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Ken Nelson

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About Ken Nelson

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  • Leatherwork Specialty
    saddles,tack and chaps

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  1. I would agree about the "theft" idea. I used to have a Saddle Shop in Rapid City, SD and handled a lot of used saddles. Several come in with the makers marks or serial Numbers buggered up. The Sheriff up there had me call him every time one come in and most of them were on the Stolen list.
  2. Good ONe. Those old ranchers were a different breed of animal. America lost the best with those people back in the day. They were a rugged, determined tough lot and those pioneer women were maybe even more tough and rugged. I miss those old men I knew 60 years ago.
  3. I had an old Hamley Saddle come into my shop about 15 years ago for a clean and oil. I was told it was ordered new in 1935 and had been rode since by its original owner and had been handed down to a great-granddaughter. This saddle was actually in good condition for its age and amount of use. The leather was still in good shape, however it had been rode enough there were two holes in the seat about 2 inches in diameter, where his pin bones rested that were through the seat leather and part of the way through the ground seat. The cantle binding had been replaced and was worn through in several places again. I have wondered many times how many thousands miles of South Dakota prairie had passed under the man and that saddle. I have never seen a saddle that showed the amount of use it did, and the amount of care it showed to last through that much use. I regret I didn't take pictures of it. A testimony of the pride of ownership those old cowboys had for their saddles and tack back in the day.
  4. I think you tree looks like a substandard tree. I would not consider using it to build a saddle on. You cannot build a serviceable saddle on a substandard tree. I do not believe it is possible to improve the quality of that tree no matter how much you "tinker" with it. You cannot "build a silk purse out of a hogs ear"!
  5. Ken Nelson


    I use Lewis trees and have on over the last 100 I have built. I have yet to have one come back because it was eating horses and I have yet to have one come back broken. I build saddles for men that ride all day, every day on very large ranches, rope a lot of cattle both in the arena and on ranches. Everything from baby calves to ton + bulls. I am not saying anything bad about anyone's trees but Lewis has been the best affordable tree I have used, but I have not tried a lot of tree makers out there.
  6. Yes a personal umbrella for when I am out of the shop living my life and a business policy for when I am working and covering what I do.
  7. The thing with building new horse gear is you never know where or with whom it is going to end up. If you build a barrel saddle for someone it is not going to be as stout as a saddle you build for a steer tripper or a cowboy on a large ranch that does a lot of roping of big wild cattle. I doubt any trail or pleasure riders would want a saddle as heavy as what I build for the cowboys I build for. But they don't use them that way either. Another consideration is care your product will get after it leaves your shop. I have had a few that were demolished in a few months by someone doing really stupid things to them and with them. I don't like the insurance premiums but figure it is part of the cost of doing business. I am not an LLC. My insurance agent tells me you still need business insurance even if you are a LLC. My business insurance covers a lot more than liability. Product liability, physical liability, consignment coverage, customer product liability-used saddles and tack in for repair, etc. I do carry a personal umbrella policy but it does not cover professional liability. This day in time, I suspect he is completely right. I hope this helps and I am not trying to tell you what you should do. I don't know if I am right or not on this but just because you are in the right, does not mean you can win it in court and if you do, you may spend an awful lot on attorney fees.
  8. When I first had a shop in town, my then insurance agent told me the following: "The last person that had his hands on a piece of tack or saddlery will be the first person sued if someone gets hurt or killed using it, no matter whose fault it is!" It is pretty insightful and true a good part of the time. And that is why a lot of established good saddlemakers I know do not work on junk tack and saddles and refuse to bandaid problems for people on a budget. I never repair a saddle I do not feel will be safe to use by anyone in my area. Some-most of my customers use tack and saddles pretty hard. I never lose sight of that. I have paid for a lot of liability insurance I have thankfully never needed to use. Your decision.
  9. Harry Adams Saddleshop manual is a good resource. The Stholman books are a good resource.
  10. For commercial products, Fiebings Aussie Leather conditioner or even better is R M Williams Saddle and Leather Conditioner. Developed in the Australian Outback and it is good but a tad pricey. I don't use petroleum based products on leather, and don't know any good saddlemakers who do. I second the Beeswax and thinned with Lanolin. It is really good but I don't know the recipe for mixing it. I know a couple of guys that use Beeswax thinned with olive oil and it is pretty good. A hundred years ago, a lot of cowboys and teamsters used beef kidney fat melted down for harness oil.
  11. This is a little late, but I NEVER use ring shanks in the construction of a saddle. I have repaired saddles that have been built by some of the recognized top saddle makers of the last 50 years, Bob Marrs, Billy Don Hogg, Howard Counsel, Boyce Bader, Harry Adams and the list goes on. The only well known saddles (2) that I ever tore down that had ring shanks in them and a lot of them were a couple of Ralph Shimon's. I know some really good saddle makers that will not work on a Shimon for that reason and I will not either. If you will never work on a saddle you build, I guess it would not matter but if you build enough of them and they are rode and used a lot, they will need repair sooner or later. Making them repair friendly, I think is important but is probably not to a lot of people. On ground seats, when I started, I had the Stohlman series and Harry Adams, Saddlemaker's Shop Manual. I knew Harry pretty well, rode several of his saddles. He had a reputation for putting a seat in a saddle "second to no one". This by them big outfit cowboys that lived in their saddles. I think his book is a good place to start and build on. Stohlman teaches to build an all leather ground seat and he did put a good seat in a saddle. I have seen a couple of his saddles and know a few people that have rode some of his saddles. If you build enough different types of saddles, you will learn to put different types of seats in saddles for different types of disciplines. Cutters, ropers, barrel racers all want different types of saddles. One thing about those cowboy saddles, they are supposed to be comfortable for 18 to 24 hours at at time. Like an old man that had been the wagon boss on the XL in Nevada told me one time, "I have had saddles I could stay in for 24 hours at a time and sleep in them and had some that would eat the hip pockets off your jeans in 8 or 9 hours or less"
  12. I use an old Rampart I bought close to 40 years ago. I use it some on every saddle I build and use it some other places too. Kinda like anything, in leather tools, if you learn to sharpen it kinda right and keep it sharp and polished it works very well. I have a new Osborne that works good but the old one is lasting a long time.
  13. I am dropping the price on this machine to $2500.00, local pickup. These are a really versatile machine that are easy to work on if you ever need to, which is seldom. I do have the manual, and VCR instruction video for it and will go with.
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