Way back in November (2017) I attended another training session at the Saddlery Training Centre in Salisbury. Following successful Bridle Making Level 2 and Level 3 exams I was to embark upon the Level 2 Saddle Making training.
According to the City and Guilds Level 2 Saddlery specification I am required to make a pony saddle using a wooden saddle tree. The seat must be pigskin or hide, the skirts and flaps must be solid with knee rolls and gussets being optional. The panel should be a Continental or Saumur type and the filling should be wool only.
Here is my 16.5″ pony saddle wooden tree that I was welcomed with upon arrival at the training centre:
I had to check that the tree was symmetrical before doing anything to it. We laid the tree flat on the table and checked it for a ‘rock’ (backwards or forwards), then we had to position the tree over the side of the workbench balancing on the stirrup irons to see if they are symetrical. We had to find the centre of the tree and draw a line down the middle, with a piece of string and a tack positioned on the centre line we had to measure to each corner of the cantle and the length of the points either side of the pommel.
Pieces of leather were glued to the tree so that webbing could be started. Tension and symmetry of the webbing is paramount as this makes a huge difference to the overall seat of the saddle. Some time was spent getting this right and we finished off by trimming the excess leather.
Some canvas was stitched, tacked and trimmed to the cantle area giving it a slight look of a seat of a saddle.
Side skirt templates were put in position and marked along the edge for later.
Bellies were made and tacked into place on the side of the cantle area.
Side panels made from Plastazote were then made, glued into place and then rasped into shape ready for the Plastazote seat panel to be glued on top. All this was then rasped to a millimetre of its life for the perfect seat shape.
A piece of seat panel leather was cut to shape and positioned over the plastazote seat and tacked into place. With hard work and patience the creases on the back of the cantle were worked on to form a perfect looking back. May I just add at this point that this task was hard work using all the strength I could muster using just some bull-dog pliers.
I then cut my own skirt panels and side flaps out of saddle hide and prepped the skirt panels ready to stitch the welt on. These were then positioned on the leather seat panel marked for precision fit and then all were removed to then stitch together.
The welt (the bit inbetween the soft panel leather and the solid skirt panel) was stitched onto the skirt then the soft leather seat panel was stitched onto the welt and skirt to form the top seat of the saddle (The part of the saddle that the majority of us see and sit on).
Saddle pin holes were drilled at the front of the saddle and the whole seat and skirt panel was positioned back over the Plastazote seat and tacked back into place. Saddle pins were put in and that was the end of Week one of saddle training.
Hope you enjoyed watching the seat of the saddle form from a wooden tree to this final image. Check back for week 2 of saddle training to see the saddle really take shape.