Saddle Maker Utilizes Vintage Tools

Oklahoma saddle maker uses rare, vintage tools in leatherworking


| June 2000



Using tools from another era, Ralph Teeter handcrafts fine saddles

Using tools from another era, Ralph Teeter handcrafts fine saddles. One, which he gave to his daughter, won grand champion honors at the 1999 Oklahoma State Fair.

Photo by Kay Plummer

A hundred years ago, the saddle maker and cobbler held a special place in rural communities. Farmers and ranchers operating on tight budgets had worn reins, harnesses, boots and saddles repaired, rather than replaced. In Butler, Okla., Ralph Teeter continues this honored profession at the dawn of a new century, using tools from the last century. 

An avid leather worker, Ralph uses and collects leatherworking tools; some were used by his great-grandfather.

"Many of these things I've found by word of mouth, or picked up at auctions and estate sales from here to Iowa," he said.

The oldest tool in Ralph's tool box is a leather creaser patented in 1887. The creaser puts a decorative edge on leather pieces. Originally hand-cranked, the creaser is now powered by an electric motor. It is, he says, his rarest and most valuable tool.

Another vintage tool still doing the job is a reins rounder patented in 1889. Strips of leather are dipped in water and then pulled through the rounder. The rounder features 11 sizing holes.

A 1910 Champion narrow throat awl is used to punch holes in leather. In a shoe sole or the outer skirt of a saddle, it forms a lock stitch.