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



Improving community ties one cuppa at a time

COFFEE WITH A COP: Grafton Senior Constable Paul Johnston enjoys a chat with Swan Creek local Bob Green.

Coffee With A Cop initiative kicks off in Grafton

10 things to do this weekend

ON TOUR: Kasey Chambers and Bernard Fanning will play in Grafton this weekend as part of their Sooner or Later tour.

Looking for something to do?

A piece of Clarence Valley heritage up for grabs

The historic house \"Ravensford\" located at 36 Villiers St in Grafton is currently on the market at McKimms Real Estate.

Take a look inside iconic home 'Ravenford'

Local Partners

Improving community ties one cuppa at a time

CLARENCE Valley police pleased with the response from the first Coffee With A Cop initiative in Grafton.


Celebrating the Clarence Valley's unique story

Lynn Baker and Penny the detection dog. Penny will be in Grafton during Heritage Near Me Roadshow which arrive in early March. Photo: Jason O'Brien

Week-long celebration of Clarence Valley's heritage

Newcastle outfit to make Yamba go 'Crazy'

GROOVY POP: Crazy Old Maurice is take to the stage at the Pacific Hotel Sunday afternoon.

Looking for a way to spend a cruisy Sunday arvo?

Bernard, Kasey, Spooky Men, and more this weekend

Mal Eastick returns with his Blues Bar on Sunday at the Yamba Golf Club.

Touring shows bring mix of genres to Clarence

Living End, Grinspoon stars hit stage for American Idiot

GET a sneak peek at Green Day's American Idiot The Musical as we go behind the scenes to meet the stars at a QPAC rehearsal.

Samuel L Jackson dismisses La La Land ahead of Oscars

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in a scene from the movie La La Land.

Hollywood actor and Oscars voter says Denzel should win top gong

Former Family Matters stare accused of child abuse

Reginald VelJohnson, left, and Darius McCrary arrive at the TV Land Awards on Sunday, April 19, 2009 in Universal City, Calif.

Darius McCrary has been accused of child abuse

Bindi Irwin's birthday tribute to her dad

Bindi Irwin

Bindi Irwin has paid tribute to her dad on his 55th birthday

Reality TV show gives Maryborough a boost

*WARNING EMBARGOED until 9.15pm Monday January 30* Sean Hollands and Susan Rawlings pictured after their wedding on the TV series Married At First Sight. Supplied by Channel 9.

Maryborough looks good on reality TV show.

Buderim dad rejects gay son's emotional plea for second time

LOVERS: Grant and Chris have been together for more than three years, and Chris' parents refuse to acknowledge their son's fiance.

Son’s emotional plea rejected again by unmoved father

What's on the big screen this week

Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller in a scene from the movie T2: Trainspotting.

This week's new releases offer plenty of variety for movie buffs.

A piece of Clarence Valley heritage up for grabs

The historic house \"Ravensford\" located at 36 Villiers St in Grafton is currently on the market at McKimms Real Estate.

Take a look inside iconic home 'Ravenford'

$140k damage: landlord says property trashed, contaminated

He had what he calls "the tenants from hell"

Submarine, buses and 3000 tyres removed in $100K clean up

The list of things removed from this property is beyond astonishing

Houses selling like hot cakes

HIGH DEMAND: Maclean Valley 2 Coast principal Ingrid Nott.

Valley's housing market pushed by supply shortage and jobs growth

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!