Saddle Shop Life

Putting a binder on.

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We are putting a cantle binder on first thing this morning. The binder has been skived where needed and glue applied, after which we will soak the binder in water so that it will be pliable to shape during installation. The binder will need the better part of the day to dry before hand sewing so we want to put them on in the morning first thing or last part of the day so we don’t waist time in the shop on it drying.

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Big Loop Ground Seats

Here is a quick run down of what projects are in process within the custom saddle department of our shop (this department consisting of Jim and I, ha ha): we have four customers’ orders from our list, each different and uniquely complex, two ranch saddles for the All Around Performance Horse crew (due in two weeks), and all fourteen of the Big Loop saddles.  This is all happening at the same time that the rest of the shop is busy on multiple belts, wallets, scabbards, holsters, saddle repairs and handling customers on a daily basis.  The oppurtunity for chaos is so great that it makes for an exciting work week this time of year.

My goal this week was to finish all the ground seats for the Big Loop saddles and get horns started.  Some of the saddles

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Working hard on the Big Loop saddles

had been started already, some ground seats were done and I wanted to get them all done completely so that Jim could focus on getting the All Around saddles to a point where I could get to tooling fronts or swells (my favorite… not).  Starting Monday with that goal in mind, I made progress and got all the ground seats completed by the end of the week.  Since this is usually the part that Jim takes care of, I was sure to check with him off and on to insure that I was putting the ground seats in the way he had been doing them.  It took me a couple times and a bit of Jim giving me hell, but in the end I got them all in.

Even though Jim and I both build saddles, we each do things a little different and consistency is what we want especially with this project.  For the last couple years, our partnership on saddle making has been him building and me tooling/designing all the artwork.  He is much faster than me at building and I am much faster than him at tooling, so this arrangement works well.  Since these are all rough out, and there is fourteen of them, I have custom saddle seatsto help him with a lot of the building and keeping up with changes he has made all year is something I have to be mindful of.  Even though my name is on the sign and stamp, Jim has the lead on this project… And I think he takes a little pleasure in bossing me around.

As the week went along uneventful and productively, it didn’t start off that great.  By Monday afternoon we were met with 85 degree temperatures in the shop.  Our air conditioner was froze up and not cooling at all.  Thinking back on the last few weeks, we realized that the filters hadn’t been changed and they really needed it.  In a shop like ours the dust can get pretty bad due to the sanding from the finisher so we have to change filters every two weeks or so.  It wasn’t till Tuesday afternoon late when our AC repair guys got us back up and running… till then we just tried not to drip sweat on the leather.

As we set now: ground seats are done, all the horns are cut out and skived, no major mistakes as of yet, a few shop pranks (involving an air horn) were conducted and the new guys haven’t quit yet.  It’s still early with lots left to do…

 

What we like to call, “The Big Loop Project”

So here we are again, our third year making the saddles for the Big Loop Big Money Tour put on by the Phillip Ranch.  This is by far the biggest project that my team and I orchestrate during the year… other than getting ready for the USTRC Finals in Oklahoma City.   The product list isn’t all that complicated, 14 solid rough out saddles with 14.5″ seats.  That doesn’t sound too difficult… because you don’t work in our shop.

My team of craftsmen (and craftswoman… sorry jodi) is by far the best group of talent in any shop… the problem is there aren’t very many of us.  Not to mention our lack of space that is needed to perform such a job… cramped quarters.  All of this combined with only having one sewing machine, only three draw down stands, two head knifes, no clicker, no band knife, and only two people who actually can build a saddle from start to finish.  Every year we build these saddles within a short time frame.

The thing to remember here is that our shop is a true custom shop that produces on average 4-5 saddles a month, each completely different in design and artwork.  We work in a manner that allows us to focus on the specifics that the customer requested and do the best possible job that we can.  Then what makes us want to take on such an endeavor and how do we shift gears to get the product completed at the same quality level and deliver on time?

WE HAVE NO IDEA… BUT WE DO IT!  HA HA!

When we first took the job on, we knew that it would be challenging to say the least.  What we didn’t realize is that in complicating things a bit and pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone, we gain very valuable skills and techniques that allow us to become more efficient throughout the rest of the year while increasing the quality.

The first year was very stressful, constant worry and running close to the deadline… but quality was maintained.  The second year we finished with time to spare and quality increased a little.  This year we started earlier, working the saddles in with our customers orders, and feel more confident than last year.  That is not to say that we are not conscious of the task before us or too comfortable and wasting time.  We still have a lot to learn about the art of project planning and execution, but we do have a couple years behind us now and feel like every year has benefited us not only on this project but on all our projects year round.

So as we have already begun the “Big Loops” this year, I thought it would be fun to give an inside look at how we handle them and the chaos that could possibly insue within our little shop in Bryan, TX.  I will do my best to not only post about the triumphs, but also post on the screw ups and mishaps (hopefully we don’t have too many of those).  I have no idea how many post there will be or if it will be worth reading at all, but I will do my best.  I’m not going to lead you on, there usually isn’t ever a ton of shop drama, fist fights, crying, or firing of employees… but this is a new year so you never know!

We want to thank the Phillip Ranch for giving us this opportunity and all the ropers that spend their hard earned money and time traveling every month trying to win one of our saddles.  We will make sure that this year’s saddles are everything that has come to be expected from the Big Loop Big Money Tour Finals!

Pick Guard

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My brother, Ben Schane, brought his Martin guitar in the shop on a Saturday and after a song and a beer or two we did what anyone would do. We tore the pick guard off and made one out of thin Herman Oak leather. It was a lot of fun and turned out kinda cool.

Third year at the George Strait Team Roping

Well it’s upon us again. Seems like we just finished the Christmas season, and here we are set up at the George Strait Team roping Classic in San Antonio, TX.

This is our third year attending this event and we are looking forward to seeing our friends and making new ones. Like every year in the past, we try to start early and have two or three custom saddles made for this show. Again this year we were only able to bring one. With our growing order list and the demand our saddles have at home, we were only able to escape Brazos county with one.

This is the first time in our three years here that the weather has been bad. It’s currently raining and cold, so the ropers will have to contend with cold fingers if they want a chance at the money, truck and trailer.

Good luck to all the contestants! And to all the spectators, set back and enjoy some of the best team roping action on the planet!

Merry Christmas!

Driving to work this saturday morning, thinking to myself about the list of “have toos” and “if i cans” for the day, it struck me with a bit of excitement and fear. Fear, because i only have two weeks left to finish the gifts that have been ordered, and excitement because we are completing our seventh year in business. Unbelievable!

Seven years ago i was a 24 year old rookie saddle maker putting Vet school on hold to pursue an oppurtunity. My entire life up until this point had been focused on vet school and all of a sudden I had made the decision to give this oppurtunity a whirl. Thinking about it now, I should have been a bit more worried. But as with most of the things that i do, i made the decision and figured all the details would work themselves out.

I have absolutely no regrets in my decision to start DGSaddlery and have enjoyed every minute… Even the scary ones! As a group, we have been truely blessed and so grateful for the friendships that we have made. As we enter the christmas season again here in 2011 and prepare to begin our 8th year in business, we would like to thank all those customers who have supported us and who enjoy our work. Getting better every year is our main focus and we hope that this coming year will be no different. The thing that makes our products stand out is our customers’ imaginations and thanks to them, and our talented artists and craftsmen, we have had the oppurtunity to create some great products.

We hope that everyone has a wonderful christmas and we look forward to 2012 and putting your dreams in leather!

First day of USTRC Finals

Jim and I are in the booth early this morning… Probably a little too early, but what the hell! Our good friend from All Around Perfmance Horse, John Klam got in last night and we ate and had a couple beverages. As usual we solved some world problems and made some predictions of the outcome of the finals.

It’s good to be here again and we are eager to see all our friends and make new ones. We made a new friend yesterday in Lawton, OK after spending the morning hanging out at Howard Council’s saddle shop. When it comes to saddle making careers, Mr. Council’s is by far the greatest. He has built saddles for over 250 NFR qualifiers and it was a true pleasure to spend the time with him.

Nine days of team roping and lots of money given away. If your around come by and visit. If not we will post frequently and fill you in on the excitement.

USTRC Finals 2011 is here!

Well it’s that time again… Almost! We are desperately trying to finish our products for our booth at the USTRC Finals in Oklahoma City. We have a little under two weeks and lots to do still.

As with every show we attempt to plan ahead and have a jump on our inventory, but with the orders we already have it always seems to create a crunch. We aren’t complaining! We love that we have a long list of customers that have ordered from us and they have priority.

Have no fear, we will finish and have plenty to look at and purchase at the show this year! We have five saddles that we intend to finish and many small items to help with those Christmas gift ideas.

As always, Jim and I will be prepared to take custom orders on any items or saddles to get you exactly what your looking for. Be sure and come by our booth in barn three and visit. We are really hoping you like our new bigger booth and look forward to seeing all our friends and make new ones as well.

Growth Brings Change

I want to thank all our customers for making 2011 a great year so far and with all this growth we at DGSaddlery are doing our best to insure the quality and timely delivery of all your custom leather goods.

With my time being better spent designing all the artwork that is requested on our beautiful saddles and gift items, I have very little time left to handle a lot of the day to day management duties. So as of last week Jim McFerrin will be in charge of all saddle making in our shop. Jim has been with us for five years or so and has built probably 90 percent of the saddles that have come out of our shop. Jim has over 35 years of custom saddle making experience and has used that knowledge to help us design the look and feel that has made our saddles the best on the market. With him handling the build process from time of order to delivery, will insure that our saddles quality remains consistent and completion is timely.

When it comes to small items such as custom belts, wallets, chaps, and other gift items, Jodi Finke will be in charge of all the duties there. Jodi has been most of our customers’ go to person and now she can devote more energy to managing those jobs to completion. Jodi has been with us for four years and is a true asset to our system.

Feel free to call the shop and talk to either one of these great craftsmen and don’t worry, I am not going anywhere… I will be at my table drawing and tooling. I will still be building saddles and other items, but that depends on what the bosses tell me to build when I’m not drawing.

Thanks again and we look forward to finishing the year as good as the first half!