bruce johnson

Saddlemaking DVDs

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This is probably a good time to start its own section with the discussion on the Harwood DVDs soon to come out. I think a section of reviews and impressions on the current videos ands DVDs would be good. There are some that are geared to be pretty basic, and others are pretty involved. I realize that probably everyone will have different opinions, expectations, and from other lists, I know price points, as to whether a particular set is worthwhile. One's I have seen or have are a couple of Bruce Cheaney's (cutting saddle and roping saddle), Bill Gomer's, Dusty Johnson's, Jeremiah Watt's on floral layout and saddlemaking off the top of my head. Each of these have merit, and are geared for different levels of experience. I would like for anyone who has thoughts on these resources to share. Thanks,

Bruce

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Great post, Bruce. I have Dusty Johnson's series, and I highly recommend them. I'm a dealer, so my opinion is biased.

I'm looking forward to a review of Dale Harwood's new DVD.

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Jeremiah"s saddlemaking tapes are pretty comprehensive and if you have any ability at all you should be able to build a decent rig using them, as for Dusty Johnson's video they are totaly irrelevant to building a quality rig and in reality are more of a demonstration in what not to do.These may sound like harsh words but if you want to learn from someone why not learn from the best instead of someone who needs to get the hang of it to start with. We should be greatful that some of the true masters of the trade are willing to help others. Its sad to say but even most of the instructors teaching at various saddlemaking schools could be better grounded in the fundementals and basic construction techniques. Check out tcowboyarts.com for a good example of some of the finest craftsman of our day. Greg

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OK, now that we have some starts, I will share my views of what I have.

Dusty Johnson - very basic. You will learn to put leather on a tree. As Greg said, not accepted techniques for many of the good handmakers, but it is a start. Probably the lowest price. His chap making and holster videos I think are better.

Bruce Cheaney - I have the cutting saddle and roping saddle tapes. Bruce builds with a minimal amount of tools. I think you could turn him loose at Ace Hardware with $100 and he would have all he needs. His drawdown is made from plumbing pipe sections and fittings. Most of the cutting is done with a pocket knife, and he uses a smooth faced hammer. A guy probably only needs one of his three different types of saddles. Lots of overlap in building techniques, other than seats. Some pretty good ideas, but a few things that have me wondering why he did "that", without explanation. Priced about $200 per set.

Bill Gomer - A fair amount of information. Pretty good production, and he tells enough stories to keep it light. Quite a few things that I learned from, and have done on everything since (pattern material for instance). Priced under $100. Worth having, especially for early on building.

Jeremiah Watt - My favorite as of now. Lots of techniques from a handmaker. Lots of "this is why I do it this way". Some of the Jeremiah philsophy along the way, and commercials! I didn't see many of the advertised items in Jeremiah's shop but what the heck. Lots of the little finese things that separate the good guy from the average. He also has a tape set on floral carving and layout. I like that set also. Priced about $400 for the saddlemaking, and about $180 for the carving set. You probably have some of his tools, buy his tapes (now all on DVD I think).

Bruce

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I would agree with Bruce on the order he put them in I have Bruce Cheaney's, Bill Gomer's, and Jeremiah Watt's. I would say that for me if I had not worked in a saddle shop for 3 years before I bought my first set of videos its hard to build a saddle from a video. There are just some things that you have to learn from feel and you need someone there to tell you if your doing it right or not. I think I got ideas from each of the the video sets, but I recieved the most information from Jeremiah's video set.

Ashley

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I had to read this post 3 times to work out what Bruce was who. I have thought about getting the Dusty dvd's (and may still do so). My initial reaction though is why so cheap. I totally agree with Greg. While $400 (near $500 for me as I'm in Australia) at first glance makes you wince, but what price knowledge. If it assists you better understand construction it will in the long run help you speed up production and save the hours of floundering about. My only problem spending that money is I would like to see what the content of the dvd is before commiting to a purchase. If what is displayed in the dvd is exactly the info I am after to me it is cheap at half the price.

Maybe you blokes can post the content of the video/dvd's you have and that will assist us deciding on a purchase

Barra

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I agree with you barra, I want to know the content of the DVD first. I certainly know that Dale Harwood has $400 worth of knowledge for me, but is the stuff I'm most interested in knowing in the DVD? Maybe when it's ready they will put alittle more info in the advertising. For $400 I want specific information, not just a philosophical interview about saddles, although that would be interesting.

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I am not sure if I will get this post in the proper spot...but I notice that some of you are questioning DVD's their content....I can only answer for one...

The Dale Harwood DVD is available now for purchase at $399.95 and includes shipping and handling. You can pay by Check, Money order or Visa/MC.

Technically....the DVD is a two part set over 4 hours long, where Dale starts with a tree (it ready for the leather) and goes from there, start to finish on building a rough out wade tree saddle.....Now right away a few of you are going...wade tree....easy to build....but what is interesting is it doesn't matter the 'type' of saddle Dale builds...what I feel is important to learn is how and why he does things the way he does.

I noticed on other posts, about drilling saddle string holes or wrapping horns...Dale does a great job explaining how and why he puts his ground seat in, stitching the horn cap, the cheyenne roll, the drilling of saddle strings, applying the sheep skin for the skirts -- it's all there....you may need to watch it a few times or more...but all his 'secrets' are in the DVD....

With over 50 years experience and over 1500 saddles....it's not WHAT he does it THE WAY he does it

that produces a saddle that is efficient to build, exceptionally well put together and created with

such quality and particularness(if that's a word) that anyone can benefit from the DVD's if your

mind is open to learning and or refining what you already have in your "tool box" of knowledge.

Along with the actual building of the saddle, one gets to hear history and entertainment on what

Dale has experienced over the years. The production and clarity of the DVD is great!

So.... I hope I have answered some of the questions posted....if you would like to order them

the number to call is 800-349-7078 or you can email ( i found that easiest) trc@wildblue.net!

:specool:

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I like the Bill Gomer videos, but they do lack any reference to stirrups, fenders, and stirrup leathers...along with flanks and billets.

I inquired about the Harwood DVD set as soon as I became aware of its impending release, but the response I got didn't inspire confidence. Subsequently, I sent another e-mail asking about the contents and retail price and it was ignored. So I sent another. It, too, was ignored. That pretty much made my mind up.

So, instead of ordering the set now, I'll stand back and see how things go. I may buy it, but I quite likely won't. With Gomer, Johnson, Jeremiah Watt, and a couple others well established teaching folks to attach leather to saddle trees, I don't know that I need to hear from Dale Harwood via whoever it is that's marketing this product. If it was coming from Dale himself, then I'd be willing to listen.

And I'd expect a response to my e-mails.

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Bruce; Dale was hoping to have this dvd on the market last fall but ran into one road block after another on the production end of the process( the only portion where he had no control ). He has some people helping on the marketing end, if you are not happy with the way they handled things you could call directory assistance for Shelly Idaho, you could then talk to Dale or his wife Karin directly. They are great down to earth folks,Hell the fan come off the waterpump on my pickup and threw itself thru the rad about 10 days ago in Idaho Falls and the Harwood's were kind ofenough to put me up for a day & half. I could post the number here but I don't think that would be proper. I don't know what kind of gambler you are but I would be willing to bet you there is more usable information in the first 10 minutes of this dvd than there is in the entire tape you sell that comes out of Colorado. We are all on a quest for more knowledge in this business, it is rare for someone of this ability to take the time to produce something like this, he could have made more money building saddles for the amount of time they put into this but he chose to help a few people out with some hardlearned information. Lets hope someday Chuck Stormes decides to produce something along these lines as well. Hope you will reconsider your thoughts you will be suprised what you will learn. Greg

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Greg,

I don't doubt what you're saying. I only cited my experience. And I already have Dale's address and phone number.

My position hasn't changed, but as a result of my experience, I'll stand back and watch. At least for now.

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I don't know what kind of gambler you are but I would be willing to bet you there is more usable information in the first 10 minutes of this dvd than there is in the entire tape you sell that comes out of Colorado. Greg

Just for the sake of discussion, the "tape you sell that comes out of Colorado" is the top-selling DVD of its kind in the nation. The book that accompanies it is also the number one seller. It doesn't cover, nor does it pretend to, all the tricks and intricacies of what other "custom" saddle makers do. It is exactly what it presents itself to be. And I've sold hundreds. The number of complaints I've gotten? Zero.

For the four hundred ($400) dollar price tag...or two hundred ($200) dollars per DVD, I'd like some detail. What am I getting? It's not too much to ask. Hell, the package I sell for $79.95 includes every detail of the contents, including the full-size patterns.

Besides, if you have to knock mine to sell yours, yours must not be too damn good. At least mine's proven. Eighty thousand (that's EIGHTY THOUSAND) happy customers would agree.

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Greg,

I'd sure like to see some people letting Chuck know that we really want to see a similar type of video coming from him. Anyone familiar with Chuck's work realizes he does things a little differently than Dale and that information needs to be available to future generations of saddlemakers.

Bruce, "tape you sell that comes out of Colorado" may be the top selling tape in the nation, but comparing it to Jeremiah's tapes or Dale's tapes are like comparing apples and gorillas. Without a doubt Dusty's book and DVDs serve a purpose and they are priced accordingly to the market they serve... the beginner saddlemaker. As far as complaints go, I'd like to file one because every time an aspiring saddlemaker comes to me asking my opinion on sewing cantle bindings it costs me half a days work to set them straight. I won't put down the entire book or dvd because I think for the price and the information presented, it allows people to get a start without getting too heavily invested and that's a good thing cause after making one saddle, alot of people realize that the work is not easy and maybe not for them. On the other hand, I'd sure hate to think of any intermediate saddlemaker spending money on the series, looking to expand their knowledge or skills.

Dales and Jeremiahs videos may cost more money, but the information is such that it allows people with some saddlemaking experience to deal with trouble spots or fill in holes in their skills. I for one would sure hate to miss out on some great information because of one retailer. Dusty's had lots of time to get the marketing down right... Dale's are hot off the press, I'm sure they'll get the marketing issues ironed out.

Darc

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Just to reiterate my first post. Everyone has different expectations and price points for everything. Dusty's tapes will show you how he makes one. Granted it is not how a lot of other makers do it. His price and tapes/books are geared to entry level people who arguably should or should not be making saddles to begin without some supervision. It gives the novice a brief overview of a simplified way of making a saddle. They were marketed through Tandy, catering to the casual crafter who wanted to read something, view a tape, and see if they thought making a saddle was for them to try. I am not sure of the timeline, but am thinking they may have come out before the Stohlman series of saddlemaking books.

Bill Gomer's videos are step past Dusty, and priced as such. The Cheaney sets are past Bill's and cost more. (funny how this progression is going here). Jeremiah's are the most complete, longest, detailed, and, until now - priced past all of them. I received my set of Harwood DVDs today. I have only seen Dale's first DVD so far. I am in fitting and finesse overload. Much like Jeremiah's, I think a person needs to watch 5 minutes, think about it 5 minutes, and then go on. For the guys who have spent time with Dale, I am envious.

You need to have a basic grasp of saddlemaking and know your weak areas before viewing DVDs, taking a class, or even calling or visiting another maker to really get full benefit in my opinion. My take on what I have seen so far. Dale assumes you know how to make a saddle, how to use your tools, and how to prepare your leather. It is not geared to teach the novice to build a saddle from scratch. This set, like Jeremiah's, will help the average guy who has already made some saddles elevate his work to the next level. They will show you different ways than you may have been taught.

To compare either of these sets to Dusty's is like comparing apples and oranges, Coke and Pepsi. To quote Baxter, they are about as similar as a bowling ball and a broken gate. They just are geared to way different viewers with different expectations and, I dare say, abilities.

As far as what is on them, Mike Craw listed the contents on the Dale Harwood DVD thread. Are they worth it? First disc paid for the set to me just showing me how to put my cantle back and fillers on better. I am likewise guilty of normally punching too large a hole to for the back corners of the fork cover that goes down into the gullet. Anything else I learn is free. Dale is not riding on reputation here, the info is worth the dough if you are serious.

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Thanks, Darc & Bruce.

Your responses were fair and well-reasoned. And Bruce's brief review of what he's seen of the new Harwood DVD's is much appreciated. I'll look forward to more.

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This is a very informative topic. If not for the cost... I'm not a saddle maker, nor will I ever be... but I'd love to collect all of the videos listed just to educate myself on the varied ways saddlers go about putting the saddle together. What and interesting process... The average horse owner has no idea what all goes into the saddle they sit.

Thanks everyone for giving your opinions and reasonings.

Excellent!!

;) S

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It's great to hear the perspectives on the different tapes and DVDs. I'm seriously considering the Harwood DVD. I'd like to learn more of the things that make a good saddle a great saddle. Also very interested in how he makes his ground seat. I guess one of the things that made me a little leary was it seemed like the attitude of the distributer was just "Look, it's by Dale Harwood, you don't need to know anything else" I'm suggesting that anyone that sells ANYBODYS video could probably sell more by putting an outline and maybe a few snippets of video on the internet. At least to suspicious buggers like me. :blush:

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I would like to add that I got my DVD in the mail today. As for the folk selling the DVD for Dale. Everyone needs to give them some slack. They operate a ranch in WY. I dont think they are doing the DVD to get rich, just to get the knowledge out to everyone. Please give them some understanding.

Ashley

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Ok,

So I have Dusty's DVD on saddle making. So where do I go from here.

I haven't built a saddle, but would love to make one. One that I could use everyday for a long time.

I don't have any saddle makers around to learn from.

Which DVD should I invest in next?

Thanks

Joel

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Joel, I would suggest J Watt's dvd set next..............JW.

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I'm not a saddle maker and never will be but I do have 20 years of television experience and would love to produce a video on building saddles. I do highly professional work that would suit a highly professional saddle maker looking to share his techniques. You can check out my website at www.pebblebeachproductions.com.

Darc, I'll get in touch with Chuck directly.

Joanne

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I've kinda started backwards. I bought the Dusty Johnson one. Then Cheaney's, Then recently Jeremiah Watt's.

Knowing what I know now I would have been better off to buy Jeremiah's in the first place. I wasted so much leather that I probably could have paid for it. And the end result would have been a lot better. I really do like Jeremiah's DVD's they are really in depth and he makes it easy to understand. One thing I thought was strange is that he doesn't drill holes in the tree for his saddle strings. One thing that makes his dvds worth it for me is that he taught me how to make my own patterns. Now I don't have to be dependent on anyone else and my saddles can be truly custom made. One thing I didn't like about his videos is these really weird awkward advertisements. Also he's always trying to plug his horseshoe brand tools, it gets annoying after a while. I really want to get Dale's videos but I don't have the scratch. If there's anyone that is willing to trade Jeremiah's for Dales that would be great even if just for a couple weeks. Thanks

p.s. Bruce Cheaney shows you how to cover swells which is great. As far as detailing the contents of videos I guess they probably assume that you'll see all the steps in making a saddle, which if you're an aspiring saddle maker, you should probably know by heart.

Edited by seveneves

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Almost everybody who has played with leather wants to build a saddle. Some of them will start a saddle. A few will even finish one. Fewer still will build another. The next group(including me)are those who will try to make a living at it. The smallest group are those who actually can make a living at it. Building a good quality saddle is it's own reward and my hat is off to anyone who has the desire and passion to do it. It is a hell of a way to make a living but it sure beats work!

My personal library, collected over almost forty years, includes authors John Beck, Dave Jones, Al Stohlman, John Hooper, Lee Rice, Randy Steffens and Harry Adams, just to name a few. With the books, I have collected magizine articles, patterns dating back to the late forties and early fifties, old saddle company catalogs, DVDs (videos) and pictures. I could be said that I am an information junkie. All of these are great references.

I learned more about making saddles by repairing saddles, everything from handmade coustom saddles built by famous makers to mass produced junkers. Studying the different construction techniques will give the prospective saddlemaker a good idea as to what and what not to do. I also have had the opportunity to visit and talk with saddlemakers from all over the country. The ONE thing all makers stress is the mechanics involved with the construction process.

In my opinion, it is more important to become proficient with your tools before starting something as big as a saddle. Practice cutting and skiving with a round knife. The same with edgers, slickers, ect. Know what each tool is used for. Practice hand sewing. Learn how to read the leather. Know how to case leather. You should also know the terminology associated with saddles and saddlemaking. Before starting the saddle or buying a DVD, determine what type of saddle you want to build. Do you want a swell fork or slick fork? Do you want a roper, trail, barrel or cowboy saddle? What type of rigging, skirts, ground seat, seat, ect.....? All of these questions should determine which book or DVD you will look for. Make your decision, obtain the DVD or book, study it over and over and over before starting the saddle. Follow the instruction closely.

I do not think it is a good idea to try to get multiple DVDs when first starting. Build the saddle to the DVD you have you will learn alot. When you finish and want another challenge follow the same process. This is a great site and there are people who will answer the questions you have along the way. If you get a chance to go to one of the leather shows. Whickenburg, Elko, Sheridan, Wichita Falls, Pendleton........ There are always classes and saddlemakers that are a wealth of information.

Good luck.

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Very much I wish to buy video on manufacturing a saddle. Help please, prompt where to buy, or the will sell someone. I am in Kazakhstan.

Edited by arbalet12

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I know this is an old thread, but I didn't want to start a new one.

Here’s my assessment of saddle making DVDs (at least two of them). It’s long, but I wanted to make sure you know where I am coming from. Some of it is about the videos and some is about my thought process regarding learning to build a saddle on your own. Comments, criticism, and apathy are welcome.

I had been making some tack and got the grand idea that I wanted to build a saddle. I have spent very little time working on saddles (i.e. repair and deconstruction) and didn’t (still don’t) know much about them. I talked to a few saddle makers in my area. They were polite, but didn’t really have time for me and my grand idea. I can’t say as I blame them. However one saddle maker, Mr. Smithson at Pauls Valley, was very cordial and spent time offering advice and encouragement. I am grateful for his time. I wanted to go to a saddle making school, but I just don’t have the time. I have a full time job and don’t really have an interest in making this a career. However, it could be a nice hobby if I can find a way to pay for it.

So, I bought Stohlman’s volume 1 and 2 and the Dusty Johnson package (DVD, book, patterns). I bought a tree from Batie’s, Herrmann Oak leather, sheep skin, and hardware from Panhandle Leather and Bowden’s. The entire process was an exercise in overconfidence and indecision. Some of the things that I thought would be the hardest were actually fairly easy and vice versa. I learned a lot and built a saddle. It certainly has some mistakes, but I have been riding it anyway. I don’t believe I could have built a saddle with only Mr. Johnson’s DVD. In my opinion the package is a must. While some will disagree with some of his methods, it did get me though the process. I would say the DVD contains the bare minimum of information (maybe a little less). One specific shortcoming is directions for installing the cantle binding. I had to reference the Stohlman books to figure out what to do with the ends under the seat. My assessment is that you get a little bit more than you pay for with the package. It is inexpensive, but there is a lot of information and I guess from my perspective enough to build a saddle. I will also say that Mr. Johnson promptly answered my email questions more than once. That was quite pleasing, given that he only had $80 of my money.

After I was almost done, I found this forum. I appreciate the wealth of information that is freely shared. One piece of advice was to buy Jeremiah Watt’s DVD and gain a whole new perspective on saddle making. I was lucky enough to find a used copy for a discounted price. I prefer to consider myself frugal, not tight. After watching the first segment, I thought WOW. There is a wealth of information shared in this video. There are some commercials, but Mr. Watt is also entertaining. Looking back, I am confident I could have built a saddle with only Mr. Watt’s video. With the knowledge gained from building a saddle, the information in this video is very empowering. Though it is based on a Wade tree, I am confident that I can build a saddle on any tree simply because he goes through making patterns.

There is no doubt that the JW video is much more detailed than the DJ video. However, it is really difficult for me to assess them independently because I had more knowledge when I viewed the Mr. Watt’s video. I definitely gained a new perspective after watching this video. I have to admit that I drilled all the holes in my first saddle (I hope the purists don’t put a bounty on me). However, after watching Mr. Watt’s video, I have a newfound commitment for hand sewing and using an awl. I can’t afford a sewing machine, so everything is hand sewn. I would never have thought it, but I actually think I can sew faster and more accurately with an awl than predrilling the holes. Thus I have justified the purchase of a new awl.

I plan to pick up the Dale Harwood DVD when I find a deal. I am also looking to expand my book library. I would like to have volume 3 of the Stohlman series. But I will probably invest my limited resources in material for a second saddle before I buy more educational material.

Congratulations if you made it this far (unless you just skipped to the end).

Randy

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