Haven't made one like this in a long time
We are no longer building saddle trees. We have two saddle fit videos available on our westernsaddlefit.com website. Western Saddle Fit - The Basics, aimed at riders, is available either on DVD or streaming on Vimeo while the six hour series Well Beyond the Basics, aimed more for professionals but understandable by anyone, is available by streaming on Vimeo. (We left this website up because we have had many requests to keep the information available.)
We've been doing a fair number of exposed wood cap horns, but haven't done a whole exposed horn for a few years. This one is Jarrah wood, and the photography doesn't do the beauty of the wood justice. Not by a long shot...
We started with 2" thick Jarrah. The board is almost 6" wide, and we offset the two pieces for strength purposes. While we don't expect any major stress on this fork, making a tree strong is just something we always think about. From the end like this, you can see the dark and light striping that is a normal feature of this wood.
I specifically set the blocks so the grain in the wood went the same direction, hoping that they would blend well and we wouldn't see a sharp line at the lamination. It worked well. Rod and I were checking out the finished horn today (me with my glasses off and him telling me he didn't need to put his on...) and we thought we found it on one side, but neither of us could find it on the other. That made me happy.
The fork was marked and cut out as normal. It looks a little "off" because the center line isn't in the center of the Jarrah due to the offset of the wood. I chose this piece as the back piece, knowing that the back would be seen the most by the rider and wanting the grain to be as interesting as possible. The problem is, the grain that will eventually be seen by the rider is in the center of the wood, not at the back! So it is always a guessing game and then a surprise when you get the horn or cap made to see what the final grain looks like.
The horn cap was glued and screwed on as normal.
Then the holes were filled with plugs taken as close to the horn as possible from the same piece of wood to match the cap as much as can be done. There is always variation, even in the same piece of wood. In this case, the neck and the horn cap came from the same board, but the cap ended up being darker than the neck - just because...
Then Rod shaped the horn the same way he normally does.
Then comes the sanding, and sanding, and sanding - down to 600 grit. But it sure is smooth and pretty when it is done.
I tried to pick a piece that had a more interesting grain for the cap, something you can spend a lot of time looking at as you ride and always enjoy seeing the contours and the color. It turned out really nice.
Then the rest of the tree was finished normally.
As pretty as it looks when you are making it, that first wipe of finish just makes the wood grain pop out at you!! Night and day difference.
Shiny and wet with its first coat on!
There is a neat pattern in the grain on the front of the neck due to the curve in there as well. You can't see the grain in the horn cap edge in the pictures, but in real life it is pretty nice too.
After Rod puts a few coats of finish on the horn, it is wrapped up in old socks and duct tape to protect it from damage and water during the rawhiding, drying and varnishing process.
When the tree is dry and varnished, there are a few more coats of finish put on before it is ready to ship out. And what you see is not nearly as pretty as what they will get... (Photography is still a work in progress.)
But it "sure is purdy" anyway...
from whatever direction you look at it!!
Technical data - for those interested: 8" wide fork, 4 1/2" stock thickness, 3" high horn with 4" cap at 22 degrees, more Hope style shape than our normal horn shape.