Friday, January 14, 2011

Saddle Making Process by Nikki Newcombe of Black Country Saddles

Another in the "Guest Blogger" series - this time from Nikki Newcombe, Sales Manager (and SMS QSF), Black Country Saddles.  This piece was done for a UK magazine, and Nikki kindly agreed to let me reproduce it here.  Here are the steps (and all the work!) that go into making a Black Country saddle.  Nikki, again, thank you SO much for sharing this.  And readers, enjoy! 

Saddle Making Process

Please bear in mind that some of these steps are run simultaneously.

Step 1 – Preparing straps

- straps are individually cut out

- edge stain is applied

- edge finish is then applied

- beeswax coating is then rubbed across

- machine sewn to the nylon webbing

Step 2 – Preparing/webbing the tree

- webbing is strained across the tree in both directions

- straps are attached across the tree

- bellies are cut out, shaved down, machined and fix to the tree

- first layer of seat latex is glued and rasped

- second layer of seat foam is glued and rasped

- flexible points are cut out, machined and attached to points of the tree

Step 3 – Preparing the panels

- panels are cut out using patterns from sides of hide

- hesian lining is ironed on as backing

- tree pocket positions are marked and pierced with awl

- pocket areas are reinforced and machined

- leather facing and gussets are machined to the panel

Step 4 – Preparing the block

- each block is hand cut from large sheets of foam

- then rasped to form the correct shape

- then glued and leather covered

- machined onto the panel

- bottom of the panel is lined

- cord piping is hand stitched into the panel as “casing”

- panel is turned, inside out and edges level out

Step 5 – Sweat flap

- sweat flap is cut from patterns

- edges go through finishing process, stained, edged and waxed

- tacked into position on the panel

- machined onto panel

Step 6 – Blocking

- seat is cut allowing sufficient wrap over from selected hides

- seat is temporarily tacked over the tree

- skirts are cut using patterns from sides of premium leather

- skirt edges go through finishing process, stained, edged and waxed

- skirts are temporarily tacked and positioned on the tree, chalk marks are made to indicate machining

- skirts are then skived and holes made using curved awl in preparation for “blind” stitching/backing

- cantle shape is marked out and then cut from the hide

- cantle is then hesian lined and machined to the seat with welting between

- seat and skirts are then “seemed” with the welting

Step 7 – Seeming/Drawing on the seat

- skirt backs are hand stitched on through the blind holes

- seeming is then pulled over the prepared tree

- seeming is then stretched over the tree with tension from the straining pliers and held in place

Step 8 – Preparing the flaps

- flaps are handcut out from premium leather

- edges go through finishing process, stained, edged and waxed

- knee pads are handcut from selected hides

- foam knee pad are handcut using patterns

- knee pads are machined and then “turned”

- stirrup loop is cut, stained, edged and waxed

- stirrup loop is hand stitched to flap

- knee pad is machined to the flap

- piping cord is covered in leather to create “facing”

- front “facing” is machined to the flap

Step 9 – Fitting the flaps

- flap is positioned on the tree

- flaps are checked for levelness

- headnails, flap saddle nails, nameplates and fall downs are placed and nailed in position

Step 10 – Stuffing Flocking

- front of the panel is stuffed

- panel is “run up” overstitched

- panel is then “flocked” with 100% pure Jacobs wool

Step 11 –Lacing in

- metal D’s are machined into leather

- D’s are attached to the underside of the tree

- gullet foam and then leather is fastened to underside of tree

- bar hole covers are attached to the tree

- panel is fitted to saddle by inserting the points of the tree into the pockets

- “lacing in” holes are made with an awl then the panel is hand stitched to the tree from head to cantle

- Flocked panel is checked for any uneveness, by regulating or mashing.

- Whole saddle is then checked again for levelness throughout

Step 12 – Quality control

- saddle is stamped with model, serial number and of course Made in England

- Cantle badge is added

- Buckle guards are cut out, stamped and then put on

- Overall saddle is run through quality control where it is checked again for symetry, cleaned and finally has its saddle cover.