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We just wanted to let people know we have started a blog on our website about saddle trees. We have called it "From Shop and Desk" because we hope to share things we are doing and have learned, not just in the shop but also through doing research and reading. Here's the link: http://www.rodnikkel.com/content/index.php/saddle-tree-blog-from-shop-and-desk/

Edited by Rod and Denise Nikkel

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More "shameless self promotion" here.

I have a few posts in a series I am doing on equine anatomy, biomechanics and how they relate to saddles, trees and how they work together (ie. "saddle fit"). I have them all linked together and the first of the series is here: http://www.rodnikkel.com/content/index.php/saddle-tree-blog-from-shop-and-desk/meet-arnie/

I have put up some of the special requests we have done lately:

duplicate trees: http://www.rodnikkel.com/content/index.php/saddle-tree-blog-from-shop-and-desk/duplicating-trees-part-1-taking-them-apart/

Hamley hangers: http://www.rodnikkel.com/content/index.php/saddle-tree-blog-from-shop-and-desk/hamley-hangers/

and today I added a Charro tree: http://www.rodnikkel.com/content/index.php/saddle-tree-blog-from-shop-and-desk/a-charro-saddle-tree/

As I write the posts, I try to include information I think people who like saddles will be interested in knowing. If anyone has any comments or suggestions on ideas for posts or how to make the blog better, please let me know. Comments on the posts can also be left at the bottom of that page.

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Very interesting ! :thumbsup:

Let us get more of your "shameless self promotion" !! ( and I really like that Charro tree) !

/ Knut

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Glad I saw this. How about adding an RSS feed to your blog so that we can subscribe and be notified when you add content....just a thought.

Regards,

Ben

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Knut, Glad you find it interesting. I was hoping someone would!

Ben, there is an RSS feed at the bottom of the main blog page. Is there a better place for it that you would recommend? I looked and I don't think I can move it, but maybe Kate can.

Thanks for the feedback.

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Denise,

Thanks. I was looking at all of the pages that you sent out and it was not on those pages. I would move the RSS feed to a standard place at the top of the page where your other links are at. By doing that it would be there for all your blog pages.

Regards,

Ben

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Rod/Denise,

I'm a first-time poster and this may be a little weird. I live in Spring, Texas, 53 y/o, oil/gas mechanical engineer...etc. All my life I have developed strange hobbies (build guitars acoustic&electric, tube amps, wooden duck decoys, furmiture, accomplished welder, nice little garage machine shop, build benchrest rifles, and a few other strange tasks). I'm at a point in life to where I have the budget to obtain the "correct" tools and supplies for my hobbies, bless the Lord. I will never be a professional saddlemaker, but I might make a saddle. I go slow with my hobbies, mainly because my real "engineer" work projects keep me on the road all around Texas a lot of the time, but I am passionate when I am at home. My philosophies and how I approach a project may be out in left field but it suits the way I operate. I'm way more of a craftsman than an engineer, in my heart & mind. Kind of like the brain surgeon working his way through tap-dancing school. I want to figure out how to build a correct wood/rawhide saddle tree before I build a complete saddle.

What is a logical approach?..................or better yet, am I being logical at all....?

Thanks,

curtis

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Curtis,

Building saddle trees is part art, part science - like doing brain surgery while tap dancing??? No, it's not that difficult. :) I'm sure figuring it out from scratch can be done - after all, it has been done before - but it would be a very, very long process. We are still expanding our repertoire of angles and options (and every change takes time to figure out) and we started with good teaching and a lot of information, and have added substantially to that over the years already. Have we heard of people trying it on their own? Yes. Do we know of anyone succeeding? No, but that doesn't mean they haven't (though we are currently building a tree for an engineer who gave it his best shot on his own first...) Not trying to totally discourage you (after all, this isn't rocket science) but we are being realistic.

However, you asked for a logical approach, so here goes a list of things to think about and research:

Function - what do you want to be able to do with these trees - rope (think about strength here), style of riding (all day riding versus specific arena events play a part in the design you choose). Basic question to answer being, "What kind of tree do I want to build, to start with anyway?"

Materials - you want a wood/rawhide tree. What kind of wood will give you strength where you want it, not be overly heavy, and have the right characteristics to be able to work with the tools and equipment you have and also be available to you. Being in Texas you have close access to Tejas Industries to purchase wet rawhide and rawhide lace, so that is a plus - unless you want to make your own rawhide too. (We hear they did a segment on that on Dirty Jobs...)

Looks - what style of fork shape do you like the look of? cantle? horn - wood or metal and go from there regarding shape

Philosophy of fit - how do you want a tree to fit a horse? There are lots of different answers to that question - probably about as many as the number of people answering it, or more... Knowing what you are aiming for is vital if you want to make a saddle that really works on a horse's back. After you know what you are wanting to do to fit a horse, what body type of horses are you trying to fit? And how are you going to make the bars to get the shape you want?

Then - how are you going to connect the fork and cantle to the bars to keep the bars in the correct place on the horse's back? The fork at the angle you want it relative to the bars? The cantle at the angle you want it relative to the bars? (I'm talking angles of cuts here, not staples versus nails versus screws - though that is worth considering too.) This is where a lot of the science comes in, though practically it has been worked out through trial and error rather than mathematics - at least up to the last few years were computers might make it feasible. This is where you may want to start and get this figured out before you put a lot of work into shaping your parts, because if this is wrong, you just made fancy shaped firewood...

Like I say, I'm trying to give you a realistic, logical approach to start figuring out what doing this would entail. You check out the Building a Tree section on our website to see a bunch of pictures of how we build trees, if that will help you. http://www.rodnikkel.com/content/index.php/building-a-saddle-tree/

Have fun!

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Rod you say you havn't known of anyone who on their own figured out how to make saddle trees.my Dad "Wilford Lewis" did. In 1979 the quality of saddle trees was perhaps the worst in history so with a mitre box & a hand saw Dad made a sort of a saddletree. It would of course not work,He saw that it could be done so He went & bought a band saw built a sander & viola Dad begin making trees.He taught himself to rawhide & with time & practice became quite good at it.In 1980 He taught my brother & I. Over the years we have made trees here in Texas Until retiring.Retirement does't suit me though & I am again making trees.My brother being a self made engineer built a series of duplicators all with reverse image bar making capability.These machines are the very best ever built bar none.They can be finely adjusted & will make a right & left bar off one pattern.These bars are a matched pair every time.While A skillfully built handmade tree may well be the best tree.Trees made with parts from our machines are straight & true.While many think only handmade trees can be made good,with good equipment & careful assembly saddletrees made by me are very close in overall quality.Looking foward to some replys to this little rambling. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The Lewis Brothers Steve & Ray

Edited by jadedtiger

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Late 70's, early 80's - from what we understand that was the time a number of saddle makers started building their own trees because they were so unhappy with the quality of trees they could purchase. Wonder why things went so far downhill about then? While a lot of people talk about "the good ol' days" we have heard other comments to the effect that there are more good saddle makers and good tree makers around now then there probably has been at any time in history.

It is interesting in looking at trees made by different makers. You can often see the "genealogy" of who taught the maker by how the tree is made and what it looks like. We've never had the chance to see one of yours. The pictures we have seen have all been fibreglassed. Do you still rawhide some?

It is also interesting to see how different people go about making their trees. Some like hand tools. Some use some equipment, but each piece is individually made. Others go the duplicating route. Depends on how you like to work, your business model, how many trees you want to build, if you want to have employees, etc. etc. "Every tree maker does things differently" - but we all have our reasons for doing it!

Edited by Rod and Denise Nikkel

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