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!

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