I'd been wanting to build saddles for a few years. So got to talking to some builders at a horse expo.Both agreed to teach me to build a saddle in a week for the cost of a saddle. couldnt go wrong, if nothing else i get a saddle and some knowledge.
I'm a builder by trade but was looking for a better way to express my creativity, so i went to learn. I'd deffinately say it was valuable to my getting started with saddles. I learned alot in a week ,but it got monotoneus. I had to drive 2 hrs one way each day for a week and a half. But to say the least I learned a ton in that time . The guy who taugght me mainly builds cutting and reining gear, but we built a wade. so he had to do some thinking to remember back to his last wade. That also proved valuable. The saddle turned out great but pretty heavy. I mostly watched ,took pictures, made notes and asked questions. Invaluable to be able to pick the brains of craftsman.
While me teacher sewed or was o the phone I watched bruce cheney videos, read al stohlmans books, and just looked at tooles and prviously made tack and saddles, which raised more questions. Once again truely invaluable to be able to pick the brains of a master..
So a week and a half goes by I come home with a new saddle for my spouse , a pile of photos, and notes and a dose of wavering confidence, and intentions of building my own rig. I was confident that a cabinet builder could become a saddle maker!
First course of action much to my wifes dismay was to uprade the tool chest. You can do a saddle with a little but you can do a lot better with some quality tools. Second buy al stohlmans series, there is hundreds of saddles worth of knowledge in those books , and i still reference these when I encounter problem.
We'll be fore i could build my own saddle a friend decides I should build her one. That will test your confidence ,but I had game. Of course she didnt want a wade and she had a extremely diffucult horse to fit [muttton withered wide backed] and the owner is over 6 feet tall women.
none of my patterns matched for the oregon roper tree she wanted. volume 1 stohlman. different swells, longer fenders, different skirt shape, etc. etc. a friend borrowed me gomers videos , and that helped a bit. so i scratched my had alot, took my time, tested fit , wrapped the horn 3 times, cut the seat jockey wrong [so the saddle had front jockeys now] and bought more tools. 5 months later it was done. If i can figure out how to do it i'll post a picture. I gave it a " C" . But my wife who is my biggest critic , said not bad, and it must not be it has produced 5 more orders.
A couple of saddle makers that I talked to told when I started get ready to ruin leather! And I did , But I learned by doing. Second saddle horn turned out right the first time. but had trouble covering the swell so scrapped the leather cut it from a sponggier spot , and got it right. Tooling is improving fit and finish as well. Big learning curve , but i'm pssionate about it and it doesnt seem at all like work. last night was out in the shop from noon to 10 with out food and water, just couldnt walk away!!!
Pitfalls - porly rawhided bowden saddle trees, buyin a saddle kit from bowden.
Current project homestead wade on a laporte poly tuff tree fat plate rigging 7/8 horseshoe hardware, didnt know it was made in china!, maybe inlaid padded seat, fully tooled oak leaf basket stamped combo.
Long winded!!! but this post sounds like my personal journey. I found alot of resistance from saddle makers along the way as though I was stepping on toes, but Ifound alot of help as well, thanks to those who offered free advice.