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About EdOdgers

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    Southwest Wisconsin

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    all things related to saddle making
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  1. It’s my opinion and experience that you can build gender specific seats but you don’t have to. While it’s true that men can get along with a seat conformation that women won’t tolerate, a seat that accommodates women can also work nicely for most men and may actually improve their riding posture. Men’s pelvises generally rest closer to the cantle and as a result men are more forgiving than women as to the height and location of the seat rise. My seats are characterized by closeness to the horse, a low rise, a pocket (low point in profile) that is more elongated forward, full and fairly flat between the bases of the cantle, and as narrow as the tree allows over the stirrup leathers. I use 5 patterns or profile cards to guide the shape of my groundseats while ensuring symmetry and consistency. If requested I can tweak that base shape to fit the client’s riding style and preference. In the photos I attached, the first photo is of the longitudinal pattern or profile card in a nearly complete groundseat. The 3 transverse cards ( lower right in the second photo) are placed where the vertical lines are drawn on the longitudinal card. The first, most forward line on the card is at the back of the stirrup leather slot. The card furthest left in photo two is for cantle dish. I'm not sure how much we can tell from the wear patterns shown in your photos. The human body asserts the most pressure under the only skeletal contact in the seat which is our sit bones (ischial tuberosity). The rest of our anatomy that contacts the saddle seat is soft tissue. Being "soft" tissue, it may not leave a lasting impression on the saddle but it sure can be uncomfortable. You can see the sit bone locations in your photos but not where the soft tissue may or may not have uncomfortable levels of pressure. Men's sit bones are typically spaced a bit closer together and will rest about 1" further back in the seat than a woman's. A pocket (low point in the seat) that is too close to the cantle and/or rises too quickly toward the fork, will not provide a woman with enough room for their crotch. I usually establish the lowest point of the seat about 3 1/2" behind the stirrup leathers and, as stated above, that pocket is quite elongated. Cary Schwarz has a pretty good DVD that discusses groundseat construction and shape.
  2. Very nice. Attractive and a good fit.
  3. Morgan, Happy to be of any assistance. For the horse it's all about the tree bars; for the rider it's the ground seat. Here are pics of my templates for the ground seat. The three vertical lines on the profile card indicate where the transverse cards are to be located. The furthest forward line is at back side of the stirrup leather slot. I have a profile card for each seat size but the transverse cards are the same for all. This profile card is for a medium rise but I often use a lower rise card, depending on client preference. Ed
  4. ML, That is an exceptional job, especially impressive for your first saddle, though clearly you have come to this project well prepared and skilled in leather work. You have nailed most of the basic design elements and your leatherworking skills are impressive. Great lines and "architecture" and the carving flows nicely from that architecture. I really like how your carving of the jockeys considered the rosette (string conchos) location; well planned. You didn't get this far without the desire for improvement so in the spirit of continued advancement I offer a few critiques and observations. Agree or disagree but consider these and any honest critiques as you build your own set of guidelines and opinions. Mine are always freely offered and always subject to change. -Groundseat: The pocket or low point of the groundseat, as viewed from the side, should extend further forward. My seat templates put the low point at 3 1/2" behind the stirrup leather slot for a 15 1/2" seat. This will help the rider maintain proper position relative to their stirrups. To best judge this, it's important to have your draw-down stand match the back of a horse and carry the saddle "level" as if it were on the horse's back. I like that you didn't build too much rise to the seat. The combination of pocket location and modest rise will ensure comfort and a classic riding posture. This is especially important for a female rider's comfort. If you don't already have them, I suggest that you develop a set of templates for your groundseats. Using templates helps establish consistency and symmetry. They also give you a reference point when making modifications for a specific rider or when trying to repeat a seat you've made for a repeat client. Yes, there is an art to carving seats that relies on your eye and "feel" but templates are a good test and keep your eye honest. -"Ear" cuts in the seat: The shape of the ear cut around the base of the cantle is traditionally round for a straight-up binding. Yours is nicely fit but typical of the cut for a Cheyenne roll. A rounded cut better matches the roundness of the straight-up binding and is aesthetically more pleasing. To do the round cut, I start with a 1/2" C punch. It will open up to fit nicely around a 3/4" binding. See photos below. -Cantle shape: In my opinion, the cantle shape of your tree is better suited to a Cheyenne roll. I prefer a more vertical sided cantle shape for straight-ups, not necessarily a shovel but narrower and more verticle coming up from the bases of the cantle. When ordering a tree, I always specify cantle dimensions with consideration to the binding type intended. The finished cantle dimensions for a straight-up binding will be about 1" higher and 2" wider than the tree specifications. My preferred dimensions for a straight up binding is 4" high by 11 1/2" wide which will finish out at 5" X 13 1/2"; plenty high and wide for most riders yet looks proportional. Speaking of cantle width, you want to have the finished dish proportional to the width. Similar radius but shorter arc. For a narrower cantle, like the one I just described, 3/4" is about right. Templates help here too. -Stitching cantle binding: You indicated that you weren't happy with this but I can't see from your pics what your concern is. I'm assuming that the backside isn't as straight and even as you wish. My method is to start with about an 8 ounce binding that is about 3/8" wider than final. After casing and before applying to cantle, I deeply crease, (don't cut or gouge), the stitch channel for the inside or face of the cantle. I then glue and mold to cantle. Pierce with your awl the first stitch in the center of the cantle top. From that point mark your stitches with a stitch wheel down each side. On the back side, starting at the pierced hole, use a tickler to mark the stitch line across the backside of the binding then run the stitch wheel in that crease to match the marks on the face of the cantle. From the backside, push your awl at least halfway through each marked stitch toward the opposing face, but don't come through. Finally, from the face of the cantle, proceed to pierce with your awl each marked stitch aiming for the opposing partial hole in the backside. If you were reasonably accurate, you will be able to feel when your awl finds the piercing from the backside and it should follow that piercing and come out in the marked location. The end result is a stitch line on the backside that is nearly as good looking as the front. I like a clean neat stitch line on the back of a straight up cantle binding, but you can also do a "hidden" stitch in the back by splitting the cantle binding, folding it up for stitching then gluing it back down before final trimming. I always match the stitch spacing and thread size on the horn and cantle and will usually use a heavier thread and spacing compared to the machine stitching of the skirts etc. If machine stitching is 6/inch, horn and cantle usually 5/inch. Not hard and fast rules, just my preference. -Jockey margin: This is purely opinion but I would prefer a bit wider margin between the skirt and jockeys on the back of your saddle (behind the cantle). The narrow space and the double stitching doesn't leave much room for the carving which appears to be hidden there. I usually strike a mark on the rough-cut jockeys with a dividers set at a uniform 1 5/8" from the skirt margin on similar round skirted saddles. To me this is a nice balanced look that comes close to the "golden rule" of proportions. A uniform reveal isn't a must but I would still prefer to see yours start a bit wider behind the cantle. I like the length of the skirts behind the cantle which appears to be just under 6" or so; nicely proportioned. -Double stitch line on skirts: It's a good feature to add that extra stitch line; one for the skirt plugs only, the other attaching the sheepskin. Another option for the added stitch line is to hide it just under the outer margin of the jockeys. On skirts that are stamped or carved, it leaves a little more room for the decoration and presents a cleaner look. -Latigos: A small matter but most riders will prefer to avoid the bulk of a tie knot under their leg and use a cinch with a buckle tongue. For this style I like a wider, 1 3/4" latigo with oblong holes spaced about 2 1/4"; 6'-6" long for riders that take two wraps and 8' for those that take three. Again, this is one fine saddle and I congratulate you for this accomplishment and for seeking input. I always write up a critique, both good and bad, of my own saddles after completion and wish I had pursued feedback from other makers in my early days of saddle making; I do now. Nice job and keep up the great work. I'll look forward to seeing your future creations. Ed
  5. One correction to the post above about spoke shave setup. There is a simple modification to this woodworking tool to improve its performance with leather: Mount the blade with the sharpened bevel facing down. This creates a lower angle of the cutting edge relative to the surface of the leather. It will work the other way but not as well from my experience.
  6. Nothing special to set up the Stanley spoke shave, just getting it razor sharp. Nice knives you made. You'll find the straight knife handy for skiving. You are going to be skiving a lot when saddle making so it pays to get set up right with your tools and skills. I use a a wide French edger (3/4" and 1") a lot for narrow skives, like the plugs in the photo above where the plug blends onto the bar edge. I use a large head knife for wide skives and a straight knife (like yours) for narrow pieces. Whatever you use, it has to be SHARP and get frequent maintenance. Dusty will deliver you a nice tree. Have fun.
  7. I agree completely. I've noted that a lot of makers omit this, particularly on carved or stamped saddles. On working saddles I still do the double row of stitching 3/16" to 1/4" apart. What I'm now doing on the saddles with stamped or carved skirts is to put that extra row of stitching to hold the plug up under the edge of the jockey so that it is hidden. Since I often scribe the perimeter of the jockeys about 1 3/4" in from the skirt's edge, this usually puts the stitch row for the plug about 2 1/4" from the skirt edge. The single stitch line for the sheepskin makes for a cleaner look on fancier saddles and allows for more room on the narrow skirt margin for tooling. On skirt rigged saddles, my rig panel covers the bars behind the cantle and the same stitch line that attaches the rig panel to the skirt also goes through the plug.
  8. A final comment on plugs. As I mentioned in a previous comment, I want the combined thickness of the skirt and plug be about 21/22 ounces. Since all of your skirting is 13/15 ounce, you could end up with 26 to 30 ounce total thickness. That will be too much so you'll want to split down your plugs. Since I presume you don't have a splitter, you can use a very sharp spoke shave to thin down the rough cut pieces of skirting. I used this method for many years before I had a large splitter. It takes a little bit of time and skill but it's not that bad. Furthermore, it's a good skill to have that can be useful to even-up a piece of leather for a cantle back or fork cover that is thicker on one side than the other. I routinely use a variety of spoke shaves for leveling, skiving, and carving my ground seats. The photo below shows the spoke shave I use for leveling large areas. It's a Stanley and is the largest shave I use. It can be readily found at a good hardware or woodworking supply store. The blade has pretty good steel, which you won't find in some cheaper knock-offs.
  9. More on the skirt plug questions. Here are photos of plugs being prepared (skived and fitted) and the final product on a skirt rigged saddle. Note that the installed plugs have been trimmed using the skirt perimeter as a guide. When first glued on, they extended past the skirt edge by about 1/2". Also, because this is a skirt rig and the rig panel is attached to the skirt, no plug is needed from the rear rig forward since this area is already two layers thick. In the area where the rear rig slot will be cut (two punch holes in photo) there are three layers for strength and stiffness: skirt + rig panel + plug. If this saddle were a flat-plate or ring rigged saddle, the plugs would go from the gullet to the back of the cantle. In that case, I would make the plugs from two pieces for each skrirt and splice them under the riders leg with a lap-skive. I would also thin the plugs there for closer contact.
  10. Here's a photo to accompany the above comment on fasteners.
  11. I should add to the above comment that when stretching in a seat, I use a spreader stick to widen the pull of the draw down strap and avoid pulling the seat flaps excessively inward early in the shaping process. If that's not clear, I can take a photo in the next few days when I stretch in the seat on the pictured saddle.
  12. I use two different draw down straps. For general construction purposes I use a simple, straight one (shown on the saddle in the pic below). The other is used exclusively for stretching in seats. I'm very careful with the latter strap and don't want any nicks, glue or gouges on it. I try to keep it pristine so that it doesn't mar or scratch a smooth-out or tooled saddle seat during stretch-in. It's also wider so I can run my rub-stick over it with less risk of rubbing on the edge which could cause a hard to remove crease on the seat. The "seat strap" shown below is 8" wide at its widest, and 36" long.
  13. This is a great time to learn saddle making. There are a lot of resources available and folks are willing to help. It wasn't that way 25+ years ago. Try to find a mentor that does quality work and is willing to answer your questions, give you honest feedback, and help you work out problems. You mentioned that you watched the Watt DVD. If you don't already own it, you'll probably want to invest in it or one of the other good DVDs by Mecum, Schwarz, Harwood, etc. You'll need to review and revisit the videos many, many times as you work through your first few saddles. Plan to attend the Rocky Mountain Leather Show in Sheridan, WY next May and take all of the workshops that interest you. You'll also be able to shop for hard to find tools and materials there and meet saddle makers and leather-workers of every skill level from all over the world. Every few years TCA has a saddle workshop in Oklahoma City that shouldn't be missed. To learn about trees, study the wealth of posts on Rod and Denise Nikkel's website and buy their DVD. It's well worth your time and money. As far as tools go, that could be a long, long discussion. Buy quality tools. Invest in sharpening equipment/materials and develop the skills to keep your tools SHARP. One very important tool that is often overlooked is your draw-down stand. Spend the time to make a good one. It needs to fit a tree the way the tree fits a horse. It's also important to have the tree sit level on the stand as if it were on a horse. Choose a style of saddle that you admire most and find the best examples by master makers. Study those examples carefully and try to emulate them successfully before striking out with your own style. That will emerge soon enough. Sketch your saddle designs in detail and list out all of the specifications. Get very good at the basics and building a high quality, good looking plain saddles before investing your time in learning the decoration (tooling, stamping). You can put lipstick on a pig but it's still a pig. Use the best materials you can get, especially the trees. You'll never build a saddle better than the tree. Get in the habit of objectively evaluating your work. Make a list of things you did well and those that need improvement after each saddle. Never utter the phrase "good enough." Finally, because there are a lot of resources and folks willing to help, it doesn't mean its all good. Pick your resources and mentors carefully. You can learn from everyone but often its what not to do. You've probably already figured that out when repairing tack-store saddles. Good luck and have fun.
  14. I use a wide variety of nails and screws but no blued tacks. Anything that stays in the saddle is stainless steel or triple coated. I use GRK brand triple coated cabinet screws, mostly 1" and 1 1/4" for final assembly and screwing down conchos, breast collar attachments, etc, etc, (Menards or other large home centers). The GRKs are slender, self tapping, super strong and have a good, flat head shape that holds leather and doesn't stick up too proud. Stainless, oval head screws with cup washers for attaching riggings (Weaver or a very complete hardware store). A variety of stainless ring-shank nails for strainer plates, horn cap filler, etc, etc (Hagel's Cowboay Gear). I use a lot of very thin wire nails for temporarily attaching and fitting parts and when blocking skirts to the tree (hardware store or home center). I like the thin, wire nails for temporary holding as they don't leave a big wound in the rawhide. I prefer to use a screw over a nail for most applications. If it needs to be a nail and it's going to stay in the saddle, it's got to be ring-shank. Lastly, I have an assortment of brass and stainless steel escutcheon pins (round headed nails) for decorative applications like stirrup linings and attaching the back flap of a fork cover that goes down through the hand-hole to the gullet (Weaver and other leather supply).
  15. Time and sunlight will continue to darken saddles if you want it or not. I've found that the oil & sun method detailed above by JHayek works even better if you use olive oil. Regardless of the oil used, it may not darken as much as you want. For darker color you can add an oil soluble dye to neatsfoot or olive oil. I think I've purchased mine from Weaver. When using oil/dye mixture, start out easy and don't use any dye with the initial oiling or it's likely to be uneven. Another option is to use dyed skirting. I use Herman and Wicket and both offer a variety of colors and shades. The downside to going this route is that you have a whole lot of scraps of various colors that are hard to utilize. To minimize uneven oil and the blotchy appearance, I like to oil before the saddle completely dries after washing/cleaning and is still fairly moist. The moist leather won't suck up the oil as aggressively upon contact. It will penetrate but more slowly as the moisture evaporates. Prevents over-oiling as well. Unless I've been lucky enough to keep the saddle parts pristine, I too like to use a weak solution of oxalic acid to spruce it up before oiling. Works wonders.
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