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Sitting pretty: Minn. man makes custom saddles by hand

BARNESVILLE, Minn. - People are often surprised by what Cliff Langerud does for a living. The Barnesville man is a saddle maker. He's made more than 550 saddles by hand. "They're absolutely wonderful," his wife, Mary Langerud, said of the saddles...

Cliff Langerud of Langerud Custom Saddles in Barnesville, Minn., has made more than 550 saddles by hand. Cody Rogness / The Forum
Cliff Langerud of Langerud Custom Saddles in Barnesville, Minn., has made more than 550 saddles by hand. Cody Rogness / The Forum
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BARNESVILLE, Minn. – People are often surprised by what Cliff Langerud does for a living.

The Barnesville man is a saddle maker. He's made more than 550 saddles by hand.

"They're absolutely wonderful," his wife, Mary Langerud, said of the saddles. "They're the most comfortable I've ever seen. He has people sit in them and he knows exactly what they want."

Cliff Langerud has been making saddles since the early 1990s. It started as a hobby and grew into a full-time business, Langerud Custom Saddles. Prior to making saddles full time, Langerud was a plumber for 27 years.

"He always wanted to know how to do it, so our daughter bought him a book on saddle-making," Mary Langerud said.

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There are no fancy machines or high-tech tools in Langerud's workshop. He cuts, stretches and shapes the saddles by hand and uses a vintage sewing machine.

"I can build a plain saddle in four days if I don't get bothered," he said. "I'd say the average length of building a saddle down here seven, eight days depending on how fancy they are."

Some saddles have taken him a month to make because of the intricacy of the carving, but he doesn't mind the work.

"If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life," he said.

It's the attention to detail, stamping, carving and sewing that Langerud works hard to perfect.

"I don't think I've ever built a saddle I'm perfectly happy with, but I'm a little bit of a perfectionist," he said. "You can't be a total perfectionist or you'd never make a living."

His saddles, which are more like works of art, stand out from those made in a factory.

"I use real sheepskin," he said. "Most saddles don't have that. They have imitation."

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He also uses American-made leather from Pennsylvania-based Wickett & Craig tannery and English bridal leather because it has wax and oil forced into it.

"It lasts a long time," he said. "It feels like it's broke in already when you get on it."

It takes a whole cow and a whole sheep to build one saddle, Langerud said. The base price starts at $2,600.

Mark Carr of Sabin does a lot of horse riding and said Langerud's saddles are excellently built.

"Some guys make saddles pretty, but his just fit a person's anatomy so nicely," Carr said.

Langerud has saddles all over the country. He also makes bridles and breast collars and he does repair work.

Mary Langerud makes chaps.

"We have all the leather here and the equipment and I like doing the artistic part," she said.

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To contact Langerud Custom Saddles, call (218) 354-7157.

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE
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