Spring is Almost Here!!!!



It’s March and we are still dealing with cold weather and many of us across the country are experiencing a fair amount of “winter mix” weather, but the fact is that winter is almost over and sunny days are soon to come.  With that, now is a great time to take a sunday afternoon and go through your tack room.  The majority of folks are fair weather horsemen and haven’t paid much attention to your saddle since before the holidays.

This is the time of year that our repair shop gets pretty busy and, depending on the repair, your normal wait on getting something fixed could be a couple weeks or better.  Now is a great time to go through your saddles and check key areas that may need attention before your right in the middle of the season and your saddle is in the shop.



Here are a few areas we suggest you check over for signs of potential repairs needed:

  • Check the stirrup leathers and buckles- your looking for signs of severe cracking or tearing around the adjustment holes where your buckles fasten.  Also check the buckles for corrosion around the posts and rivets… this can lead to the buckle breaking or pulling out during use.
  • Check the fenders/sweat leathers for damage- fender patches are our most common repair in the shop and we can usually patch most tears or damage on fenders without having to replace them.  The most common damage is found at the leg of the fender just before where the stirrup hangs.
  • Check the riggings – Whether you have inskirt rigs, flat plate, or a standard double dee rigging, you want to give it an overall look to make sure you don’t have any dry rot or stitches coming loose.  Check any rivets for corrosion and also give the hardware a look to make sure you don’t see any worn spots that could lead to breaking.
  • If you do a lot of roping out of your saddle normally, take a minute to check your tree for any breakage or movement that you may not have noticed before the offseason.  This is accomplished by standing your saddle up on its horn on a hard concrete surface and pushing the cantle downwards towards the horn.  If you notice more movement then usual then you may have a broke tree.  If you question this I suggest getting an opinion from someone who knows what they are looking for.  We offer this at no charge and can tell if its broke in a few minutes
  • Last and equally important is to check all your small straps and connections on all your gear.  Curb straps, girth connectors, latigos, off billets, tug straps, bit hangers, headstall ties, tiedown poll straps, etc.  All these little things are just plain annoying when they break… and they always break at the most annoying time.  Just give them a quick look.

Most repairs can be caught early, aside from a wreck or accident most things don’t get weak overnight… they have been neglected or used up overtime.  Taking this small step before you get back into the busy season can keep you out of the repair shop and from possibly getting hurt.

Oh and while your killing a sunday afternoon doing this, maybe spill some oil on your tack and saddles as well.  Good luck and if you have any questions send us and email!  Happy spring folks!

A video tour of Herman Oak Tannery.

Have you ever wanted to see the leather making process in action?  This a video tour of the Herman Oak Tannery where we get the bulk of our tooling and saddle leather.  Herman Oak is the industry standard for  quality when it comes to high end custom leather goods.

We think you will enjoy this video tour and getting a chance to see the hard work and dedication that goes into every piece of leather from the best tannery in the country!


Is that a Phonebook?

The internet brings us many things in our day to day routine: weather, news, research information, emails, connections with friends/family and much more.  With Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, or whatever other platform we use, we virtually have all the contact information and ability to actually contact those people in some fashion instantaneously.  So if this is the case then what person in their right mind would still be trying to push phone books on people as a form of advertisement for their business?

I honestly thought the days of the dusty cumbersome phone book were long gone… Then a salesman walked into my shop peddling his wares of yesteryear.   He was dressed sharply and had a salesman part in his hair that could be spotted by a keen eye right away… this fella was a classic salesman.  In his hand he was carrying a phonebook, that’s right, a phonebook.  I have a vague memory of such books from my childhood.  I was sure that the tree hugging liberals must have rounded up all the forgotten relics and recycled them or used them as mulch in their herb gardens.  But they must have forgotten one, and here was a man standing in my shop in 2014 getting ready to lay down his sales gibberish to entice me to advertise in the phonebook?

I found this situation so funny because there are many companies in this country that are so far behind with technology and even the consumer culture.  With any business you have to study your target demographic and find out the trends and nuances to better target your marketing to make sales.  What business, like a phonebook agency, looks at their target (businesses) and thinks that the phonebook is still a viable advertising platform in 2014?  With all the free social media platforms available and the relatively low cost to build a website today and have immediate contact with your core demographic at all times, spending money to advertise in a paper book doesn’t make any since.

Honestly, when is the last time that you have picked up a phonebook to look up a number?  Hell for that matter, when was the last time that you saw your grandmother pick up a phone book to look up a number!  Everyone just about in this country carries a microcomputer in their pocket that can INSTANTANIOUSLY find any phone number in the world!  Why would I waste time stumbling around in a phonebook looking for a number that may not be in there because the business owner figured out that it wasn’t worth spending $5,000 a year for a phonebook add when Facebook was free.

So what happened with the classic door to door salesman in my shop?  I politely told him I wasn’t interested and he said “Well don’t you want to advertise and get more business?”

To which I responded, “Sir, the free advertising I do keeps me covered up in work.  I can assure you paying for advertising is not something I can do.”

Padded Seat vs. Hard Seat

Everyone has an opinion on what feels comfortable to them in a saddle seat.  Some folks like a plush cushy padded seat to make their ride more pleasurable.  Some prefer the other end of the extreme and want nothing between their tushy and the ground seat but a piece of skirting leather.

I believe the latter is the way to go.  As a craftsman, I spend quite a bit of time applying pieces of leather and sculpting/skiving each piece to insure the best possible balance and feel in each and every one of our saddle.  The last thing I want to do is cover up my hard work with a thick layer of synthetic foam that will completely change the way the saddle rides.

For the most part, consumers have grown accustomed to seeing saddles of all style with padded seats.  This has become the norm and because of that many folks judge the quality of the ride by the type of padding used instead of the quality of the ground seat the saddle has… in fact, many consumers have a limited understanding of what a ground seat even is much less what a properly crafted ground seat feels like.

If the ground seat is so important then why do so many manufacturers cover them up with padded seats?  The answer has two parts.  First of all, many manufactured saddles’ ground seats don’t get much attention in the build process.  Sometimes there isn’t even any kind of leather ground seat installed at all and the balance and feel of the saddle seat is left up solely to the tree maker… This seldom creates a seat that is properly fit for the rider.  With that, the padded seat is used to cover up poor craftsmanship in the ground seat and hopefully create a feel that is good enough to get the saddle from the sales rack into your tack room before the padding breaks down and you’re left with a poorly seated saddle.

The second reason so many saddles have padded seats is due to the more economical way manufacturers cut and install the final seat in their saddles.  The seat of a saddle is the biggest piece of leather that is cut in the entire saddle build and therefore the most expensive.  In order to cut cost some, the majority of manufacturers cut and install what is called a “three piece” or “split” seat.  Basically, instead of one big piece they cut two seat jockeys (left and right) that they skive and sew together in the middle of the saddle seat and then sew the padded seat over the top of the junction giving the finished product the appearance of a full seat.  Again, the padding they use covers the overlap and any bumps where the two jockeys come together… at least until the padding breaks down.

Padded seats definitely have a place in certain types of saddles and many manufacturers have a great seat in their saddles despite the three piece seat.  We often install padded seats in our saddles (no three piece seats allowed in our shop though) if the customer request it.  My only issue with them is the fact that the seat will change some over time due to the padding breaking down and also its something else to wear out and need replacing.  Since I work so hard to insure the quality of the ground seat in my saddles, I use a very thin foam that limits the change initially in my ground seat.

Many folks think the more padding the seat has the more comfortable it will be on longer rides.  This is not true at all.  A thick amount of padding lifts the rider out of the saddle to a position of being on top of the saddle instead of “in” the saddle allowing for a more balanced ride.  If the ground seat is done correctly, a hard seated saddle is much more comfortable and allows consistency over the life of the saddle.

If you want some proof of my opinion, look at the saddles that full time cowboys ride on big ranches where they ride from morning till night… you won’t see padded seats in many of those saddles.  Cowboys who are in a saddle all day seven days a week swear by hard seats.

Broken saddle tree?

So your tree is broke, what do you do with your saddle now? Personally I say throw it away. Most saddles out there are not worth replacing the tree in. You would never pay someone to replace the frame in your pickup after a wreck, saddles are the same.

Replacing the tree in a saddle is labor intensive and after its over you still have the same old saddle. The better option is to get a good used saddle that is in as good a shape and many times you can do this cheaper than replacing the tree.

If the saddle is something that seems impossible to replace then its worth using the broken tree as a model and getting a custom saddle built as close to it as possible. Most custom shops like us have the ability to reproduce even the most specialized trees. If that seems like too much of an investment then its not worth replacing the tree.

Most true custom saddles come with at least a ten year tree warranty if not a lifetime warranty like ours. In this case the saddle from the start is worth the trouble of tree replacement and should be of no cost to you.

When deciding what to do with that saddle with a broken tree, compare what is TRUELY worth to what it will cost to repair. Most of the time it isn’t worth the money… But it may make a great bar stool!

Killing mold on leather!

If you live in the south where humidity is high, you will run across mold on some of your gear from time to time.  This usually happens when you take a break from the horse world for a bit and keep your gear stored in a dark saddle house or in the tack compartment of your trailer when temperature and humidity are at their worst.

In my opinion, mold is a good sign that your leather goods are healthy enough to support the life that is mold.  By this I mean that you have done a great job of keeping your tack and saddles oiled up.  Mold will not grow on saddles or leather that is dry rot and dead…  nothing available for the mold spores to live on.

*SIDE NOTE:  Letting your leather starve from a lack of oil is not a good mold prevention game plan.

Since seeing mold on your stuff after a period of storage is a good thing what’s the problem?  Mold isn’t something you can just not worry about.  After time, mold will stain the leather and deprive the leather of much needed oils and nutrients that are important to insure that your tack stays soft and comfortable not to mention safe.

The thing that I recommend for killing mold is simply vinegar and sunlight.  Mix a spray bottle with half vinegar (white vinegar is fine) and half water, then spray the infected piece with this solution and set out on a sunny day to dry.  If your saddle is covered in mold it won’t hurt to spray the entire saddle down with this and set outside in the sun.  You don’t have to soak the leather, a little will do.  Once sprayed down, wipe the mold away with a cloth.  The vinegar should kill the spores which can remain in the leather for years waiting for another chance to grow.

A dehumidifier in your saddle house will cut down on the mold for those saddles stored for longer periods without use.  When it comes to your tack compartment on your trailer, if your done for an extended period of time take your gear out and store in your saddle house.  The absolute best place to store all your tack and saddles is in your house where its climate controlled.  Unfortunately, most women don’t take too kindly to tripping over bridles, breast collars and saddles when their walking through their home… but give it a shot anyway and let us know how that turns out.

Don’t freak out over a little mold… grab that bottle of magic mold killer you mixed up (and labeled so your not spraying your horses for flies with vinegar) and fight back!

Hard to reach spots?

Having trouble getting to the tight areas when oiling that saddle in your tack room? Here’s a trick I have learned!
Pam makes a spray olive oil that, although maybe a little pricey, works great for those spots a big fat hand won’t fit! Since we oil all our leather products with good clean olive oil, this oil in a spray can is a great complement in our shop and takes a lot of pressure and worry from the hard to reach!
Try this out and let us know what you think!

2013 Big Loop Big Money Tour Finals

This is our fourth year to build the trophy saddles for the Big Loop Big Money Tour Finals put on by Philipp Ranch and we are so excited!

Held at the Brazos County Expo Center in Bryan, TX, the weekend includes team ropings from an Open division down to a #8, kids dummy roping competition and Philipp Ranch Production Horse sale! Starting Friday July 19- Sunday July 21st dont miss this great event!


For more information on this event and the production sale visit Philipp Ranch!

What is up with all the skulls?

Over the last few years the leather industry has been over taken by an unlikely trend in the artwork that adorns our saddles and tack.  The days of the traditional oak leaf and acorn floral, the simple basket stamping, or the intricate Sheridan style tooling being the three main options for our selection of artwork available to us are gone.  Even though these are still the favorite for most western folks who want personalized custom leather goods, today we notice artists in the leather industry breaking out of the mold a bit and designing beautiful pieces with everything from game animals to Japanese coy fish with full color.  But in the mix of all the new art being mixed into the traditional floral, the skull has probably received the most attention… like it or not.

Custom tooling being my specialty and being the bulk of what we do in our shop, we get many folks who want to take the artwork on their custom projects to a nontraditional place. IMG_0420

We have made belts with wildlife scenes, angel wings, mermaids, bar maids, hog dogs, bull frogs, cactus, swords, naked ladies and the list goes on and on and on.  But the most popular thing we see people wanting is skulls.

We do many different kinds of skulls, from sweet happy sugar skulls to demon looking zombie skulls.  I was never really into the skull thing until we started doing more and more of them and now I really enjoy drawing them.  A belt is that small accessory item that is becoming an extension of ones individuality and personality almost like a tattoo.  For those too fearful of the pain of the needle, a belt is a good second choice and isn’t permanent!

The skull theme stuff has made its way into some of our saddles as well.  We have completed three skull themed saddles to date and they were all three the most popular of all the saddles we have built.  Not all of the feedback was good, some people have strong opinions when it comes to skulls and that’s cool. closeupsaddle

The main thing is the person who ordered it was completely satisfied with it.  As a custom shop, we have to build and design to the specs of the consumer and that has a big effect on the artwork that we do.  I really never thought that I would be tooling a topless she-devil with horns and a tail sitting atop a pile of bone chilling skulls for the artwork on a fender for a custom team roping saddle, but that’s what we did.IMG_0655

These days it seems that even the most conservative folks want a little edge in their lives.  We see skulls and the like on clothes, truck decals, belts, wallets, caps, and many other consumer products.  I don’t believe the skull trend has anything to do with death or devil worship by any means… it’s simply a fashion statement now that works for anybody who likes them.  The sugar skulls are very popular with their happy expressions and bright colors, while the more bold evil skulls say “Hi I’m Tom, glad to meet you… by the way I’m a potential bad ass!”  Whatever the statement or style one is trying to portray, the skull can be used to accent that and stay in style with the fashion sense of the masses… for whatever that’s worth.

I am eager to see what I will have to learn how to tool into leather in another 5 years just to keep up with what’s hot… feel free to comment on this blog to give me a heads up if you know what that might be!!!