saddle repair

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!

Third post on the retree of a saddle

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The retree is almost over, at least for the hard part. Once the swell cover and cantle back are put back on the seat is installed.

This is where we see how well we did so far. If all is well, then the seat should fall right in and even match up with the old wear marks around the swell cover. The seat is pinned in place around the front so we are sure it is where it should be while we glue it in.

We glue the rear of the seat first with two coats of glue. If we are right the seat should line up with the cantle plugs at the back of the Cheyenne roll and be even. If you have a little difference here you can sand off to even it up.

Once the back of the seat is glued down then we move onto the binder. Most of the time the binder is destroyed during it’s removal, here we got lucky and were able to use the old one. I prefer this because it makes the saddle look more original when completed. The less new leather you have to use the better the job finishes out. My motto with repair is do your best to cover your tracts so that it looks like you were never there.

On this particular project we had to make some compromises in sewing the binder. I usually like to always stitch back in the old holes, but with the age on this saddle we couldn’t do that for the new stitches tearing through. My fix for this issue was to stitch through every other hole, with as close as the holes were to start it worked out well and looked fine.

Last to do here is glue down the front of the seat (with two coats). The hardest part of this job is completed now and all the parts are ready to be washed and oiled. This is done no different than a normal clean, oil, and polish. I do this to all the retrees that I do to insure that it gets a good oiling and looks great for the customer.

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Here you can see that the saddle is complete and ready to be put back to work. Aside from the new horn the saddle looks no different than when it first came to us, except being cleaner… And now the tree isn’t broke.

Let us know what your thoughts are on putting a tree in a saddle. I do probably two a year, and I credit that to me trying to talk folks out of them. But for some situations it is worth the money, and for this customer it was well worth it! He was glad to have his rig back to work out of.

Rigging and ground seat of the retree

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No matter how careful you are when taking the saddle apart, putting a new tree in a saddle can still be a very difficult process.

Here we have cleaned up the original rigging of this saddle and installed it on to the repaired tree. This is where I don’t worry so much about putting them back EXACTLY where they were to begin with. With this particular saddle, age and use has probably stretched the rigging somewhat out of alignment and proper alignment of the rigging insures the saddle rides square on the horse. For this reason, I install the riggings without paying attention to where they were and instead putting them where they should go. Sometimes you have to accept a little difference to get there but not enough that will affect the rest of the job.

Once I have the rigging installed I move on to the ground work. Luckily with this saddle we were able to utilize the ground work completely which saves some time. Each piece is installed just as it was when the saddle was first made. The great thing here is that all other parts will fit as original (seat, cantle back, plugs, and so on). On the occasion where these pieces can’t be used, you would install the groundwork as in a new saddle keeping in mind the way the old seat and such will fit with what your trying to recreate. This adds lots of time and labor.

After all this is completed, the cantle back and front should drop right in place and with the help of glue and elbow grease you are ready to put the seat in.

Occasionally when putting the front on, you will notice a difference in the horn hole thanks to the new horn cover. Everyone covers horns different and the original may have been thinker or thinner at the base. My suggestion here is to cut it bigger if it’s too tight (which is better) and if it’s too big, your only hope is that the glue will help to hold down the slack around the base.

The next post we will visit about installing the seat and binder which gets us to the point of washing and final assembly.

The work involved in a retree

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This will be the first of a few blogs on putting a new tree in a saddle. In my opinion few saddles are worth the money to put a new tree in them. The misconception among most folks is that putting a tree in a saddle is something easy to do and is cheaper than getting a new saddle. Both of which are false.

For most saddles, a broken tree should be the end of the road. The thing to remember when contemplating the retree of any saddle is the age of the saddle. When we do a retree in the shop, ALL the original parts are used (except the horn and sometimes the binder) so the customer is getting back the same old saddle minus the broke tree part… And less money in their pocket.

This brings us to the price of the job. We charge a minimum of $1000 including the tree repair but not including any parts that have to be replaced, if any. The thing to consider here is what the saddle would be worth after the repairs. A custom saddle in good condition may have merit but a $600 saddle in poor condition probably not.

In these photos we have had the original tree completely restored and fiberglass covered making it as strong or stronger than when it was new. A new horn has been applied and we begin the retree by putting the gullet cover on and working on getting the original ground seat pieces back in place. This insures that the saddle sets as close to the same as it did before it was broken. Using the old pieces is sometimes difficult and we will sometimes have to install a completely new tin strainer and ground seat because they get destroyed taking them out. This adds cost to the job.

As you will see in the next few postings, putting a new tree in a saddle is anything but simple and very labor intensive. If a saddle is built correctly, it should be tough… Saddles, when built right, are not built to be taken apart.

When to replace stirrup leathers

“if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. This seems to be the thought with most people when it comes to their saddles, but this idea could lead to having to fix some body part when it comes to stirrup leathers. Some get lucky and the stirrup leather will brake right as you put your weight in the stirrup getting on or off your horse. Unless your riding a colt, this is usually in eventful. Other unfortunate souls will be leaned out over a steer or yearling about to take that perfect shot when… Here comes the ground. Ouch!

Take a second to check your leathers every so often. Look for heavy corrosion of the Blevins buckle, this can lead to the actual buckle braking. Look at the holes, are they stretched out or have cracking around the hole. Also, try to fold the leather in a couple spots. If you see the leather crack at the fold then it is probably time for a new pair.

When you decide that you need new stirrup leathers, or after the accident, replace both sides and DO NOT patch them. Patching stirrup leathers may be cheaper, but you are only buying time till… Here comes the ground! Ouch!

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!

How do I clean my saddle?

Saddles generally get abused and thrown back in the saddle house or trailer till their next use. Many times and for most folks they get oiled little and washed even less. Dirt is a big problem for leather because it draws the oils out and dries the leather if left for extended periods of time. This leads to dryrott and damage that can lead to expensive repairs.

I recommend washing saddles and leather goods with a mild soap like Ivory dish soap or Murphy’s Oil Soap. Scrubbing this in with a soft brush and rinsing with warm water will get the dirt up and away from the leather. Once completely rinsed, set outside and allow to dry fully before conditioning leather with oil or leather conditioner. Not allowing the leather to dry fully can lead to mold growth.

It helps to take the saddle apart as far as you feel comfortable, this will allow you to get to the places that are hard to reach. A lot of saddle repairs are needed for the small, but important, parts that are underneath the main pieces of the saddle(rigging, connectors, stirrup leathers, etc).

Keep your saddle clean and maintained and you can save a lot of money on repairs. If all this sounds like too much work or just not your thing we would be happy to do this for you. We offer a complete Clean, Oil, and Polish in our shop as do many other saddle shops. I recommend this once a year with proper quaterly maintenance depending on use.