Selecting the right leather for the job is a crucial element to any saddlers work but with so many types and weights available, confusion can occur. To help bring some clarity, especially to those who are at the beginning of their saddlery careers, our in-house leather experts Richard Brown and Craig Evans share their tips and advice on what to look for when buying leather and other workshop supplies.
Craig, as a qualified Saddler what are the different types of leather required?
Your first major choice of leather will depend on the style and client’s choice of saddle undertaken. The most popular choice for saddle construction would consist of solid leather (Butt Haircell) 3.5/3.8mm, our recommendation would be a JE Sedgwick.
A panel hide of choice would be a drum dyed, chrome tanned soft hide 1.6/1.8mm, and our specific choice would be a Pittards Panel Hide for example the Olympia or Starlight from Abbey England.
How should our customers go about selecting the right leather for the job?
Selecting the right leather for the job would really depend on the style of saddle being constructed and for what discipline it is intended for. For example, for a dressage saddle Abbey England would recommend a hide that offers an element of grip for the seat and knee pad or external knee rolls to enhance the rider’s position. The solid leather would also be a choice that both client and saddler can decide upon together considering style and practicality.
Richard, when purchasing leather what should we be looking for?
When you are purchasing your leathers you should be looking at the overall quality of the hide. Inspect the flesh side and the grain surface. You do have to take into consideration that you are buying a natural product and some elements of natural growth and healed scars will be present within the hide.
Before starting on leather repair work what should we consider?
When looking to get underway with leather repairs we would always recommend that you thoroughly look into the details of the repairs that you are undertaking. A lot of saddles these days are produced throughout the world and are not always of UK origin. This can often prove a challenge when trying to match leathers and finishes. At Abbey England we offer a wide range of leathers to help overcome these sorts of problems.
Most of the time we can offer a match to existing leathers but on odd occasions this may not be that easy to source. We would recommend that you stock a small selection of traditional hair cell and panel hides that can be used on a cross section of general repair work.
One major stock item would be girthing straps as these are consumable items that will need replacing. Always carry a stock of girth straps as these will be a common repair request from clients.
Craig, what are the fundamental tools for any qualified saddler?
Your basic leather working tools would be as follow; saddlers pliers, saddlers round knife, saddlers tack hammer, GP knife, flocking iron, de-flocking iron, saddlers smasher, saddlers shears, seat awl, backing awl, strap pricker, nail claw, needles saddlers harness, needles counter lining, cutting board, edge shave, seam turner and tacks. All of the tools listed are a small selection of saddlery tools that Abbey England stock and offer an extensive range of.
Can you please tell us about the more unusual leathers Abbey stock/ have stocked?
One of the more exotic leathers that we have supplied would be Ostrich hides and Manta Ray skins. We do source all manner of hides which are becoming more of a signature piece within modern day saddlery production.
If you are looking for a product that is not on our online shop we would urge you to give us a call as we are always willing to go the extra mile to help our customers source what they are looking for.
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