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Hand Made Trees

Our goal is to help you make the best saddle possible. With the best Hermann Oak raw hides and multiple laminations, we believe our trees have strength equal to or greater than trees that are double covered, without the weight and bulk of extra rawhide. After building saddles for more than 25 years, we found it difficult to get quality saddletrees to fit our needs. The better trees on the market were few and hard to get consistently. In order to improve our saddles we began making our own. Twenty years, and many satisfied customers later, Swanke Saddletree Co. invites you to try our trees, we are confident that you will see the difference.

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All our trees are built from premium Yellow Poplar and Baltic Birch plywood. We begin with kiln dried lumber and begin to weed out any knots and cracks in the wood as we cut and rip it into sticks.

The lumber is then jointed, planed, and laminated into blocks to be cut out into the basic shapes of the four parts of the tree; the fork, cantle, and two bars.

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Next the carving begins. Each piece is carefully trimmed and power sanded down to the desired shape and parameters of the finished tree. When it is close to finished on the power sander, each piece is then hand rasped and sanded to a finish.

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One of the many things that sets our trees apart from factory or mass-produced trees is the notches we cut into the front and back of the bars. These notches create a strong and rigid joint for the fork and cantle to attach to.

 As we assemble the tree, the fork is set square to the table and the bars are aligned to the proper angle to fit the horse.

The back of the bars are leveled before the cantle is attached to make sure the tree is perfectly square and straight, free from any unevenness or rocking on the table. Then the cantle is hand fit to the bars for a tight fit.

Once each piece of the tree is properly fitted, glued and fastened in place the tree undergoes more rasping and sanding to ensure a flawless finish.

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Our raw hide comes from Hermann Oak Leather Co. in St. Louis, Missouri. There it is de-haired, fleshed and cleaned, then frozen for shipment. When we put the hide on the tree it has never been dried or stretched

Lastly the rawhide is nailed in place with stainless steel ring-shank nails. This keeps the hide tight to the tree as it dries, preventing it from "drumming" over any concave surfaces or corners. The tree is left to dry over about 7 days and the seams are hammered smooth throughout the drying process. When it is completely dry, two coats of shellac are applied to seal and waterproof the finished tree. 

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©2020 by Ben Swanke Saddlery, 219 N 15th St,  Billings, Montana 59101 Get Directions  (406) 259-9227