|Project by Thos. Angle||posted 10-13-2007 07:20 PM||10102 views||1 time favorited||33 comments|
I’ve wanted to write this up for some time. In the first photo is a “Saddle Tree”. It is built of wood and covered with rawhide. While you can’t see it this is some of the most tecnically demanding wood work in the world. Ranking right up there with the old time pattern makers.You see, the bottom of the tree must fit the back of a horse and the top must fit the backside of a man(or woman). There are not many places on a saddle where you can use a square. There are very few on the tree either. The tree is made up of 2 bars(the parts that sit on the horse’s back) 1 fork(the front), one cantle(the back) and the horn. There are literally hundreds of fork styles, cantle style, horn styles and a few bar styles.
The bars are made, a right and a left at the same time, on a duplicator. The fork and cantle blanks are made on a multi shaper that does 12 at a time. This is a machine with 12, 3 horse power routers all mounted together and controled by a stylis which is moved over a master. The wood is yellow pine. Then the real wood work begins. The rest is all done with 24 and 30 inch bandsaws and huge belt sanders similar to a hollow grinder. Each part must be hand fitted to the customers specifications. Each order is different because everyone wants a unique saddle. It also must be techniquely correct. The tree is assembled on a series of jigs. It then goes to the rawhide room to be covered. This room smells like a gut pile as raw cowhide is stitched on to the tree. This is one of the most difficult parts of the process. If the pieces are cut too large the cover will wrinkle. If they are cut too small the seams will pull apart as the rawhide shrinks. Teh rawhide is laced together with deer skin rawhide.The tree then goes into a climate controled room to dry. Half way through it is nailed and when finished it is covered with Poly. There are 5 men working in the tree shop I use. Randy Alexander has made my trees for 24 years. The shop is Timberline Saddle Trees in Vernal, Utah.
When the tree arrives in my shop I must put in the ground work first. This is the other part of a saddle you never see. My ground work(second photo) consists of 15 pieces of leather which are laminated and skived down to shape and fit the customer. I use a spoke shave, a heel shave and a skife. There are no measurements except in the makers finger tips. The customer tells me what he wants and I skive and dig until it fits. I then make him sit on it for an hour and tell me where it hurts. Then I dig some more. The top must fit the man and the bottom must fit the horse.
A guy I knew was building saddles. I heard the following about his work,” If you own one of ol’ Hunter’s saddles, you’d better chain it up in the saddle room. The way they eat horseflesh and man flesh, they’ll sure as hell chase yer chickens!” I’ve never yet heard such a comment about my work and hope I never do.
The third photo is of the finished product. While I work wood and build saddles, I am not a tree maker.
-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon