Monday, August 6, 2012

Birth of an English Saddle, Part Two

The tree and skirt. And stirrups.

At this point, the completed flap gets put aside for a while and I get the dangerous soda can out of its corner. My tree pattern is basically a one-size-fits-(almost)-all deal, and almost always gets adjusted before it actually goes on the saddle.

My pattern vs. what the tree actually ends up looking like. In this case, I took a bit off the cantle, wings, and cut in a pommel shape. It's really an eyeballing sort of deal; I hold up the tree to the flap on the horse's back and see if it looks good or bad.

Once I have the shape and size I'm looking for, I flatten the tree back out on the rough side of my leather. To make the "seat" slash tree cover, I just trace a little ways off the edges of the tree to make a kind of cut-off teardrop shape. Then skive it within an inch of its life. The thinner this piece is, the better the seat (especially cantle area) will look.

We then bend the tree back into shape and spring out the super glue (that was on the supplies list, right? Right?) and smear a tiny, tiny bit onto the top. This is where the super thin light leather likes to just absorb the glue and get dark splotches- this is avoided by only using as much glue as it takes to make the leather stick. Which isn't very much.

Then, kind of like with the knee rolls, we wrap the edges of the leather around to the back of the tree.
Leather by the pommel needs a snip!
I make three little cuts in the leather that go straight from the edge of the leather piece to the edge of the soda can; right underneath each wing and straight down the center of the piece that folds down over the pommel. These just help to get a smooth, easy fold.

Finished tree!
At this point, we go back to our flap and fold it in half so the edges match up. Then a tiny amount of super glue is dabbed right along the fold, where the tree is then placed. This helps make sure it's going on straight, not crooked. It will help the flaps to remain the same size.
It might actually be a saddle!
It also helps to dab a little tiny bit of super glue underneath each of the wings of the tree, to hold the curved shape of the front of the saddle.

I then turn to my skirt pattern, trace two opposite pieces, cut them out and skive. The skirt is another piece that really needs to be paper thin, to reduce bulk around the twist area.
I often end up with something like that blob. The tail tends to like to rip off in the skiving process... which for some saddles requires a do-over, but for this one you can't even tell.
Some more Gum is employed to help tame the fuzzies around the edges there, as well as some snipping and re-shaping before it's glued in place on the saddle.
And nooow it's coming together.

Rinse and repeat with the other skirt, making sure they're similar in size and shape.
Next are the stirrups, which are probably the easiest part of the whole saddle. It's just lace (getting its own post... in the future...) threaded through stirrups and glued into place under the skirt.
They were trimmed down a bit after this pic. Too long!
Then one more peice of lace with tiny holes punched in it, sticking out diagonally.
Two holes are poked in the flap on either side of this third peice, through which I thread a tiny piece of leather that acts as keeper.
You can't tell very well, but here I've threaded one end of the keeper piece through one hole but not the other. Both ends are glued down on the backside.

And the top side of the saddle is just about finished! Next I'll go over the underside. Stay tuned!

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