The perfect stitch
Oct. 15, 2017
CUERO - The smell of leather and rubber cement permeates the air as Kenneth Diebel, 68, builds the groundwork for a cowboy’s saddle. The saddle maker works from a small shop outside of his Cuero home creating custom saddles, chaps, tapaderos, gun holsters and other leather items.
“Yup, I do a little bit of everything,” Diebel said.
The faint sound of country music from KKYX radio station is masked by a hammer’s tapping as Diebel installs a saddle strainer.
Diebel moves to eye level with the saddle, holding a few small nails in his mouth as he hammers. He mumbles to himself.
“The sucker moved on me when we nailed it,” he said. “I just want it to be perfect.” He removes the nails, repositions the metal piece and continues working. After getting the seat correctly positioned he said, “We got her now by golly.”
Creating a custom saddle takes from 80 to 100 hours.
“It’s the challenge of being able to cut a piece of leather and form it and make it fit to what you want it to look like,” he said. “I don’t always have patterns to build what I’m trying to build you know; you just have to cut and fit, cut and fit to get the look you want.”
Diebel has been working with leather for 24 years and remembers as a child his mother dropping him off at James C. “Jim” Hoffman’s saddle shop in Cuero where he would watch him work.
“The first thing he did was teach me how to stitch a saddle horn,” he said. “I’ll never forget that old man.”
Diebel said he’s always enjoyed leatherwork and loves leather, even the smell.
“A lot of customers walk in and they take a deep breathe and say, ‘I love the smell of leather,’” he said. “Just the smell of leather lightens up my day.”