Big Sioux Saddlery

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About Big Sioux Saddlery

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  • Location
    South Dakota
  • Interests
    Using and farming with Draft Horses

LW Info

  • Leatherwork Specialty
    Harness and Saddlery
  • Interested in learning about
    Anything that will make my job easier and faster
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  1. I haven't yet. I get lots of requests from locals, but usually it's " Maybe I could work for you and you could teach me how to do this stuff." In other words, pay them to learn:-) I imagine someday, if I live long enough, I will have to think about what will happen to my business when I'm done and perhaps then think about taking an apprentice. I was hoping one of my three boys would take an interest, and although they have at different times all helped me in the shop, none of them wants to take over. But when I see someone struggling on this forum, especially someone who contributes as freely as you do, I'm not opposed to giving a little advice. And honestly, I'm not yet to the point (and maybe never will be) where I would be above spending a couple weeks with someone who could give ME some lessons. I don't think a person is ever too old or too wise to learn something new.
  2. Removing the skirts from the saddle is an absolute necessity to do a reline. My normal process: Remove skirts. If they are very dirty, I might even do a pre-clean first as lots of dirt and grit will play hell on my groover. Using my patent leather groover, I cut the stitches from the top side. This doesn't ALWAYS work, but most of the time it does. Remove fleece and plugs from the skirts. Then, completely clean and very often, wet the skirts wet enough to block them back out and remove any curl. I will use weights to do that, and sometimes have to get kind of creative. I will apply some oil after the skirts have been flattened back out but before they are completely dry. I may apply another coat after they are dry, but at this point I don't want too much oil on them or it may migrate through and make gluing difficult. Then I cut and install new plugs, just as if I were building a new set of skirts. Install strings and lug straps OR re-sew skirt pockets to the skirts. Any repairs needed to the skirts themselves is generally done before gluing in the plugs. Sometimes an inskirt rigging needs major rebuilding. After the plugs are in place, I glue in the sheepskin, oversize, to allow for an even edge after sewing and trimming. Be very careful to sew in the old holes unless thee were already ripped through, in which case you'll have to make a new stitch line. On some restorations, the leather won't handle machine sewing in the old holes. I then either handsew or make a new stitch line, depending on clients preference. After stitched, I trim the plugs (they were left over size as well) and the sheepskin, and then finish the edges as I would on a new build. Then I bevel the fleece bag from the edges of the skirt, using my sheep shears and a roaching scissors to finish up. After that, I then apply one or more coats of oil, depending on how dry the skirts were to start with. Then reassemble. That is just a very superficial description of the process, and to do a thorough job, you'll have quite a few hours in it. A week would really be pushing it for me, because there is drying time for both skirts and plugs. Tow weeks makes me a lot more comfortable.
  3. I do like Bruce does, using a patent leather tool to cut the stitches and then pull everything off. Really saves time picking stitches, although I've had some saddles where the thread was so rotten that it broke pulling the back off and there was still thread left in the holes. I feel that part of a reline job includes replacing the plugs. At least 9 out of 10 saddles that I get for relining, the skirts need re-blocking because they're all curled under. You can't do a decent job on these w/out replacing the plugs. At the top of my list of pet peeves is a sloppy relining job, and I see plenty of them come through. The skirts should look like new when you're done; re-blocked, edges perfect and even just like if you were building new, stitches back in the old holes if at all possible, completely cleaned and oiled, new strings and lug straps if it has them. I do use an electric sheep shears to trim the wool, but only after the new fleece has been stitched on, to bevel the wool back from the skirt edges. As referenced above, you do not merely trim the old fleece off, you have to remove whatever backing it's attached to, whether it's fabric or hide. I charge $350 for a reline, and honestly I probably need to go up. When a customer tells me that so and so does it for $200, I ask, ok, what does that include?? and then proceed to explain everything that's involved in doing the job properly. I've seen lots of those $200 jobs; there's one in the shop right now and I have that saddle where nobody can see it, because I don't want anyone thinking I did it! Since you already bid the job, you can do as little or as much as you are happy with, but one thing is for sure, if you do it right, you might not be happy with the money, but you'll be happy with the job and you WON'T underbid one again! Good luck Wiz.
  4. Definitely makes a difference. One supplier's 277 is NOT necessarily the same size as another's 277. I am currently using 2 spools of white 277 from different suppliers. One is noticeably thicker than the other. Both are from reputable suppliers, but I can't run the lighter weight 277 on the top side of my Cowboy 4500, so I use it for winding bobbins. It doesn't cause an issue there. Even the same brand but different colors does make a difference. In my experience it's the colored threads that are more likely to cause issues, white being the least likely. Brown seems to be the worst out of the three colors I use: white, black, brown.
  5. Randy, I know what a big decision buying your first machine is! I would not even consider anything with less than 3/4" lift for what you want to do. You will max out a machine with 1/2" pretty easily, and end up modifying (taking shortcuts) to reduce thickness of things you need to sew. As far as machines, there are lots of good choices. There is certainly something to be said for buying a new one for a reputable dealer, and the new "clones" are pretty user friendly. Having said that, they will never sew as tight a stitch as the old time harness/saddle stitchers (that is including the rebuilt Campbell machines.) I know I will get some arguments from that statement, but the new closed eye needle machines do not have a true thread lock on them to pull a super tight stitch. I do have a Cowboy 4500, and love a lot of things about it, but no machine has everything! If you do buy new, go with the 16" arm, you will not regret it for saddle and tack work. That may be the biggest improvement over the old machines. I have an edge guide for the 4500, but have hardly ever used it. In fact about the only time I ever use an edge guide is sewing harness tugs or rounds, and I don't do either of those on that machine. You will want to use a 346 thread on most saddle skirts, and all the heavy machines handle it just fine. Needle size is pretty important relative to thread size. My 4500 allows for very little "cheating". Meaning that very rarely can I drop a needle size while using a heavier thread than is intended for that needle. My reason for doing that would be to leave a smaller hole, with the thread filling the holes better. Closed eye needle machines typically leave a bigger, less attractive hole than hook and awl stitchers. But I would advise venturing into the used market for hook and awl stitchers only for the very mechanically inclined individuals:-) Good luck to you, there are more choices out there than ever before, at least since anyone alive today can remember.
  6. Certainly!
  7. You have a good attitude and seem willing to put in the hard work and pay your dues to get to where you want to be. I wish you the best of luck on your journey. Folks like you make it worth our time to teach what we know!
  8. I think the hourly labor rate of $50 that Bob was referring to is a wage PLUS overhead expense of the shop. A full time, professional leather shop charging $50/hour is NOT going to be rolling in money, and I guarantee if the same shop is only charging $27/hour for labor, they are not going to be in business for long, or will have no opportunity to grow or expand the business. A guy doing this as a hobby with a few tools, doing most of the work by hand, and no desire to build a business or do this for a living, will make a little extra spending money at $27 an hour, if he's lucky.
  9. Hey Jeff, I'd might be interested in your burnisher.
  10. I thought exactly the same thing!
  11. I do realize that but don't care if I sell it or not. I just thought I'd offer it to you if it was what you were looking for. I stock between 50 and 100 sides at any given time, but I don't typically sell leather unless it's in a finished product. Eventually, it all gets used. I do hope you find what you are looking for.
  12. This thread brings up a memory of a guy that came in a couple years ago with a knife he "Just couldn't find a sheath for". After about a half hour of discussion about how he wanted it made, and how unique his knife was and how he just had to carry it all the time, he asked how much I thought it would be. I don't remember exactly what I told him, under a hundred but more than fifty, he was astonished that it would be that much. Years ago, I would have done one of two things, depending on what mood I was in on that given day. I would have either lowered my price until he was happy (and it doesn't take much of that before you start to hate your job) or I would have gotten pissed off and told him to leave. But, the years have taught me a few things, so I asked him calmly what HE thought it should be worth. He said "Well, I'd think $25 would be plenty." I proceeded to explain to him the time involved in pattern development before construction even begins, and that the time to make up the pattern and possibly a mock up would exceed $25. This guy wasn't poor either. Like I've said for years, at least half my job is customer education. The guy left (didn't want to spend more than $25 on a sheath for this one-of-a-kind super-special knife) and I was fine with it. My only mistake was that I didn't ask him right off the bat what he wanted to spend. Anyway, the quality of your work warrants you asking a fair price for your time and materials. As mentioned above, you do very clean and professional looking work. I wouldn't make it for $50. But, whatever price you are happy with is the right price I guess. Best of luck to you, and very nice job on your sheaths!
  13. Well, I've got some dark brown but I'd say it's about 4/5oz and not 3/4. I did not buy it directly from W & C; I bought it off a guy that SAID it was W & C though. I haven't used any of it, but it seems like nice enough leather. I have had some heavier W & C dark brown, and it had a little different type of finish than this leather has. If you are interested, I guess I could sell you some. If you want a picture, I could get one for you. Busy days here these days and I don't set by the computer all day so it sometimes takes a bit for me to get back to people. If you want to "click now" and have it in three days, I'm probably not your guy (gal actually).
  14. Well, I'd might be interested but the kicker is going to be "when does she want it?" I have access to a laser and a gal that knows how to use it. But, I'm booked a long way out, and since confirmation usually happens in the spring, I'm assuming we're talking a short time frame.