What the shop looks like tonight
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.)
All day I've been trying to think of what I should post tonight. I haven't had a lot of pictures of the shop lately, but how many more pictures of Rod sitting rawhiding a tree does anyone want to see? However, I had to go out after supper to finish up some work and I took the camera with me. And here is what I saw...
Straight in the door, under the wood storage on the wall is the first drying area for trees. The two in the middle were the ones Rod rawhided today - a 14" wide Olin Young roping saddle and a wood post Canadian Roper - one of our customer's special pattern. The two behind the stool that Rod rawhided yesterday are a Wade and a duplicate tree. The other three are finished and waiting for payment prior to shipping. The exposed Jarrah wood horn has a sock on it to protect it from damage while it waits.
The stool, by the way, was built by a man who went to Ag College with an uncle of mine. I didn't know him well or for long, but when we got married, he built this step stool for me as a shower present. That stool has been used on a daily basis in the shop for the past almost 17 years, and other than tightening the nuts on the bolts now and then, it is just as sturdy as the day it was built. A very good craftsman built it, and I am thankful for it.
And Taylor the Wonder Dog came out with me too.
All Rod's pounding equipment is sitting on the band saw. He pounds trees last thing at night and first thing in the morning, so he leaves it all sitting there overnight. The band saw table is just the right height and a very handy place to put everything when he is sitting on the stool, pounding trees. There is a big red box hanging from the ceiling you can just see a bit of at the top right of the picture. That is an air filter which we have on a timer so it runs for about an hour after we leave the shop. It helps remove a lot of the fine dust that would otherwise settle, ready for us to kick up and breathe in the next day. Dust collection is important in a shop like this. After all, "it is the dust that kills tree makers".
The varnish table (still not totally cleaned of its varnish build up - you know who is the procrastinator in this outfit...) has a drying tree on it. The one on the wall is also waiting for payment. This one was ordered, and then our customer's customer backed out on him. Anyone interested in a 13 1/2" wide Modified Association with a 16 1/2" seat? More specs available on our Saddle Trees for Sale page. Contact us if you are interested in this tree.
The end of the room always looks messy. We have a couple of people who give us their old packing paper to reuse and that is where it sits till it is needed. You just can't make it look nice... The leaf blower also has a purpose. It is a good idea, every now and then after you vacuum your shop out well, to blow air around everything and stir up all the dust that is lying around and you can't get, then leave and let the air filter run to really clean it all up. But we don't do it often enough.
Below the table are more drying trees. They were rawhided just over a week ago. The silver capped one (duct tape is useful stuff to hold padding on and keep water out) is also an exposed wood horn. We've been building a fair number of these lately. They do look purdy... This bench is a great place to put trees after varnishing to let them dry. It is usually less dusty than the bench close to the band say, but I vacuum them off first anyway.
In the glue press is a fork I have marked out for Rod to start cutting out tomorrow. But this customer wanted 4" stock thickness, which was thicker than the typical 3 3/4" that most metal horn forks are. The block of wood I had ready wasn't 4" thick, so I glued an extra layer on it to make what the customer ordered.
The stool there is one we just bought somewhere. It is taller than the step stool so works better for Rod sitting at the table, rawhiding. But we have gone through about three of them at least since we started the business. The quality of craftsmanship always tells in the end...
Moving up to my small corner - the gluing bench. I have a 14" metal horn fork in the press and the clamps are gluing sections side to side before they get their chance in the glue press. At the front is the 2" maple center piece for a 13" metal horn fork and hidden behind it are two of the layers that go into a Wade tree. Beneath the bench are pieces cut, planed, thicknessed, edged and ready to glue, stacked with the other pieces to go into a specific fork. Behind them are laminated forks, ready to be marked out when needed. I do up "standard" widths so I have them on hand (slicks, 12", 13" 14" and Wades), but I do up all other requests and wood post swell forks as they are ordered.
Here are three more trees with the varnish drying. They will be ready to ship out when I go to town Thursday.
And beneath the bench, hiding behind the table that I moved out of the way for this picture, are all the parts of the next four trees which I marked out for Rod today. He will cut them out and start carving on the first of this set tomorrow. The bars are on the left side (obviously). The forks are at the front past them. The bottom one is a metal horn fork with a 2" thick piece of maple in the middle. The next one up is a wood post swell fork with laminated 1" pieces of maple in the center. This uses up the last bit of 1" maple we have for this purpose. After this, even our wood post swell forks will have four layers of baltic birch in the center. On top of that one is a Wade (you can see the baltic birch in it), and then another metal horn swell fork. Hidden behind them are the cantles and horn caps.
Moving back into the rawhide room, we have all four of our pegs here filled. One is the damaged tree that hasn't made it into the basement into the "posterity showroom" area yet. The duct taped protected one is yet another exposed wood horn cap tree. This one is waiting on a silver horn cap to be sent to us which Rod will install before sending out the tree. And the other two are just waiting for payment as well.
The cement mixer lives in this corner for the winter. It gets moved to the other end when in use, but it is in the way of the drain there. Since the rawhide gets thawed in buckets of water which get changed at least daily, access to the drain is important. So the cement mixer lives at the other end. In front of it is our Fein shop vac, which has blown a fuse. Well, actually we hope it is just the starter switch. If it is anything more, the cost of repairing it ($400 for the board!!!) means that replacing it makes more sense. Hopefully the switch will be here Thursday.
And beside them is a "saddle in a box" and a "saddle in a bag". These are the parts sent to us for the duplicates we have on the go at the moment.
Looking to the far end, the bucket brigade is empty at the moment since Rod is done rawhiding for the week. The big blue containers are used to soak hides prior to and after being made into rawhide. They also come in handy to thaw rawhide in water when the hide has frozen in a shape that won't fit in the smaller buckets. The five gallon buckets each hold a tree's worth of rawhide as it is thawing and waiting to be used. The ice cream pails hold the lace as it soaks, waiting to be used to stitch the trees. And the "goop bucket" has the rawhide scraps left over from the last couple days' work. Since it is getting dim by 4:30 pm and dark by 5:00 pm right now, Rod figured that disposal could wait till tomorrow with daylight.
And while Rod heads out to the shop, in the dark, at 8:00 am every morning, I usually wait till daylight too...