The Making of a Saddle
The first step is the cutting out of the saddle. The layout of the patterns is very important. We use a right and left hide that has been gauged for the same thickness. Each part of the saddle has a specific place on the hide it needs to be cut out of to ensure balance and consistency of the saddle; ie, the rigging out of the same place and direction on each hide, the skirts, jockeys, swells, and so on.
The first part of the tree we begin to cover is the gullet, then the cantle. Each part is wetted then wrapped in wool blankets overnight; this is called "casing" your leather. The wool blankets allow the leather to breathe and disperse the water evenly through the leather until the consistency is right for shaping and tooling.
The edges are carefully skived thin to blend in with the tree.
The gullet and the cantle
The rigging comes next. They are carefully fitted to ensure the pull is right for the tree; extra measures are taken to be sure both sides are exactly the same.
Ground seat comes next. There are six layers that take place in forming the perfect groundseat—one that allows the rider to feel balanced and close to their horse. Of course, the ground seat in a Wade or cowboy saddle is different from that of a reiner, cutter, or roper saddle.
After the ground seat has been shaped and properly dried, it is then sanded to ensure a smooth finish.
The swells are next to be covered. Then the skirts are carefully placed, making sure they are the same on both sides.
Filler leather is sewn into place to keep the skirts from curling up, then are shaped to the tree for proper contact to your horse.
The jockeys are fitted to the tree, then cut parallel to the skirts to give the saddle a symmetrical, visually-appealing look.
The seat is next. Our center line is very important to keep the saddle balanced correctly.
We center a cross on the ground seat as well as on the seat leather to match.
The leather has been properly "cased" to eliminate wrinkles while being shaped.
Seat lines are drawn so the front jockey is straight with the rear jockey, then cut out, and the seat is drawn down with a strap over the top, then rubbed into place.
The cantle is carefully shaped to fit comfortably in your hand as you grip it.
The stitches are recessed into the cantle binding leather so the stitches are not easily worn out.
As with all our tooling, we draw it out directly on the leather free-handed, giving each saddle a distinct look.
The horn is next to be covered. Great care is taken to make sure the horn will last a long time without losing its shape.
The center piece of leather is glued to the horn then nailed down with ring shank nails, then the top is also glued down.
Again, the stitching is recessed into the leather to avoid rubbing on the stitches and wearing them out.
After stitching, we trim the leather, round the edges, and rub them smooth.
We strive to have the finished horn in a funnel shape to ensure that your dallies go to the base of the horn.
The fenders are cut to length according to the customer’s inseam and riding style. While the leather is properly cased, we rub all the stretch out of the fenders and stirrup leathers, then trim them again equally.
We then twist and wrap the stirrup leathers before drawing them down to eliminate stress on your knees and ankles.
They are then drawn down tight and allowed to dry in the right shape and position for the rider.
While everything is drying, we cut out conchos, carriers, billets, rear cinches, etc.
Before we take the skirts off to sew on the sheepskin, we drill holes through the tree, jockeys, and skirts. This is where the strings will come through.
The strings are then laced through the skirts, and sheepskin is glued on, ready to be sewn.
Oil is the next step. Each individual piece is oiled with a heavy coat of pure neatsfoot oil; over the course of several days, more oil is applied to give the saddle an even look.
Then we spread leather cream on the skirts and stirrup leathers to help eliminate squeaking.
Everything is now reassembled, and the final step left to do is wrapping the horn. This can be done with mule hide, latigo, or chap leather. With each wrap around the horn, we stretch the leather. Often times, this may have to be rewrapped several times to get all the stretch out, then smoothed down and tightened with a chinaman strap.
The final product is one we can be proud of, knowing we have done all we can to make a quality saddle that will last generations.