Monday, August 27, 2012

And We're Walking

Moving right along through my backlog. I have a pesky saddleseat set on my desk that just refuses to be done... if it isn't a broken buckle, it's a weak bit or lumpy panel. Some sets fight you all the way through, and some just put themselves together.
This set was (thankfully!) in the latter category!

Totally came together all on its own.

It has a gullet? What is this strange occurance?

Another set off to its new owner. It feels good to finish things!

P.S... fussed with the blog design. Turns out if you want to use any cool fonts, it will just autocorrect them to yucky Comic Sans. So "boring" title font it is! Anything is better than Sans...

Friday, August 24, 2012

England and Imagination

Nothing is better than coming home to an envelope from jolly old England, especially when it's bringing me these!
The pause in saddle production is gone and it's business as usual around here. Tonight was about finishing, so this "orange" saddle...

And this replacement bridle...

Couldn't locate the sticky wax. Use your imagination.
Are done and done.
Actually looking at that pic I realize the saddle needs nailheads, but other than that!

I usually prefer to do my workloads in groups; saddles first, then bridles, then any accessories. I don't know why, but once I get into the groove of saddle making, saddles are easy. Same goes for bridles. It's just constantly transitioning that doesn't really work for me.

I have a how-to post cooking. I promise it'll be interesting.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hello. I'm a Mini English Tackmaker

So where did this come from?

I might have ordered a saddle tree set from Rio Rondo with my last order, just for fun and experimental purposes. And now I have a Traditional gaming set on my hands. All the commissions are plugging away just fine, but this was a very fun detour! Now back to the usual teensy-tinies...

For those interested: I have no idea what I'm doing with all things western, so this set will be up for salesies on MH$P sometime in the future. I'll be sure to post a link when that happens.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


I was going to make this post about being "performance-friendly," but I totally forgot the point I was trying to make with that post, so instead I'll treat you to a montage of molds I've made tack for. And which ones I like. And which ones I don't.

95% of the tack orders I get are for hunter or jumper type sets for these guys:
Breyer G3 Jumper

Breyer G3 Cantering WB

Breyer G4 Driving

Which is totally fine. I like these guys. These guys are nice. These guys are my friends. Notice how they all have existent backs, clean bridle paths and their hair do's are nicely sized to accomodate a bridle. They each have their individual "flaws" I've become accustomed to working around; like the Driver's chunky-town legs, the jumper's withers and the Warmblood's forelock (not really a flaw... I love that mold), but for the most part they are fine examples of English performance horses.

Then there's the other 5% of my orders. This consists of Dressage tack, always without fail for this guy...
Breyer G4 Dressage

And the odd "specialty" project, like my current Paso set for this guy...

Breyer G3 Paso

And past Tennessee Walking Horse sets for this guy.
Breyer G3 TWH

Then there's the "normal" set for molds that aren't in the Big Three. Like this guy...
Breyer G2 WB

And this guy.

Breyer G4 Paradressage

And him, too. (He's like the perfect example of tack friendly. No intrusive mane, nice long back, clean head... sigh...)
Breyer G3 TB

You'll notice that these are all Breyers. And I can understand why- Stablemates are cheap, easy to come by and actually really nice little sculptures. The first three horses in this post are excellent performance horses and consistently win at shows. The only real alternative (besides resins, but I'm talking about simpletons like me) is Peter Stone's line of Chips.

They're also great little sculptures, but they tend to get overlooked because honestly in the performance ring Breyer has them beat. They also tend to be more expensive, and the factory paint jobs I have aren't really up to scratch ("Dapples? Nah, I think I'll just fling paint at the horse's side.").

Of course there are exceptions. When given the choice, I will always vote for this pony...
Chips pony

Over this pony.

Breyer G3 pony.

They're roughly the same size, but check out the space on the Breyer pony's back, in between the bulky mane and point of hip. (Hint: There's like a centimeter of space there. This pony was not sculpted for a saddle).

Now scroll up and check out the space between the Chip pony's withers and hip. Very nice, right?

The saddle doesn't go all the way to a horse's hip, of course, which further proves why you'd better take a hacksaw to her mane before you think of tacking up the Breyer pony.

The other "exception" Chip:
Chips WB

This guy is actually quite nice as well. Ya know, for a Peter Stone.

And thus concludes my mold rant. Well, my first mold rant. I have another post about Stablemate generations cooking, so get yourself braced to be educated!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Riding Aside

Is something I've always wanted to try and learn. Good riders make it look so easy, but judging from my single experience in a side saddle (on a very inert saddle rack) it can't possibly be as effortless as they let on! Balance while riding astride is a skill... I can't imagine jumping or posting or anything in a side saddle. Sure would be cool to learn someday.

All this leading up to my (sort of) recent spree of side saddle making, both for myself and for sale. This first set I made specifically for this gorgeous custom I've had for a while (all work done by the very talented Carla Bushman. Check out her very pretty website and drool over some ponies here):
I clearly need to brush up on my photography skills, but you get the idea. The seat, pannels, and parts of the pommels are gorgeous dark green suede.

I really don't want to use this blog as an advertising venue, but... well, if you like what you see, this cutie and his tack set are for sale together on MH$P.
His face is cute. You'll just have to take my word for it.
You can check out their listing here, or have a click around this website if you're interested in learning a little more about side saddle. It's an interesting read, especially if you want to either show side saddle in performance or want to make a side saddle of your own.

(Actually, the little girl on the home page is worth the click all on her own, but ya know. It's also educational and stuff.)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Various pretty models from way back in July, at Breyerfest in Lexington, KY. Enjoy!

Mindy on the right (SM scale). The other guy was TINY!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Birth of an English Saddle, Part Three

The final part! Let's finish this thing up.

This next piece is another I don't even have a pattern for- the little semi-circle of leather that covers up the backside of the tree. It's very much an estimated piece, then cut out, held in place and trimmed as neccesary. Then skived of course, and glued over the exposed soda can.

And the very last part to any saddle is the panels.

Here I've cut out my current pattern and trimmed a little off the end (when I held it against the bottom of the saddle it was a tad long). Right after this pic I made a cut all the way along the long side to make the whole thing thinner.

Then, just like we did with the tree, I hold the soda can piece to the rough side of my leather and trace a larger version, then cut it out. That piece gets skived.
Recently I've started adding a little tiny piece of felt to the back end of my panels- it really helps make them "squashier" and help the saddle sit nicely on the horse's back.

Baby pink color is optional.
You can kind of see the shape I've traced on the edge of the leather there.

I then super glue my skived leather piece to the felt side up side of the soda can panel. This makes it much easier to wrap and glue the edges to the flat soda can back.

Starting to tuck up those edges.
After the panel is fully "wrapped," I repeat the whole process again with the other one!

The reason I use soda can for my panels is because a) it's really easy to wrap the leather neatly around, b) it holds its shape even after the leather is applied, and c) you can twist the whole panel into the shape of the underside of the saddle, which helps hold the whole saddle into a nice curved shape instead of it easily going flat.
Twisty twisty.
And finally, both panels are superglued into place on the bottom of the saddle.
And the saddle's done!

Actually, the two very last steps are to gently bend the tooling leather in the knee rolls to better "hug" the horse's shape, and to take a tiny, tiny amount of silver paint and dab on nailheads to the skirt.
Thank you to anyone who took the time to read this little series! If you have any specific questions, comments, or would like to see any process in greater detail, just drop me a comment below and I'll make it happen!

Next topic looks like it's going to be skiving leather. Something I spend a lot of time doing. :)

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!