News

Saddling up with a true master of his trade

Warren Newcombe with one of his saddles in his South Grafton workshop Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner
Warren Newcombe with one of his saddles in his South Grafton workshop Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner Adam Hourigan

A GOOD Australian stockman's saddle made by Warren Newcombe is about $6,600, depending on current cost of materials.

But for those who spend as much time on horseback than their own two feet the money is no problem compared to getting to the front of the waiting list.

The best materials are used and corner cutting is sacrilege in Mr Newcombe's store, who takes three weeks to make one saddle.

Like all masters of their trade, it took Mr Newcombe years to learn and years more for people to accept his designs.

He said it should take an apprentice three years to be confident at making only the panel and another seven years to become a competent saddle maker.

Brought up on the land, Mr Newcombe was right into show riding and pony club and started his saddle making career doing basic repairs and modifications on his own gear.

"One day I swapped my pocket knife for an awl and that was the beginning of my sewing," Mr Newcombe said.

"I didn't know how it worked and I started sewing back to front."

After looking for work in Sydney Mr Newcombe landed an apprenticeship with a Tamworth saddler.

"I started at 19, I'm 70 now."

"When I first started I was copying Bob Furlow and Frank Thrift's styles.

"They were very popular and all the good horsemen wanted them."

But Mr Newcombe did not settle for following trends and tried to improve their designs

"In the beginning I copped a bit of flak, but I believed in where I was going.

"No one thought my saddles would sell."

All the riders and saddle makers of the time thought Mr Newcombe's new techniques went against tradition and were too radical.

But as the years went by the Newcombe name became synonymous with quality and soon his designs were influencing Australian saddle making.

Mr Newcombe spends hours with clients and taking a horse's measurements to make the perfect saddle.

However, like any product that takes time to make, it is more profitable to make a faster and cheaper version.

And like in many markets the cheaper version is taking over.

Saddle and harness maker Jim Beaton, who met Mr Newcombe in 2003, has also made saddles all his life and even ended up in the Kingdom of Tonga teaching saddle making.

He said the saddle market was flooded with inferior American designs that were easier to make.

The American fender saddle uses a minimally padded panel that rests on the horse's spine, hurting the horse's back after a day of riding.

The fender is rigid and does not adapt to the horse as it gains and looses condition.

Beautifully engraved leather 'fenders' make it difficult for the rider to feel the horse but make it a highly sellable piece.

An Australian stockman's saddle uses a heavily padded panel with a channel that sits over the horses spine.

The panel is flared for a better fit and the webbed seating has less clearance so you are closer to the horse and have more control.

"That's the difference between the Australian and Yankee saddle. The Australian saddle is made to fit the horse and rider," Mr Beaton said.

While it takes three weeks to make one of his stockman's saddles, it only takes a week to make a fender.

"The fender is just a bit of wood with a piece of leather stretched over it.

"People are learning to make saddles out of a book. The old way of making it is getting lost.

"The new Yankee saddles can be made quick."

Mr Newcombe said the irony was when he first started it was impossible to sell a fender.

"No one wanted them," he said.

Instead of abandoning the Australian way of making a saddle, Mr Newcombe has settled on making a stockman's/fender hybrid that uses his channelled panels to satisfy demand.

"I never wanted to go into mass production because you lose control over the quality.

To this day Mr Newcombe has made 1814 saddles.

Mr Newcombe made a saddle in 1963 that is still used in shows today.

Only basic maintenance is ever needed.

"I would tell you how long one of my saddles last but I would have to live longer than 70."

Topics:  local faces south grafton



Yamba named one of Australia's most beautiful places

Yamba bay at sunset.

Expedia keeps Clarence Valley town in the spotlight

School's out as 50,000 NSW teachers stop work

About 50,000 state school teachers across NSW will stop work on Thursday morning for a salary vote.

Minimal supervision will still be available as 50,000 teachers vote

Local Partners

South High students get the skills they need

THE second Trades Skills Centre has officially opened in the Clarence Valley and will focus on woodworking


Workshop to tackle Clarence Valley's suicide rate

A workshop to tackle the mental health issues around the Clarence Valley's tragic suicide figures will be held next Monday in the GDSC.

Health authorities seek community help to tackle suicide rate.

How people power stopped the gas mines

Iluka resident and character in the film, Ian Gaillard, addresses the crowd of anti-CSG protesters at Bentley.

Award-winning documentary to be screened in the Clarence Valley

Bored? Here's 9 things to do this weekend

The Clarence Valley Mental Health Fishing Group are holding a Christmas fishing event at Memorial Park.

Looking for something to do this weekend?

Hailey Baldwin: I don't understand Taylor Swift's squad

Hailey Baldwin has taken a quick stab at Taylor Swift and co.

Taylor Lautner 'spotted smooching co-star'

Taylor Lautner has been romantically linked to Billie Lourd

David Beckham's tattoos come to life for UNICEF campaign

David Beckham has called for an end to violence against children

Pop star Liam Payne's Facebook hacked with porn

"Things that can happen to you when you don't have sex."

Tim Roth was abused by his grandfather

Tim Roth was abused by his grandfather during his childhood.

Leo designs shocker tattoo for Tom Hardy after lost bet

Leonardo DiCaprio has designed a new tattoo for Tom Hardy

Residents wary of showing sand mine hand early

Public meeting for the proposed sand mine at Maroochydore last week.

Coast MP calls on Minister to stop KRA proposal with stroke of a pen

INSIDE STORY: The highlights of your $150 million CBD

GRAND PLAN: The highlights of the Ipswich CBD redevelopment and where they will be located.

Work on city heart's radical transformation to begin next year

Developer's grand new multi-million dollar estate

NEW ESTATE: This is the only plan revealed by the property developer's new Billabongs Estate in Agnes Water.

DEVELOPER given the go ahead for a massive estate with 149 homes.

Banks reclaim Gladstone homes as job losses bite

LONG FALL: Property experts Heron Todd say, based on key market indicators, Gladstone is still travelling to the bottom of the market, with property prices set to get cheaper.

Property valuers say Gladstone housing market hasn't hit the bottom

The million dollar property to test Mackay's market

This Victoria St building will go to auction Tuesday and investors will be watching closely to see how much it sells for.

'High profile architect designed CBD asset' goes to auction

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!