What’s New with Us

This year has been amazing, and we want to thank all our customers who have helped to make 2015 so great.  The shop has been through many changes over the last few years and the patience of our customers is appreciated more than you will ever know.  We have come a long way and more changes are still to come over the next few years.

This year we sold our HWY 21 location and moved!  This move is a transitional move with the future plans of building our dream shop at home.  We are still a couple of years away from that, as we have to get many ducks in a row before that can happen.  Until then, our plan is to focus on the quality of our work and finding better ways to serve our customers.

The demand for our custom work, especially the belts, is overwhelming and we couldn’t be more excited about that!  We are currently completely booked on the custom work for the rest of the year and I’m working on better ways of handling the workload.  But as with anything else, we want to maintain a high level of quality over a high level of quantity.  So with that being said, we thank you so much for your patience as we work through our list.

We are developing a new side of our business as well for 2016.  This side of the business is devoted to teaching and developing resources for those interested in getting into the leather industry.  We have already put into place some small portions of this into the website.  In 2016 we will be focusing more of our time  developing these resources to expand that portion of the business.  We are planning on in-house and online course work and workshops.

As we grow this side of the business some time will be taken away from building our products, but we will do our best to slim the list down some before 2016.  We will be working hard for the rest of this year to complete as much of the current list as possible.  We will still continue to take custom orders as well as our saddle orders, but we will be focusing a certain amount of time to this new and exciting part of our business in 2016.

My hopes with the educating side of my business, is to help guide those wanting to do what we do everyday and hopefully do it better than we do.  The more artist we can help achieve their goals, the more the industry will grow and develop.  Providing more options for the demand from those who love custom leatherwork.

Our New Mailing List!

The response that we are getting from you all when it comes to patterns we have available has been overwhelming and we want to thank you so much for that.  I am working on further developing the website to offer more content through videos, blogs, and a lot more tooling and construction patterns.

We are currently working on getting the platform ready for some exciting new ways for you to consume the tons of content that I want to provide to you.  It will take some time to get everything in line and functioning correctly, but I hope to have the bulk of if in full swing by January 2016.

We have just recently added the ability for us to email you directly any new content that comes available and inform you of new features on the website as they become available.  To the right of this blog you will see a quick form that you can fill out and become a part of our mailing list.  We do not share your email address with anyone so you don’t have to worry about being spammed to death!

Please take the time to get signed up today and start receiving our monthly newsletter which will be packed full of great content and free stuff that we hope will help you in your goals.  We thank you again so much for the support of what we are trying to do through teaching what we have learned in our craft.

We are all set up!!!

shopAfter boxing up our tools and supplies for the first time in ten years, we have unpacked everything in our new location and are back to work!  Last week was our first week working in the new shop and it was great!

We still have a bit of adjustments to make, but all in all we are back at slinging leather!

Our new address is 3805 Ranger Suite A right next door to J Cody’s BBQ off South College.  This location is not permanent as we are preparing for building a facility on our own property within the next couple of years.

At this time the shop is just that… a Workshop.  We do not have a physical store front and we don’t have any immediate plans for one at this time.  Our goal with this location is a place to work and increase our productivity and shorten our lead times on saddles and custom items.

We are still actively taking in repair and new custom work so if you are in need of repair work being done give us a call and you are more than welcome to come by the shop for us to help you.  Or if you just want to see the new facility just call us and come by!

As for keeping up with what is going on in the shop, you can always find the latest here on our website or through our facebook page and other social media!

We are working on some really great new features of the website that should go live by the beginning of 2016!!!

Thank you so much to all our fantastic customers for the support and patience as we make this transition to better serve your needs!  If you need anything at all, don’t hesitate to call or come by for a visit!


It’s official, we are currently in the moving process here at the shop!!!  Starting June 22, 2015 we will be moving our facility to a new location.  We will still be in Bryan, TX and as soon as we get everything moved and set up we will post information on where we are.

Here are a few things we hope to accomplish with our new facility:

  • More private and productive design meetings
  • Better efficiency and faster turnaround
  • Increased focus on our website and social media
  • In house classes and instruction for those wanting to learn

There are a lot of things we look forward to improving on and some new things we can’t wait to get started!  Our main goal with this move is to design a good transition place for us to focus on our ever growing workload while improving our availability through our website and social media.

With this move, there will be many changes to the way we handle custom orders as well as repairs.  We would love to be able to serve every customer that calls the shop, but time in everyday is limited.  At first, our new facility will be appointment only so that we can get all the kinks worked out of the building and also still be available for our customers.

All of our contact information will remain the same other than the physical location.  Thank you so much for the support and patience during this move!  We will post any new information here on the website and if you have any questions or need to schedule a pick up or drop off call us at 979-775-6300 or email us.

Components of a Saddle Tree

tree 2

Many people know that the frame that a saddle is built on is called a “saddle tree,” but they are usually vague on exactly what a saddle tree consists of.  In this post I will discuss the components that come together to make up a saddle tree.

All quality saddle trees are made out of wood… usually a type of pine wood, but many of the high end custom tree makers have their preferred types of wood for different parts of the tree.  I am not, by any means, a tree maker so I will not get into the science behind this.  If you are interested in a very in depth look into the custom tree making world, I highly recommend visiting Rod Nikkel’s Blog.  I do not know Rod personally, and have not used any of his trees yet, but I have followed some of his work for years and thoroughly enjoy his blog for information about fitting, tree construction and much more.

What I want to discuss in this post is the basic components of the tree so that you can see wants under all that leather that makes up your saddle.  The photo above is of a tree sample we had sent to us in what we call “in the wood,” which means it hasn’t been covered with fiberglass or rawhide yet.  We had these samples sent to us for inspection on some new styles we are working on.

  • As you can see from the photo, the tree is not carved from one big chunk of wood.  Instead it is made up of five different parts:


  • Horn
  • Swells or Front
  • Cantle
  • Two Bars


tree 4



The majority of saddles today have a metal horn that is mounted to the swells using screws or bolts.  After the horn is installed the area around the horn is filled with bondo or a filler to make this area smooth and level during the covering of the tree.

The swells or the front, is cut from one piece of wood and this is the part of the tree that determines the style of the saddle.  This photo shows a TM front which would make it a competitive roping saddle.  Many custom tree makers will laminate there fronts from multiple pieces of quality woods and also using a high quality piece of cabinet grade plywood to add strength to the front.

On many trees that have a “wood post” horn, the horn and front are one piece.  This style of tree does not have a metal saddle horn bolted into the front.  The horn and front being cut from one stock of wood makes this style the strongest style available and is seen in many Wade style saddles.

tree 5


The cantle of the saddle tree is much like the front in that it can be cut from one stock of wood, or in the case of high end custom makers, will be laminated with multiple pieces for strength.  Cantles have many different styles, angles and heights.  These are usually set to the specs of the customer and can be changed to suit different needs.

The cantle is also the portion of the tree that sets the seat size.  The cantle gullet, or tunnel, is important in saddle fit as it sets the width of the space between the two bars.  Along with the hand hole gullet, gullet width and bar spread measurements, the overall fit of the final saddle can be adjusted and made to specs for a particular horse.



tree 6


Every saddle tree has two bars and this is area of a saddle that is most important when dealing with saddle fit.  There are many different styles of bars out there but the majority of quality saddles use an Arizona style bar or some variation of that.  An Arizona bar has the best rock, flare and twist of most bar styles and the bar pads are nice and large for more surface area contact.

The discussion around bars can go on for days and everyone has their own opinion of the best bars.  I will wait to dive deeper into this topic on later post.  The main take away here is the parts that make up a tree.



Although the wood that makes up a tree and the way each individual piece is assembled are important to the overall strength of a tree, the material used to cover the tree is actually what gives it its ultimate strength.  The two most popular materials used to cover trees are rawhide or fiberglass.  I will get into the pros and cons of these two materials in a future post.

If you would like to dive deeper into the tree making process, I suggest visiting Rod Nikkel’s website.  He has done a great job of breaking down the science and art behind this process.





My Antiquing Process

So your belt is tooled, dyed, painted and oiled.  Now all we have to do is antique it and we are ready to line and stitch it!  This is the point at which many craftsmen new to leatherwork will make a few mistakes.  I hope that my process helps you to clear up this step.  You certainly do not have to antique your belt but I feel like the antique really helps to make the tooling stand out and gives added tone and depth.

The first thing that most people new to leatherwork miss is that the belt must be sealed with a resist before applying the antique.  Whether you are using the paste antique or the gel, a barrier is needed so that the overall color and tone of the belt is not changed.  The antique is not meant to change the color of the leather, its main purpose is to fill any cuts, impressions, and background texture to highlight and shadow the depth of the tooling.  This is why I get the final color of the belt with oil before this step; because once the belt is sealed I can’t get oil into the leather if I want it darker.

The resist I use, or sealer, is Feibings’ Tan-Kote Finish.  This finish is not a lacquer finish like NeatLac or WyoSheen, which would lift a lot of any paint work off the belt.  If you are finishing a belt that doesn’t have any paint applied then these finishes are great to use.  But if the belt has a lot of paint then it’s best to stay away from these finishes and use the Tan-Kote.  I apply a liberal amount of Tan-Kote on the belt and work to make sure it’s even and doesn’t have streaks.  Now I let this dry really well, at least an hour or so.

Once the finish is dry, the belt is ready for the antique to be applied.  I use square pads cut from scrap sheepskin to apply all my finishes… keep a pile of these cut so they are ready for any finishing task.  I use the Feibings Antique Paste, and the color I prefer is the Dark Brown.  They make a few different colors and they are all fantastic but the dark brown is my go to color for the look I prefer on my products.  You can put a dollop of paste on a small square of plywood which allows you to wipe up as little or as much paste as you need with the sheepskin square during application.  You want to apply the paste liberally to the belt and work it into the tooling in circular motions to be sure and get it into all the cracks and crevices being sure to not leave any areas missed by the antique.  Do this to the entire belt.  It will appear to onlookers that you have gone mad and you are ruining a perfectly good belt, but stay calm and keep working it around.  Here is where differences vary, some say to leave it for a few minutes before cleaning… I say once you’re sure that it’s worked in well, then take a clean pad and begin wiping the excess paste off the belt.  The goal here is to attempt to get as much of the paste off the belt as possible.  You want to be somewhat gentle as to not burnish the grain of the leather but you want to clean it well with clean pads until you’re satisfied that you got it all.  All that should be left is what is down in bevel lines, background texture, decorative cuts, etc.

My final step is to take a magic towel (This is a towel that is used to wipe hands after oiling, antiquing, cleaning machines, wiping knives after sharpening, spilling coffee, etc.) or any soft hand towel, and gently buff the belt to further polish any residual antique and revive any lost luster from the resist coat of finish.  Don’t go crazy here, as previously mentioned, we don’t want to burnish the grain of the leather but we do want it clean of excess antique.

Now turn the belt over and look at the back… see that mess?  If you would have lined the belt before the finish steps, then your belt liner would look like that… I don’t care how clean you think you can be, antique takes no prisoners.

This post is an excerpt from out eBooklet “Custom Belt Design and Layout” we posted a couple of weeks ago.  We will soon have more of these eBooklets available walking you through the step and processes I use in the shop in creating our custom pieces.  If you are interested in purchasing this eBooklet then click the link below and download a PDF copy today!

Custom Belt eBooklet $5 Download
Custom Belt eBooklet
$5 Download

*I apologize for the lack of photos in this post… fast and furious this morning and Freddy is cracking the whip!  I will try and snag some pics during my day and post them in a followup post!  

Basic Floral Layout on a Wallet

The first thing I do is find my center of the wallet where it will fold.  To allow room for the fold I make a mark 1/2″ on each side of center.  I do that on each edge of the wallet, so you should have four marks.

Now I draw a line connecting the marks to define the fold area… I don’t usually tool the fold on my wallets.  Next I set calipers to the width that I want my border and scribe my border lines.  You should end up with two tooling windows ready for design.

 If I’m  putting initials on the wallet I draw these in first.

Here I have placed a flower next to the initials which will seperate the initials from the floral nicely.  Next I draw in some scroll guidelines roughly to determine the flow I want within the pattern.

Now I begin to define my scrolls and vine work using my previous lines as a guide for flow.

I didn’t like how the flow was layed in at first so I just simply erase the two lines I don’t like.  Using the 8B pencil allows me to erase and leaves no impression of the lines behind.

I decided to fill some space with a leaf. When you add leaves and flowers into the pattern, keep the flow in mind so that it bends and shapes accordingly.

As you can see the leaf took a lot of the open space and the gaps can easily be filled now with scroll and vine work.  For the most part, the original flow I sketched in is maintained.  The only thing I really changed was using the leaf to balance the pattern a little.

Let us know what you think about this or any other post on our site by following us on facebook, Instagram or twitter.  Thanks and keep drawing!

My Leather Floral Tooling Process

When it comes to actually stamping out the floral design, every leather tooler is different in their approach.  To me, the main thing that sets a productive tooler apart from the competition is all in their process.  As with any goal or project, the main thing to focus on is devising a plan and executing the plan with great focus and uninturupted deligence.  This is almost impossible if you are taking time to decide which tool to use next, or worse yet trying to find the tool you need next.  I am a firm believer that any task or project involves a certain set of rules and a certain workflow that, once decided upon and followed, lead to high productivity and a cleaner product when completed.  Each and every product has a certain workflow that works best for the environment and the craftsman making the product.  The following is the workflow that I use when tooling the majority of my patterns.

When I begin any floral tooling job, and once my artwork is designed and carved in, I begin with under cutting all small curves within the pattern.  I make it a point, anytime I pick up a tool, to go through the entire pattern performing that tool’s task anywhere I can before putting it down and grabbing another tool. This rule holds true no matter the size of the tooling pattern.  If you will get into this habit then your overall tooling time will decrease greatly.  A lot of time is wasted switching tools or like i said before… searching for the tool you need.  If you have it in your hand, do all you can with it before moving to the next one.  Tooling is about focus, and staying focused on the tasks lead to a completed piece of art.

With under cutting, I recommend having a small, medium and large in order to be able to take care of virtually any size tight curve.  Undercuts are great and keep you from trying to fit a square beveler into a curved line.  I work my way up from small to large when it comes to tool order when undercutting.

After all the undercutting is completed, I move to my crowners.  This is not a tool that is mandatory, but I find them to be a great time saver and they keep my scalloped rounded and clean.  These work much better than beveling around them with a tiny beveler.  These are a one tap tool for the most part and I keep a small and large, these two sizes will handle most any scallop that I need.  I will also use the large one on the tips of any vinework that has its tips exposed and not under a border or other vine.

When all this is complete, I now move on to my beveling.  I use a small, medium and large checkered beveler and I run them from large to small.  I first bevel all the long lines with my largest beveler going through the pattern to bevel as much as I can with this tool.  Don’t force this tool into spots!  If the tool is too big for the line you are trying to bevel then skip it… We will have a chance to bevel that after we are done with all the long lines.  This will be the longest spot in the tooling process depending on the pattern.  This is where time is made because you have one tool to focus on and your running through line by line without regard for what you can’t bevel with this tool… just stay focused and bevel long lines.

Now all the long lines are beveled and you are ready to grab the medium beveler and proceed to working on any lines that were too small for the large beveler.  Same rule applies here, if it won’t fit skip it and wait till you have the small beveler in your hand.  This step goes much faster as you have already beveled the majority of the lines in the last step.  After completing this, I take my small beveler and clean up any small spots I couldn’t get before with the other two bevelers.

The next tool you will use is your bargrounders or whatever background tool you choose to use.  At this point all the lines should be beveled, making the background easy to determine.

When all the backgrounding is completed, now I use my thumbprint on all my flowers, leaves, and vinework.  This is where the detail work begins within the pattern.  The tools you use here is completely up to you.  The point is that now is where your pattern will start to take shape.  I also use my leaf liner where needed at this point.

After thumbprinting, or pear shading, you are ready for any fine detail stamping.  This step depends a lot on the style of the pattern that you are tooling.  Below is an example of the accent tools I selected for this pattern but you can incorporate any tools you like for this phase.  Take your time here and have fun… this is the decorative stage.

When you are satisfied with your stamping work within the pattern, now is the time to embelish with the final decorative cuts using your swivel knife.  Again, this is decorative so have fun and use this oppurtunity to work on your swivel knife mechanics.  Decorative knife cuts are the best training for overall proficiency in using the swivel knife.

Once the decorative cuts are completed the pattern is complete.  At this point, I will sometimes go back and undercut the pattern again just to relift the petals of leaves and flowers.  This step is optional and completely up to you and the final pattern.  If it looks good, leave it.

As I mentioned before, this is my process for tooling and yours may be different.  The main point to focus on is that in order to become more efficient in your stamping while maintaining quality you must have a system that you can work from no matter the pattern.  Tooling is like a dance and as long as you can go from one tool to the next smoothly, you will become faster and faster per piece.


Spacing holes quickly!

When it comes to punching holes for headstalls, tie straps, billets, or any other strap good you may be making, how do you layout your hole spacing?  Most people get the tap measure out and measure and mark each hole so they will be perfectly placed appropriately.  This is a fine way to do it if complete accuracy is mandatory.  If you are more focused on productive use of your time than perfection of hole spacing, try this method for both time and accuracy!

For the first hole use three fingers as your spacing from the tip to place your first hole.  On tie straps, I usually do a full hand width.

After making the first hole, I will use one finger width as my spacing for the rest of the holes.

Place your finger just past the first hole and use your finger as a guide for placement of the next hole.  Continue this for for each hole after.  On tie straps I use four fingers as my spacing.

This is a great time saver and unless you loose a finger in the middle of this,  your holes should be perfectly spaced.