Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

Rocky Mountain Adventure Gear - For all Your Motorized and Non-Motorized Adventures!

By Andi Bourne

Back in the Saddle...Business


December 28, 2017

Andi Bourne, Pathfinder

Owner Angelo Pecora relaxes with a cup of coffee at his leather working bench. Past business names included Sore Saddle Holster and Saddle Company in Michigan and Cowboy Creek Saddle & Leather when he came to Montana. Now he goes by Clearwater River Saddle Company, at least until he hands out his 500 business cards.

SEELEY LAKE – From Michigan to Montana, Seeley Lake resident Angelo Pecora continues to pursue his dream of making saddles. Clearwater River Saddle Company is a custom saddle and repair shop offering quality leather goods including saddles, holsters, sheaths, belts and wallets made in Pecora's one man shop. Even though his name has changed over the years, his goal is still the same, to build a saddle that will "fit you like a glove."

Pecora has always been interested in old time skills and crafts. He started his leather-working career making holsters at his house in Dexter, Mich.

"I ruined a kitchen table by pounding on it and carving on it," said Pecora unapologetically. "I always thought the epitome of leather work was saddle building."

Pecora took two 10-day saddle courses in Loveland, Colo. from Dusty Johnson who works at the Pleasant Valley Saddle Shop. The first course in 1998 was on saddle construction and the second class in 2000 was on tooling. Both classes they built a saddle. The tooling class taught him how to carve in the leather.

Pecora started his saddle business in Michigan and worked out of The Dexter Mill where he built 37 saddles.

"I am not a master saddle builder," said Pecora. "I make nice using saddles. They aren't that pretty. No silver and very little tooling and border stamping."

Pecora said it was a big deal to be a saddle maker in Michigan because no one was making saddles. At his peak he could complete a saddle in 40 hours and had a waiting list. He also did a lot of repair work.

After moving to Montana 10 years ago, he thought, "Oh boy, I'm in Montana I'm going to sell some saddles. I couldn't sell a saddle for nothing because no one had any money [saddles were going for $2,500-$3,000] and no one seemed to care."

He continued with his leatherwork making belts, holsters, sheathes, rifle scabbards, wallets, bracelets and repairing and restoring leather goods.

His standard belts are made out of American bridal leather. He puts on an antique finish and oils it up to four times, waxes it and buffs it. It goes for $50.

Andi Bourne, Pathfinder

Pecora starts with the saddle tree. He uses wood trees wrapped in rawhide purchased from Bowden Saddle Tree Co., Inc. in Vernal, Utah, "You can spend more money but you can't buy a better tree," said Pecora. He also uses Hermann Oak Leather which "is the best leather you can buy in the United States." Most of the hardware is also made in the United States. All of his saddles are hard seats.

"That came through trial and error but I'm pretty proud of the finish," said Pecora. "It takes almost as long to put the right finish on [as it does to make the belt]. That is the last belt you will need to buy."

He also offers a natural leather, thinner belt for $38. He does all of the stamping on the belts and "the possibilities are endless." The Montana Musselshell is Pecora's favorite.

It wasn't until this fall that he resumed saddle building. He sold his first Montana saddle for $1,500.

"My goal is to get comfortable building saddles again and to have the leather and the trees on hand like I used to," said Pecora. "It's nice to come out here and do a belt or do a wallet or do one of those little bracelets or this or that, it gives me a little break from the action. But if you can build a saddle, there isn't much you can't do in the leather world short of upholstery and boots."

Clearwater River Saddle Company is located at 11560 Boy Scout Road north of Seeley Lake. Pecora can be reached at 734-945-1744, email or like Cowboy Creek Saddle & Leather (his leatherworks business name) or Angelo Pecora on Facebook.


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