I've long been unsatisfied with my method for making western saddle trees.  Currently, I use scrap leather to build up the shape but the swells are unwieldy, the seat unpredictable, and the cantle is usually misshapen.  It bothers me, it really does.

So I've been thinking, how hard can it really be to sculpt my own trees?  Yesterday I had intended to go to Hobby Lobby and buy some Sculpy to play around with, but by the time I got out of the theater (that's another post!) it was closed.  Bummer.  I couldn't find modeling clay at Walmart and settled for PlayDoh for the sake of experimentation.  I almost couldn't find the PlayDoh, though! Do kids just not do that stuff anymore? I remember it being huge when I was little, with play sets all over the place.

I played around while watching a movie for my U.S. History class.  From left to right are my first, second, and third attempts.

The one on the far right has the best seat shape, but I hacked into the swells too far when I was trimming it down.  I think I need to lengthen all of the trees to accommodate the added thickness of leather, plus I think I erred on the side of too short when sculpting them.

Two things that I've noticed: it's really, really hard to get the shape of the swells correct and even though I'm really, really excited about sculpting these trees, it may limit the fit of saddles.  I don't know exactly how that's going to work yet.  I made the trees on three different horses: Little Lonestar (far left), the G4 Para Dressage horse, and the Stone Chips stock horse.  You could have a picnic on the back of the para dressage horse, so his tree is obviously not that great on the much narrower Chip.  Still, when you add in the leather for the skirt none of the trees fit that badly.

This is the second tree, modeled on a long-unfinished concept for a parade saddle and the G4 Driving horse.

The concept of sculpting trees has merit, regardless.  I'll play around with these, but I doubt I'll make any saddles to sell off of them or any other PlayDoh trees.  I'm concerned about how well PlayDoh would hold up to repeated use.  When I get some Sculpy I'll see what happens.