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bruce johnson

How do you do your plugging?

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I have done quite a few restorations and relines lately, and the saddlemaking DVDs have some interesting views on plugging. I figure this thread could go to how much do you plug (edges or up to the bars), where (all the way around or front and back), do you oil the plugs, splices or one piece, do you case and pound them out to take out the curling tendency ("hammer-jacking"), How heavy, etc.

On some of the recent restorations I started paying attention, especially after seeing Dale Harwood's DVD where he splits down his plugs (I think he said that anyway). I have found the older saddles - my great grandfather's 1934 Duhamel, an older Gibson from Redmond Ore, and a no-name oldie all had plugs that gauged about 8 oz. Age may have tightened these some. I contrast that with some of the Texas calf roping saddles that have had as many as two layers of plugs. Of course the rear jockeys and seat jockeys were doubled at the edges too, and the tore out front rigging on one was the flankiest piece 9 oz scrap they could find.

Sooo, what does everybody do on plugs?

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Very good topic Bruce. This Plugging thing has me intrigued.

Barra

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Wonderful topic! I also do a lot of re-line jobs, most of which just have plugs front and rear, nothing under the stirrup leathers. Some of them are so paper thin I wonder why they even bothered. These include many older, better made saddles, and are not limited just to the newer "hope it hangs together until it gets out the door" production hulls. On the other hand, I was taught to use plugs the entire length of the skirt. Splices are fine, as long as they are smooth and don't fall directly under the girth or stirrup leather. This has since been reinforced many times by several master saddle makers. An interesting thought, most of the saddles (the well made ones) that had plugs only on the front and rear have held up just as well as the fully plugged ones.

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I plug my skirts all the way from front to back. I thin the area under your leg down to approx. 1/2 the thickness of the rest of the plug. I use 1 splice done on a curving angle with a 2-2 1/4" taper for the overlap and run the plug up close to the edge of the tree bar. I have an 18" splitter so I am able to level my skirts out before I fit them and then after I splice my plug I can run them thru the splitter to even them up before I skive the inside edges.

One thing I've noticed is a lot of people do not take the thickness of the tree bar into consideration when deciding how thick of plug or how much to block the skirt itself up. Some trees have a thin bar with a taper that becomes very thin on the edge, on these trees the plug shouldn't be too thick and the skirts do not require a deep blocking (you will notice on Old Hamley's from when they made thier own trees that quite often they had no plug but they glued a 7 or 8 oz. piece to the entire skirt before lining, they then lined the skirt, installed it and gave it a very light block with a ball-pen hammer from the bottom.) On trees with a heavier bar you will have to block the skirts a little deeper thereby requireing a little heavier plug..

Either way unless you are using a 10 oz. light skirt your plugs do not have to be anywhere near as thick as your skirt leather but please do not use the flanks and raggy pieces, your plug should have a little body to it. Greg

Edited by greg gomersall

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Greg,

Interesting on the Hamley. The next restore project saddle I have is a Hamley Assoc. with the paperwork from 1928. On some of these restorations, they have been redone somewhere along the line, and may not be "original" like some people assume. I just finished my great-grandfather's saddle this morning. It had Al-Ray buckles on it, but the unused holes were tight ovals like for laced leathers. I laced it back.

I would like to see a pic of the 18" splitter sometime. Is it a band-knife or a crank through? I have 8" and 10" Chase patterns and thought I was in tall feed.

Good point about bar edge thicknesses too. On the calf-roping saddles, these bars are monstrously thick. That is the reason for the double layer of plugs. In reality, these skirts are usually not blocked up very high and the bar tips are pocketed by the sewn down riggings to cover that up, so that kind of negates the benefits of the double plugs. Some of the plugs are doubled all the way to the bars, and others have one layer all the way and one partial. I have seen it vary from one side to the other. They are selling what you see on the saddle, not the rest.

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Bruce: my 18" splitter is a crank splitter made by the International Harness Machinery Co. of Cincinnati, Oh. I have two blades for it and if I keep it sharp I can split dang near anything. Artisan has come out with a 20 " crank type on a power stand which is a copy of the Randall for just under 2 grand. It is a good pattern but so far appears to have some blade issues (Jerry would argue this point but he sells em) I wouldn't recommend one yet but I hope they figure it out as these big splitters are hard too find. Greg

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