Squilchuck

order right & left skirting sides?

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I've made two saddles but have not figured out the reason for ordering both right and left skirting leather sides vs. two sides from the same side of the cow.  Enlighten me, please!  --John

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I'm also interested.

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Thor   
17 hours ago, Squilchuck said:

I've made two saddles but have not figured out the reason for ordering both right and left skirting leather sides vs. two sides from the same side of the cow.  Enlighten me, please!  --John

Where did you get that info from John?

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I'm not getting it, either.  I'm not sure how you would know, actually.  I can see the benefit (NEED) for having sides from the same tannery batch, but from the same cow :dunno: ...

From the same run should give you consistent color (as much as is possible).  Only thing that would be gained by getting both sides from ONE hide is perhaps buying the full hide (not cut into sides) which may give a little better "cutting economy".

 

Edited by JLSleather

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I don't think the OP is saying from the SAME cow, but a right and a left as opposed to two lefts or two rights (hence, the same side of cow). And honestly, I never have ordered or cut leather that way.  I cut my pieces where I can get them out of, and I never order just two or three sides for one build.  I've heard guys say they order matching right and left sides and cut the right side pieces from the right side hide, and left side pieces from the left hand side of the hide. (Did that just get confusing?)  But, like I said, I cut them from where it makes sense and works, not necessarily any hard and fast rules.  Maybe if I had someone show me the "right" way to cut from matching sides, I'd change my methods, but so far nobody has shown me. If I try to cut right/right and left/left, sure as heck, one hide will have a blemish and mess up my whole method and I'll have to change everything around to make it work anyway.  When cutting up harness leather into straps, however, I do prefer to cut from a right hand side of a critter. That way I'm starting my cuts at the butt.  If I have a chunk left over of unused hide, I want it to be the neck/shoulder area. I can do the same from a left, but I have to flip the side upside down.

Actually, I'd welcome input into this myself.

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Yesterday I stopped into a local cobbler shop opened in 1959 and had tea with Rino, the 80 year old shoe maker owner . He is retiring, so I have taken every opportunity to pick his brain. He is legendary in the shoe industry, the stories he has are amazing....He once told me about a deal that fell through making Steven Tyler branded  running shoes after he made a few pairs of boots for Aerosmith and they liked them.  Yesterday he was telling me apparently the "newest innovation" in nike soccer cleats is laces on the side, which he invented in the 60's. .... Ironically yesterday he was just talking about laying out the pieces on a hide and how it is really the most important part of working with leather.  He told me the biggest problem with the young guys these days is they do not pay attention to which part of the hide the pieces come from and which direction they layed in the animal. Every part of a hide stretches different and shoes with pieces cut wrong will be crooked. Not paying attention to this means you will have much higher waste. Throwing out bad leather before it is clicked is cheaper than throwing out completed uppers because of an un-noticed flaw in the leather.

I could see where this idea could apply to saddles as well, If you have the shoulder on the front of the skirt on one side, and the butt on the front on the other, will the saddle stay symmetrical as it ages? Will the tooling look the same if it is on the butt on one side and the shoulder the other?  These may be inconsequential details, but it may also be that cutting from both sides of the animal is one of those secrets that separates a master from a craftsman. Even if it doesn't make a better saddle, It also may be worth a percent or two less waste per saddle. For a guy making one at a time this is very little, and not worth the hassle of keeping rights and lefts in stock and sorted. However in a large production shop paying attention to this 1 or 2 % could mean dozens or hundreds of hides a year.  Would not be the first time I have seen a "rule" that does not make sense in a one person shop, until you figure in economies of scale.

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Thor   

@TinkerTailor this is common practice in the saddle making business. At least it is with the good ones. Different areas stretch different or are thicker and stronger. Some areas are really just good for fillers and so on. However, this is limited to areas of a hide and they will not pull into a certain direction and definitely not to a point where a saddle would become unsymmetrical. 

There may be a good reason for using a right and a left side, but I'm not aware of it and I have never heard about. On the other hand I'm into leatherworking for only 2 1/2 years now.

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Yes, I meant ordering a right and left vs. two rights or two lefts or potluck - not from the same cow  Jeremiah Watt says in his saddle-making video that he orders 5 right and 5 left sides from HO then pairs them for color and size for a saddle. I have heard or read of ordering right-left sides elsewhere too. Yes, positioning your pattern on the hide to optimize stiffness or stretch etc. is critical for quality work, but I could lay out my right and left skirt patterns side by side in.a single side of leather (as JW does in the video) and get nearly similar pieces in terms of thickness and stiffness etc.   Still a puzzle!

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Ordering a right and left is pretty common in the saddlemaking business, and likely moreso in the smaller higher end one man shops than production making. Some of it is cutting for economy. Some of it is cutting a particular part for a particular section of the side to take advantage of the stretch or firmness characterisitcs of that section of the side. Saddles are three dimensional and some parts need to be firm, some need to compress, and some need to stretch. Different sections of a side tend to have different abilities to stretch or compress. Most saddlemakers have a layout pattern on the sides for cutting parts. Stirrup leathers need to be firm with minimal stretch. Some parts of the saddle need to have firmness in one part but moldable in another. The backs of skirts need to be firm to hold shape but the fronts can be a little more moldable to fit up tighter. Fenders need to be firm. These right and left pieces need to have the consistent characteristics. Cutting patterns can be flipped on right vs. left side and be in the same orientation on a side. Realizing that there are large single pieces like seats swell covers that you prefer to be "behave" symmetrically on the right vs. left side of the particular part, Big piece that you want to cut right the first time.  

A little tidbit. I was in a roundtable several years ago. One elder statesman of saddle making was talking about the old days in the reputation big shops. He had worked in some, and been taught by the generation before. In one of those shops for the really good orders, they cut the paired stirrup leathers from the right side. The reason was that on the living beast the rumen sits to the left. Through the course of the day and good grazing/poor grazing seasons the rumen expands and contracts. The lore of the day stood that the left side would be a little stretchier up high than the right side because of that. 

 

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21 hours ago, TinkerTailor said:

He told me the biggest problem with the young guys these days is they do not pay attention to which part of the hide the pieces come from and which direction they layed in the animal. Every part of a hide stretches different and shoes with pieces cut wrong will be crooked. Not paying attention to this means you will have much higher waste. Throwing out bad leather before it is clicked is cheaper than throwing out completed uppers because of an un-noticed flaw in the leather.

I have long said that "You either make it or break it at the cutting table", although there are certainly plenty of opportunities to "break it" at every stage of any type of leatherwork. Every piece for a saddle must be cut from a specific part of the hide, BUT hides vary from one to the next, so each hide must be evaluated individually. Likewise, while it is true that skirts may be allowed to run softer toward the front, I like to use a little better leather up front for a saddle with an inskirt rig, than if for a saddle with a plate or dee ring rig, so I don't always cut my skirts from the same place in the hide.  I normally (but not always) cut my fenders side by side to get them as uniform as possible. If I get a side that is better than average for stirrup leathers, then I may cut several pairs from it, which will likely mean that I won't get any large saddle parts from what's left.  I do a wide variety of work and normally have several different projects going at once, and rarely, if ever, cut a saddle strictly from two dedicated sides. If I was building only saddles, with very little "other" work, I might very well end up changing how I cut.  While I certainly monitor my waste, economy does not dictate how I cut. I cut each part from whatever leather I have at the time that best suits the part, and generally stock enough leather that I don't have to compromise in any way.

Cutting harness is not much different. Each piece must perform the job it's assigned, and calls for specific qualities from the leather. I laugh when I hear guys(usually guys who build saddles only) say that there can't be anything too difficult about building harness, it's just cutting up straps and sewing them together.  I'd bet that:  (1) these guys don't drive horses,  (2) have never seen a bad wreck caused by someone's inept harness making skills, and (3) have never seen a really super high end harness. Especially this last one.

Edited by Big Sioux Saddlery

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kseidel   

I always make my saddles from one right and one left side of skirting.  It is possible to make a quality saddle from two rights or lefts, however,  I prefer to make from matching pairs.  This is largely for the symmetry of the skirts.  It is especially beneficial when making in-skirt riggings and single rear skirts without jockeys.  I believe that the location of a part on a hide and its orientation has a critical relation to the quality of a saddle and how well it will hold up under hard use over the long years.

Keith

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Thanks for the responses!  Guess I'll order right and left sides for the best cutting options. I'll have to ruminate over the rumen stretch theory.  Interesting! --John

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kseidel   
On 12/27/2016 at 0:27 AM, Thor said:

So @bruce johnson and @kseidel would you say that the tensile strength on a left and right side works in different directions, or how can I understand that?

I would not say the tensile strength is different from hide to comparable hide.  However, the strength varies throughout a hide.  Cutting one skirt lengthwise and another crosswise will most certainly affect the strength from one to the other.  Cutting riggings from different hides, but from similar positions and directions in the hide will have comparable strengths and is acceptable practice.

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Thor   

@kseidel thank you. I got that with area on the hide, just wanted to make sure I didn't miss anything. So if I get that right you would suggest to cut the left parts of a saddle from one side and the right side parts of the saddle from the other skirt side. Is that about right?

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I have no horse in this race and really don't know the first thing about saddle building. But I have been interested in this thread and thinking about it a lot. So, since this being the internet where I can pretend I know something, I will share my opinion.

A working a saddle is heavy and undergoes a lot of stress.

If we consider a full hide across the cow it will lay and stretch probably pretty evenly to the cows movement in somewhat of a symmetrical form.

When applying this mode of thinking to a saddle (remember I know nothing) it makes sense to use one left and one right side. This way as the saddle is strained (through work and wear and tear) the two sides stretch and settle into their lifelong positions in a symmetrical fashion.

If we (well y'all not me) build the saddle out of asymmetrical parts, it would seem that parts of the saddle would maybe stretch more in one area than the other. Eventually leading to an aged saddle that would be uneven and asymmetrical in the course of it's life.

This again is just an unknowing internet twit's philosophy regarding a masters craft that he knows nothing about.

Take it with a couple of grains of salt.

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kseidel   
On 1/14/2017 at 5:42 AM, Thor said:

@kseidel thank you. I got that with area on the hide, just wanted to make sure I didn't miss anything. So if I get that right you would suggest to cut the left parts of a saddle from one side and the right side parts of the saddle from the other skirt side. Is that about right?

Sorry for delay in response... I am not getting notifications on this post for some unknown reason.  Your assumption is incorrect.  Both fenders will cut out next to each other from the butt of one side.  The riggings come next to the fenders and mirror each other side by side.  Then one skirt.  The seat will cut out of the butt on the other side.  Then the rear jockeys nest to each other to match, and then the other skirt.  Both skirts are cut lengthwise on the hide and will be back of the skirt toward the butt of the hide, and bottom of the skirt to the back or top of the cow.  They will now be consistent in surface and have the best leather toward the back for consistent visual and stability of the back corner.  Front will have shoulder wrinkles running from top to bottom and are covered with the rigging. 

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Thor   

@kseidel no worries Keith, ever since I found my way to the fb groups I haven't been checking in here so often myself. Thanks for feedback and clarification!!!

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