Saddle Trees

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Project by Thos. Angle posted 10-13-2007 07:20 PM 14615 views 1 time favorited 33 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve wanted to write this up for some time. In the first photo is a “Saddle Tree”. It is built of wood and covered with rawhide. While you can’t see it this is some of the most tecnically demanding wood work in the world. Ranking right up there with the old time pattern makers.You see, the bottom of the tree must fit the back of a horse and the top must fit the backside of a man(or woman). There are not many places on a saddle where you can use a square. There are very few on the tree either. The tree is made up of 2 bars(the parts that sit on the horse’s back) 1 fork(the front), one cantle(the back) and the horn. There are literally hundreds of fork styles, cantle style, horn styles and a few bar styles.

The bars are made, a right and a left at the same time, on a duplicator. The fork and cantle blanks are made on a multi shaper that does 12 at a time. This is a machine with 12, 3 horse power routers all mounted together and controled by a stylis which is moved over a master. The wood is yellow pine. Then the real wood work begins. The rest is all done with 24 and 30 inch bandsaws and huge belt sanders similar to a hollow grinder. Each part must be hand fitted to the customers specifications. Each order is different because everyone wants a unique saddle. It also must be techniquely correct. The tree is assembled on a series of jigs. It then goes to the rawhide room to be covered. This room smells like a gut pile as raw cowhide is stitched on to the tree. This is one of the most difficult parts of the process. If the pieces are cut too large the cover will wrinkle. If they are cut too small the seams will pull apart as the rawhide shrinks. Teh rawhide is laced together with deer skin rawhide.The tree then goes into a climate controled room to dry. Half way through it is nailed and when finished it is covered with Poly. There are 5 men working in the tree shop I use. Randy Alexander has made my trees for 24 years. The shop is Timberline Saddle Trees in Vernal, Utah.

When the tree arrives in my shop I must put in the ground work first. This is the other part of a saddle you never see. My ground work(second photo) consists of 15 pieces of leather which are laminated and skived down to shape and fit the customer. I use a spoke shave, a heel shave and a skife. There are no measurements except in the makers finger tips. The customer tells me what he wants and I skive and dig until it fits. I then make him sit on it for an hour and tell me where it hurts. Then I dig some more. The top must fit the man and the bottom must fit the horse.

A guy I knew was building saddles. I heard the following about his work,” If you own one of ol’ Hunter’s saddles, you’d better chain it up in the saddle room. The way they eat horseflesh and man flesh, they’ll sure as hell chase yer chickens!” I’ve never yet heard such a comment about my work and hope I never do.

The third photo is of the finished product. While I work wood and build saddles, I am not a tree maker.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

33 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5246 days

#1 posted 10-13-2007 07:35 PM

I did not know!!
that is fascinating. I’ve always been impressed with a saddle, but now… WOW.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 5332 days

#2 posted 10-13-2007 07:39 PM

nice saddle tree Tom, in fact beautiful, ggreat as Tony the tiger says. The saddle itself is beautiful. do you do all that checking by hand? or what is that called. mike

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14189 posts in 5069 days

#3 posted 10-13-2007 07:42 PM

Hello Tom
Great posting. Never thought about the saddle making process and I find it facinating. The end product is beautifull. How many hours do you estimated are in that saddle ?

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4074 posts in 5150 days

#4 posted 10-13-2007 07:50 PM

WOW. Tom that is something. (Like the quote about the bad saddle).

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over two decades.

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 5048 days

#5 posted 10-13-2007 08:00 PM

Mike, this saddle is full hand carved and lined with glove leather. Carving leather is quite a process. You could check Tandy’s website. The silver is by a local artisan, George Elsner.

Dan, This saddle took about 120 hours. A plain saddle figures about 48 hours. That’s work time not elapsed time.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View TomFran's profile


2964 posts in 5080 days

#6 posted 10-13-2007 08:17 PM

That is a work of art!

So, Tom, did you do the leather work on this!

-- Tom, Surfside Beach, SC - Romans 8:28

View Max's profile


55999 posts in 5359 days

#7 posted 10-13-2007 08:21 PM

What an interesting process. I didn’t know of all the processes that went into the making a saddle. The end result is very nice.

-- Max "Desperado", Salt Lake City, UT

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 5048 days

#8 posted 10-13-2007 09:17 PM

Yes, Tom. it is a product of Thos. Angle Saddlery. I am a one man shop.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View gene's profile


2184 posts in 4970 days

#9 posted 10-13-2007 09:37 PM

Hay! Tom
Thanks for the time you have taken to explain the process. 1st tree a cutter and 2nd a roper ?
You truly are a master of and unequaled in your field and it has be a pleasure seeing your work.

God bless the family

-- Gene, a Christian in Virginia

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 5048 days

#10 posted 10-13-2007 10:15 PM

No Gene, The first tree is a Dee Pickett Roper, used by team ropers. The second is my own Jordan Valley Wade. The type preferred by real cowboys in this area and a lot of clinicians.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View TomFran's profile


2964 posts in 5080 days

#11 posted 10-13-2007 10:19 PM


God has really gifted you with some amazing talent, and you have used it well. It’s great to learn a little about saddle making from a master saddler!

-- Tom, Surfside Beach, SC - Romans 8:28

View WayneC's profile


14359 posts in 5183 days

#12 posted 10-14-2007 04:22 AM

Very cool Tom. Amazing the work that goes into a Saddle.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 5413 days

#13 posted 10-14-2007 05:33 AM

The sheer amount of work that we don’t even think about… even after an hour in the saddle…. WOW. I’m impressed.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3810 posts in 5107 days

#14 posted 10-14-2007 01:54 PM

Do we still have saddle makers in the U.S. and Canada Tom?
I mean “tree Makers”


-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 5048 days

#15 posted 10-14-2007 04:58 PM

Almost all western saddle trees are made in the US. There are about 6 regular makers and probably 8 or nine custom makers. The 6 big shops employee 5 – 10 employees and the custom makers are usually one man shops. The custom boys try to achieve fine wood working results. Not that the regular trees aren’t “custom”.they are made to the saddle maker’s spec’s. My regular trees cost about $250 and the custom trees will go about $450. I personally don’t think the customs are that much better. They look better but I doubt the dimensions are as exact. My concern is always with the horse. The waiting period now for a tree is from 3-4 months. A custom tree will be 6-10 months. There are some tree makers in Australia as well. I don’t know any tree shops in Canada although there are some saddlemakers there who build their own trees. Years ago it was very common for saddlemakers to build their own trees. There are many tree makers in Mexico. There are also two type of trees which use man made material, LaPorte and Ralide as well as some that use fiberglass. The fiberglass trees don’t flex correctly as does wood and rawhide.

Just to make sure it is understood; saddle making and tree making are seperate disiplines.

My base price saddle( plain jane) is $2750. The saddle shown is priced at $5530

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

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