve for ultimate smoothness and fit, always in an effort to produce the perfect bit.
Starting with the shoes he decides and chooses based on the customer’s needs, whether to use new horseshoes or gently used ones. Then he forges them, shapes them, and decides on rings. Different models feature different characteristics for different needs. For instance, the #5 twisted port bit is designed to get the maximum performance from the horse.
Scott Ironworks’ reputation for perfection led to some pretty cool notoriety. In 2006, Greg’s pieces were chosen for display at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame (Colorado Springs, Colo.) in celebration of the National Day of the Cowboy. Greg made a special pair of spurs to go with the bit that earned high praise from Zane W. Mead, Art Foreman of National Day of the Cowboy, “They represent Cowboy America, Rodeo, Ranch, Cowgirl, Cowboy.” Scott Ironworks gained international distinction when New Mexico cowboy, Couy Griffin, set out on a horseback trip from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to the Golden Gate in Jerusalem. Griffin used Greg’s best selling #2 chain port bit and a pair of spurs throughout the two-and-a-half year sojourn that crossed three continents.
Over the last fourteen years, Scott Ironworks’ client roster has grown to feature some of the most notable names in professional team roping, including Garrett Tonozzi, Tee Woolman, Luke Brown and Jake Barnes. In fact, Scott Ironworks bits have become so popular, Greg has gotten reports that his bits have been stripped right off the heads of tied-up horses and snitched out of barns. Every time a customer reports on winning a buckle or a jackpot, Greg is filled with the pride of exceptional workmanship that takes horse performance to the next level.
When you work alone like Greg does, a certain amount of thought goes to finding the right balance between work—which he does sometimes seven days a week—and riding his 4-wheeler in the cool mountains or fishing with his nephew. Overall, Greg’s philosophy of life can be summed up as, “Life is short. Enjoy it.” Greg enjoys every call or email from ecstatic customers who rave about their success in the arena as a result of using a Scott Ironworks bit.
Perfection is something Greg strives for in every piece he makes. And with every piece he makes, the bar is set a little higher. It is what keeps him doing what he does—handcrafting custom bits that get results.