Rural Rustic Barn Board Signs


What do you do with a stack of old, rustic barn boards that are taking up space in your barn? That thought has been on my mind for awhile. Burn it? Fill the landfills with it? Well, I used some for displaying our products in the store but that didn’t use it all. Why not turn it into a Rural Rustic Barn Board Sign? Each one is unique from the first; the size, the cut, the bite marks, the amount of weathering.That alone makes these signs uniquely one of a kind. I’ve been having fun designing signs for my friends and customers.There’s been everything from Celtic knots, cattle brands, funny sayings to words of wisdom.

The signs are laser engraved and are varnished for outside and inside display. If you want to paint the design, I would need to know before I finish them. If old barn boards aren’t your style, I also do signs on recycled boards that are relatively clean and also on new wood.

These are the first in my Rustic series. See for yourself!

Rural Rustic Barn Board Signs2023-01-22T12:07:16-07:00

How to wash your saddle

Cleaning our saddles and tack

Every spring, people come into the store saying: “I’m going to clean my saddle. Where is the oil?” To which I reply, “Oiling is not cleaning. Do you have saddle soap? A sponge and a soft brush? A couple of buckets for warm water?” To which they reply, “Ah, no.”

I explain that we treat our saddles like our skin. We use saddle soap and lots of water to wash away dirt, salt from our horses, and anything else that gets splashed across us and our saddles during a spring calf branding! We don’t just use oil on our skin to wash away dirt, so why would we do that to our saddles and tack that are made of cowhide (a skin)

This is the job list which over the years has kept our saddles looking and feeling good:

  1. Two buckets of a fairly large size;
  2. Saddle soap, preferably the glycerin bar type;
  3. A soft bristle brush (ie. old horse curry, fingernail brush);
  4. A new or old bath sponge;
  5. A leather conditioner (something liquid that will penetrate –not waxy);
  6. Some kind of top coat wax (i.e. depending if you want a shiny finish or a rainproof one – Ray Hole’s Saddle Butter for rain proofing, Fiebings Tan Kote (which is a wax top matte finish). Both products are available for sale in the store.

So after we find everything you need for this daunting project, we give you the quick version of washing. 

Getting Ready

  1. On a reasonably warm (not hot) day (outside or in your garage), fill two buckets of warm water.
  2. Get your saddle on a rack that won’t matter if you get it wet.
  3. Have your saddle soap, soft bristle brush or old bath sponge at the ready.
  4. If you want a thorough cleaning of all parts, take off the fenders, stirrups, rear cinch (billets and belly band if you have one), front cinch, latigo, and off-side billet and set them aside.

Soap, Rinse and Repeat!

  1. Wet your sponge and start with the skirts, left or right side, front to back, wet the whole skirt. This way, if the entire skirt is wet and you drop water on it, it won’t leave a watermark stain.
  2. Lather up your sponge with your saddle soap and start scrubbing in circular motions where you just wet. The stuff that comes up on your sponge is gray or muddy and leaves the water murky and muddy when you rinse. This is lifting the dirt, salt and horse oils off the surface. Rinse and repeat across the whole skirt. Repeat again if it’s been a while (or never) since your saddle has been washed. For those saddles with tooling or carving design on them, this is where the soft bristle brush or toothbrush comes in. Wet, lather, scrub, rinse and repeat.
  3. Once you have the skirt washed and rinsed, it’s time to move up to the rear jockeys, cantle, Cheyenne roll, and front of the saddle. Wet only the section you are working on at present. Soap, scrub, rinse and repeat.

Washing the Suede vs. Smooth Leather Seat

If you have a suede seat and your saddle is fairly new, a good brush with a dry curry will get the dust out. If you have an older saddle where the roughness has been worn off by use, you can wet and soap it up like any other part of the saddle. There are suede cleaners on the market (Fiebing`s Suede Nubuck Cleaner is one) if you are hesitant about wetting the suede. Not all stains will come out with soap and water or a cleaner.

If you have a smooth leather seat, wetting, soaping, rinsing and repeating are the same processes to cleaning.

The Rest of the Saddle

Once you have completed one side, it’s the same for the other side and all the parts that you have removed.  You may want to clean the other parts on a picnic table or an old table to lay everything flat to dry.


At this time, when the fenders are wet, you may want to bend and shape them so that they are turned. Once they dry, they will stay that way. Only if you thoroughly wet the fenders and let them completely dry, will they stay bent for your foot to easily find them when on the saddle.


Drying time depends on the heat, humidity, etc. of where you washed your saddle. Please don’t leave your saddles to dry in the direct sun, as the heat tends to dry things out too fast and curls things like jockeys and skirts up. So in a warm garage, it will take almost 24 hours to dry out.


Putting on a conditioner is next and may be done even when the saddle is slightly cool to the touch (meaning it’s not completely dry). Use another sponge or some type of applicator to put on the conditioner. Usually, even when conditioning leather, some additional dirt will be lifted out so rinse and wring out your applicator as you go.

Waiting, Be Patient

Once the conditioner is put on, you need to leave the saddle for an additional couple of hours to let the conditioner soak in–1. to see if you need an additional coat(s), and to let any further moisture evaporate.

Waxing or Waterproofing

  1. If you are a fair weather rider (one I seem to be turning into the older I get) an acrylic or water-based wax is good to keep in the conditioner you just perspired over and keep the dust and grit from penetrating too far.
  2. If you occasionally get caught in a downpour (which is hard not to do on longer trail rides or working conditions), something like Ray Hole’s Saddle Butter is good for repelling water and may only need to be touched up on a monthly basis. It will mean more soaping and scrubbing to clean later, but worth the effort to keep your saddle from getting saturated in an all-day rain.

Cleaning Tack

The process to clean your headstall, reins, breast collars Accessories for the horse, saddlebags, etc., is the same. Wet, soap, rinse and repeat! Condition! Wax! And Ride!

I hope this explanation helps you in spring cleaning (or any time cleaning) your saddle(s) and tack. Have fun!


How to wash your saddle2020-06-18T13:23:45-06:00

Saddlebags You Design

Picture this…you have set up a day of nothing but you, your horse and a long trail ride in the hills or mountains. You start packing your lunch, water and everything you might need while on the all day ride. You get part way packed and realize you need more space, and the nylon bags you picked up don’t fit your saddle quite right and are already coming apart at the seams!

There’s one sure way of getting what you want. That is to contact James Built Saddlery and tell us about what you need! A short talk or visit our “saddlebags” page online. It will show you what we have and give you ideas on what we can do for you.

Saddlebags You Design2023-01-26T13:40:38-07:00

Hermann Oak reins update

We use extra heavy Hermann Oak Old World Harness leather when making our reins. Most importantly, we inspect each hide for any cuts or weak spots. Then we hand cut, hand edge, rub and finish each pair of reins. As a result, they are weighty but supple rein that feels great in your hands. The lengths vary from 7’5″ to 8’11” or greater, depending on the hides we have. Check out our stock under Headstalls and Reins. For more information on the leather, click here.

Hermann Oak reins update2019-05-21T10:25:50-06:00



The driving force of any good business is people and passion." Miriam James

1 (780) 662-4980
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James Built Saddlery
Nature Centre/Museum Building
5020 - 46 Avenue, Tofield
Alberta, T0B 4J0
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