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



Shoppers hit Prince St over holiday period

Noel Smith of Low Pressure Surf Co in Prince St, Grafton. Photo JoJo Newby / The Daily Examiner

A fruitful holiday season for Grafton's main street.

The scary reality behind Australia's heatwaves

A new report found 2016 was the hotter year yet.

YOU think the weather is bad now? It could get a whole lot worse.

Clarence full of golden grains of coastal goodness

Sand is fascinating if underrated.

Tribute to an undervalued natural resource

Local Partners

Pool upgrades a positive for community

New facilities at the South Grafton Pool improve access for all members of the community was officially opened by the Minister for Disability Services


Puppetry of the Penis secrets revealed ahead of show

The famed Puppetry of the Penis is coming to the Sunshine Coast for shows in Noosa and Caloundra.

WARNING: This interview contains adult themes and traces of nuts

Artist program to link to gallery theme

VALUABLE STINT: Indigenous artist Karla Dickens at work in Grafton Regional Gallery's studio during her 2010 artist's residency.

Gallery encouraging indigenous artists to take up residency offer

See the historical heritage horses

OPEN DAY: Enjoy a day out learning or finding your next dream horse from the Guy Fawkes River National Park.

Guy Fawkes Heritage Horse Association Inc. open day.

Clarence full of golden grains of coastal goodness

Sand is fascinating if underrated.

Tribute to an undervalued natural resource

Scriven's self-taught guitar playing wins over audiences

Adam Scriven will play Yamb'a Pacific Hotel next Wednesday night.

Multi-instrumentalist's self-taught approach wins over fans

Chelsea Handler blames the Kardashians for Donald Trump win

Chelsea Handler pictured in a scene from her talk show in Los Angeles.

TALK show host blames rise of reality TV family for election result.

Law & Order’s Trump inspired episode is still in limbo

The cast of Law & Order: SVU season 18, from left, Kelli Giddish, Raul Esparza, Mariska Hargitay, Ice-T and Peter Scanavino. Supplied by Channel 10.

SHOW'S mastermind unsure if or when twice-delayed episode will air.

Dating between the sheets on national TV?

Singles meet for the first time in their underwear in the SBS TV series Undressed.

NO shortage of singles willing to get Undressed with a stranger.

Clarence claims our First Lady of Blues

Catch the incredible Fiona Boyes live at Yamba's Pacific Hotel on Sunday afternoon.

Claiming the First lady of Blues

Thousands of jobs part of $1b retirement village project

THIS YEAR: An artist impression of the new Aveo retirement village in Springfield.

Aveo Springfield unveiled this month, homes ready by July

Rates safe from land value hike

DRIVING GROWTH: The Pacific Highway upgrade has been linked to improved land values.

Figures up in latest valuer-general report

KNIFE-EDGE: The housing tightrope we now face

Even the smallest interest rate rise will be hard for some to handle.

One if five home owners at risk, according to new analysis

Historical home leaves family's hands after 75 years

SALE CONFIRMED: The Gympie Regional   Realty team which sold the Ramsey property are (back) Mel Gastigar, Dorothy Palmer and Margaret Cochrane, with (front) home seller Terri-Jayne Ramsey.

Ramsey family played a huge role in Gympie's growth.

Pat Rafter's $18m Coast home proves hot property

PAT'S PAD: The Sunshine Beach home of tennis ace Pat rafter is on the market for a record price.

"It's a record for our company and for the Sunshine Coast.''

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!