Saddle treemakers-sub topic
Posted 29 January 2008 - 12:36 PM
Posted 29 January 2008 - 04:47 PM
Posted 29 January 2008 - 05:04 PM
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.
Posted 29 January 2008 - 05:50 PM
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
Posted 30 January 2008 - 11:23 AM
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!
Posted 30 January 2008 - 09:26 PM
Posted 30 January 2008 - 10:25 PM
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.
Posted 30 January 2008 - 11:05 PM
Posted 31 January 2008 - 12:03 PM
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.
Posted 31 January 2008 - 12:28 PM
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
Posted 31 January 2008 - 02:40 PM
Posted 31 January 2008 - 02:41 PM
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.
Posted 31 January 2008 - 03:55 PM
Posted 31 January 2008 - 06:38 PM
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