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Saddle Repairman “Does It Right”
Lloyd McConnell restores saddles the right way to keep customers from making a mistake he once made.
  “I had a George Lawrence saddle that was about 130 years old,” recalls McConnell. “I had it repaired. The fellow didn’t stitch it up right and replaced the fenders. The dealer I took it to said it would have been worth $12,000 if done right and the fenders retained. As it was, I only got $1,200.”
  After that experience, McConnell apprenticed himself to a saddle maker who was meticulous. “I learned to do things right,” he says. “That can mean not repairing a saddle if it is too far gone or doing a near complete replacement of worn leather if the owner is really attached to the saddle and the tree is okay.”
  When McConnell recently took on a 1950’s vintage western saddle, it needed a lot of work. The fleece was shot, as were the stirrup leathers and some of the strings.
  “I usually begin with a good cleaning, and then if major repairs are needed, I take the skirt off with the fleece on it, as well as the jockeys and strings,” says McConnell.
  “I remove all the stitching that holds the fleece to the skirt,” explains McConnell. “That can take 6 to 8 hours.”
  McConnell only uses genuine fleeces. Attaching one requires laying the skirt out on a whole fleece. He marks the shape, glues the skirt in place with rubber cement and trims the fleece with half an inch extra past the outline.
  “I sew the fleece to the skirt, putting new stitches in the old holes on the skirt,” says McConnell.
  McConnell often makes his own stirrup leathers, knocking out the rivets from the old stirrups and replacing them with new. Replacing the missing stirrup cover requires copying the original design.  
  Doing it right is a painstaking job, and most of the cost is the labor involved. On the 1950’s vintage saddle, the most expensive replacement part was the fleece, which cost $120. The total cost of labor, fleece and other leather pieces was $600.
  If you have a saddle that needs work, McConnell suggests sending detailed pictures of the saddle. Include descriptions of the problems and the condition of the leather.
  “I need to know as much as possible up front to give a good ballpark estimate of the restoration cost,” says McConnell. “If it has been fairly well cared for, it can be repaired.”
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Lloyd McConnell, P.O. Box 27, Fort Sumner, New Mexico 88119 (ph 858 242-9601; lloydwmc@gmail.com).

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2015 - Volume #39, Issue #4