Today in the shop

Posted by RodandDenise on November 14, 2011

We are no longer building saddle trees, but we have two videos about how Western saddles fit horses available on our website.


Rod is finishing rawhiding the trees he had built before we went to Edmonton to the Artisans Show at the Heritage Ranch Rodeo.  Here he is stitching the front seams of a lighter weight hide on a 12” wood post Packer tree.  This tree is going to a local lady and she is concerned about weight, so we are using a lighter cow hide to cover it and chose a lighter weight board for the bars .  The  individual boards vary in density and therefore in weight.  When we find a light one we label it and set it aside to use in trees that are ordered to be lighter in weight.


One seam done.  One to go!  The seam has been cut and the rawhide tacked down around the fork.  Now it is ready to stitch.  Rod is getting the deer hide lace out of the bucket in which it has been soaking.  When stitching with the lace, it isn’t just cased.  It is soaking wet.  We like the deer hide for the strength it has while still stretching and sucking down tight when you stitch with it. 


Stitching rawhide is a great time to talk on the phone, so long as the headset works!  The rawhide we use takes about two weeks to dry.  A thinner hide like this may be done a few days earlier while some really heavy hides take longer, but two weeks is a good average.  It is surprising how long they keep on losing weight even after they appear to be totally dry.  So our practice is that when Rod rawhides a tree, he calls the customer and lets them know the stage it is at, and the total cost still owing on the tree.  That way there is time enough for the cheque to get here before the tree is ready to go, and nothing will slow down us shipping it out. 


While Rod is rawhiding, I am gluing wood for the next set of trees.  The eight red clamps are holding a bar I am laminating.  We don’t laminate all our bars as we have found the wood we use to be strong enough without it, but it never hurts and it does let us use the yellow poplar more efficiently.  I also have pieces clamped side to side to make the layers that go into a Wade fork.  In the glue press is a cantle gluing up, and just beyond the wall there is another bar in a second glue press getting the extra pieces added on top that are needed for the extra thickness required in a couple of places.  Below the bench are some glued up forks and a lot of wood that has been cut, planed, thicknessed, edged and is ready to be glued together over the next few days. 

So that is what we have been doing today. 

Posted by Christina Savitsky on 
Wow!! Cool!! How much does an average tree weigh? How much weight can you cut by doing this?
Posted by RodandDenise on 
The final weight on a tree will depend on the total weight of the wood and hide - obviously. The more of each, the heavier the tree. We also use use hardwood in all our forks, which adds substantially to the strength and horn holding ability, but also affects the weight. So a 14" Modified Association tree will weigh a lot more than a narrow slick fork. A 5" tall, 13" wide cantle has more mass in the wood than a 4" tall, 12" wide cantle. Then there is more rawhide to cover it, and then extra leather to cover that. So the best thing to do to drop weight is to order a slick fork with a smaller cantle. There can be over 5 lbs difference between a heavy built 14" swell fork and a really narrow, lightly built slick fork.
In this case, while the customer wanted a lighter weight saddle, she still liked the looks of a swell fork rather than a slick fork. But she went with only a 12" swell. She also decided to go with a 12 1/2" wide cantle rather than just a 12" wide because she preferred that look. So it is a balancing act between weight and the look you want.
Using lighter wood and a lighter weight hide can make a pound or two difference in the final weight of a tree built to the same specs, depending what those the specs are. The saddle maker can make far more difference in the final weight of the saddle due to both leather weight and design considerations.

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