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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    tifton georgia
    Posts
    135

    cloth saddle skirts

    While I read that saddle skirts were often made from canvas, several layers thick, no one ever specifies how many layers or weight of the material. I have quite a bit of 15 oz. duck and might make a set. Any advice would be appreciated.
    John Gregory Tucker

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Lewisburg, Tn
    Posts
    214

    Re: cloth saddle skirts

    A gentlemen that I spoke to suggested 5-8 layers.
    Andrew Verdon

    7th Tennessee Cavalry Company D

    Tennessee Plowboy #1 of the "Far Flung Mess"

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    tifton georgia
    Posts
    135

    Re: cloth saddle skirts

    Many thanks,
    John Tucker

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Mississippi
    Posts
    798

    Re: cloth saddle skirts

    Various war-time and post war sources say 3-4 thicknesses. However, that would depend on your material. Off hand, I cannot say how your 15oz compares to period duck but I believe it should NOT be too thick- certainly NOT like some of today's makers cut their saddle skirts. Make sure the material covers the tree correctly and most importantly, you use correct hardware for that saddle. Take a close look at the photos on my web site and in my book for details. Some information is not known such as stirrup straps but I can tell you they were most certainly of leather. Ethan Harrington made the only reproduction that I am aware of. Perhaps he could provide some insight and tips but do not try to modify it from the original pattern. Without more information you need to go with what the originals tell you.

    Ken R Knopp
    www.confederatesaddles.com

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    tifton georgia
    Posts
    135

    Re: cloth saddle skirts

    Ken,
    I have often wondered about the skirt thickness of period saddles. What weight leather by todays standards most closely matches their original skirt thickness? I had always felt that 10 oz. might be about right but would love to hear from one who has actually seen an original.
    with regards,
    John Tucker

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Mississippi
    Posts
    798

    Re: cloth saddle skirts

    John,


    That is a complicated question not easily answered. In short, in today’s leather world it depends upon which tannery is providing the leather, tannery practices and often where the hide comes from. In general, American tanned leather is better that Mexican and other foreign such as that tanned in Argentina. Good hides come from a lot of places but Nebraska hides (American cattle), for example are reputable because the hides tend to have less fly bites (yes, it matters!) and are good quality due to the feed and care our U.S. cattle receive. It also depends upon how it is tanned.. Herman Oak leather uses American hides and is tanned here. Some CW sutlers do not like the “break” or, surface strength of Herman Oak so they use other brands which in some cases requires more thickness to achieve the desire strength- the cost of foreign leather is often not as high too. Tandy Leather is more price driven so I am told they use South American leather that is not always of great quality. Weaver leather is good but they use both Herman Oak and Mexican tanned leather so you have to specify and be careful when ordering from them.
    Please note that in the 19th century much like today, “bridle” leather or that most often but not always used on cartridge boxes, cap boxes, etc (and of course, bridles) differs in grade/surface strength/thickness from “skirting” and “harness” leather. High quality bridle leather for example, would be tanned differently than skirting and harness.
    Anyway, in direct answer to your question, Herman Oak’s 9 to 10 oz leather for example would roughly equate to Confederate “skirting” leather. Bridle leather would be similar or sometimes less, say 7 - 8 oz. For other tanneries, in practice it really depends upon “where” the leather comes from and their tannery procedures.
    I am not a leather expert but know enough to be dangerous so I consulted with my good friend David Jarnagin to answer this question. He knows more about 19th century leather practices than anyone I am aware of. BTW, If anyone is interested in purchasing hides of leather to make their own equipment contact me offline at my email address (NO P.M.’s) for some sources.

    Ken R Knopp
    krk1865@bellsouth.net

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    tifton georgia
    Posts
    135

    Re: cloth saddle skirts

    Thank you so much for this detailed answer! Leather really is a study unto itself isn't it.
    with regards,
    John Tucker

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Corinth, MS
    Posts
    50

    Re: Pit verses drum tannage

    Ken called me and asked me questions on leather weights now verses 1860ís and it is a really hard question for me to answer even after studying leather tanning for about 14 years.

    One point I forgot to tell Ken and he told me to just to post the information. Make sure you ask and find out if it is pit tanned. Today most tanneries use a different method which is drum tanning. I know this is Greek to most but there is a major difference. In drum tanning a large wooden or fiberglass drum is packed with raw hide and tannin and then rotated. The agitation of the leather cause to be softer and less dense, sometime to offset this they will re-tan and rotate less in order to get the leather firmer, but it is not anywhere near the quality of pit tanning.

    Pit tanning is where leather in the raw state is suspended in a vat of tannin. This makes a very dense leather that is the closest you can get to period tanning. Leather stays in the pit for about 2 weeks before going to another pit and this is generally done three times.

    This a short answer so if you want to ask more questions please email me at djarnagin@bellsouth.net

    Thanks
    David Jarnagin
    Leather Researcher and Conservator.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    tifton georgia
    Posts
    135

    Re: Pit verses drum tannage

    On the cloth saddle issue, I have seen the examples shown in Ken's book, but often read descriptions of canvas skirts implying that only the skirts and perhaps rigging were cloth. I imagined them as having exposed rawhide seats as any other mac, but with canvas skirts similar in shape to their leather counterparts. What do we know about canvas variations? were they all like the competely covered version? If they just had cloth skirts how were they attatched? Nails,tacks or what? I appreciate any help you cangive on this one.
    John Tucker

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Mississippi
    Posts
    798

    Re: cloth saddle skirts

    John, Unfortunately, there is very little documentation describing the appearance or manufacturing details of the CS cloth saddles. To the best of my knowledge there are only three surviving examples. One at the U. S. Cavalry Museum at Ft Riley KS, one in a private collection and another "out there" somewhere. The third one I remember seeing in a private collection about 1989 or so. Shortly thereafter it was sold and has been been MIA ever since. While I have heard rumors of where it is I cannot be sure.
    Anyway, the two more well known examples are virtually identical in their general construction techniques and can be seen in the photos in my books. They clearly show the tree completely covered with enamalled cloth. From the records at least, I have seen no information on variances. I note and understand the stirrup straps were of leather.
    One can speculate about cloth skirts on "skeleton rigged" saddles with exposed rawhide seats (similar to other CS patterns). While it seems to make sense and many may very well have been made like that, I have seen NO DOCUMENTED EVIDENCE or artifacts to back up that theory. Perhaps others may have read or found some information or other evidence may come to light someday but this is all I know to the best of my knowledge. Sorry I could not be more helpful.

    Ken R Knopp

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