The one piece of equipment that is almost indispensable is the drawdown stand.
Lee M. Rice, How to Make a Western Saddle, 1953
I recently attend a local heritage days celebration, there were many great volunteers on site who did a great job of engaging the kids in butter churning, quilt making and several other skills.
I did notice a volunteer who was trying to teach two young boys how to rope, the volunteer couldn't handle a rope any better than the boys, he just handed them the ropes and walked away.
I went over and showed the boys how to build a loop, how to hold the loop and rope coil and how to catch a calf with a simple under hand throw. Then I showed how to swing the rope over head - one boy caught on and roped the dummy calf, he was very excited. On the way home I told my wife that I should volunteer next year and be the cowboy.
Horses were always a big part of my life, I rode whenever I had a chance and my brother and I occasionally got the chance to ride for one of our uncles who owned a large ranch and ran about 500 cows. We could rope and ride with the best of them, but back then (1980) the best wages I could get was only $600 a month with no benefits. So, I went to college.
The day after the celebration, I found an old slick fork saddle at a local antique store for a decent price. My idea is to fix it up enough to use it as a prop for my 1880's cowboy living history program. Though to even start the necessary repairs, the first thing I need is a way to hold the saddle so I can work on it.
The stand is pretty much the one that Mr. Rice describes in his essay, "How to Make a Western Saddle", you can find it in the book How to Make Cowboy Horse Gear, by Bruce Grant.
I used some piss fir (white fir, abies concolor) construction lumber that I had on hand to make most of the parts.
The slot that you see in the leg is to accommodate a 2x4 that is hinged to the back leg. In turn a short board is bolted at right angles to the 2x4 to which you attach a 36 inch long strap of leather that goes from the cross piece over the saddle to the other end of the cross piece. You then put your foot on the 2x4 and push down to tighten the leather. You have to figure out a means to hold the 2x4 in place.
It's a simple stand and for something like this, I used power tools to make it, I had other chores to get done the day I made it.
Here's the saddle I bought.
There is no maker mark on it, all I could find was "Warranted Steel Tree" and the number 077. After a little research on-line, I came to the conclusion that is was made for either Sears and Roebuck or Montgomery Ward, and was probably made between 1905-1915.
It has a seven inch wide fork, a fifteen inch seat (a little short for me), double rig (a "rimfire") with a five inch cantle and it's in fairly poor condition. I suspected that the cantle was broken when I bought it, that was confirmed when I got it home. This isn't too big of a deal, once the saddle is down to the bare tree, I'll strip the rawhide covering off the tree, repair the cantle and recover the tree with fiberglass and epoxy. I know that that is a lot of work to do on a saddle that is not collectible, but some one used this saddle hard and liked it well enough to have had some repair work down on it.
It'll be a side hobby this winter, I will need some time away from guitar making!
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