So, what is a saddle tree? Chuck Hadlock explains, our client who commissioned this sign to commemorate his family’s business:
So, yes, a saddle tree is the frame that all saddles are built upon. The two bars, cantle and swell are hand carved from timber pine and nailed together. The cast iron horn is then bolted to the swell. The assembled tree is then covered with wet rawhide and stitched together. The rawhide shrinks and creates the final, solid tree. Saddle makers glue, nail, and screw leather to the tree in various stages until the saddle is complete.
There are probably 200-plus variations of saddle trees — from Civil War saddles and charro (Mexican) saddles, to Western style. Within the Western style alone there are barrel racer saddles that are built light, roper saddles that are built tough, reigning saddles that are built light, and tough, etc. Trees are ordered with a seat size ranging from 12 to 20 inches, with 16-inch seats being the most common. As years passed, my father, Bret Hadlock, designed and built efficient saw machines that cut the timber pine parts into shape much like a wood lathe, which streamlined production by eliminating the hand carving process. These innovations helped meet increasing orders of 200-plus trees per week. My father and his brother Lonney bought the business from their father, Kenneth, in 1979 and continued to grow the business until they retired and sold to an investor in 2007. The business still exists today using the same processes and machines developed by my father, Bret Hadlock.
Many thanks Chuck!