In this video I walk you through my antiquing process for floral tooled leather projects. Many times applying antique to a project you spent hours working on can be a little nerve racking, but I hope that this video will help to simplify the process and help you to get a professional quality finish on your next leather project.
Painting and dyeing leather can be a little scary if you’re not real familiar with the process. In this video I try to give a little instruction on the process I use on a daily basis for many of my leather projects. I will do my best to show you some of the tricks that will help you learn how to dye and paint leather.
I have learned through much trial and error and I hope that this will help you in cutting out as much “error” as possible in your future projects. There is always more than one way to accomplish your goals when it comes to art, but these are the tricks that I have found work best for me and I hope some of them will work for you as well.
Thanks so much for watching and if you like this video there are more on our YouTube channel as well as many more articles on this website. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channel so that you will be notified as soon as we put out the next video.
If you have any questions or comments please email us using the contact form.
Measuring for a custom belt can be a little confusing but getting a good measurement is crucial to insure a proper fit. We also require a good measurement so that any lettering, brands or figures within the artwork are balanced when the belt is being worn.
In this short video I show exactly how to get a true belt size for you using a belt that you currently wear with the type of buckle you plan to use.
Please be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more helpful videos and tutorials. Thanks so much!
Are you wanting to bring life back into that old saddle or your favorite pair of boots? Are not getting the soft feel you are looking for by using just oil? There is a reason for that.
Whether using mink oil, neatsfoot oil, or olive oil, you more than likely are still finding your favorite leather products still seeming a bit dry and stiff. Although oils are essential for the life and care of leather goods, they alone are not sufficient for maintaining that feel that we all want in our gear.
In this article we will discuss the difference between oils and conditioners. The biggest recommendation for caring for anything leather is always oil, but a high quality conditioner plays just as big a role in the life of a leather product.
The Purpose of Oil
For the most part, everyone knows the importance of oiling leather goods to maintain its condition… even though many neglect this vital step.
Leather is tanned in different ways depending on its intended application and some tannages produce a more hardy product that handles the elements better than others. An example of this would be that harness leather is more prepared for exposure to water than a vegetable tanned skirting leather straight out of the box so to speak.
To keep from getting too deep into different leather tannages, let’s just agree that some leather types require more maintenance than others. But no matter the tannage or type of leather, all leathers need a certain amount of oiling to maintain their vitality.
I look at the “oiling” part of leather care like the fuel needed to keep the leather alive. The purpose of tanning is to take dead animal skins and turn them into a useful material by stopping the natural decomposing process of living tissue. Although this process works extremely well, the leather will naturally decompose overtime if left to starve.
The oil is what “feeds” the fibers of the leather and keeps it from dying. Through exposure and use, oil is lost on a regular basis and this supply of oil must be replaced to insure that the fibers do not dry out. This loss of oil happens spontaneously even with leather products that are strictly indoors and experience light use.
Read more here on what oil I recommend for leather.
The Role of Leather Conditioners
So if oil is the fuel that must be periodically replaced to feed the leather, what is the role of leather conditioners in all this?
A good quality leather conditioner can be thought of as the lubrication of a system. A car needs gas to drive you around town and on long trips, but it’s the grease in the bearings that keeps your wheels from flying off the car. Lubrication is important in leather to maintain its soft feel and to protect it from loss of oil through exposure.
The majority of oil evaporation in leather is from moisture and heat. When leather gets wet and then dries, the water that evaporates takes some oil with it. Over time this getting wet and drying out process will rob your leather of essential oil.
Conditioners of good quality natural ingredients help to lock these oils into the fibers by moisture proofing the outside of the leather. Ingredients such as tallows and beeswax help to create a barrier that prevents moisture from filling the voids between the leather fibers. This is where fats and tallows are used to make harness leather during the tanning process to help lock in the oil and create a leather type that is well suited for rugged outdoor use.
Along with creating a moisture proof barrier against the elements, conditioner ingredients also lubricate the fibers of the leather making them softer and more pliable. This helps in the break in time and can actually restore dry stiff leather to a more supple broke in feel.
Conditioners I Recommend
There are many different types of leather conditioners on the market these days and the majority of them are pretty good. I have tried many of them and have pros and cons on them, but there is only one that I use and recommend on a consistent basis.
Skidmore’s Leather Cream is the conditioner of choice in our shop. I have been using this product for better than 8 years and I haven’t found anything that works as well on both new and old leather. I have many customers that even use this product on couches, chaps, or even their leather seats in their King Ranch Ford pickups.
All the ingredients in Skidmore’s Leather Cream are all natural and the cream is completely handmade by Vince Skidmore in his shop. The ingredient in this product that I am so excited about is beeswax. Beeswax is one of the main ingredients in this product and the reason for its superb moisture protection capabilities. Many conditioners on the market do a great job of lubricating the leather but fall short when it comes to moisture proofing.
Although Skidmore’s makes other products for extreme waterproofing of leather as well as products for wood applications, I only have experience with the Leather Cream. In our repair shop, we go through a gallon of this conditioner every 6 weeks or so. Every saddle we clean as part of our repair service gets a wipe down with Skidmore’s. Visit their website or find a can of this in almost any local feed store and give them a try, you won’t be disappointed.
If you found this article useful or have any questions concerning leather care and maintenance, please feel free to send me an email and I would be glad to help. Also, don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to receive the latest from our blog.
This is the last article in our Guide to Buying Used Saddle series, and if you have already gone through the last two articles I hope you found them useful. In this article, I will go over some key areas to look for when assessing any possible repairs that may need to be performed on a used saddle that you are considering to purchase.
You may have found a used saddle at a great price and it’s just the saddle you have been looking for. But a little stay at the repair shop could take that well priced saddle and add quite a bit to your overall investment and maybe blow your budget.
Here, we will go through the four key areas I take into consideration when looking at what repairs a saddle might need when it comes into my shop. You can take these and use them when purchasing a used saddle and this will give you some idea of the amount of money it will take to get the saddle ready to use.
- Key safety areas
- Big repairs
- Minor repairs
- Broken tree or not
Key Safety Areas
The very first areas to look at on a used saddle for repair needs are the parts of the saddle that, if broken or damaged, could cause serious injury to you or your horse. Here we are not so concerned about cosmetics as we are about the structural integrity of the part of the saddle.
Here are the areas that I focus on and what to look for:
Look at the stirrup leathers on the saddle. Are the holes, where the blevins buckles adjust, worn out or cracked? Look for excessive stretching in this area. Sometimes the holes will look like they are more oblong than round and this is usually due to a substandard piece of leather was used for the leathers and they have stretched out quite a bit and they are more likely to tear.
Be sure and slide the blevins sleeve up to expose the blevin buckle pins so you can inspect them and the holes they are in. If you see that the pins are heavily corroded, then they will need to be replaced. I have had saddles brought in and the pin was cracked or missing the post that go into the holes of the stirrup leathers. Inspect the buckles and buckle area well.
Also be sure to look at any rivets in the fenders and stirrup leathers. What we are looking for here is corrosion and dry rot around the rivets. On really old or neglected saddles, you will sometimes see a great deal of dry rot around the rivets which could allow the rivets to pull through very easily.
Lastly, take the stirrup leather above the blevins buckle in the area where the holes are and fold the leather in half. This is a good way to see how dry and brittle the leathers are. When you fold the stirrup leather, you should not see any cracking along the fold spot. If you do then the leathers have not been oiled regularly and are dry and brittle. This could mean a repair in the near future. Here is an article on stirrup leathers.
New Stirrup Leathers and new blevins buckles average cost is $125 – $200
No matter what rigging style a saddle has, this is still a very important area to keep in mind. The saddle rigging is the only thing keeping the saddle on your horse. So with that we want to inspect this area very well for signs of dry rot, corrosion, or tearing.
If the saddle has an inskirt rig then we want to check for corrosion of the rivets holding the metal plate in the skirs and check for any potential cracks of the plate itself. We also want to look at the integrity of the leather surrounding the rivets and make sure that it is not dry and cracked as this could lead to the rigging being pulled away from the skirt during riding.
*Repair of inskirt riggings is usually very expensive depending on the damage
If the saddle has a full double dee rigging then you want to look at the dees to make sure that they are not cracked or worn thin. Also inspect the leather that folds around the top of the dee and attaches to the dee to make sure there is not any dry rot or cracking in this area. On this type of rigging there should be four dees on the saddle and you want to check all four. The nice thing with this is that you can, depending on the problem, repair each dee individually as needed which keeps repair cost down.
New rigging on inskirts I do by the hour at $50/hour repair labor and could run 4-6 hours.
New rigging for a full double dee could run $75 – $125 per dee.
Billets and Tie Straps
Although the billets and tie straps are a cheaper fix when it comes to repairing a saddle, they are still very important when we are talking about safety and so we will visit them here.
Inspecting these items is very simple and as before, we are looking for signs of dry rot, cracking and excessive stretching. The simple thing here is, when in doubt replace them. Don’t take any chances with these items, they are too cheep and easy to replace.
New billets and tie straps can cost $30 – $75 each respectively.
When it comes to big repairs, I consider this in the price I am purchasing the saddle for and make sure that the overall saddle investment including repairs isn’t going to be more that the saddle is worth. Big repair costs can quickly rise to $500 – $1000 if you’re not careful, and that doesn’t include the cost of the saddle.
Some of these big repairs are not necessarily a safety issue nor affect the way a saddle may function, but are more cosmetic in nature. They may just be things you want to do to the saddle to improve the overall look of the saddle or to improve the comfort of the rider or horse.
Sheepskin is a very common replacement and this can be an expensive repair. Replacing the sheepskin is heavy in labor to remove and replace if done correctly. Here is an article on some of the cost in replacing sheepskin.
Another popular big repair that is done for cosmetic reasons is replacing the padded seat. This is usually done to improve the look of an older saddle with a fresh new seat color or to add better padding to the seat to improve the comfort for the rider. Either way, this is a pretty extensive repair.
A few more bigger repairs that are more of a choice than a necessity when comparing to safety are:
- recovering of the saddle horn
- replacing cantle binder to remove, or add someone’s name
- replacing fenders because the lettering on them says “Woman’s Goat Roping Champion”
- Reworking ground seat to change the way it sits
Big repairs can stack up once you get the saddle home and start thinking of all the ways you can make the saddle better, and before you know it you could have bought a brand new production saddle the way you wanted it.
Big repair costs individually average $300 – $500
Minor repairs are just that… Minor. But with that being said, it is still the little things that lead to bigger breakdowns. This is where we consider the integrity of all the little aspects of the saddle that usually go unnoticed until something breaks.
Inspect any lace or latigo ties about the saddle. These areas are usually where the billets and tie straps are laced onto the saddle, any lacing on the riggings, lacing at the top of the saddle fenders, etc. This thin lace dries out faster than the rest of the saddle because of how thin it is. In general, these laces are very easy and cheap to replace and if you are semi handy, you can usually do this yourself.
Saddle strings are similar to lacing in that they get dry easily and are also cheap to replace. Although the majority of strings these days are not really used for their purpose but they sure do look cool!
Other cheap repairs/replace parts include treads on stirrups, hobble straps, conchos, rig catchers, blevins buckles, etc. Take the time to just give these items a once over and take them into consideration with your offer.
Individually these items could cost $8 – $30
Broken Tree or Not
I know we have touched on this subject in previous articles, but I can not stress enough the importance of this point. The majority of the time, if a saddle has a broken tree, it is not worth the cost of repairing it. This is the most important part of your used saddle assessment to insure that you are not purchasing something that you can not use.
Some people are under the impression that if the tree is broke it is still okay to ride as long as you don’t rope anything. This is a absolutely false so do not fall into that trap. A broken tree can cause soreness and other issues on your horse even if you are just riding it around.
Take the time to read our article on broken trees and how to detect one. Any saddle you are looking at should have a tree inspection because many times the owner or seller has no idea that it is broken.
Now you have a little more knowledge in your tool kit to make a more wise decision on your next used saddle purchase. Remember, the one with the most knowledge wins and if you do your research you should be able to sort through the many saddles that are available in the market and make a great choice at a great price.
I hope this series of articles have added value to your used saddle buying knowledge and if so send us an email and let us know. Very soon we will have all this information available in an ebook. We will dive a little deeper into quality, repair issues, pricing of used saddles as well as a more indepth tree inspection and what to look for. Thanks so much for the support and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to be notified when the ebook Guide to Buying Used Saddles is available.
This is the second article of our Guide to Buying Used Saddles, and in this section we will discuss the pricing structure of the different types of used saddles in the market. As we spoke about in the previous article, the buyer with the most knowledge wins.
In this article I will discuss:
- Trophy saddles being worth less because of over supply.
- Why manufactured name brands are a safer choice.
- Why custom saddles are worth the money even when used.
- Staying away from tack auctions and import saddles.
Trophy saddles and their over supply
Decades ago, the trophy saddle was a goal for many contestants and they took great pride in winning one of these awards. Today with the abundance of saddle manufacturers in this country, trophy saddles are almost a consolation prize and many times the contestant would just rather have the cash rather than another saddle he/she isn’t going to use.
The quality of the trophy saddle has greatly fallen over the last 30 years and their reputation isn’t what it once was. With the increase in small associations conducting saddle series events with limited budgets, we have seen many new saddle manufactures coming into the market to serve this need for budget trophy saddles to give away as prizes. With this demand for them, and the increased competition in the market, we have seen even quality saddle manufacturers push their low quality trophy saddle lines into the industry in an attempt to compete. Unfortunately, some of the processes used in manufacturing them at a low cost have crept into their normal non trophy saddles greatly clouding the difference between the two quality levels.
Trophy saddles are a big part of the used saddle market due to the amount of these saddles that are given away as awards at team ropings, cuttings, amature rodeos, and other equine events. Many times you can get a great deal on a decent saddle because the person selling the saddle didn’t have to actually pay money for it. Many times these folks have no intentions of using the saddle and just want whatever cash they can get for it.
If you are looking at purchasing a trophy saddle, I would recommend staying with a brand name that you recognize and enter the purchase knowing that the price of the saddle should not be very high. The thing to remember here is that the saddle was built for an association to give away and with that you can’t expect it to be of great quality. There are some good companies out there building a quality product for these events but I would recommend a saddle from a company that really isn’t known for building a lot of trophy saddles. A company that mainly builds a quality product and occasionally builds trophy saddles for a few select events is less likely to have a poor reputation that comes along with their award saddles.
Why manufactured name brands are a safer choice.
When it comes to non-trophy saddles, name brand manufactured saddles are safer than an unknown or unmarked saddle. There are so many saddles being made now from new manufacturers and this is not to say that they are low quality but unless you have done the research, then I suggest staying with a name you can trust and have seen perform.
Buying a used saddle with a well know name has the benefit of the buyer being able to contact the company and get more information on the saddle and possible warranty details. This also allows you to find out some history on the company and their customer service. Many of the oldest saddle manufacturers in this country have great customer service and can give you some great information on the saddle you are interested in.
With unknown or new to the game manufacturers, you don’t have much history on them and their customer service will be hard to gauge if the company is no longer in business next year… which happens a lot. Many manufacturers come and go so just be mindful of the brand and the company. Not to mention, there are a lot of “American” saddle manufacturers out there who assemble the saddles here but the bulk of the work is done out of the country… or worse, they are completely made out of the states and shipped in.
Stay with the names you know and recognize. If you see a name on a used saddle from 1985 and they are still building new saddles in 2016 then that means something. Their quality may have dropped off over the years, but they are still in business and at least you can talk to someone there who is knows the product and can guide you in your purchase.
Calling the company and finding out the cost of a comparable saddle will give you an idea to the value of the saddle you are looking at buying is. When determining this, I look at five things to determine value:
- Replacement cost in today’s dollars.
- Condition of the saddle.
- Age of the saddle.
- Cost of any repairs needed.
- Market popularity or value.
With this information you should be able to make a sound assessment of the saddles used value and then decide if the purchase is within your own budget.
Why custom saddles are worth the money even when used.
Now we get into custom saddles on the used market. This area can be a little hard to navigate, but with a little patience and research you can usually make a quality purchase. Many times these saddles will fetch a much higher price, but the quality and value of these saddles are much higher generally. This has to do with the supply in the market.
A custom saddle maker building 15-25 saddles a year, will not usually have many available on the used market. Most of the time these makers are building one to two saddles at a time for specific customers, and generally speaking the customers usually don’t ever sell them. Because of this, there are few saddles buy the maker available for purchase in the open market.
The biggest benefit to buying a used custom saddle is that they are well worth repairing. The saddle is usually very high in its quality of materials and the tree is, more times than not, great fitting and structurally sound and strong. I have seen 40 year old custom saddles that we did extensive repair on and when finished the saddle was good for another 20 years.
The hardest thing when it comes to purchasing used custom saddles is recognizing the maker. Many custom makers have a small following relative to the entire western saddle industry, so being familiar with the name may or may not have weight in deciding on its value. The best thing to do is to first find out if the maker is still alive… unfortunately we do not live forever. If he/she is alive, try and contact them and find out a few things about them:
- How long have they been in business.
- What is the primary saddle style they are most known for.
- What is their warranty on their saddles (some makers put a lifetime tree warranty on them).
- How many saddles they have built.
- If they know the saddle you are looking at and what they think it may be worth.
I have seen some really great custom saddles sell for far too cheap because the person selling it had no idea what the value was and to them it was just another saddle. On the contrary, I have also seen a saddle priced way to high from a maker who has only built ten saddles but since it was custom they valued it high. Do the research and after visiting with the maker ask for three customers that are riding their saddles that you can call to get their opinion of their work. Most will have no problem giving you this so that you can become one of their customers.
Staying away from tack auctions and import saddles.
We mentioned this in the previous article as well, but I can not emphasize enough how important this is. The biggest category of saddles to stay away from are the import saddles which are the hot item at the dreaded traveling tack auctions. These tack auctions come to your town about once or twice a year and peddle import saddles and tack that border on dangerous levels of low quality.
The import saddle market has cost my customers hundreds of dollars in repair due to the poor quality and lack of good horse fitting practices. Some of the worst opportunities for you to loose money on a purchase is on sites like ebay where these saddles are sold as well. The saddles are sold for a super cheap price and when you get them they don’t fit your horses and sometimes even lack vital pieces such as riggings (seriously… I have seen them with no rigging or way to attach to your horse).
Many times after the purchase is made and the saddle is delivered or you get home you try to call the company to complain or get your money back and the phone number is disconnected. Stay clear of any import saddles and all tack auctions. These saddles are built in countries that have no knowledge of the performance horse world and the proper fitting of your horses.
When the traveling tack auction comes to the town my shop is located in, it will be about 6 months later and my repair business increases greatly. Although I enjoy the extra repair dollars, I do not like seeing people put money into saddles that are not worth repairing. And many times these saddles are not worth repairing… in the industry they are considered “throw away” saddles.
My suggestion is to always, without a doubt, no matter what your level of riding or amount of riding, stay away from these types of saddles. Save your money and stay away… every time.
Buying used saddles can be hard to navigate, but after time and practice you can learn the essentials to allow you to make a quality purchase and stay within your budget. Remember that the first step in making any purchase is knowing exactly what you are buying and not getting saddle fever and buying the first thing you find.
For most folks, whether selling or buying, pricing of saddles is more of a wet finger in the air kind of math. Spend some time planning and researching and come to the table with the upper hand and you will find the perfect used saddle for your program.
Whether you are looking to buy a used saddle from an individual or from a retail store that sells used saddles, it’s a good idea to do some research in some key areas of the used saddle market. This guide to buying used saddles will get you started on the road to buying a quality used saddle. The first thing to understand is what makes a “good used saddle.” For me the definition of a good used saddle has three key qualities that I’m looking for when purchasing:
- Making sure the saddle tree is not broken
- Knowing what brand the saddle is and whether it is worth repairing
- The price of the saddle compared to the market value
Making sure the saddle tree is not broken
The first thing I look at when looking at a used saddle is the saddle tree, or the frame that the saddle is built on. A saddle with a broken tree is worthless and very seldom worth repairing the tree. So with this being said, my decision can be made first step out of the box if the tree is broken. The saddle tree should be tight without any movement when pressure is applied during inspection.
If you don’t feel comfortable checking the tree yourself, I suggest taking it to a saddle maker you trust to have them check it for you. Most shops will gladly check it for you at no cost and give you their opinion. If you find that the tree is broken, then I would suggest not purchasing the saddle. Tree repair/replacement is a very expensive and labor intensive job and for most saddles it is not worth the cost of repair.
Knowing what brand the saddle is and whether they are worth repairing
If the saddle tree is good and tight, then next I look at the brand of the saddle for sale. This is where a good amount of information can be found on quality and what the saddle may be worth. If the saddle is an American made name brand that you recognize, then you will already have an idea of the quality of the saddle and may have some idea of what it is worth.
Usually if you do not recognize the brand name of the saddle then it is probably a cheap lower quality import saddle. These saddles often are not worth a lot of money and will probably lead to issues with fitting your horse as well as increased repair cost down the road.
Custom saddles may not have a recognizable name either, but these saddles are often of high quality and can fetch a higher used price if the seller knows what they are selling. Do some research here and be sure you know who built the saddle and what their new retail cost is so that you can make a better decision on the used market value of the saddle.
The price of the saddle compared to the market value
The final thing I use to decide on whether a saddle is a good used saddle or not is the price. Pricing of used saddles for most people is more of a spit ball type of mathematics than an actual equation.
The most popular price on used saddles is $500-$600 but this more often than not isn’t an accurate market value. Especially when it comes to the import saddles which can have a new retail price of $450… be sure you are not over paying for a low quality import saddle.
The flip side of that is that many people don’t know how to price saddles so you can sometimes find a high quality custom saddle of a lesser known american custom saddle maker for a price well below his true market value.
The thing to remember here is that buying a “good used saddle” is dependant on your knowledge of the product. It is really easy to make a mistake and buy a used saddle for too much money with a broken tree, leaving you with a saddle that is worthless and not worth repairing.
One thing I always tell my customers is that you will not get ripped off when buying a brand new saddle because you will get exactly what you pay for. As a general rule of thumb, with new saddles the more money you spend the better the saddle you will get.
In the market of used saddles the price you pay for a saddle and the quality of what you get is determined only by your knowledge of what you are buying and the person selling the saddle knowing what they are selling is worth.
Take some time to do the research and decide on a brand and style saddle that you want to purchase. When you have these details, then search the market for that saddle. Don’t hesitate to get advice from a trusted saddle maker when you do find a saddle that you are considering.
From a saddle maker that does a massive amount of repair, I can tell you that we can always tell you which brands are cutting corners and which ones build a quality product.
If you have any questions or have a saddle you would like our opinion on, please email us or give us a call. This article is the first in a series of articles that will become our full Guide to Buying Used Saddles. Subscribe to our Newsletter to stay up to date with us as we post future articles on this subject.
In this video, I go through the tools that I use everyday for my leather floral carving. Everybody has their own preference when it comes to stamping tools and this is what I use.
The tool roll is made out of chap leather and just allows me to be able to roll up my tools and transport them if I want to tool at home without fear of misplacing any tools. I highly suggest getting in the habit of keeping stamping tools in something like this so that they don’t get damaged or lost.
Check this video out and let us know what you think. Also let us know what your system is for your stamping tools and what works best for you.
One of the most difficult steps in building custom saddles is fitting the saddle seat and cutting the ears. In this post I will show you my trick for insuring that every saddle ear you cut will be perfect. Whether you are a beginner or you are a seasoned veteran, this tip will take the fear out of tackling this step. There are many different ways to accomplish this, but here is my process.
Things to keep in mind during the video:
- Saddle seat leather is cased well and completely wet
- Cantle plugs are already in place and cut for clearance of the housings (I usually want a finger distance between bottom of plug and tree bar where cantle meets bar)
- Saddle seat leather has been cut to fit front and tacked in place around swell
- Seat is pulled in place with draw down strap
Video of Cutting Seat Ears on Custom Saddles
Remember to take your time and don’t cut anything till you’re sure the line you drew is where you want it. As you are cutting the line, push the seat back and look to make sure that you are going to have enough to fold over the cantle and that your ear won’t be too low or far away from your plug at the bottom.
If you do this properly, you should end up with plenty to fold over the cantle and have plenty of leather to create a beautiful seat ear for your seat concho.
After this is done and your seat is tacked in place I leave the draw down strap in the seat and put weighted leather bags in the seat for it to dry for a couple days. Once the drying stage is over then you can perform the final cut stage. I will work on a video of this step soon to show you how I go about this step.
Thank you so much and I hope you found this video helpful. Building custom saddles is fun but this step can cause some of us to pull our hair out so hopefully this will help you maintain your hairline. Be sure to email me if you have any questions and subscribe to our youtube channel as well as our monthly newsletter for the latest in content to help you succeed in your goals as a leatherhead!