A western saddletree is made mostly of wood sewn into rawhide or as a more modern version – covered with fibreglass. Its role lays in distribution of the weight of a rider and their gear as most effectively as possible. The western saddle is not used only to ride, but also to work with lasso and cattle. Therefore, the tree must be durable properly in order to be able to perform traditional cowboy work in a saddle sewn on it.
Method of My Production
In my workshop, the western saddletrees are made of poplar wood mainly. This material has a great ratio of strength and weight. Another useful feature is its ability to absorb and evaporate water without cracking in the glued structure.
The bars of a tree are not made from one piece, but a semi-finished product is glued to a rough shape first, then clean parts are milled from these semi-finished products. The wood, whatever kind it is, has an unpleasant property of absorbing and evaporating water depending on external conditions. This means that in the case of bars made of one piece, their shrinkage and swelling over time could not be excluded, causing larger or less deformation of the entire tree. No cover, varnish, laminate can prevent completely the penetration of moisture. The use of semi-finished products from laminated wood is the easiest way to prevent these movements in a maximum extent. Today, I use only the CNC technology to product the bars; this technology can guarantee almost perfect mirror-accurate parts on both sides.
The fork is made always of a block glued of six layers most often. The front and back are always horizontal, the inner parts are stacked against each other crosswise so that the resulting part is strong enough in all directions (like plywood). If a horn of saddle is made of wood, such as for saddle of wade type, the whole block is glued together so that the horn is a part of it. In case a metal (mostly aluminum) horn is inserted into the fork, this horn is cast so that it can be bonded and fixed to the fork in the area as widest as possible and into a point as strongest as possible. In addition to the reining horn, I always use anchoring to the "wings" into the swell fork.
The cantle is the only piece of saddletree made of one piece. This is because of its profile that makes this part firm, the wood fibres are horizontal and any hygroscopicity does not have any significant effect on the saddletree geometry.
The saddletrees can be supplied in a raw state if a saddler wants to provide a cover (rawhide or fibreglass) by themselves or via another subcontracting. For demanding customers requiring rawhide coating.