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Saddle trees and changing back shape
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AdamTill
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 Posted: Thu Jul 15th, 2010 04:57 am
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Home stretch on the tree...now just down to the fibreglassing and varnishing.

Screws to hold fork in place (2" at tip, 2.5" #8's elsewhere):


Dollops of filler, sanded flush afterwards:



Drilling cantle holes:



Finishing with a long drill:



Gluing cantle in place:



Cantle screws (3.5" countersunk 0.75")...basically given up on the kevlar bindings:



Seat filler and cantle fairing:



Finished tree in the rough:



2 layers of 'glass:




Last edited on Thu Jul 15th, 2010 05:01 am by AdamTill

AdamTill
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 Posted: Sat Jul 31st, 2010 02:48 am
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Finishing off the 'glassing process...again, two layers on each surface.

Cantle Front:


Boo forgetting to sand out the blemishes at the top of the cantle...oh well:


Fork front:


Fork back:


Right fork prep:


Glassed:


Left fork prep:


Glassed:


Next up was 3 coats of epoxy to fill the weave of the cloth, sanding heavily between each coat with 60 grit sandpaper taken from a belt sander band.

After that, I gave the fork and cantle 3 coats of spar varnish, wet sanding with 220 grit paper between each coat.

AdamTill
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 Posted: Sat Jul 31st, 2010 03:03 am
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That means...shockingly...I'm finally finished the tree! Whew...now just need to build the rest of the saddle :)

From the side:


Head to the side:


Head down (apologies for the lighting):










Definitely learned a lot, and have a number of things that I'd do differently next time.

For example, I'm not quite sure how the tree will fit when I slim Tindur down properly, but I suspect that I'd cant the fork forward a few more degrees next time.  I'd probably slim the front lip down a fair amount, and add a bit more taper to the front in general.

On the cantle side, I suspect that a bit more of an even bend through the cantle next time would be wise, along with a thicker top lip. I'd also be a bit more careful with the filler, since filler that's invisible during the dry sanding phase can become painfully obvious under the gloss coats!

The bars are generally okay, but could be thinner in the rear (and especially) the front. Would save a bit of weight, and make for an easier time fitting the jockeys closer. The stirrup slot should work okay, but I suspect that making allowance for a bit more stirrup swing will be wise.

The last "out there" idea that I might incorporate is a channel down the center of the seat that I've seen done in one mfgrs english saddles, which is supposed to leave a bit of clearance for the rider's tailbone. Seems like a sensible idea that I can directly relate to, and I just listened to an interesting podcast on the subject. I'll mock something up to see if theory matches practice, given that it doesn't always!

All in all, been fun so far, but REALLY looking forward to getting a rideable saddle together!

kuuinoa
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 Posted: Sun Aug 1st, 2010 01:27 am
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That is a beautiful tree!  I've been following this (somewhat) with interest.  I haven't always understood it all, being one to swim in deeper waters with the big fish when I'm just a tadpole, but I've enjoyed it.  Beautiful tree.

~K~

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Aug 1st, 2010 05:24 am
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Adam -- there are indeed a number of things you need to change about this tree, and also about the way your 'eye' works.

First, you're placing the tree on the horse wrong. In these photos, it is too far forward until the animal puts his head down and this motion of his body causes the saddle to slide back into the proper position.

Second, I want you to look at the rear view photo. You see the bottom edge of the cantle? Where do you think that's going to go, Adam, the moment you sit down on him? You're going to have to carve it out. There is a reason why a saddle has a gullet down the center, which is to prevent any portion of the tree or the seat or any other part of the saddle, or the rider's body, from touching the dorsal processes of the animal's spine. Indeed this is the reason why saddles must have bars: so that the bars may act as 'footings' to uphold whatever construction there may be above them, for the same fundamental purpose.

Third, you can see for yourself in the 2nd-to-last photo, the one shot 3/4ths from the rear, that again, as soon as you sit down in the saddle the rear portion of the bars are going to gouge the horse in the loins. No padding or rigging can make up for this. Neither can shortening the bars, which would unbalance the whole system.

In short....yes, it's a learning experiment. But Adam, in all truthfulness, I would not, if I were you, waste any effort on putting a housing on this tree. You now need to build another tree, one that actually fits the horse. You did good in some areas, particularly through the front end of the saddle, where you learned from Dave G. to put enough flare. Unfortunately there's not enough rock, at least through the rear portion of the tree.

What should be on tap for you at this point is, to put this one on the shelf, and start again. Not unheard-of by any means when attempting to learn any art at the master's level. I wonder how many violins Guarneri or Amati made, before he had one that really merited his signature? -- Dr. Deb

David Genadek
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 Posted: Tue Aug 3rd, 2010 04:30 pm
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Adam,
What I see is your horse has this funny thing on his back and he is not real sure of it so he is upside down. You would never want him in this non weight bearing posture when you are on his back. No saddle will fit if the rider fails to ask the horse to be in a weight bearing posture. I am of the opinion that if you put him in a weight bearing posture you would have enough rock in the current shape. I do always put a bit of flair on the end of the back of the bar to prevent it from digging in. Which is increasing the rock but I do it in the last few inches of the bar rather than adding it through out the bar. Unless you do a lot of this it is really hard to translate tree fit to finished saddle fit. Adding the skirts will change the dynamics a lot. You should get some skirting and some wool and cover the bars like they would be with skirts on. You will be surprised how much things will change.
Your cantle gullet is problematic. You have enough clearance in the front of the cantle but you have it going down at an angle toward the back so it will hit the horse. That should have been level. You have to leave enough room in there so when you put your rear housing and skirts on it does not create a lump.
The angle of your front arch is also problematic and could cause some real issues when riding. It is also making other things look really scewed. When I take the arches off in my mind the placement and fit look as I would expect on a bare tree. I see shadows being cast from the bars in the front so once the wool is on I think the shoulder will pass under without moving the saddle if you do your rigging right. That issue with the front is a common problem I have had with experienced tree makers on this shape of back so your not alone on that one.
I would add the wool and stick a rigging on and give what you have here a go so you can really get a feel for it. I think your really close.
All in all this is an incredible job for a first go!!!!I wish I would have been that close on my first attempt. For your next one, find someone with a 3 axis router that can cut the parts for you. People that own shop bots have a whole community that you can tap into.
David Genadek

David Genadek
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 Posted: Tue Aug 3rd, 2010 10:15 pm
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I photoshoped the front to make things look a bit more normal

Attachment: BareTreeSideHeadDow_modified.jpg (Downloaded 325 times)

David Genadek
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 Posted: Tue Aug 3rd, 2010 10:16 pm
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Here is one with head up

Attachment: BareTreeSide3-modified.jpg (Downloaded 321 times)

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Aug 4th, 2010 01:20 am
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David -- I find 'photoshopping' enormously useful because, if one records the amount which one had to rotate the image or fraction of an image in order to correct the problem or make things appear normal or right, then one also knows pretty much what needs to be done with the actual object. Do try photoshopping the rear part of the tree, which might give Adam an indication of how much he could carve out (if that would not make the rear part of the bars too thin). -- cheers -- Dr. Deb

AdamTill
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 Posted: Wed Aug 4th, 2010 04:01 am
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Hi folks,

Thanks for the feedback, and it largely confirms what I had been fearing. I got to borrow Jeremiah's video set from the owner of a leather supply place here in town, so I've learned lots more about why things are done the way they are.

To address some of the points:

1) cantle clearance. I can fit a full middle finger knuckle  between the bottom of the cantle and Tindur's spine, so despite what it might look like there's more clearance there then there looks to be. I hadn't anticipated covering the bottom of it with leather, so that clearance would actually grow when the skirting leather and shearling got added to the bottom of the bars. Don't actually think it would have rubbed.

That said, I did forget that the back jockeys generally get tucked under the cantle, so the arrangement wouldn't be ideal. The intention here was to provide more bonding surface for the cantle, but next time I'll stick to tried and true shapes there.

2) rock - the tree looks worse above then it is without the rigging, so here's a test rigged version.



This sits a bit more level. I'd probably opt for a Sam Stagg double loop over the horn, which would have placed the front ring more in line with where it seems to want to sit.

Also, when Tindur moves, he's been taught how to raise his back pretty well on the lunge, so there's plenty there, but the rock profile is off:





Those are weird photos to take, and the video is worse!

There seems to be too much "belly" in the main rock profile, and not enough length to the upswept bar length that extends past the end of the cantle. I'd think with a bit more rock there, and an inch or so more bar length, it would work better. I found a photo online of a bar markup in the raw, so I can see what David means about a better distribution of rock.

I also tried just sitting in the saddle, and it confirms that I think the seat length is a bit long for the bar length. An extra inch or so would prevent the back end from digging into the loin. (the stirrups are english leathers, and have ended up sliding too far forward here)



3) fork alignment. I goofed there, and knew it as soon as I took it out to fit Tindur again. I aligned them at home on the mold, which (it turns out) depicts a far more "downhill" build then Tindur actually has. So, what looked right at home looks wierd on Tindur. I'd imagine dallying on that would be tricky, and it definitely looks funny. Oops.

I think I'll try a more "normal" bar construction this time in the interests of saving a bit of time. I think a 3d machine would be fun to own, but programming the profiles for someone else's machine might take me as long as whittling a set out by hand! I know it's a great community (I have a friend who built a hot wire cutter this way), but this is too messy to do downstairs, and I don't have room for a cutter tray in my garage.

I'm not too discouraged by this, but thanks anyway for the encouragement. I didn't expect to hit a home run first time out, though it would have been nice! Given the cost of leather and comparatively low cost of wood, I'll probably wait for a more ideal tree to build a proper saddle on.

Last edited on Wed Aug 4th, 2010 04:04 am by AdamTill

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Aug 4th, 2010 08:09 am
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Adam -- the cleverest thing you've done here is figure out how to take a picture of yourself taking a picture of yourself!

Yes, anything I've said has been meant as encouragement, even if it's giving you an 'A' for effort and an 'F' for fit. It's the part of a friend....not only to you, but also, more importantly, I'd be a friend to Tindur, and I know you would be also.

Yes, David has hit the nail on the head: the distribution of the rock needs changing. Perhaps you can experiment with this -- not to really use the saddle this way, but to get a better idea for your no. 2 tree -- by not only applying the skirting and wool as Dave suggested, but also using some extra wool, piling it up to make the shape right. That, or some kind of clay that would harden, and you make the new shape by applying that to the bottom of the tree, and then put the wool on that.

To me, the hardest thing there would be preserving the shape, transferring it if you will to the new tree. How does one do that for a 3D object?

And yes -- the rigging will often improve the fit of a tree. I've learned this from David and also observed it myself, that if you have a saddle that doesn't fit right, and you make appropriate changes to the rigging, it will often then fit correctly or if not perfectly, then close enough to be workable. Changing the rigging makes the pressure "flow" from one area of the tree to a new area, redistributing the pressure instead of redistributing the shape itself.

One other item -- Adam, I understand in the mirror shot you must have been at least 50% with your mind on taking the photo, leaving only 50% to be thinking about how you are sitting. But I want you to think about how you are sitting. First, though you're hardly overweight, the distance from the buttons of the fore arch straight back to the buttons of the cantle arch on this tree leaves barely enough room for your leg. In other words -- this saddle isn't going to be comfortable for you if you gain ten pounds, and really ought to be at least a little bit bigger even so.

Second, you're sitting too much on the flat of your ass. You need to open your thighs more (left-right), concentrate harder on sitting right down on your seatbones, with the tip of your pubis just grazing the saddle in front, and no part of your tailbone touching the seat in back. You also need to keep your buttocks off the cantle. In short, you need to figure on riding farther forward on the seat, with a 20% difference in the angle and weighting of your pelvis.

The magic picture to have on this comes from contemplating the old calvalryman's wisdom-phrase, "you must have your horse ahead of your leg at all times." The horse must be ahead of your leg. If this is so, then it must be true that your leg must be below and behind your horse. When you're sitting in the saddle, you picture that the calves of your legs form a wide "V" that opens to the front, like you were sitting with your legs wrapped around the cup of a funnel. Your calves touch the horse just below the widest part of his barrel (even if this is not literally true, you picture it being so). When you picture it thus, you will function as if not seated UPON him but instead as if you were seated on a platform, like a sulky driver's seat, that extends directly out from behind his buttocks. It will be as if your crotch were pushed right up against his tail, with your legs reaching forward around his barrel. You do this, and lo and behold, you will find your whole body doing all the right things. You think, "my body is behind and below my horse," then  your horse will respond by going FORWARD AND UP, and that's where we want it to always go.

Sitting right will make any saddle fit better; it has as much effect as improving the rigging, and a good rider has saved many a horse's back through a long day's ride, even when the tack didn't really fit right. -- Dr. Deb

ozgaitedhorses
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 Posted: Thu Aug 5th, 2010 01:02 am
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Hi Adam!

I've been following this thread with interest and I am utterly impressed with your workmanship. Looking forward to  the next installment ;-)

If you were to finish this one, What would the rigging be like?
You mentioned a 'Sam Stagg double loop'. I tried to google for a pic but wasn't all that successful. Would you elaborate, please? (So that someone used to English saddles can understand, please!)

From the fotos it looks like Tindur's natural girth groove is straight under or even slightly forward of the fork - which in my mind makes it tricky to prevent the girth from pulling the saddle onto the shoulders. I am struggling with this on one of our horses and had to resort to a luna girth, but I'm wondering whether there's another way...

Hoping that David might chime in here, too.

Cheers,
Manu

David Genadek
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 Posted: Thu Aug 5th, 2010 02:04 pm
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Manu,
Why is the "Girth Groove" there?
David Genadek

David Genadek
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 Posted: Fri Aug 6th, 2010 05:09 pm
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Adam,

Here is what my cantle gullets look like:

You need enough space in there to stick all the layers that come together there,

and still have enough room to create a good tunnel for the spine.


Here is the shot of the tad of rock I add to the end of the bar.


I went and looked at where you originally designed the tree to sit and it seems to me that you are now placing it about 6 inches further back than where you designed it to sit. So of course your rock profile would be off.
Deb is correct that the tree makers often design the trees to sit further back and now it has become a disease in the industry. You, however, went through all the real work to define the most logical place for the saddle to sit and designed accordingly. I still think if you stick to your guns it will work. Here is a link to Liz's blog where she just posted some pictures of her riding in some of my saddles.
http://elizabethgraves.blogspot.com/ Look at how forward the saddle is placed. Look at how the horses are coming through. Note how you can almost see the entire lumbar span. If you get Equus go read Deb's article on necks then notice the necks on these horses and notice there is not a bit on any of the horses. Lastly look at the abs and see how engaged they are. What all this tells us is she is creating the gaits a hundred percent through spinal oscillation. This would not be possible if the forward position of the saddle was blocking anything.

"I also tried just sitting in the saddle, and it confirms that I think the seat length is a bit long for the bar length."
Is this statement True of False?
The saddle fitting zone on a horses body gets larger as the size of the rider increases.
If you add more length to the bars will you be weighting the Lumbar span?
You might remember these diagrams from class.

If you weight the lumbar span you will be interfering with these systems. I recently did a clinic at a marketing center for one of the major equipment retailers. The folks that brought me in were beginning to have questions. They were allowed to bring me on the condition they did not advertise the fact that I was going to be there. As I explained the relationship between the lumbar span-stifle-hock I noticed one participant getting upset. I asked what was wrong and she shared with me that she was just at the main marketing center for this retailer in Colorado and every horse in the barn was having hock problems and they couldn't figure out why. The main salesman has been teaching that you need to be able to easily touch the croup with your hand while riding, in short he is teaching everyone to weight the lumbar span and everyone one of his horses is suffering from it and everyone of his students horses will suffer for it. However, it just creates a new business opportunity videos on how to put your horse down.

It is easy for us to understand that we don't want weight on the shoulder. It is just as important if not more important that we keep the weight off the lumbar span. This becomes even clearer when you understand the dorsal ligament and the muscle groups that attach to it.

Many saddle makers attack the problem from the perspective of being an upholsterer and from this perspective it is true that proportionately it looks better on a saddle when you have a certain distance from the back of the cantle to the end of the bar but this has nothing to do with the anatomy of the horse. If only there were big moving bumps on the lumbar span like there is for the shoulders.
David Genadek

David Genadek
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 Posted: Fri Aug 6th, 2010 05:09 pm
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Adam,

Here is what my cantle gullets look like:

You need enough space in there to stick all the layers that come together there,

and still have enough room to create a good tunnel for the spine.


Here is the shot of the tad of rock I add to the end of the bar.


I went and looked at where you originally designed the tree to sit and it seems to me that you are now placing it about 6 inches further back than where you designed it to sit. So of course your rock profile would be off.
Deb is correct that the tree makers often design the trees to sit further back and now it has become a disease in the industry. You, however, went through all the real work to define the most logical place for the saddle to sit and designed accordingly. I still think if you stick to your guns it will work. Here is a link to Liz's blog where she just posted some pictures of her riding in some of my saddles.
http://elizabethgraves.blogspot.com/ Look at how forward the saddle is placed. Look at how the horses are coming through. Note how you can almost see the entire lumbar span. If you get Equus go read Deb's article on necks then notice the necks on these horses and notice there is not a bit on any of the horses. Lastly look at the abs and see how engaged they are. What all this tells us is she is creating the gaits a hundred percent through spinal oscillation. This would not be possible if the forward position of the saddle was blocking anything.

"I also tried just sitting in the saddle, and it confirms that I think the seat length is a bit long for the bar length."
Is this statement True of False?
The saddle fitting zone on a horses body gets larger as the size of the rider increases.
If you add more length to the bars will you be weighting the Lumbar span?
You might remember these diagrams from class.

If you weight the lumbar span you will be interfering with these systems. I recently did a clinic at a marketing center for one of the major equipment retailers. The folks that brought me in were beginning to have questions. They were allowed to bring me on the condition they did not advertise the fact that I was going to be there. As I explained the relationship between the lumbar span-stifle-hock I noticed one participant getting upset. I asked what was wrong and she shared with me that she was just at the main marketing center for this retailer in Colorado and every horse in the barn was having hock problems and they couldn't figure out why. The main salesman has been teaching that you need to be able to easily touch the croup with your hand while riding, in short he is teaching everyone to weight the lumbar span and everyone one of his horses is suffering from it and everyone of his students horses will suffer for it. However, it just creates a new business opportunity videos on how to put your horse down.

It is easy for us to understand that we don't want weight on the shoulder. It is just as important if not more important that we keep the weight off the lumbar span. This becomes even clearer when you understand the dorsal ligament and the muscle groups that attach to it.

Many saddle makers attack the problem from the perspective of being an upholsterer and from this perspective it is true that proportionately it looks better on a saddle when you have a certain distance from the back of the cantle to the end of the bar but this has nothing to do with the anatomy of the horse. If only there were big moving bumps on the lumbar span like there is for the shoulders.
David Genadek


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