Lee Valley Tools Woodworking Newsletter
Vol. 2, Issue 5
May 2008
What Is It?

Harness maker's mallet shown with collar

The saddler and harness maker were part of the leatherworking trade, a large group that included the cordwainer (boot and shoemaker), hat maker, bookbinder and glove maker. The fitting of a harness or collar required much skill, as each set was usually manufactured for a specific purpose and animal. The advent of the automobile hastened the decline of harness-making specialists. There has been resurgence in the working horse, as witnessed by the popularity of the exhibition draft teams and popular plowing competitions.

Horses in harnessThe collar, or main body, shown here was an improvement from the early strap-type connection of a pulling animal to a load. The fitted collar distributed the force in a manner that did not restrict breathing. It was fashioned as a leather tube and stuffed with straw that had been crushed and then forced into the shaped tube, much like a sausage casing is filled. To maintain the evenness of the fill, a special mallet was used to flatten out the sections. Used in conjunction with a stuffing iron, this mallet allowed for controlled shaping of the straw. Other harness and saddle parts were often filled with hair and wool, which was softer for both rider and animal.

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