In the last five years, I've fielded countless requests for an English saddle making tutorial. My answer has always been a polite but firm no. "The topic's too big for a blog post," I'd say. "If I ever write all that down, it will be in the form of a book."
To my friends I'd say later, "There will never be a saddle making tutorial on the Braymere blog. Never, ever, ever!"
File that under famous last words.
Earlier this week, British tackmaker, Sophie Lightfoot of Half Moon Studios posted a wonderful series of photos on Facebook explaining how she makes English saddles. I asked permission to republish her words and pictures , and she generously agreed. Although not exactly identical, Sophie's method is very similar to mine. If you follow these steps, you should be able to build a live show quality saddle!
Without any further ado, here's Sophie:
Saddles with Sophie, Part One
by Sophie Lightfoot
First off, you need a saddle pattern. This is the English hunter/jumper pattern I use for most of my tack.Trace your pattern carefully onto the leather. Make sure it is very accurate. Otherwise, when you cut out the pieces, they will be wonky.
The pieces are now ready for skiving and treating.
Skiving is a process that gets rid of excess bulk and thins the leather down so it sits nicely when part of a saddle.
Once the pieces are skived, I treat them with Gum Tragacanth and Edge-Kote.
This seals the fuzzies and colours the edges so they are lovely and neat!
Next, I coat the leather with Super Shene leather sealant. This locks in the colour and makes the leather shine!
I add stitch marks and slots for stirrup leathers and D rings
To make the knee rolls, I cut a piece of foam to fit the shape of the saddle flap. This is glued onto a slightly bigger piece of leather...
and covered with skiver leather. I pull the leather as tight as possible so it lies smoothly over the foam.Once the knee rolls are finished, I glue them to the flaps and add stitch marks.
This picture shows the undersides of the flaps.
The next step is to add piping to the front of the flaps. In this saddle's case, there's one row of black and one row of blue.
Here I have cut slots in the flaps for stirrup bars. I use bent wire attached to leather lace, which is pushed through the slot and secured with glue
Various saddles in progress...
Tomorrow, I'll show you how to take those pieces and turn them into saddles.
P.S. From Jennifer--If you're a Facebook member, be sure to check out Sophie's studio page: Sophie Lightfoot (Halfmoonstudios) for more pictures of her tack and finishwork.