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MLGilbert

First Saddle - 1/2 tooled Cliff Wade

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Hi all! I just finished up my first saddle build, built on a 15 1/2" Cliff Wade tree. I had a ton of fun with it, and hope I'll be making many more. I roped in it last night after a few rides and it felt great!

I used HO 13-15 skirting leather, and hardware from Jeremiah Watt. Everything was hand stitched (I really need to buy a machine!). I know I need to work on my cantle binding stitching, so any tips on keeping that clean and consistent would be welcome.

I want to keep improving and I'd be glad to hear any critiques and advice all of you saddle makers might have!

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Edited by MLGilbert

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Dang man looks pretty good for your first saddle!! Your lines are clean and the tooling flows and looks sharp.  I'm almost done building my first saddle as well.  If you don't mind me asking... did someone help you or did you use other resources for like books, video's to build it? 

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2 hours ago, Codybill said:

Dang man looks pretty good for your first saddle!! Your lines are clean and the tooling flows and looks sharp.  I'm almost done building my first saddle as well.  If you don't mind me asking... did someone help you or did you use other resources for like books, video's to build it? 

Thank you! I used the Stohlman encyclopedias, and referenced a few saddlemaking showcase videos. The forum was lots of help as well.

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You should be darn proud of that, its a beautiful piece of work!

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I guess I never really paid any attention to other saddle styles . . . 

The only saddle styles we ever had around here were English . . . military (old left over stuff from back WW1 ways) . . . and "cowboy" . . . 

But all the cowboy saddles I saw or rode growing up . . . had pretty good swells coming out on each side of the horn.

Is this a new "style" that has done away with that?

Just nosey I guess.

May God bless,

Dwight

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In reply to your question Dwight.  I don't know how long the Wade tree has been around but around the turn of the 20th century a lot of the saddle were slick fork or "A" fork and riders tied their coats or bedrolls on to give them some swells.  With Wade trees, after the saddle is built it seems like most people add bucking rolls to them which to me would defeat the slick fork but saves tying your coat on for swells I guess.  I am for sure no expert but just information I picked up over my 82 years from old cowboys

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Thanks, Hasbeencowboy . . . what you said makes a lot of sense . . . 

As a younster  . . .  I watched Rin Tin Tin and other such shows . . . thought being a soldier back then would have been great.

About 14 yrs old . . . maybe 16 . . .  got to ride one of them old "soldier" saddles.  Cured me of ever wanting to get in a time machine and go back.

May God bless,

Dwight

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On 12/4/2020 at 3:24 PM, chuck123wapati said:

You should be darn proud of that, its a beautiful piece of work!

Thank you Chuck!

6 hours ago, Dwight said:

But all the cowboy saddles I saw or rode growing up . . . had pretty good swells coming out on each side of the horn.

Is this a new "style" that has done away with that?

These wades are much more popular in the Great Basin area, and California - Oregon. I never heard of cowboys riding wades as far east as Ohio.. I believe the first wades were built in the 1940's in northeast Oregon. Thanks for looking!

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Not a saddle guy at all here, but I do recognize nice work when I see it!  Impressive!

YinTx

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That is extremely impressive for the first saddle.  You done a very good job.  I have been at it a long time and cannot fault your work at all and you will get better.

As far as the wade tree goes and I may not be correct here but I have been told for along time the guy that brought them into oregon was named Cliff Wade and Tom Dorance liked it and had Hamely build him one using the Cliff Wade saddle for a base for it and using some of Mr. Dorance's improvements on it.   If memory serves me correct, I think the original Wade Saddle was made in Illinois  or Ohio where he was from.   Don't know if any of this is true or not.

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15 hours ago, YinTx said:

Not a saddle guy at all here, but I do recognize nice work when I see it!  Impressive!

YinTx

Thank you!

4 hours ago, Ken Nelson said:

That is extremely impressive for the first saddle.  You done a very good job.  I have been at it a long time and cannot fault your work at all and you will get better.

Thank you Ken, that means a lot!

4 hours ago, Ken Nelson said:

If memory serves me correct, I think the original Wade Saddle was made in Illinois  or Ohio where he was from.   Don't know if any of this is true or not.

That's really interesting that the first was from the midwest after all, I spoke too soon!

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Great job! Nice lines and careful work. Carving is beautiful. It has just the right color and contrast - bright. I don't do too much floral tooling but always think my pieces are too dark and not enough highlights. What was your finishing process for the carved pieces? The usual Sheridan antiquing process with what resist, stain, and finish?  --John 

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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

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13 hours ago, Squilchuck said:

Great job! Nice lines and careful work. Carving is beautiful. It has just the right color and contrast - bright. I don't do too much floral tooling but always think my pieces are too dark and not enough highlights. What was your finishing process for the carved pieces? The usual Sheridan antiquing process with what resist, stain, and finish?  --John 

Thanks John! Actually all I used was neatsfoot oil and skidmore's leather cream, and then buffed. No antique or topcoat at all, I managed to get some pretty good burnishing on the HO and it showed up just fine.

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7 hours ago, EdOdgers said:

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.

Ed, thank you so much for all the tips, I really appreciate you taking the time to write it all out! I'll certainly be saving this and looking back for my next saddle.

After riding in it for a week I'm really noticing the problem with the ground seat - It's comfortable but at a lope I find that it pushes me back and makes it difficult to keep my seat in the right place. I like that you measure your ground seat off of the stirrup slots, that will help a lot next time.

Thanks again!

Morgan

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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

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That saddle is a thing of beauty!  Very impressive. 

Really like your tooling and the smoothness of the lines and edges of your rig MLGilbert.  Very nicely done!  

I agree with EdOdgers on ground seat and learned the exact same lesson on first saddle I built.  I can also vouch for his advice on stitching cantle bindings - It is what I like to do and the technique he outlines has helped me a lot.

Very good work MLGilbert - Look forward to seeing more!

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On 12/7/2020 at 9:23 PM, EdOdgers said:

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

I like they way you've set up you templates, I may just have to use your idea there!

On 12/8/2020 at 1:12 PM, rdl123 said:

That saddle is a thing of beauty!  Very impressive. 

Really like your tooling and the smoothness of the lines and edges of your rig MLGilbert.  Very nicely done!  

I agree with EdOdgers on ground seat and learned the exact same lesson on first saddle I built.  I can also vouch for his advice on stitching cantle bindings - It is what I like to do and the technique he outlines has helped me a lot.

Very good work MLGilbert - Look forward to seeing more!

Thank you very much! 

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Morgan,

I'll echo the praise on a first saddle. It looks great. I appreciate you sharing your work and the open critiques. It helps us all learn and that's why I frequent this forum. Looking forward to seeing the second saddle.

Randy

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On 12/14/2020 at 10:29 AM, rktaylor said:

Morgan,

I'll echo the praise on a first saddle. It looks great. I appreciate you sharing your work and the open critiques. It helps us all learn and that's why I frequent this forum. Looking forward to seeing the second saddle.

Randy

Thanks very much Randy!

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I'm sure impressed with your first saddle.  I am hoping to start my first saddle soon.  I have been studying the Stohlman encylopedias. 

 Where did you source your saddle tree?  Did you order the tree with your custom measurements or use a "stock" tree from the maker?

Thanks much,

Rich

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