Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I feel enlightened!

We're not talking about my classic Western saddle project.

Early last week I received my Susana Bensema Young 'Guide to Making Model Horse Tack', and was promptly intimidated.

This thing is about an inch thick! That's a lot of reading to get through. I was awesome enough to get in on the 'purple binding' edition - purple is my favourite colour.

I had a quick flick through, and though there are some excellent sketches...

SBY's written style in the guide seems to be more conversational, rather than step-by-step. That's fine, it's something that works for a lot of people, but it's not one of my strong points. I think will need to make myself sit down when I have a bunch of time and go through all of it, and attack it with a highlighter. There's going to be a lot of information in there - I just need to find it!

In the meantime, I turned to the other 'kit' I have here at the moment - my KeriOkie English Saddle guide.

Unlike the SBY book, the KeriOkie guide is very step-by-step, insofar as to provide pictures for every step. Excellent!

Read the rest after the jump. Very pic heavy!

Friday, March 16, 2012


I got frustrated yesterday when my SBY tack guide didn't arrive in the mail. (c'mon, posties!) So instead I (finally) cracked open my classic Western saddle kit from Rio Rondo.

Officially, this is, or will be, my second Western saddle. The first was a traditional one from the kit, that I will probably soon pull to pieces for parts, rather than keep for prosperity. But I figured, for the sake of the blog, I should at least take a photo of saddle #1.

Number two is under way. After outlining the pieces, I decided to be adventurous and and try my hand at adding stitch marks around the edge, and adding a straight line to section off the stitch marks.

Knowing my wonderful skill of managing to drive the stitchmarker off the edge of the leather instead of on a straight line, I used the tool before cutting out the pieces, and it worked mostly well. Did have trouble manoeuvring it around the tight corners of the jockeys, but you know.

The line work was not so successful.I had a lot of trouble trying to keep the awl point close to the stitch marks. It wanted to veer off on its on multiple times! And when I could get it close on one piece, on another it insisted on staying a further distance away. I don't know if it's the handle (it's a bit difficult to hold) or just my usual unco-ness :P

On the first kit, I had trouble with the skiver for the shoulder swells; I cut the hole WAY too big.  I'm pleased to say that this time it came out much better - only a smidgen too big, and you can really only tell when you look at it closely. Yay! But the good part is that it's amazing the difference that little bit of detail makes.

I wanted to deviate a little from the kit, and so I put in swinging fenders, which I learned from adding them to my you-finish-it Kirsteen Haley saddle, and tried for the first time to put in cinch billets that came from a ring, as opposed to set in the skirt. It all looked fine, until I put it on a horse and buckled it up. Um, the billets are WAY too far back! And the fenders are too far forward!

I've moved them both, but now the skirt has a lovely hole where the original billets were (mostly hidden by the fenders at least).

At some point I got excited and added some stamped decoration (my friends are rolling their eyes right now). I picked up this little stamp, Z2610, while at Equitana last year. I think it came from Mac Lace, as I found their product catalogue in my mountains of paper that came back with me. Doesn't it look great? I added a single skirt to the upper skirt too. They are probably a touch big for classic scale but oh well. Stars!

For the stirrups I used two pieces of 4.5mm roo lace, and used Shannon's stirrup construction guide found here. No aluminium tape so I used a little lace to hold the pins together, and I think the two-pin method makes for a cleaner finish on the stirrup. (Even if it is on the inside where no one will see...) I also added little star conchos from TWMHC on the outside of the stirrup too. :)

So that's where I finished up last night.

I came in from work today, all excited to start, and realised I'd forgotten something important. Any guesses?

D-rings, of course! (And rear cinch tabs too, but shh.)

So I added in the d-rings, and then started to attempt assembly so I could work out where to put the rear cinch tabs. And then...

Uh oh! This isn't good!

I don't know how I managed to screw this part up. So now it's sitting all the way over there while I write this post, alternately glaring at Felice and trying to imagine how I can fix it.

(The skirts match the patterns (the upper skirt is longer by 1mm) but still...! I might have to make a new lower skirt. :( Would get rid of those holes under the fender, I suppose...)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Adjustable Western stirrups

I'm not sure what I was scared about with turning the fenders on the Kirsteen Haley saddle into adjustable ones. It was so easy I wonder why it isn't done on all saddles!

The swinging fenders I blogged about - my first change to the saddle.

With one good photo from Riversong Musings, we now have adjustable stirrups!

The most difficult part of the process was making sure the strap went in through the buckle in the right direction.

Wrong way.
Right way!

But as soon as I hung my stirrup, I realised it was the wrong size! *sad face* I looked up TWMHC's listings and I think it's the 'small trad/pony' size of RDLC stirrup.

I compared it to a stirrup on a Western saddle from Robyn McCrae, and now it's bleedingly obvious that it's the wrong size. It's not a huge drama - I bought them in a hardware lot from MHSP so it's no one's fault but my own for not checking earlier.

Since I don't have the dye that Kirsteen used (Eco-Flo Timber Brown) I'm not sure what to do. I only JUST placed an order with Rio Rondo last week (of course) so I can't order directly from them - $10 postage for a $7 pair of stirrups? Let's not. TWMHC doesn't seem to stock any classic-size Western stirrups. I do have some leather lace on order and I am hoping that the tan colour will match the dye so I can make leather stirrups, but other than that, I might just have to wait for some silver stirrups to turn up on MHSP!

In the meantime I'll do the little hobble-strap thing that goes above the stirrup, and think about what silver I'm going to put on the saddle skirts.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Hole punches

After reading Jennifer Buxton's post a couple of weeks ago about her choice of bridle hole punches, I went out and bought the recommended brand. (And so did the rest of the tack making community! I think Staedtler share price increased dramatically in the time after that post! :P)


I had a whole blog post planned around how average this pencil is.

Pics too, versus my 0.5mm Pental Techniclick.

But um, I just realised I have totally bought the wrong pencil. I must have got mixed up in my search, because I bought the Staedtler Mars Micro 0.3mm, and not the Staedtler 925 0.3mm. How embarrassing.

Back to eBay I go - hopefully for the right product this time!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Saddle kits

I may or may not have mentioned that I bought a traditional Western saddle kit from Rio Rondo last year. I did finish the saddle (mostly) but decided the saddle wasn't worth sharing here. What IS worth sharing is the leather woes I had while using the kit!

Prior to opening the kit, I had no idea what tooling leather was bar a few scrap pieces I picked up from MHSP. They were thick, rough, dry and gross to touch - not at all the soft leather I was expecting. My only real experience is with kangaroo leather,which is lovely and flexible, and best of all, thin!

Working with the leather from the kit was a real learning curve. Like the scraps I collected from MHSP, it was thick, scratchy and dry.  My little scissors had a hard time dealing with it, and forget about skiving! My usual technique (with a bare blade from a Stanley knife/box cutter) did absolutely nothing. Cutting the long straps for the cinch was fun - it snapped in two when I tried to skive the ends of the buckles.

If only I could stay with kangaroo leather forever!

Touching skiver leather for the first time was an interesting experience. It was a little thicker than I expected, and it also doesn't have as much give to it as I was expecting. (I kept a chunk of it to use as a reference in the future.)

Since there are no tanneries near me, I have to purchase my leather online. Buying from eBay is an adventure in itself but really my only choice at this point. I have my lace supplier in QLD, who does a great job with helping me out with kangaroo offcuts (no point in me investing in a hide at this point in my tack-making 'career') but leather for Western saddles has to come from overseas, I guess.

After this kit arrived last year, before I even started making it, I got all excited and bought an awl, a Tandy super skiver, and a bottle of dye (lol). The dye remains untouched (scary!) but the super skiver is brilliant on the tooling leather. Hope at last! I have tried it on my pieces of roo but it's dangerous - since the roo is a lot thinner than the tooling leather, the skiver goes through so easily. Perfect way to ruin some pieces, really!

I do have a classic Rio Rondo kit here to construct later. If I'm feeling game, I might try to use my Rio Rondo basketweave tool (yes, I have one - one of the originals!) on it, and perhaps dye it too. I imagine the super skiver will make things a LOT easier this time around!

Speaking of kits, this week I received the KeriOkie guide 'Creating the English Saddle'. After a read though, I'm all gung-ho about getting started (perhaps that is what started this tack binge!) even though I don't have the right leather.

The book breaks down the steps and the method is a lot simpler than I expected, to be honest, BUT there is still quite a bit to it - more than goes into making a Western saddle. The book does recommend working with tooling leather, so I suppose at least I have a use for the crazy amounts of scraps I pulled from MHSP!

I also took a big jump a couple of days ago, and ordered the Susan Bensema Young book 'Guide to Model Horse Tack-Making'. I've been eyeing it off for years but haven't been able to order it until now due to the cost. I'm super excited and nervous at the same time!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Tack Day

Sunday is rapidly becoming tack day. I went off tack-making for a little bit but the last two Sundays have seen me pull out the supply box, so I hope this fixation is here to stay!

I bought this beautiful you-finish-it classic saddle from Kirsteen Haley back in October last year, but it didn't arrive until the end of January this year. And then it sat on my desk for a month as I tried to figure out a) what the extra strap is for, and b) what I can do to dress up the saddle!

While I still haven't figured out either of those things, today I did spend a few minutes on the saddle, and with help from Shannon (um, I want to say Granger but I'm not sure - the lady who does Model Horse Performance Magazine!)'s blog, I turned the fixed stirrup fenders into moving ones!

There's an extra strap under the fenders that Kirsteen has informed me is for adjustable stirrups. Gulp! There's a photo on Shannon's blog for adjustable stirrups - I'm just not sure if I can pull it off.

I'm also not sure what decoration to put on the saddle. It needs something to set off the silver horn, but I'm not sure if corner plates on the lower skirt will work. I do intend to put some silver stirrups on there though.

Last Sunday I made a pair of velcro-style classic skid boots with the intention of sticking them on MHSP. Haven't got that far yet as I'm not positive they will sell. There's a pen mark on the interior of one (you can see it in the second photo) and while I've had the boots on my horse for a week with no signs of bleeding, I'm not sure if someone would buy them with that mark there.

I spent today working on a classic Western bridle with the etched bridle plates from Rio Rondo. The bridle looks fantastic, as do the rope reins, but since I don't have a hot glue gun (not going to invest in one) or epoxy, the plates aren't staying on too well. I'll have to experiment to find a glue here that works. I wanted to make this bridle for a sale piece, since there rarely seems to be any classic tack on MHSP, but until I can get those plates stuck permanently, this bridle isn't going anywhere.

During the week I've also been playing with the blackening technique for Rio Rondo's halter plates. I've determined that: a) Sharpie is not a good choice for blackening (it's too purple) but Artline textas work well; b) clear nail polish doesn't work as a fixative, and c) not all designs need blackening to look good.

I'm also having trouble finding a fixative. Rio Rondo recommends a polyurethane clear gloss, which of course I am having lots of trouble finding. I picked up a can of 'National Art Materials Crystal Clear' to try since it was only $10, but I have a feeling it's not going to be suitable.  Sigh!