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starting my own saddle shop


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#1 saddle maker

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Posted 12 August 2007 - 04:51 PM

I am starting my own saddle shop within the next 6 months and I am needing a few saddle tree makers to buy trees from and I am also looking for good leather dealers to get leather from with out breaking the bank any info or suggestions would be greatly appreciated thanks

#2 Johanna

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Posted 12 August 2007 - 05:19 PM

Where have you been getting your supplies so far? Many of the retailers have wholesale prices for businesses with tax numbers. What part of the world are you in? Welcome to leatherworker.net!
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#3 saddle maker

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Posted 13 August 2007 - 09:38 PM

Well I havent bought anything yet because I am just getting ready to go to Outlaw Saddlery To learn how to make and repair saddles it has been a life long dream and I finally get to persue it but I am getting a buisness loan so I have to have a plan on were I can get supplies mainly trees and leather with out breaking the bank I am just trying to get everything organized thanks for the reply hopefully you or some one else can help Thanks

#4 Cowboy Crafts Online

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Posted 13 August 2007 - 10:01 PM

Saddle Maker,

I dont want to turn you away from building saddles, but it sounds like your starting off on the wrong foot by trying to cut corners with the most important materials that you are going to need to become a good saddle maker. You say that you do not want saddle trees and leather that will not break the bank, but quality materials come at a higher cost then cheap ones. For example you can buy top quality us hides from $150 and up or you can buy cheap import hides for under $100. What you will find out is that those cheap import hides will cause you more problems and you will make less per hide because they are crap and dont yield enough per square foot. Also on the lines of saddle trees you can spend $100.00 or less on a cheap factory made tree or go with a great handmade tree for $600.00. The question is are you wanting to compete with factory saddles like Billy Cook or are you wanting to be compared with the top makers in the US. The choice is up to you. I would recommend building a couple of saddles before you jump into opening a shop. There is alot of other things you havent considered, like what tools your going to need. I would say a bare min your going to spend $2000 without a sewing machine, add that and you'll be up to $5000. I would also recommend calling up Jeremiah Watt and getting his saddlemaking DVD and see what all goes into building a saddle. One last thing your going to screw up alot of leather before you fig out what your doing if your learning on your own, so be prepared. Stick around the forum, you can learn alot here. I am just telling you what I think. It is great thing to build saddles, but it is not always the easiest and cheepest things to do.

Ashley

#5 Alan Bell

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Posted 13 August 2007 - 11:47 PM

I have to agree with Ashley. I currently drive a truck for a living and would love to park that b@#$h and make saddles, braid rawhide and work a horse or two for a living but with the family I can't. If you are single now you may have a chance BUT do not try and compete with the production saddle makers. Billy Cook lives down the road from me and he will tell you he hasn't made a saddle in about 20 yrs but he has a warehouse of Mexican labor in Sulphur OK that are cranking them out. Around here TX his saddles are STILL considered first rate but I guarantee he is using the cheapest trees he can buy, the cheapest leather he can buy and the cheapest hardware he can buy! And although the Mexicans are good at what they do they are not "Great" saddlemakers and one person cuts the leather , the next person, stamps, the next dyes the next assembles the next sews and on and on until a saddle is made. It is just like FORD or any other assembly line. There are over 100 "saddle makers" in Greenville TX where I live and they are all shops like I just described. Your first saddle you build would cost you just as much as if you were going to buy one at whatever level you chose. You want to build at the production level or the custom level your first one will cost you the same and that is if you do hand stitching! Add a sewing machine and even a cheap production grade saddle will cost you more to build than you could have bought one for. The artistic quality is very, very high for those that are making a living at custom saddles look at the post "recent saddles" in the Show Off section and "some of my work" in the Saddle and Tack Makers Gallery for an idea of where things are at now in the world of custom saddles. You may have what it takes. You have the desire. Work Smart. Don't bite off more than you can chew. Give your self time to develop a style and a rep! Stay positive and it can happen just don't expect it to happen overnight.
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#6 Rod and Denise Nikkel

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Posted 14 August 2007 - 02:26 AM

Like the previous writers have said, you first need to determine what type and quality of saddle you want to build. Then you can figure out realistically what you need to charge for it to cover the time and materials you are putting into it. Some people make their money on low margins and quantity, and others on quality and charging for their skill and labour. All part of the business plan. There is a thread on the forum somewhere (try the search function or ask Johanna) about how to price your work. Worth reading.

Our recommendation is that you go with rawhide covered wood trees. (OK, so we're biased...) There are lots of other types for generally lower prices, but the higher quality saddles always seem to have wood and rawhide trees for some reason...

There are a number of companies who turn out large numbers of trees, such as Steele, Lewis, Baties, Hadlock and Fox, Bowden Brand, Superior, Timberline, and others. Some of these cater mainly to the production saddle market, though I believe (correct me someone if I am wrong) they will all deal with individual saddle makers. Most saddle makers we talk to who use production trees go with Bowden Brand, Timberline, Superior or Hadlock and Fox. Their prices, just from a quick look on the net, seem to generally run in the $200 to $250 range, give or take a bit.

Then there are the hand made trees made by individuals. You will hear names like Bill Bean, Glenn Christman, Sonny Felkins, Keith Gertsche, Rod Nikkel, Rick Reed, Ben Swanke, Warren Wright and some others. Their prices are often about the $450.00 mark, give or take $65 - $100. Some makers find that the difference in price is made up for in the decreased amount of time they need to take in building the saddle due to the better tree. The problem is finding a custom maker who can take you on because they tend to be very busy, and their backlogs generally vary from long to extra long.

Hope that information helps you out. Take a read through the threads on this forum in the Saddles and Tack sections. There is lots of good information there, and some of the topics wander a bit so while the forum is still relatively young it is possible to read them all before you go for your training. It will be worth your while, since there are some good makers on here.

As for leather, we will let them tell you about that. It is another whole realm of options.

All the best in your endeavors.
"Every tree maker does things differently."
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#7 saddle maker

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Posted 17 August 2007 - 01:36 AM

Thank you every body every thing you all have said helps and I can see were all of you are coming from and I understand the cheaper you go the crappier the saddle and I do plan to make custom saddles that will probably be sold anywhere from $900-$2500 or more but I do have people around the area that I live that dont have very much money but need a good saddle and that is why I want a cheap priced but a good sturdy tree to make them saddles if you know what I mean.


I allready have quite a reputation around here for the quality of work that I can do making saddle racks and cowboy halters right now I am backed up with people wanting cowboy halters and saddle racks so my name is already out there but like some of you have said making saddles is a challenge and I dont know yet but I am trusting all of you and I am up for that chalenge and with people helping me like you guys it will help make my success a greater one and I thank you very much


If you have any ideas how I could get a fair priced tree to make some of these people that cant afford a $1000 saddle a good strong saddle it would really help thats why I asked about the tree and the leather i talked to a freind that sells tack out of colorado and he told me just what you told me the cheep leather does not yeild as well so I will buy good leather and I will stick with it but the tree is all I need to make them a saddle for around $500-$750 so they have a good saddle for a fair price and I make a little profit because I dont count labor because I have a back injury and I have nothing else to do during the day so making saddles will give me something to do besides sit around the house since I cant start colts anymore

Well if you have any more comments I would be glad to hear them and thank all of you for the help with the leather deal and what do you think about Tandy Leather Factories leather is it good quality or is it junk thanks again and I hope to hear from you

#8 Johanna

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Posted 17 August 2007 - 11:30 AM

Snakehorse Saddler started a good thread about basic shop tools in the saddle section.

http://www.leatherwo...?showtopic=1637

I'm guessing you already have a basic leather tool assortment since you've been doing leatherwork for awhile? Lots of folks have commented that they started with the Tandy type tools and upgraded as they could over the years. For example, they started with Craftool stamping tools ($3-$7) each, and progressed to Bob Beard, Ellis Barnes etc tools at $30-$90 each. Same with knives. Osbourne makes a high quality assortment of blades, but they cost more than Tandy ones. Buying leather is a whole different subject. I agree with the advice about buying better quality will give you more yield. The saddlers all have their favorites, and they would be better prepared to discuss pros and cons of the specific brands with you.

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#9 boog51

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Posted 15 January 2012 - 07:08 PM

TRUE NOT EVERYBODAY CAN AFFORD A 600 DOLLAR SADDLE AND TIMBERLINE ISNT LOW QUALITY JUST NOT AS GOOD AS QUALITY AS YOUR BRAND.

Like the previous writers have said, you first need to determine what type and quality of saddle you want to build. Then you can figure out realistically what you need to charge for it to cover the time and materials you are putting into it. Some people make their money on low margins and quantity, and others on quality and charging for their skill and labour. All part of the business plan. There is a thread on the forum somewhere (try the search function or ask Johanna) about how to price your work. Worth reading.

Our recommendation is that you go with rawhide covered wood trees. (OK, so we're biased...) There are lots of other types for generally lower prices, but the higher quality saddles always seem to have wood and rawhide trees for some reason...

There are a number of companies who turn out large numbers of trees, such as Steele, Lewis, Baties, Hadlock and Fox, Bowden Brand, Superior, Timberline, and others. Some of these cater mainly to the production saddle market, though I believe (correct me someone if I am wrong) they will all deal with individual saddle makers. Most saddle makers we talk to who use production trees go with Bowden Brand, Timberline, Superior or Hadlock and Fox. Their prices, just from a quick look on the net, seem to generally run in the $200 to $250 range, give or take a bit.

Then there are the hand made trees made by individuals. You will hear names like Bill Bean, Glenn Christman, Sonny Felkins, Keith Gertsche, Rod Nikkel, Rick Reed, Ben Swanke, Warren Wright and some others. Their prices are often about the $450.00 mark, give or take $65 - $100. Some makers find that the difference in price is made up for in the decreased amount of time they need to take in building the saddle due to the better tree. The problem is finding a custom maker who can take you on because they tend to be very busy, and their backlogs generally vary from long to extra long.

Hope that information helps you out. Take a read through the threads on this forum in the Saddles and Tack sections. There is lots of good information there, and some of the topics wander a bit so while the forum is still relatively young it is possible to read them all before you go for your training. It will be worth your while, since there are some good makers on here.

As for leather, we will let them tell you about that. It is another whole realm of options.

All the best in your endeavors.







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