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About this blog

Follow my progress as I build saddle #2 & #3

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Rear Jockeys

Got one side of my rear jockeys tooled up last night.

Here is a fuzzy blackberry picture:

tooled rear jockey

Tooling is still amateurish but I am slowly getting more comfortable with it.

I would appreciate feedback on what I can do to make it better.


Ron L


Have been working a little on this second rig. Starting to feel like I'm getting some traction.

Here it is with Fenders & Stirrup leather assemblies in as well as rear jockeys fitted.

The rear jockeys will be filled with floral tooling. The seat has yet to get a 1/8" bead border.

Next Step is to tool both seat & jockeys.





Ron L



Finally getting some time to work on this second saddle again...New shop is set-up and I have been able to put in some time.

Built these hobbles:

hobbles 01

Tooled this fender:

fender 01

And finished tooling the skirts for this rig as well as got the horn cap 'n' wrap started:

horn 03

horn 02

horn 01

We have been doing a fair bit of riding - Built this breast collar for my first saddle too:

hoss 01

tied down 01

Really hoping to have this second saddle done for spring!


Ron L


Kinda Busy

As all can tell I have not been posting lately as I have been really busy - Haven't even had time to work on rig #2...

Anyhow, I moved back to Saskatchewan and am setting up a new saddle shop in our place here.

It's almost done. I'll post pictures as soon as I get it wrapped up.

We have been doing lots of riding and have had a chance to go to quite a few brandings as well as pasture rope.






saddle Pad

It'd been nice to really use the first saddle I built - It seems to work pretty well - Although it could be a little wider in the gullet / hand hole.

I have purchased two more trees from Ben Swanke. One is a 3B the other is a wade. The wade is set up a little wider and will be my second saddle.


Inlaid Seat - Post #2

So no earth shattering progress recently as I have been busy getting a house fixed up...

But I did sew in the inlaid seat on this rig.

IMG 2343

IMG 2345

I have the house largely under control now so maybe it will free up some time for me to get this saddle done...





This past saturday I made some decent progress.

Cut out fenders, billets and finally got up the nerve to proceed with the inlaid seat portion of this project.

Built my pattern by looking at saddles by Kent Frecker, Cary Schwarz & Steve Mason...I'm sure it isn't as nice as what they do but overall I'm happy.

Here's what I did:

Pulled the seat off the saddle. verified by measurement approximately where the pattern was going. Using the center line I had scratched into the back I ran an awl hole up through the seat 2" in from either end of the pattern. This let me center the pattern on the top side of the seat accurately. I then traced around it and cut the pattern out. This required very sharp knives and nerve...once mis-step and you can wreck a piece of prime Hermann Oak.

I used a piece of nice top grain chap leather for the inlaid portion - This sets in a 5/8" by 1/16" deep channel I cut into the bottom side of the seat around the inlaid portion - Used a french edger to create this channel.

The padding is the foam you get from Sheridan leather - It's 1/4" thick. My seat leather is close to 3/8" in the center so I needed to build it up. I used two layers of pretty heavy chap leather - The were probably in the 7oz. neighborhood and I glued these two layers to the underside of the foam. The top grain leather was glued to this. Prior to gluing the top grain leather on I skived the outside edge to a near feather. This whole set-up fits into the inlaid cut out very tightly.

I cut the foam piece 1/6" smaller on all sides than the cut out I took out of the seat. This gives the chap leather space to fold and wrap under.

Here are some cell phone pics.

Inlaid Seat 01

Inlaid Seat 02

Inlaid Seat 03

Inlaid Seat 04



Saturday: Got seat rough fitted - Pulled it in and then let it dry up to where the seat and front jockeys were firmed up. I follow Jeremiah Watt and Dale Harwoods theory that you need to pound the leather into the middle - Draw the bubble into the center and pound it in. I also do like Jeremiah Watt and work a bubble into the cantle face and then compress it in - Really helps leather fit into cantle dish.

Sunday: Wet the center part of the seat down and pulled it back into rig. Marked my cut lines on the on side and cut that out. Flipped it over off of center line and cut off side. Pulled it back into seat and nailed in. Went in very symetrical. My clearances off of rigging rivets tuned out to be identical on either side.

Here is a grainy cell phone image - I will post proper images soon.

Seat Installed

There is one thing I do not like. I made my handhole too shallow. I wish I had the back edge of the handhole 1" further back.

I used a centerline on this seat and worked off the centerline on the ground seat - I believe this really helped the seat go in square. The other thing obviously is that this tree is dead square - Sure makes the amateur saddle makers life easier.

More images to follow.

This saddle is going to have a padded seat. Hope it looks like this: (Saddle by Gordon Andrus Sage Creek Stock Saddle Co.)


Maybe without the scallops on the back edge though...

I picked up my 3" monel stirrups on sunday too.



Last night I tooled up one of the skirts - Just a simple border pattern set 3/4" in from the outside edge.

skirts 01

Here it is sitting under the rig...

skirts 02

And then I cut out the cantle filler / cheyenne roll stiffener...It's out of 10oz Hermann Oak - and skived to a feather edge where it fades into the seat.

cantle filler 01

cantle filler 02

Once the barge is dried up solid i'll really wet down the outside edge and pull and glue it down onto the single ply that is the start of the cheyenne roll.

Once that's done I'll start the seat fitting process...i'm still apprehensive of seat fitting - It's probably the trickiest thing to get right - The ear cuts require a fair bit of careful attention. Thankfully Jeremiah Watt has a really good section in his DVD series going over seat fit - So that definitely helps.



Slow & Steady (Kind Of)

Dang - Just typed up a whole entire update and the thing deleted somehow. This post is going to contain a lot less detail!

Anyhow - Life has been busy so haven't put in much time in on this thing, but here is progress from Saturday and last night.

Rigging plates installed saturday. I like to glue mine in as well as fasten mechanically.

rigging install 01

Last night I blocked on my skirts and cut them to the bottom profile I wanted: Also, this time i'm not lacing my skirts all the way to the back tip. I;ve noticed a lot of guys end up cutting their lacing as they are wearing the loin hair off a horse. I figure this time i'll just lace to within about 2" - 2.5" of the skirt tips and see how I like that...the lacing will be hidden by the rear jockeys - So instead of using a shield to connect the jockeys i think i might lace the ones on this rig together.

skirts blocked 01

skirts blocked 02

skirts blocked 03

skirts blocked 04

So far so good - Managed to not wreck these skirts - As some of you may recall I wrecked my first pair on saddle #1. Expensive mistake!

Next step is cantle filler to help stiffen cheyenne roll and then swell cover - Last time my swell cover wasn't that great - Front lip was too thick and was also set back about 5/16" too far back...we'll see how it goes this time! Also, last time i used a full 14oz piece for my cheyenne roll stiffener - Made for tough sewing when I put my cantle binding on...this time i'm gonna experiment and try a nice piece of 9oz. Help keep that cheyenne roll from getting so thick.


March 03, 2015

So over the weekend I cut, fitted and stretched the swell cover in. I'm not 100% sure why but i seemed to really have to fight this one. It didn't want to stretch in tight on the front lip. Anyhow, i got it in more or less to my satisfaction - However it seemed like I had to fight it way too much - If anyone has tips / advice on how to make this go a little smoother / easier I'd sure be up to hear them :).

Here are a couple of pictures - The saddle is just sitting on the skirts - They haven't been fastened - For tooling on the skirts I am going to do a serpentine border...

swell cover On 02

swell cover On 01

The border around my makers mark is what i'm going to do on the skirts...

cantle back

If anyone has comments / advice on things i should be doing different i'm very happy to hear from them!

Many Thanks,

Ron L


Rigging Plates

Here is the latest progress:

Rigging plates are all tooled up and have one sewn and riveted, the next is ready to sew and rivet.

Fp 01

Fp 02

Fp 03

While I waited for glue to dry I built some stirrup hobbles - These are 1/2"w and set-up for 2.5" stirrup leathers. Jeremiah Watt buckles. Used 1/8" beader to create edge detail.

stirrup hobbles

For my rivets - I know there is a lot of debate surrounding 'doming' rivets. I certainly agree that too heavy of a dome is undesirable - However, I purchased the domers from Sheridan Leather and am pretty happy with them. They just ease the rivet enough to keep the sharp outside edge down and when you polish them up they look great.

As you can see I sewed up the off side rigging plate first - Mainly because I'm still trying to get handy with my Cobras Class 4 - It works good that machine. Sewed up that first plate like it was butter. Really happy with it. I'd still say though that hand stitching does that most accurate clean job...but for those of us who do this as a hobby and don't have lots of spare time, A cobra machine is a great investment - Does a very good job, easy to use and save hours.

One thing I'm doing on this project - I'm trying to get ahead of all the little stuff - Stirrup hobbles, rope straps and latigo carriers etc. That way at the end you can save some serious time by not having to mess around with all that little junk...Anyhow, next step is to install these plates, the swell cover and then black the skirts on!

30/01/15 - So last night I glued up the last 'on-side' rigging plate and while I was waiting for that to set-up I polished up 7 rivets - I personally like a polished rivet and I also like them to have a light dome to them.

For those who have never 'domed and polished' a rivet I will explain how I do it.

Doming & Polishing Rivets:

Tools Needed: Hammer, Domers (Sheridan Leather), Mini Anvil (Tandy), sand paper (200 & 400 Grit), and leather scrap with stropping compound.

I have modified one of the little mini anvils from tandy. I have drilled holes in the top - These are sized just larger than the two rivet sizes I use - #9's and #12's, The holes are drilled far enough down into the anvil that the rivet sticks out of the top of the anvil by only about and 1/8" or so. This gives me a secure way to hold the rivet when I 'pre dome' it.

I grab a rivet, stick it in the hole in the anvil and then pre-dome it using my Sheridan Leather domers - A few good shots with a hammer is all it takes.

I then chuck the rivet into a cheapo 3/8" electric drill I keep handy - I have the drill rigidly mounted and this allows me to use a fine sandpaper (200 - 400 grit) to sand the nicks and abrasions that seem to come with typical copper rivets. The drill spins the rivet and all I have to do is work the sandpaper till the rivet smooths out and all the nicks and ridges are gone. I then take a piece of heavy hermann oak that is loaded with stropping compound and do the same thing. This polishes the rivet till it really shines. If stropping compound remains on the rivet I buff it off with a cloth.

This is the result:

polished rivets

Fp 04

I'll try to get better pictures of this on the weekend. Anyhow - basically I think it makes the end product look better and it also keeps the sharp outside edge of the rivet tucked down so it won;t catch on clothes/other leather etc.



Cheyenne Roll

Spent a little bit of time on saturday working on this - Re-made the cheyenne roll. First attempt went kinda bad so I decided to start over - Second attempt went smooth!

Not sure if you have see Dale Harwoods DVD's but he has some pretty good little tricks - One of them is to cut the bottom edge of the cantle back a little flat - That way you have to stretch the leather down and in - It puts a lot of tension on the top edge of the cantle filler so that when you go to fold the leather back to make the Cheyenne roll it wants to 'snap' into that position. It also saves cutting the little 'v' out of the cheyenne roll that you see some guys doing to get rid of the bubble that can be created there...

It's a neat trick and it really seems to help make a Cheyenne roll come out stiff.

I have found Dales DVD's to be really beneficial with Jeremiah Watts being real good too - Just in different areas - I find Jeremiahs seat fitting portion to be really helpful.

On saturday I also rough cut the rigging plates, skirts and stirrup leathers out and I actually finish cut the rigging plates Sunday morning, this weeks projects after work are to finish tooling the cantle back, and tool up the rigging plates.

I'd like to get rigging plates installed next saturday and get the skirts blocked on and finish cut as well...At that point it feels like you are getting somewhere!

These pics were just taken on my phone so not too crisp!

cheyenne roll 01

cantle 01

cantle 02

22/01/15 - Installed the cantle back the other night. It went on pretty good. Less 'bubbling' issues than saddle #01.

cantle back

Tooling up the rigging plates right now.



I really haven't had much time to work on this saddle as I have been very busy with work and a house I am renovating - However, on Saturday between building a staircase and loading a bunch of square bales I was able to get this final ground seat piece in - Overall shape is comfortable - I wish it was a little flatter in profile up front...Less rise I guess is what I mean.

Ground seat shape is so subjective. I am very slim. My pin bones are right there. To me a ground seat with a little dome to it (If you were to section the saddle right where your pin bones sit) feels good. A seat like that I can ride all day and still feel just fine.

However, I was riding some colts recently at an indoor arena with a friend and a cowboy/colt starter/farrier I respect showed up - He had some really nice saddles and we got talking. He likes a saddle with a ground seat that is fairly flat side to side. Now I am second guessing myself...

I'd appreciate comments anyone might have on this...I know some people refer to the triangle 'bicycle' shape seat...How flat do you go with that?

Anyhow, here is the picture of my completed ground seat - Red dashed lines highlight the center marks and other lines I made. To me, so far the seat feels alright...hard to tell tho till you spend a 12hr plus day in one...

Gs 05

Gs 06

Gs 07

Anyhow, tonight after work I plan to cut out the skirts and maybe the rigging plates pieces...I need to make up some time as I want this rig ready for early spring.


Ground Seat - Gullet Cover

So on Saturday I got the ground seat for this rig started - I use an all leather ground seat based off of the tutorial provided by Steve Brewer in the saddle construction forum on this website.. I like the all leather for the simple reason that it gives me a lot of flexibility - Especially for an amateur maker - If you don't like how things are feeling you can skive away more leather.

On this one I still need to install the final cover piece, however want to make sure I am good and happy with the fundamental shape I have before I go too far. It's feeling good so far.

I'm actually amazed at how much easier this seems on the second go around - I'm doing a lot less second guessing myself and I have patterns all made up - Makes it a lot faster and more enjoyable.

Here are some pics:

Gs 01

Gs 02

Gs 03

Anyhow, If anyone has advice let me know. Ground seat shape is a bit subjective I suppose. I like a seat that doesn't plant me against the cantle - I want to sit fairly centered, but I still like some rise to the ground seat up front. I also like a slick seat - Nothing worse than 'grippy' feeling in a saddle seat in my opinion...I used some saddle paste on my first saddle this summer and it made that seat really tacky - Drove me crazy until it shined up. Guess thats why I'm unlikely to build a rough out or half breed although I think they look awesome.

Anyhow, next step is final ground seat cover piece and cantle back. This one has a cheyenne roll going in and the cantle back piece will be tooled. Still have to work up a tooling pattern for it though.




Here's my new saddle shop - It's really compact - 8'x10' - However that's all the room I had and it is definitely functional so far.

saddle shop 02

saddle shop 01

And here is my first saddle which has a few months of riding on it now...There are things I am doing differently on these next saddles based on having used this one.

saddle 02

saddle 01

Some differences will be: Narrower cantles - 12.5" instead of 13" wide. Less cantle dish - 1" instead of 1.5", stirrup leathers will be 2.5" instead of 3", trying to get a flatter more forward ground seat in...this first saddle is very comfortable for me - However I wish it had a little less rise in the ground seat.


Ron L


Practice Needed

So in view of getting back into the groove of leather work (I spend all summer riding / doing outdoor stuff) I have decided to do some practice work first - Meaning building a pair of chinks for a friend. These will be square bottomed, 'buckaroo' style out of a glove tan leather in a tan color.

My biggest challenge with leather work is floral tooling. I'm reasonably artistic, however, I have never drawn a floral pattern I really liked. With that being in mind I purchased Cary Schwarz's floral layout and carving DVD's. They are very good and help to understand how to achieve flow etc. I find that its not to hard to draw a flower or a leaf but to get it all to flow in a cohesive pattern is a nightmare...These DVD's have helped quite a bit.

For the yokes on these chinks I created a floral pattern - I have one side carved - The design incorporates my friends brand - The '04'. I'm still not very happy with the pattern but it is probably one of the better ones I have come up with to date. Clearly still need practice though.

Here is the yoke for the right side.

Chinks 02

The other reason for building these chinks first is to get the hang of my new Cobra Class 4 Sewing machine a little better - This machine works great - However I have never used sewing machines prior to this - So there is a definite learning curve.



Getting Set-Up

Hello There,

I am a very green saddle maker - Have built one saddle so far and am about to start saddles #2 and saddle #3.

This blog will allow you to follow my progress and also, will help some of you who are contemplating jumping into addle making understand what is involved.

Saddle #2 is going to be a wade. Tree is from Quality Mfg and showed up and fits the horses it will be used on - It is going to have a 15.5" finished seat, inlaid, padded seat and buckrolls. 7/8" flatplate rigging, 2.5" stirrup leathers, guadalajara horn, finished at about 4". Cantle is 12.5" with 1" dish x 4.5" high - I'm planning on going with a cheyenne roll.

Saddle #3 is a 3B with a small dia wood post horn. Once again this will be a 15.5" finished seat but it will be a hard seat and a pencil roll. Cantle specs are same as above. It will be 7/8ths flat plate rigged.

The tree for this saddle is coming from Glenn Christman. It hasn't showed up yet. I t will be set-up with 2.5" stirrup leathers on the outside of fenders. Trying to get somewhat 'old timey' look.

Skirts on both of these saddles will be round and somewhat 'butterfly' styled.

Leather is all grade 'A' Hermann oak. 1" bark tanned shearlings. Both saddles will get 3" monel stirrups.

My goal is to make both of these rigs look nice - Serpentine border & floral tooling.

tree On shorty

rig2 01

This is the Quality tree. I am very happy with this tree - It is very symetrical and square.

Anyhow, I have all the leather and hardware in now. I have set-up a small saddle shop that is heated and am pretty much ready to get building. As I make progress on these rigs I will post pictures and info. I also am open to critiques and comments on these saddles I am building so please feel free to comment.