Western Folklife Center

Click here to return to the homepage of Western Folklife Center

« May 2007 | Main | July 2007 »

June 29, 2007

$300.00 for FREE

Now step outside any Bar, or outside of any Wal-MArt and claim you have $300.00 to give away for free....................any your likley to get trampled before you can reach for your wallet.

Shhhhhhh...................I said quiet out there................can't ya see I am listnen. I ain't heard a footstep yet so maybe I am safe. Now a modern save the planet multi-culturalist would say that cowboys haven't responded because they're DEAF from shooting thier guns off all the time. BUt being a grass eating cowboy, I know different. Its cause ya can't read that I ain't bean trampled yet.

Well, since I ain't being flocked by takers for the free $300.00 dollars, maybe I can take a little time to flesh out the details of what we have come up with. How many of you have kids, or had kids before ya took the worst one down to the local Taxidermist. Well remember those books that all kids had called "Find Waldo" this character that was hidden someplace on every page. We are going to try something along that line with our trip to Ireland/Scotland/England. We are going to blog SOME, while traveling so that you also can come along and enjoy seeing what we will have the chance to see. I will take my new camera and my 9mm just in case I run into a Librarian...................I am kidding, I dont really have a new camera.
So, we will take pics, and when we have time driving from place to place, we will try to post something say every 2-3 days. Of course there will be text to explain what we saw, and pictures to create more interest to the blog post. Well, within one of the pictures that gets posted, JEREMIAH will be hiding/hard to spot etc. AND YOU need to find each of the pictures with me hidden in it someplace, write down the corresponding number to the picture posted and keep a running log of each blog picture. Then after we are home each interested contestant will send in his entry, and the winner will be the one I choose.................no, excuse me, the winner will be the one whom gets the most hidden JW pics right. There is only ONE winner of the $300.00, and you have your choice of $300.00 dollars of any merchandise that we make or sell, be that JWP, HSBT, WBS saddle deposit, JW Custom Saddle deposit. In the case of a tie, we will flip a coin and shoot the loser. Okay a bit harsh I agree, then how about we ask skill testing questions.................like whats your favorite kind of pie etc. We will think of something.
You can invite your friends to participate, the more the merrier I guess, be sure to stay in touch by going to my regular web site at www.ranch2arena.com since more details may get posted there before we leave next Wednesday. Oh, and by the way, dont be shy, you can Pray we have a safe trip, London just had a heck of a bomb scare this eve.
Let me know if you are interested, otherwise I may just take the 300 and blow it myself some place in the UK.
Good night and God Bless

June 21, 2007

Grey Steel and Silver

I know that some of you probably think that JW parks it at 3:30 and has high-ball and watches tv out on the deck in the evening breeze that wafts in off the mighty blue Pacific. Well almost, but it is usually about 2:30 in the AM. And since I quit drinkin and I am a total bore if I am away from my work...........most folks in Coalinga dont even know my wife has husband..........thats how often I leave home for purely social occassions.
We have been working as of late, trying in vain I think to build a little inventory going into the fall Show season. It just seems that as soon as something is done, a truck drives in and takes away what ever it was that was made up as extra. I am convinced I
need to keep my gate locked.
Since most of our travels takes us to places where folks are looking for that california style work, that is of course the sort of work we produce. Makes sense right, when in Rome do what the English do.................right?
Given that logic, I have to say how much I was caught off guard this last January when I attended the Trappings Show in Alpine Texas. Which by the way all of you should take in at least once, it is a great show. While I was there, I seen plenty of really nice work, but there were 3 makers of bits and spurs that really blew my socks off. Now what surprised me the most was the fact that all 3 of these fella's is a Texas maker. but they brought the cleanest versions of California Spurs that you have seen........and they were from Texas! Let me share there names with you folks, becasue I just know that some of you reading this blog would just love to buy a new bit, and anyone of these threefellas can do remarkable work, believe me. These are not placed in any certain order, just the way they had been written in my little book is all. So here goes, Russell Yates of Paducah Texas, Matt Humphreys of Lubbuck Texas, and Jerry Falkner of Fort Davis Texas. Sorry folks, I do not have there permission to be giving out an phone numbers and what not, so you will have to do a little digging and calling to get the rest.
Anyways, I just finished riding about 35 miles at a gruelling pace of about 15 MPH, the wind about blew my top knot off and it was a real chore to make the ride. So while Mom's in shopping, I sit here sweating away on the keyboard of my laptop. You see this is sort of an experiment tonite, testing the new gear before we head out for the month of July to Ireland/Scotland and England with the kids for a little fun. I plan on doing a few blogs while I am over the pond, and was hoping to show all of you a tad wee bit of what we have seen while beetling about.
I built 4 full Spades during the months of April/May, along with 7 pair of silver mount spurs. That is a lot more than I normally allow time for. That plus 3 sets of saddle silver, and the saddles that go with the silver will keep ya humped up in the corner working. I show you here a few items that we felt photgraphed quite well. These are not our normal work, since there is more single point cutting here. I taught a class on engraving back in Emporia with the good folks at GRS. While there I had the chance to meet a phenominal engraver by the name of Sam Alfano, I can hardly wait to find time to take a class from him. Anyways, Sam,s single point work is stunning and was the inspiration for me to come home and work a little harder in that area of my engraving.
The Santa Barbara Spade has Floral spanish Spade top, and the cheeks are fully striped. The silver is hard soldered sections,some single point cutting and then the oxidized engraving. We do more of our silver work in the Highland Grey than in the traditional hot gun blue. This cheek style is called a Riata when you look at our web site. The other bit shown is built on what we call a Freno Cheek, also quite popular around our shop with the customers. Well, looks like my blogging is over for now, Mom is out with the groceries...................boy howdy, look at that pile of Carrot Sticks she bought.........................., if that ain't the curse of being a chub'o .
Good night and GOD BLESS

June 6, 2007

4952 cuts later...........

4952 cuts later,

What comes after 4952 cuts you ask, well a set of conchos and a pair of stirrup bolts for a quite nice Watt Bros. Stock Saddle, that is what you get. We are building the saddle to take to a Show in the not far off future, and I wanted to do something just a little different and I choose the traditional Spinich ….er, oops Spanish Mission window style as my opening shape.
The windows are a mix of round and square placed together, creating what may seem like a 4 point Star, with scalloped edges and a square viewing pane at the center. It’s a “Way Cool” shape as we say out west by the bunkhouses on every ranch when Dad ain’t close enough to hear us.


I choose to cut a border around the squares of each Concho, and a central flower much like is done on a fine shotgun from Italy………….sorry you Italians if ya happen to be reading, hope I don’t insult any real engravers out there. The work I see being done on guns these days is just mind boggling, this is my version. And even if I done my best to copy it exactly, it still looks like crayon work next to their work.


The two stirrup bolts, since they have a closed top dome, then they need a fuller pattern, this the floral rosette cutting form. The string concho’s are slotted, so we laid a wreath of leaves around the edge of the dome and made all the rest the very same as the first two Rossette concho’s


It takes me about 1 hour and 15 minutes to cut the string conchos and about 1 hour and 30 minutes to cut the rosette type. That plus the cost of silver these days, makes this set of conchos rather expensive. I laid this entire design out on the computer, built all the arcs and what not into the design on the computer, then printed that out in a sheet and stuck it to the pre-polished silver sheet. It made it all go quite cleanly, and helped keep things real strait.


I will oxidize the entire set, the set consists of the string conchos, the stirrup bolts and a rather unique horncap. The horn cap is very different, I made a deep domed cap and then depressed a central area within the cap. Into that depression I then placed Oak leaves and acorns that I had cut out, these are silver soldered down into the depressed are which will leave the design below the surface so as to not interfere when a person is roping and dallying over the horn cap later. At least that was my intention behind the design. I will oxidize the area behind the Oak & Acorn rather heavily, the Oak them will carry nicely with the Oak & Acorn that is being carved in the leather.


I don’t think I want to go thru the labor of counting cuts on the 4.5 inch horn cap, so I will stick with the simplicity of 4952 cuts later and you can have the same thing for your next saddle………minus the horn cap.


The horn cap turned out cool enough but “boy howdy was it a ton of work. Not sure I can get paid for it, it took me 17 hours of sitting engraving to finalize just the engraving and shaping on the horn cap, that time has nothing to do with all the oxidizing and rubbing the excess off. Anyways the cap has three Oak leaves and some twigs and acorns on the top which are entirely modeled, nothing is cut away, it is all simply pushed around until it takes on a very 3 dimensional shape. All totaled the modeling of the central portion took me a little over 7 hours of rubbing, hammering, and yes some times cussing under by breath that I was stupid enough to start into a project like this right now.


But I worked away, getting coffee once in a while just to give my butt a break and my eyes a rest. Once the modeling was done I spent some time sharpening my stipple point, and pecking away on that background area, behind those oak leaves. Those big silver shiny round things that are in amongst the Oak&Acorn pattern, those shiny beads you are asking your wife about since she knows all about things that grow in a garden, well…………………….those are Oak Balls.


I quit at about 11 pm and headed into the house to look at what happend on the stock market for the day, and to work on a page for my blog. I was up and engraving by 7am, and at first light every thing was looking pretty cool, the center was done, the back ground work finished, and it was framed in nicely, I had done my outside perimeter border and had laid out my floral work and done the outline of each scroll and the bright cut groups. Ah, I was fresh, relaxed with coffee in hand and ready to get at it all over again. By about 10 I had done my liner work, and the shading on my cross overs, as well as shading at those places where scrolls exit from under flowers. All I had left where the flowers, I wanted to make all the flowers of the relieved type, which takes me considerable more time, but hey it was sort of an Art Piece so it was all worth it. Dang, Dang, double dang, its already 2pm, and I am just wrapping up the last flower center.


I am sitting there feeling pretty good about the horn cap as a whole, but knowing full well that I could have done 3 of my usual horn caps in the time I had spent on this version. Worst part of it all, I know I will never get paid what I should for sitting all those hours pecking away at that silver, cool as it may be, I just don’t think that many folks including me up until yesterday can really appreciate all the time it can take to complete a piece of work such as this.
And now for the rest of the story. I will know very well from first hand experience just what I am up against when I get asked for something very unique. I won’t shy away from the chance to do the job, I will just have a much sharper and more experienced pencil in hand when it comes to pricing the job.


Hey, glad your out there……

Good night and God Bless

June 5, 2007

Engraving Class of 2007

Engraving Class of 2007

As some of you may know, I have taken a sabbatical from the teaching of Engraving. No good reason, just the life around here has gotten to be rather hectic, and it seemed that the teaching was getting in the way. Anyways, about 5 years ago, we came to a halt with the classes.

Well this last summer when I rode my bike across USA, I stopped in to visit with the good folks at GRS, and between Kim Pember and my friend Otis Moon, they managed to talk me into the teaching of a class in 07. This class was the culmination of that visit, and you know, I confess……….I really liked the class and the teaching.

Emporia Kansas, Engraving Class of 2007

Things are still hectic, and life seems to move at warp speed……….for all of us I am sure. I have agreed to come back to GRS in 08 and teach two classes. One class in the spring will be another beginner’s classes like all have been to this point. Then in the fall, I want to return and teach a more intermediate format class. With this class, each student will have to know how to sharpen, and we can spend our time on improved cutting, better layout discussions and engrave on projects more akin to what we encounter out here when we are trying to make a living at this game. SO, if you have any interest, I would suggest you call the folks at GRS.

By the way, since we are talking about classes and what not I will tell you that I am just now putting the final details together for a class to be held over in Visalia California, I will take a week in the spring of 08 and teach a bit and spur making class at the Sequoia College at the Ag Dept. Great guy there, Frank Tebeau is in charge so it will be fun. I have never done a class of this type, mainly because the logistics of such an affair will make you pale. We will not do any silver work, just iron work, trying for a pair of spurs and a bit in one week…………but lets get back to engraving shall weeeeee…..

In May, I was in Emporia Kanvas at the spectacular new GRS teaching facility. For those of you who do not know, GRS is the redound manufacturer of air assist engraving equipment and all the accessories you can imagine. Not to mention a roster on engraving instructors with abilities that will make yer knees weak and wobbly…………..and I don’t even include myself in that group. Doubt me, then head to www.igraver.com and take a look for your self.


Once again I was Blessed by the Lord for taking that chance, stepping out and committing myself to teach others that which feeds my family……..the art behind bright cut cowboy engraving. Yes, on one hand I am giving to others the skill to put me out of business……………..but in exchange for pending poverty, I get to call 12 new folks friend. No dollar amount fits when I think of it in these terms.

As is the case when ever I teach a class, I get a real eclectic group from work a day cowboys, to truck drivers and skilled artisans in their own right. It all makes for a memorable occasion thinking back on conversations and topics brought out over that 5 day intense class. There is no doubt about the old axiom of we all learn at different rates, it certainly holds true in each class, and what one person struggles with, on another aspect they will often excel at.

Frustration rears its ugly head every now and again, but for the most part the would-be student can be talked down off the class lampshade without having to call the fire department, and we can all have a laugh and move on, knowing full well that our time of frustration may yet still be coming.

We move thru the basics of tool geometry, and the places we would use each tool. Then into a little cutting with each new tool………so we can break them and sharpen them again…………….right guys. We move thru the cutting and change of directions as well as the prevalent corners used for making our shiny bright cut groups. It all takes time, and there is a lot of left right left right, this way that way, and what the heck corner did you say…………………..but by the fifth day it is actually starting to come together. You can see it in the students faces, that the Deer has left their headlights.

I had ex Pastors, wood carvers, one fellow who has been making bits and spurs longer than I have been alive……………..he’s an old rodeo hand and claims to have seen Jesus “Healing” in Jerusalem……….not sure if I believe him. From a strapping lad who shod horses, to a full time Jeweller, to an avid coin nut, yes I said coin nut. Yes, I see it now, you have that same blank look I had when he mentioned coins……….I glazed over and said something intelligent like…………ah, ah…….no foolin! It’s the same line that Hank the Cowdog uses everytime the Coyotes fool him.

Hobo coins, one of the fastest growing engraving types on the market today, and my friend Steve Cox made sure he mentioned it to me everyday. Steve, a student with considerable skill in place already, walked past me on his way out of the class on that last day and handed me a small box telling me that it was just a coin……..just a coin, see you later on down the road as he left the room. Now at the time I was still working with some of the other students, and so did not take time to open the box right at that moment.


Steve I apologize for not stopping and opening THAT BOX WITH JUST A COIN, right there. I opened it a little later when I got to the Motel Room, and I was awestruck and taken by surprise………..tears welled up and I grabbed a tissue……………..okay, I didn’t quite go to the tissue thing……………but Steve you done a heck of a job on this coin and many thanks for it. I shall keep it close to my heart, until I find a magnet, then I will keep it close to my fridge……………just kidding.

Steve , just wanted to tell you that somehow you missed my earring??

Steve had brought his little Gravermiester with him, and sat in the room at night after class and cut my likeness into the coin…………..so now I sit with the likes of Lincoln, Washington………….and the Queen. Oops, maybe that’s a buffalo on the other side. I look forward to teaching, and meeting new folks with these classes, it’s nice to have a few on the year’s roster of things to do. Thanks to all of you whom attended the class in Emporia, and thanks to the very capable staff at GRS for making it an easy class to teach.

Good night and God Bless

Just put this in for those of you whom don't know what Jeremiah looks like.......he looks a lot like this and very little resemblance to the Buffalo

June 4, 2007

Tree Makers Conflab of 2007

Tree-makers Conflab of 07

This was a rather impromptu gathering of tree makers whom all share one vision, and that is a more universal language or lexicon amongst we saddle makers as well as an easier to understand fitting program.
It goes without saying that all of us have an opinion, and sometimes a rather strong opinion at that when it comes to fitting and the building of the saddle trees that we take so much pride in. But should our pride take precedence over common sense and a unique approach, cannot answer for you, but I am quite willing to lay mine aside for a day and that is just what we done for 3 days matter of fact.
Jeremiah Watt, Hank Statham in the Stetson, Dennis Lane, and David Morris on far right side.

Now to say that we four as seen in the picture were the only ones involved would be dishonest. In total I think most of the handmade tree makers in USA had a chance to hear this same presentation that I did from my Australian friend Dennis Lane. Dennis, a saddle maker and a tree maker from Quirindi NSW, along with saddle maker and tree maker David Morris also from down under along with the wild cow catcher and Aussie saddler Hank Statham shown here with a Stetson.
Dennis Lane is a long time saddle maker of the Aussie style and added the making of his own saddle trees after taking a class from Dale Harwood. Dale came to Australia some 15 years ago said David, and taught a class to 8 of us in total, it was a rugged affair at best but we learned plenty in the time we had. I have not looked back sine, just kept moving ahead with what I have been doing with my saddle trees. David Morris on the other hand began his career as a Mechanical Engineer, but his love for leather work took him in other directions after he attained his Engineering degree. David left Australia for a nearly two year stint at Cordwainer’s College in England. His time there was spent on the English style saddles of course, the attachment to England was short lived and so was his fascination with the English styles of saddle. I came home to Australia and promptly went to work on learning leather carving and added trees to my routine as well. Its saddle trees that brought Dennis and I together, and we have worked together on several projects now making it a mutually beneficial relationship. And Hank, well he was along by friendship and to keep David and Dennis from taking life and horse measuring to serious. Life has to be fun, and if yours ain’t I would say “ya should’a met ol Hank mate”. My god his stories of cowboying back when were so good, Hank is 68 if I can say that, and he has sure cowboyed around in Australia. Anyways, if you weren’t smilling before you met him, you would be after. Hank your welcome at my table anytime, no invite needed round here.
Dennis and his cohorts had made a 35 day grand sashay around the western USA, and in that time had made stops at as many saddle shops and tree makers as they could. During this trip they also took in the Sheridan Leather Show, at which Dennis done a short horse fitting demonstration as well. I will refrain from mentioning the names of other tree makers for instance whom had Dennis stop in, I don’t have their permission to make mention of it here nor their own opinion of the Lane System.
Some night when ya can't sleep head out and try making this beast.

The way that I worked into it was quite simple, I need plenty of help with the trees and I am the last cowboy coffee pot before the Aussies hit the LA Airport on their way home.
Truthfully, Dennis and I speak several times a year at great length about all things saddle and tree related. Dennis has always been one for uniformity and classification with what and how he approaches the saddle tree, but trying to get the same from a group of single minded tree makers may be another story indeed. First problem, at least as I see it, what the heck are we doing having to listen to some Aussie about how to fit a WESTERN saddle tree. Like many things we find in this world, the whole saddle tree and fit issue did not start with those of us out west, and Dennis just happens to think outside of the box when it comes to fitting horses.
The approach Dennis and David take on this tag team fitting tour is quite non-confrontational, and in doing it in that matter it makes the system easy to hear. I have been fitting, and advocating the fitting of horses for some 12 years now, but have had to say that following Dennis’s approach has merit that I will surely give a try. The Lane System, if I can call it that without attaching a label to it, is quite simply a group pf predetermined contour cards that match horses withers, mid section and loin, in addition there are a group of bar rock templates which Dennis will send out to any who ask. Taking this approach is a customer winning format, because it first of all puts them into the project as Dennis says, in that they actually place the cards on their own horses and send the results to you to record and work from. One huge matter of contention, is that it does not try to give any actual degree indication, this is a matter of “intelligent design or polite omission”, since the degree thing can be the cause of a knife fight if not dealt with carefully.
This was such a pretty tree in person, great job Dennis
Anyways, we simply stand our horse/horses on level ground, and find that lowest point of curve in the horses back which by magic is usually his 14th vertebrae. We begin placing cards over him at this lowest point until we find one that fits him cleanly and record that number designation. From that point we move 8 inches towards his wither and do the same with the cards and recording the proper designation, and once again we work backwards of the lowest point along the spine at 8 inches and find the best fitting card and record the numerical designation on the card. Yes, as simple as that, and we have a total of 3 recordings of the spine and rib cage area on your horse where the saddle tree is expected to fit. Next we take the longer rock patterns that Dennis sends out, and lay these on the rib cage approx 3.5 inches below the center of spine, which approximates the center of the bar as it lays on a horse, each rock template has a witness mark that we use to line up with the 14th vertebrae and then we check to see which rock contour fits the horse best. Once again we record all of that and send that off to the saddle maker if he works with a tree maker using the Lane System, and from that the tree maker knows exactly what angles he has to work with in his own tree shop to meet the profiles of horses sent in.
Front end of that traditional Aussie Stock Saddle

The real beauty is that Dennis is not telling us what angle we have to use, we can use what ever angle suits our approach the best, but we are fitting towards a commonly understood profile in the end, and in that we will attain some uniformity amongst all who give the Lane System a try.
I for one will begin next week with the use of the cards and taking readings by that method in order to begin building a catalog of horses with the cards. Once I have enough horses carded, I can then begin to fine tune the angles I use so that I can match easily the average of the card readings taken. Having this one step added into my fitting program gives me more accurate information from my customers now, and that will be a boon for me as I see it. SO for now at least, I am a convert until I find a flaw with it that I currently do not see.
The tree makers conflab proved to be very interesting for me, as it gave me a better look at how two guys from 3000 miles from the western saddle tree makers of the world, approach things just a little differently. Their thinking outside the proverbial box just may prove to be the wave of the future. While we sat and visited about all things saddle and tree related, we also talked about how to make this a bi-annual event in which more folks could attend and maybe a workshop could be organized. If you have thoughts, by all means let me know and I will pass it on to Dennis.
In case you are wondering about the tree pic’s I am posting here, well they look plum weird to us in USA but there completely normal for an Aussie. The tree with the little ears is Dennis version of a Western Australian Stock saddle, it combines all the attributes of a normal Stockman’s Saddle and pairs them up with normal western saddle tree bars. Those funny looking little ears, will act as do our Buckrolls on our Wade’s etc, except Dennis happens to form his in wood and cover them with leather afterwards. Now the other real slick skeleton looking saddle tree, that will be used for a very traditional Stockman’s Saddle. Both Dennis and David, and Hank for that matter will attest to this sort of version being a huge improvement over the cheesecloth covered English tree things used in the past. To begin with you will see that this one from Dennis is covered in a beautifully done rawhide cover, the bars are a little wider and do not flex like the English counterpart.
I will include Dennis Lanes email address so that you can contact him directly with ideas and maybe you want a set of horse cards , contact Dennis at shmaa@aapt.net.au . I will talk to Dennis in a few days and see if it is alright for me to do a walk thru photo shoot of the use of the cards, and if so, I will post it here.

Good Night and God Bless

The opinions expressed in the Western Folklife Center's Deep West online journals are those of the online journal participants and not the Western Folklife Center. The Western Folklife Center does not moderate these journals and as such does not guarantee the veracity, reliability or completeness of any information provided in the journals or in any hyperlink appearing within them.

site ed site ed ed pills canada ed pills canada /html>