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DM Tips:Crafts - Saddle making

Historically, the craft of saddle making typically involves more than one craft guild: fusters make the saddle trees; lorimers create the metal pieces for the bridles and saddles; and the saddler is the craftsman that puts the entire saddle together. Depending on the customer, saddles can also be works of art covered in velvet and gold and silver embroidery and accented with gems or covered with carved ivory and deer antler panels.
Saddles are constructs of wood (oak, beech, etc...), leather, metal, and padding that is designed to keep the weight of a rider off the horse's spine. The bars of the tree run parallel to the spine, avoid chafing of the horse. The best saddles are custom made to fit a specific mount however in the main such precision is unnecessary.
The following contains modern method of measuring and making saddles and saddle trees:
1. The shape of the horse's back is measured using a soft metal strip, piece of wet bark which dries firm, etc.

2. The measure is taken off the back of the horse and the shape cut into a block of wood / written on paper.

3. The saddle maker makes a 'tree' ? a U shaped piece of wood which fits the shape of the horse.

4. Flaps of leather are riveted to the the front end of the saddle tree.

5. The webbing ? canvas bands ? are fitted. The longitudinal bands are tacked to head and cantle, the lateral bands are tacked over the front part of the tree only.

6. The edges of the lateral webbing are stitched together.

7. The rear of the saddle is covered by tightly stretched waxed canvas.

8. The bellies are then fastened to each side of the rear part of the saddle. These are wool-stuffed leather pockets which provide padding for the rider.

9. The seat is now added. The seat is a wool-stuffed piece of canvas which is glued to the webbing and bellies and then rolled.

10. A piece of serge cloth is then tightly stretched over the seat and tacked down underneath the wood of the tree.

11. A piece of pigskin is taken and shaped into the cover for the seat, it is shaped and lightly tacked in place.

12. The two skirts are added, these pieces of pigskin leather extend the seat laterally near the pommel. These are stitched to the seat and joined to each other by a piece of cord surrounded by thin leather.

13. The skirts and seat are now permanently tacked down to the tree.

14. The girth straps are now carefully stitched on ? these will hold the saddle in place and therefore must be very strong.

15. Large flaps of leather are now prepared for each side, these will take pressure of the ridernthen tacked to the tree as knees and so may also be padded. The leading edge of each piece is wetted and tacked down over a block shaped like a knee roll (a raised ridge to restrain the knee). It is allowed to dry.

16. A folded strip of panel hide is stitched around the front of the flap to reinforce it and the flap is stitched to the webs.
17. The lower part of the saddle is now made from shaped pieces of leather and canvas with wool stuffing as padding. This will act as padding for the horse.

18. The lower part of the saddle is now stitched to the upper part.

Different types of saddles exist for specific purposes: war saddles for destriers; pack saddles and panniers for sumpter beasts; hunting saddles, riding saddles, ladies saddles, etc... and the Khinasi use another design that is more like a chair that places the riders feet forward. The above indicates the complexity of the work involved in making a saddle.

[top]Related crafts

  • Fusters: Saddle Tree makers
  • Harness makers
  • Lorimers/Lorniners: makers of bits, stirrups, and other metal hardware for saddles and bridles
  • Painters: decorated shields and some saddles that had painted elements
  • Spuriers: makers of spurs

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