We are no longer building saddle trees, but we have two videos about how Western saddles fit horses available on our westernsaddlefit.com website.
We have a couple of trees sitting in the shop at the moment waiting for pick up. The thing that is different about these two is that they have slots cut as hand holds in the cantle.
We get orders for cantle slots every now and then. Sometimes it is for the look – like the old Sante Fe saddles. In this case, these are going to be outfitting saddles and they want the slots to tie things to. Different reasons, same result – holes in the cantle!
When doing cantle slots, we prefer to have the cantle a bit thicker front to back because it leaves more wood on the top of the slot for more strength. The cantles can be any size, but the larger they are, the thicker they can be and still look right. The holes are originally marked out on the front of the cantle before any shaping is done. They are made by first drilling multiple holes with a large drill bit. Then the holes are connected and smoothed to finish making the cantle slot, after which the rest of the cantle is finished.
Rawhiding hand holds can be “interesting” as you are stitching inside the cantle slots. What is even more difficult is keeping the rawhide tight to the wood as it dries. We have tried a few different methods, but the most successful has been to shape sections of wood to fit into the corners of the slots and wedge them there. As the rawhide dries and thins down, the wooden wedge pieces are driven farther in, keeping the corners tight.
And the final result!