Profile: Bud Shaul, Master Saddlemaker

by Mike Thomas


I have had the opportunity to meet and know several of the best saddlemakers in the business. I have a 1980 Dale Harwood fully tooled square skirt saddle and a Dan Mayer Saddlery saddle, and have known Chas Weldon, Doug Cox and Marc Brogger for many years and spent time in their shops, even when they were "Pups" in the trade. It is an honor for me to produce the following profile on Bud Shaul of Yarnell, Arizona.


Bud Shaul started out by making one saddle just for himself, the only one he intended to make. This was near Temple City, California. He worked on it nights, weekends and holidays, taking near 4 1/2 months to complete, and he read a lot of books on saddlemaking. During this same time he repaired a couple of saddles and learned a lot about how saddles were built. Bud didn’t have a sewing machine so everything was hand sewn. He learned to replace sheepskins and hand sewed them in 5 1/2 hours, using the same sew-holes from the first sheepskin. A friend from Oregon sent him a lot of repair work which stimulated the new career that was taking shape.

In 1982 he was befriended by Carrie Schwarz of Boise, Idaho, who critiqued Bud’s work on a couple of saddles. Bud took the advice to heart and by their next meeting in Elko, Nevada, at a show, he remarked on the improvements Bud was making. Carrie also turned Bud onto “Beaver Tail Bucking Rolls” which he still does today, using some of Carrie’s patterns and some of his own. Once Bud asked Carrie if it was OK to use his patterns and got the reply, “Go ahead, I got them from somebody else anyway!”

Bud went on to make many saddles over the next 18 years, many of the early ones for Buckaroos of the famed Spanish Ranch in Tuscarora, Nevada. Since he was starting out, he charged a price that the young guys could pay for a good working saddle - a common trait among the greatest saddlemakers even to this day.

The highlight of his early years included a stint at the famed “Hamley Saddle Company" in Pendleton, Oregon, where he worked under some very famous saddle and gear makers. This was when Hamley was leased by Margaret and Loren Woods, with Margaret keeping great records on each saddle and gear maker, and cycled them through every job in the shop. This included the non-illustrious task of making watch bands, headstalls and odd items. Margaret played fair!

When Bud went to work for Hamley around 1991-1992, he literally lived in the saddle shop. He'd get up at 6 a.m., make coffee and get an hour or two of work done before the shop even opened, and it was the same at the end of the day. During this time he learned a tremendous amount from the famed Walt Youngman (trees), Monte Beckman (tooling and carving), and many others. This period was like a “Baptism By Fire!” and is one of his most treasured memories. In fact Bud has a picture of the 1948 Wade Tree that was supposed to be the Tom Dorrance Tree that Walt Youngman had, and Mike Laglen of Western Horseman Magazine used in an article in recent years.

During this time Hamley had Catalogs going back to near 1917, and Bud studied these catalogs at great length during lunch hours. They were used for major reference material by the saddle shop for years. One saddle in particular played a major role in Bud’s respect for early saddle makers. The saddle was a trophy saddle from the 1915 Eureka, California, rodeo. This saddle had 15” swells and was made of one piece of leather without any welts! This piece of work was very hard to do!

Pendleton Round-Up Days were total chaos at Hamley Saddle Company. Many rodeo contestants used the saddle shop for all their partying and sleeping, and it was nothing for a 100 or more people to be in the back shop with “the good times a-rolling!”

Yarnell, Arizona

Bud moved to Wickenburg, Arizona, first and then to Yarnell, Arizona, in 2002. He just moved into his new shop in Yarnell after near five years in the first one. Now, since January '08, with more space, he is applying his saddlemaking craft to new levels of perfection each and every time. Each saddle made, as well as other gear, is expected to be the best he ever did in his lifetime.

To quote Bud’s Catalog:

“..My saddle designs are unique to me. My tooling designs are my own creation. My carving, tooling and stamping are also unique and claimed by those who know to be the best anywhere. Yet all of this creative hand work, results in a durable, comfortable and functional saddle.”

Bud's trees are made by Bill Bean from the 1948 pattern made by Matt Miller. Bill Bean’s brother is the famed TCAA Member Rick Bean. The quality of workmanship is excellent.

For me to throw a leg over a Bud Shaul Saddle would be an honor!

... Signed,

Mike Thomas