Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Thick of It

I don't know how many English sets I've made in my "career" so far. If I had to guess, I'd say somewhere between a good few and a bunch.

What made this week's set different than the past many, is the fact that it's made entirely from 3mm tooling cowhide. 

Here's a thickness comparison reference for you:

The cowhide is easily double the thickness of my normal leather, skiver, which still needs to be skived down quite a bit to be usable for mini scale tack. Using this super chunky stuff meant at least double the skiving time on every. Single. Piece.

Grace, you ask, if it takes forever to make usable, why use the thick leather in the first place?

Good question.

While there's nothing especially wrong with my skiver, I've been looking for a leather with a smaller grain for a long while now. 

Skiver saddle, sometime in 2015

Cowhide saddle, circa today

Besides the more discreet grain, this thicker leather also has a bit more body to it, which makes all the little tiny straps and whatnot feel slightly less fragile.

It's also much better at holding little details like stitch marks, and I like its overall well-oiled, quality kind of look.

The added prep work time means charging more for cowhide sets than skiver ones, which I don't love. My prices are slowly increasing over the years as the quality of my tack increases (I hope!), and I do my best to be fair to myself and my customers, but pricing is still super tricky for me. 

At this point, I really like the cowhide and I'm not sure if this is a full transition away from skiver or just a fun departure. I feel like the big skiver grain will bug me much more now that I have a better alternative...

I was really pleased with how these boots came out! The new leather definitely molds to the leg better and holds a nice shape.

And of course, what pad color could I possible choose on St. Patrick's Day but spring green?

For this set, I aimed for a good kind of starter English package to cover jumper, hunter, and your trail/games/other classes in the English division. I figured as I'm not currently taking commissions, it'd be convenient to offer a full package kind of deal instead of leaving someone wanting for boots or a breastplate or something. 

Having done a few basic/general purpose sets back to back, I'm really itching to try something a bit different next. I'm thinking some crazy eventing set or something?

Any other tackmakers out there, I'd be interested in any leather suggestions that might split the difference between the cowhide and skiver- thinner than cowhide with tighter grain than skiver?

(Update: this set is now up for grabs on MH$P here!)


  1. Grace, this is exquisite. Please be sure I'm on your wait list and notice list when you have anything for sale. :))

  2. I use cowhide alot, I been dremeling it down first on real thick leather I use the bench grinder then when it's down so far thinner I use the dremel but i have to be care ful can get a hole on it fast if not careful. I did my s.m. pony sidesaddle in cowhide. I tooled it first, held its pattern very well then I thinned it. It's best grain those thicker leathers. Even with patent and colored leather.

  3. I picked up a tooling sheep skin at Tandy, hoping it would work since I didn't love the color of their cowhides. It's okay, but I don't love it. I end up with way more grain than I want.

    Where are y'all finding your cowhide or calf?

    1. The stuff I'm using now is actually from a bag of scraps I picked up in the clearance bin from Tandy a million years ago- it's very similar to the tooling leather Rio Rondo sells, if you're familiar. Pretty stiff and my scraps are kind of all over the place thickness-wise!
      I really just need to make the drive out to Tandy and see what they have nowadays for myself... but for now, the scraps could be worse!