Sculpting a Tree

I've long bemoaned the difficulties of making accurate, in scale western tack. The seat, the swells, the horn! The only satisfactory option to create the proper shape seemed to be a sculpted tree.  There are (or were) a couple on the market four or five years ago, but none of them really impressed me. I would just have to do it myself.

I did my research: photos of western trees, videos on how real saddles are made, and even model horse trees. Normally I would advise tack makers or really, anyone in the hobby to never, but never, use hobby material as a reference. This situation is an exception - I am not basing the shape or structure of my tree on the hobby trees; I'm using the hobby trees as an idea of how the bars should be shaped to work most effectively in our hobby.

I will spare you all the Play-Doh attempts and start with what I consider the first official tree.It was done in Super Sculpty III and is shown in it's current state in the last photo.

I wasn't very happy with the Sculpty. It felt crumbly after I baked it, and I have definite concerns about the longevity of a saddle made with that kind of material. I broke out the apoxy over the weekend and tried again.

You can see on the photo of the back that the cantle is a wee bit crooked, but that can be corrected with a little more sanding. I'm really happy with the sturdiness of this tree - there's a bit of wire in the horn, too. I've handled it extensively for sanding and clean up, and I think this tree can be trusted to go through the entire saddle making process!

Working with apoxy was, uh...interesting. I'd never used it before this tree. I think I like it, though. I used a plastic, purple sculpting tool I have from who knows what for most of the work and water to smooth it. I had a bit left over and did a quick little pony with it, too! He's not quite done but has been very fun.


  1. they came out very nice . a tip about apoxie sculpt it smooths better with rubbing alcohol . :)

  2. Have you thought about casting a few copies from this one for future work? If you had a few variants on the same style that would fit a variety of models it could be quite a good time saver in the long run!

  3. Thanks for the tip, NMhorsechick! If I can stand the smell, I'll give it a try.

    Last Alliance, that's the eventual plan! I want to sculpt a few more trees before I try to cast, though. Just to make sure that they're really as good as I can get them. The tree pictured actually fits pretty well on Little Lonestar, Working Girl, and the WEG Driving horse. With a bit of leather under the tree, it might fit even more similar backs.