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#46 barra

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Posted 29 January 2008 - 12:36 PM

I have a question regarding fibreglass covered trees. Once a tree is covered in Fibreglass, How do you tack/nail to the tree.

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#47 Rod and Denise Nikkel

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Posted 29 January 2008 - 04:47 PM

Curious to see what others say about fiberglass. It has been around for years, but is it a “standard acceptable covering”? Using both fiberglass and rawhide, in our opinion, falls into Bruce’s paranoia category unless you are unsure of the quality of the a fiberglass, b rawhide c wood or d construction that you are using.
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#48 David Genadek

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Posted 29 January 2008 - 05:04 PM

I work with a yacht designer on my 3d models for my trees so he is extremely up on composite materials. We are playing with the idea of doing some fiberglass or carbon fiber trees. I am convinced that if we use the proper resin with the proper fabric it will be as good perhaps better than the rawhide. I'm not sure if there will be any cost advantage or wieght advantage at this point.
Much of what is being done in the market is not done properly so it is hard to say. It used to be that you would cover a tree in canvas to make a cheap tree I suppose that gave way to fiberglass.
A few years ago I did a project with the University of Winona which has one of the top composite material programs in the US. We took two groups of students and they had to design a saddle tree for ther senior project. From that I learned a lot about composite materials. You could build a balsa wood tree with carbon fiber that would be ungodly strong. It would probable cost more than a traditional tree to produce though.
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#49 kseidel

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Posted 29 January 2008 - 05:50 PM

Being a "traditionalist" saddlemaker, I have little experience with fiberglass trees. It is difficult to nail and screw into without doing damage to the fiberglass. It seems to crack and star much like a rock hitting a windshield. It is fairly heavy, nearly as heavy as rawhide. Some trees have a wrap of fiberglass around the bars over the rawhide, which would help protect the rawhide lace from wearing under the stirrup leathers. May also add some strength to a thin or narrow bar. Have also seen rawhide trees wrapped with fiberglass around the swell thru the gullet and horn area... also to add strength for thin swells under the horn. I don"t know how much strength this adds. Boat hulls are made from layered fiberglass over very little structure, leaving only the fiberglass to take the stresses of the water. Fiberglass trees are usually much less expensive than rawhide trees, many of which the ground seat is included.

Carbon fiber trees, injection molded trees, laminated rubber bars, all are attempts to improve on rawhide covered wood trees. Making trees from materials other than wood and rawhide would remove the variable of possible inconsistent or inferior materials. Also reduce the amount of human error.

Another part of the equation not yet discussed is the ideals we all have about what fits best and what does not work for us and our customers. Every treemaker and every saddlemaker has their own philosophy of proper shape and fit for both horse and rider.

We do not have a good "apprenticeship" practice in our industry, and many beginning saddlemakers as well as tree makers lack the experience necessary to address problems and avoid serious errors. Our customers become test subjects for our experiments; most of which would be unnecessary with proper training and experience woring under a master. Coupled with the need to be competitive, it is difficult for an inexperienced person to be successful in this business. Keith
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#50 jonwatsabaugh

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Posted 30 January 2008 - 11:23 AM

Well I guess it's time for me to throw my hat in the ring and add my two cents worth. My name is Jon Watsabaugh from Des Moines, Iowa. I've been building saddles now for about 11 years, full time about 7. Four years ago I learned the basics of building handmade trees. From that basic introduction I was able to go forward with the R & D and develop the knowledge and skill necessary to build a premium tree. When I first started building saddles, I knew I wanted to someday build trees also. This aspect of our craft was as fascinating if not more so than saddle building to me. Over the past year I've decided to make the transition from building primarily saddles to saddle trees. I'm in the process of adding more woodworking equipment for production purposes and won't be in full production till about April. Now,I say all of that to say what follows.
Over the past four years I've sewn a lot of rawhide, have even enjoyed learning this skill, but always knew there were other materials (man made) that were stronger and more durable. I fought the urge to even investigate. Why? Tradition. Tradition runs strong and true in this culture and it should. Rawhide will always keep it's place in our craft and I will never criticize any of the handmade makers or debate it's merit. I, on the other hand, have chosen a different path. Any structure is only as good as it's weakest link. In the aerospace industry, careful science is applied to each structural component. Composites (fiberglass, carbon fiber, arimids) are extensively used in key areas where structural integrity is vitally important. There are literally hundreds of cloth types and matrixes available, as well as a miriad of processes to use them. You have to be willing to go beyond the "hardware store" products and find and experiment with materials and application techniques to yield superior performance, all the time keeping your saddle maker in mind. These products can be made very thin and extraordinarily strong and durable. Using the right matrix (resins) will facilitate driving nails easily and will not "star" or crack the composite. Even if it does, structural integrity will not be compromised because of the design nature of the weave in the cloth. After much experimentation, I have decided fiberglass is for me.
Now, briefly on the subject of pick-up bed liner. This stuff is a polyurea product. This industry is huge and I mean huge. It goes way way beyond pick-up bed liners and these products are really interesting. As with composites the formulations are nearly endless. As a key structural component though, I think it falls short. However as a final covering I know it ads many benefits. Incredible shock absorption characteristics are added as well as having a self-healing affect when nails are pulled making it water proof. The visual affect however is a big drawback to the traditionalist. I have found a company willing to formulate a polyurea for me sans pigmentation. The final look is somewhat translucent with an amber tint. Looks pretty good! So my choice for a topical finish is polyurea. The plural component system and impingement gun are a pretty hefty investment at $11,000, but I think the value added to my product is worth it.
The finished tree becomes one unitized construction. No voids between product layers, each product used compliments the other, and finally a very nice finish void of humps and bumps making your saddle building a more joyful task.
In conjuction with my production, it's always been a dream of mine to teach my skills to others. Maybe Saddle Tree University? More on that later.
In conclusion, I would like to offer my sincere thanks to the creators and moderators of this sight. Also hats off to people like Rod and Denise, Steve Mason, Kieth Seidel,Jim Redding and the like for their willingness to share their knowledge and skill and take the time to do so!

Jon

#51 Kevin

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Posted 30 January 2008 - 09:26 PM

But do any of these materials shrink and actually bind the wood together? The rawhide is not just there for a coating. I think if you want something new you will have to get rid of the wood and start with a totally blank slate, otherwise it just seems to be guilding the lilly. Some " English" saddles use nylon trees that are so dense you can drive a tack in and it will pop right back out. I've seen a lot of innovations over the years, some are good, but most just show why things have stayed pretty much the same for so long. That said, at least people are trying things and thinking. Kevin

#52 Hidemechanic

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Posted 30 January 2008 - 10:25 PM

JonW, welcome to the discusion..
Sounds like another related topic.
There was a guy in Calif. doing carbon graphite trees but he quit before I could get one. Don't know anything about his recipe.
I don't know if it matters if we get 50 or 100 posts on a thread, but I guess I'll go start a new one on fiberglass and see where it goes. GH

Edited by Hidemechanic, 30 January 2008 - 10:43 PM.

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#53 jonwatsabaugh

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Posted 30 January 2008 - 11:05 PM

I'm not sure what you mean by the wood being bound together by the shrinking rawhide. You can't compress the wood to make it more dense. If you need the rawhide to hold the wood together you have a very inadequate structure. As I mentioned earlier, carefull selection of materials is important, especialy the core being the wood. Many of the custom makers prefer yellow poplar (as I do) for the bars because of these excellent qualities 1) outstanding nail and screw holding abilities 2) clean straight grain 3) when dry it is very dimentionally stable 4) it is easy to machine. Take an old saddle apart that has a rawhide covered tree and you will find that the rawhide has little to no grip on the nails and screws. When removing them though I can tell you what kind of wood is beneath the rawhide, good or bad. Wood will be the material of choice for a long long time for a list of reasons to long to list. Remember, we are basicly precision slulptors. We need a material we can sculpt.


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#54 kseidel

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 12:03 PM

Jon, The wood structure of the tree is certainly criticall to a superior tree. However, The rawhide encases the wood in a "shrink to fit" housing. It is not only a protective covering, but increases the strength of the wood greatly. There is less flex in the rawhide than the wood preventing the wood from flexing to the breaking point. I believe the real strength of the tree is relative to the strength of the rawhide. I have never seen a tree broken that the rawhide did not fail first; either scored and separated, or lacing worn out allowing the hide to come loose. As long as the hide stays intact, it is nearly impossible to break a tree under reasonable circumstances. Same seems to hold true to fiberglass trees, only the fiberglass does not seem to take as much stress unless layered heavily.

As you mention, wood is a sculptable material, and reasonably available. I think that if a tree were to be made out of another solid material such as plastics or resins or a muriad of other modern materials, and then covered with a good rawhide covering, that we would also have an acceptable tree of comperable strength to wood.

Injection molding trees is not a new idea, but the only one to make it into production is the LaPorte tree. Using strong enough materials that were lightweight, and would hold nails, screws, and glue have been previously too costly for the industry. We cowboys that make up this industry are not chemists and chemists are not horsemen. A co-op effort might someday produce a modern tree that will replace the traditional wood tree.

Cost is another factor. Not many saddlemakers would be willing to pay double or triple for a "new" contemporary tree when they can buy the traditional for less.

We saddlemakers are unique individuals that like to customize our trees to a shape and fit that we think is best, and this sets us apart from our competitors. A molded tree cannot be changed. Yet another complication.

Many of you readers are from other industries and may have ideas worth pursuing.

Keith
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#55 Hidemechanic

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 12:28 PM

LaPorte is a new name to me as of late, but Ralide has been making injection molded trees for many years. Does LaPorte use a differnt compound than Ralide? I am behind the curve a bit in the last few years. I'd like to know more about LaPorte.
As for the earlier injction molded trees, they were one that was advertized that you could run over them with a truck, but in my experience repairing them, they seem to get brittle with age. I've seen the bar ends shatter and seem especially to follow lines between nail and screw holes. I've also seen bars break and forks on endurence trees that have less material in that area. Just my thoughts on injction molded trees in the past.GH
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#56 kseidel

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 02:40 PM

Laporte saddle trees are very different in compound than ralide. Much stronger and more rigid. They are available with a cable rigging molded into them. I don't have any experience building on them nor have I had occasion to repair one. Mark Howes from Double H Ranch saddle shop in Fort Collins CO developed the line and one of his sons is the mfgr. Ph # 970-482-6229.
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#57 D.A. Kabatoff

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 02:41 PM

Last summer I had a fellow call me to ask my opinion on La Porte trees and cable rigging. I told him straight up that I'm a traditionalist and would probably never use anything but a handmade rawhide covered wood tree. I have used trees from some of the finest treemakers around such as Rod and Denise from this forum, Rick Reed, Warren Wright, and Glenn Christman. When I first started making saddles I was using trees from Bowden, Superior, and Hercules and it wasn't until I saw a fine handmade tree that the differences in quality and fit became apparent.

This fellow came out to visit me a few weeks later and brought a couple of La Porte trees to show me and perhaps change my perception about them a bit. I brought out a couple of nice handmade Wade trees so we could compare them side to side. Here is what I concluded... The material they are made from is infinitly better than the old Ralide trees that I had seen broken so often. The groundseat has an acceptable shape that was alot better than I thought it would be. Compared to the trees I am used to, the bars had substantially less surface area in both length and depth and for guys really using the saddles hard, that would be of concern to me. The trees are limited in the sense that I can't ask them to shave a corner off a cantle or make the fork thinner or fuller or move the widest point of a swell up or down... this is something very important to me. Something I found interesting was that the tree this fellow showed me had some serious sanding marks on the bottom side of the bars and when I asked about them he said he had taken a belt sander to the bars to do some micro fitting for one of his own horses. I'm not an advocate of fitting a single horse in that sense, but found it interesting that this could be done to the tree without compromising it's integrity. The only other thing about it was it had cable rigging which I am not a fan of.

My overall conclusion about the tree was that there is definitly a place in the saddle world for them as a cost effective alternative. That said, I'd still never use one... good handmade trees fit horses well, are available in almost any shape or form, have longevity, and even though they may cost more and take longer to get they are what my customers want.

#58 jonwatsabaugh

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 03:55 PM

There may be a little misconception about the trees I build. The wooden framework is strictly a traditionally hand made, fully customizable tree built to your specs with a non-traditional outer reinforcement covering. I learned the basics from Kieth Gertch as did Rick Reed and Bill Bean. As for the wood fracturing and breaking apart within the rawhide I've seen this happen on several different occasions. As of late Luke Jones, a well known cutting and reining trainer in my area, brought a saddle into my shop to replace a broken tree. The fork, cantle, and both bars were all broke completely in half but the rawhide was completely in tact. Granted, this was a pretty bad wreck, but my point is that the wood frame was a totally inferior structure. I got to stick to my guns on the importance of each step in the saddle tree building process. All the custom makers I know of take great care in building a superior wood structure. By the way, my trees will sell for $465, not out of line for a handmade tree.

Jon

#59 jwwright

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 06:38 PM

Jon, I have met Luke a couple of times, and competed with / against him at the World show. Good hand. I would like to visit with you about your trees. You can message me through this board with your contact info if you care to do so. Thanks.
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#60 kseidel

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Posted 31 January 2008 - 08:52 PM

Jon, Keith Gertsch has made most of my trees for about 25 years. I would be interested to know more about the trees you are making. Send me a personal message with more info. Keith
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