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making tongs, what to use for rivets


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George N.M. (our resident lawyer) can correct me on this, but there is such a thing as "implied warranty", that an item sold is assumed to be fit for purpose and built to generally accepted standards. If someone were injured and it came out that you'd used a substandard fastening in the construction, that could put you in some degree of legal jeopardy. At very least, you'd have to spend good money on an attorney for your defense.

I totally get what you're saying about sidesaddle riders and their culture, but the danger is that if someone were paralyzed or killed, their caretaker, custodian, or relative -- i.e., someone NOT of that community -- might well come after you for damages and compensation. In a litigious society, it's well to be prudent.

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actually no saddle is guaranteed safe..  if you buy a billy cook and the cinch ring tears out when you horse bucks ..if  you fall off they will not take responsibility,  they might replace the saddle or  ring but that is all .

nothing with horses is guaranteed safe,, lol!!

no implied warranty pen antique saddles .. buyer beware..  i have bought many saddles said to be safe to ride.. one tree had been rolled on and was in 25 pieces when i took it apart to repair it,,    you have to know the seller, check the tree, and leather  , or buy with no guarantee.

now if i say it has new billets..  and it does not.. then i can be held accountable for that.. 



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Some states, Colorado for one, have statutes governing liability for equestrian activities.  Generally, they limit the liability for people involved in horse activities such as stable owners, dude ranches, wranglers, and, I suppose, harness makers and saddle repairers except in cases of gross negligence (you knew something was dangerous but went ahead and did it anyway, e.g. using too light a grade of leather or aluminum instead of steel rivets to save money) or intentional misconduct.

As you say, John, there is only an implied warranty for fitness for original use.  Even then it is a tough row to hoe in court involving dueling experts and much expense.  It is a hard thing to prove and is only justified if there is a lot of damages such as death or permanent disabling injuries and the defendant has the resources/insurance to collect on a judgment.

Everything we do is a balance of risk and safety.  If a person is very risk adverse they may not want to do anything at all that someone, some place, some day could sue them about.  Sometimes it is prudent to pay the premiums for certain coverages of liability insurance.  And sometimes the risk is so low that we do our best and hope the improbable occurrence will never happen.  And sometimes we don't have a pot to ----- in or a window to throw it out of and are judgment proof.

My suggestion to anyone making something, blacksmithing, repairing side saddles, or anything else is to do good, first class work and you are unlikely to have any problems.  If you do that and someone threatens to sue, you can say, "Sue and be d-----d to you!" because you know they have little chance of success and don't have the resources for an actual suit and are trying to shake you down for some sort of nuisance settlement to go away.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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Section 2305.321 of the Ohio Revised Code describes in some detail the immunity from civil liability arising from equine activities being "inherently dangerous". It is noted that "'Equine' means a horse, pony, mule, donkey, hinny, zebra, zebra hybrid, or alpaca." Now I'm wondering if llamas are considered alpacas for purposes of tort law.

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Plum: There certainly were cruel horse people around when I was growing up. Some just didn't know any better and grew out of it. The ones who were just plain cruel or mean to people tended to be shunned. In some cases to the point that nobody would sell them stock, allow them to enter events ride with them even patronize their business. 

Tens of thousands of horse owners in the San Fernando Valley and just over the crest in the Mojave was still an amazingly close knit society. All a farrier had to do was slap a rank horse with a tool one time to suddenly find himself out of customers. 

We didn't buy a saddle that didn't fit the intended horse. I'm sure you noted how wide a barrel Banjo had. His saddle came to us and the family friend who brought it showed me how to check the fit with a couple saddles he'd brought along he thought were close enough fits to check.

A saddle is like a work boot, a close fit is NOT good enough. 

Vern was a 3rd. generation rancher and veterinarian, he and Dad hit it off instantly and were close friends till Vern passed. We were referred to Vern's ranch to buy alfalfa and it was like meeting family. When Vern explained something I didn't back talk or he'd smack me. The one time I made the mistake he didn't even think about it I just caught a backhand. His hands were hard like old lumber.

That pic was taken in 1967 at our place in Sylmar. 

Good times, some of my best.

Frosty The Lucky.

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While I have certainly made rivets from "raw" stock, I greatly prefer to take the lazy way out and buy ones with premade heads for tongs.  You can get them in lots of 100 pieces from Blacksmith Depot for around $25, which works for me.  And if I'm confessing, I have also been known to drill tong rivet holes to final size after punching them to ensure a tight clearance fit with the manufactured rivets as well.

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yes there a cruel people everywhere .. it amazes me that people want horses at all when they think  they have to be harsh to make them work,,  you have some wonderful memories, frosty!!

i use common nails of various sizes..  buy them by the pound at the last old time hardware store in town, they are closest i have found the the originals . on some of the saddles i think nails were used. they look just like the nails i put back in..lol!!

i only use the head and a little of the nail so i have a lot of metal left over,,  i found info  on  a rivet header in a 1907 book that i am going to make so i don't waste all those headless shanks,,  lol!!! 

i have to drill thru metal, wood, metal .. right now i use a hand drill  but just got a drill press .. it will save my shoulder!!  i just have to take the time and put it together,,  

 i have a saddle and a saddle tree i am trying to get out next week, then i have students coming to work on their trees and saddles for 2 weeks... then back to being a hermit so i can work on my shop an my saddles,, lol!!

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21 hours ago, sidesaddle queen said:

i will stick with my normal  rivets

Excellent decision!

However as to the legal direction this thread has taken, well I believe that a Craftsman in particular should hold the moral imperative and strive to make the "best" product possible. This includes using the highest quality material and, most important not make any shortcuts that will jeprodize the ones who uses your product. 

Imagine the amount of lawyers that would have no business if we all followed this personal responsibility idea.  ;)


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thanks i will go look at them!!


most people take  pride in their work and do a good job  but there are shabby craftsmen in every field,,  i am not one of them .. i have a good reputation and a waiting list of saddles,,  more than i can do in my lifetime,, lol!!! 

glenn, i can get anything about rivet header plans to come up.. what do i put in search??

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1 hour ago, sidesaddle queen said:

what do i put in search??

Ignore the forum’s search function; it’s largely worthless. Instead, go to the search engine of your choice, type in “iforgeiron.com” and the search terms you’re looking for. That will give you much better results. 

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This is the vise held version Rivet Header Helper  by Jr. Strasil


This Handy little tool for the vise, is what I use for rivet heading.


To use I put a light center punch mark 1 1/2 times the diameter from the end and then use the upset helper to upset the end some. 

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The steel wire they use to bundle rebar is usually 1018 and if a good size for small rivets and nail making, washers work well to back

 the peined end. Think copper washers. As alluded to nail headers are easy to make as is the vice style header. Often you can find tubing flaring tools cheap and thy make ok small rivet headers. 

free hand I suggest putting the bars across the anvil and brace the end against your thy, then use a smallish hammer to upset the end enough to hold in the header ( simply a thick bar or plate with the right size hole drilled in it) then cut to length and continue upsetting to form the head.at this point back it with a small washer and pein the end with a smallish hammer. Black heat is useful as it softens the end but also draws up as it cools and softens the ligum and makes the wood act like glue. 
hand forged nailes work well and can either be clinched or backed with a square punched washer and peined. 
married to get my daughter with CP to ride side saddle for years. No Joy.

if memory serves, Steale (spelling) saddle tree on the east coast has pre civil war tree patterns, and honestly modern tree paterns are two far forward (western) I ride older trees myself to include a 1940s LA police saddle, an Aussie and a Peruvian stock. Depending on the horse. 
another firing trick is to apply skirting leather to the bottom of the tree and slice it down. We do that to fit mules all the time

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glenn,  that is the one!!!!   thank you!!!


yes, the search button didn't help at all..lol!!!! 


glenn found the header i was looking for!! perfect..   i only need  4 sizes in one..  


i am not looking for a new source of rivet material  just a river header to use the left over  nail after i  used the top 1" or so,, 

i do not use any heat on my old trees..   i work on english trees .. they are as different from western trees an apples an oranges ..lol!! 

i use to rebuild 100 yr western saddles but i like sidesaddles better 

steele still makes a sidesaddle tree on western bars,,, 

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Well, I wouldn’t say western and English are apples to oranges, more limes to lemons, lol. The Moorish influence is very heavy in the western saddle, wile the English has a clear evolutionary line from the European war saddle. The long wings in the front is very clear in that liniage. As is the Hunnish/Mongolian seat suspension system seen in the GP descendants. 
weird is when we get into Asian saddles, the astrailian camel saddle is a clear descendant. Those beasts basackly consider people as cargo and simply apply an adapter. 

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Rivet stock depends on the size rivet you are making.  Think wire in different gauges for small stock, or round bar stock for larger rivets.  

The stock size and how the rivet is made depends on how many rivets you are going to need or going to use.  Do not try to chase down that last little bit of stock just because it is there.  Better to head one end of the stock, and then cut to length + enough for the other rivet head.  You can use a smaller rivet stock by using a washer for support against the material being riveted.  To keep the rivet from turning, use a chisel and make a mark on the material so the rivet can fill the depression as it is formed.

If you have many rivets to make or install, there are several ways to speed up the process, and make your life easier.  You just have to identify the problem, and then work up a creative solution to solve that problem.

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There's a saddle type I've only really seen in KY called a KY spring seat saddle that's about as comfortable a ride as you can get especially if paired with a mountain pleasure horse. It was first made in Owingsville KY by Eugene Minihan in the late 1800's. They're hard to find these days. 


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 In 2019 the Kentucky General Assembly dedicated the Kentucky Spring Seat Saddle as the official saddle of the commonwealth of Kentucky.  Eugene Minihan is credited with coming up with what we call a spring seat saddle,” says saddle maker John Goble. “He learned that he could take a tree—the frame that a saddle is built on—cut a piece of the branch out, and replace it with a leather hinge, and the saddle would be flexible. Today they’re called flex trees. But he was the first guy, as far as we know, that came up with this idea.”

A quilted seat is particular to a Kentucky stich seat saddle or some plantation-type saddles. There’s some cushion, and you really appreciate that on a long ride. These little raised places will let some air under there, which causes it to ride cool. It also gives some texture that you can ride against. It’ll keep you secure in that saddle; it’s not just a slick seat.

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