Monday, September 28, 2020

Face Shield from a Breyer Box


This post aims for two goals.  One is to show how ridiculously easy this project is to make.  The hardest part is peeling the box!  Scroll down to a photo-rich series of instructions.  My second goal is to capture, however imperfectly, the 180-degree switcheroo I went through, from resistance to pride in the making.  How did I accomplish such a changeover?!  What got me past a huge, primal, emotional wall of resistance and refusal?  (There certainly were tears!)  It seems to me the phenomenon of volte-face is more interesting than usual these days.

If you collect Breyers and are reasonably handy (i.e. you have a hole punch somewhere in the house), the ingredients for a face shield like this should be lying around.  One:  a Trad scale horse.  I chose this one because it was his turn to be opened.

You'll need scissors, to cut the box plastic.

Two:  an old spare billed cap, what I call a ball cap, which wouldn't mind having holes punched in it.  No offense meant, dear Hoss.  (Hoss's is a local restaurant, a very good one I might add!) 
 Three, a means of hinge or fastener. Since I am a model tack shop, I used screw-end key posts, which in real life are for key fobs but which I used to use for model parade set stirrups.  Sorry I cannot spare any of these key posts.  I got them at Tandy's.
I haste to add a screw and nut would work.  So would a paper brad.  So would a short bolt and nut.  So would a stapler!  In a pinch, a needle and thread would do the job... although a shield sewn down would be much harder to lift up. 
Four, a way to bling.  This is by no means necessary, but it goes a long way towards explaining the switcheroo.  Perhaps the story is a short one, after all.  I used a Sarah Minkiewicz sticker for my bling.
 In addition to unsurpassed artfulness, it helps hold straight the natural fold-line in the plastic.

The argument for a face shield is that it protects the eyes.  It also enhances the protection of a mask, redirecting air currents around the face.  I don't disagree with the science.  What I didn't like was the sheer unfairness of asking even more from somebody who'd already given so much... where does this stop...  and the Embarrassment
Protecting the eyes can also be done with wrap-around sunglasses, of which I have a couple pair.
On the plus side, the fabric mask really helps with fogging up.

Peel the plastic off the box (or, more accurately, peel the box off the plastic).
Fingernails were useful.  Flatten the sheet carefully.
This is the end result:  a complete sheet of clear flexible plastic.
Test for your face.  Then cut as suggested by the pink dotted line below.  I decided a little overlap of paper, through the tips of the mistletoe leaves, would do no harm.  The longest straight line, at top, is the top of the shield.  The curved bottom was cut to take advantage of as much plastic as possible.

I really like a face shield that extends as far down as this.  Of course there are different Breyer box sizes, and different face sizes too.  This pattern was cut by eye:  I have no pattern to give away or sell.

I held the sheet of plastic around the bill, while wearing the cap, to find the best place for the holes.  In this case the best spot for the hinge hole was in the strap, close to the edges of the bill.

I used drafting templates to help shape the corner curves, and a leather hole punch to make the holes.  But this could easily be done by eye.

This cap was so thin and the keyposts were so long that I had to add some shims.  I used leather pieces.
Here's a shot of the layers coming together.
Probably the most challenging part is getting the tension right, so that the bill edge touches all the way across.  The tension should be tight enough to hold up the shield, but not so tight you can't lift it.

It was a lovely coincidence that the horse whose box this was should be wearing a mask himself.
In a house full of puns and in the home of a meteorologist, a horse called Minstrel was going to be named Mistral.  The Mistral is a dry cold wind that occurs in southern France.
Between the appeal of personal bling, creating something customizable, glorious recycling (!) and having a horse to share the way, I just might navigate my volte face.  But I'm still gonna prefer my sunglasses.
Thank you Mink and Mistral.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

TSII #457 finished: Alta Cincha close up


There's been no time for a formal photo session, yet the desire to show off the last-finished parts is irresistible.  These pix were taken inside, on the tack bench, without benefit of any horses, except in the background and towards the end.  My unfamiliarity with smart phone technology and my native tackmaking slowness seems always to weave and dodge and dance around with my desire (and ability) to show off the piece the very moment it's finished.  It seems like everything's a risk;  I feel simultaneously ashamed and proud, on so many levels.  I am, at least, grateful for an audience, so Enjoy!  There are more exciting bonus sneak peeks at the end of this post.

For this particular tackmaker, the hardest tack parts to make are the ones in the smallest scales relative to the whole piece.  On this saddle, that was the Alta Cincha or decorative girth strap cover.  Mexican saddles have these doohickies, of which the nearest relation in North America is the cinch hanger.  The Clyde Goehring certainly had one, and I made it last the first time around too (in 2014).  Why do we make things so hard for ourselves?!?

Back then, in 2014, I made a kind of clip-on, with a metal backing.  Here's a rare glimpse of that process with TSII #451, Clyde Goehring the First.  The metal clips are on the left, their unfinished leather covers are above right and the paper pattern is between:
This is a close-up crop of one of the finished pictures for #451:

Fast forward to 2020.  I'd had 6 years to research the darn things.  These strap covers are very elaborate, with buckstitching, tooling, sometimes pitiado and up to 3 layers of interlacing keeper.  (The Goehring used 2.)  Now at last I believed I was ready to try a 3-D Alta Cincha, one that truly passed through itself rather than being one layer deep like the clips.  I also chose, this second time around, to not try for the super-thin backing-leather scallops.  I wanted to portray their texture without gaining their added bulk.  I tried scalloping the leather of the Alta Cincha itself.  To my amazement, I got the texture I was after.  It worked.

What we see here is a 3-dimensional leather keeper before it's been sewn together and before it's been completely buckstitched. 

Here's a shot of my miniature scalloping in action, making the linings for the main rings' hangers.  The Needle Chisel being used is the red-and-white one in the above picture.  The quarter gives you an idea of its size.  I made this tool years ago (yes, it took forever to make it).

A close up:  You can barely see the arc at the tip of the Needle Chisel.  On a purely personal note, I did this exhaustive scalloping (usually 4 cuts per scallop) while watch/listening to Wes Anderson's movie Isle of Dogs... a very appropriate story for these times.

Below is an interesting shot of the process of fitting the Alta Cincha into place.  Two facts are noteworthy on this step.  The first is that, even after 6 years, I  hadn't realized that the Clyde Goehring saddle featured only one Alta Cincha.  I had so dreaded making two -- !!!  I had certainly made two for saddle #451 back in 2014.  Saved...

The second fact was that here is another case where I chose to sacrifice authenticity for ease of use, with an eye to the future.  Given the scale and construction of the main engraved girth rings, there was precious little space for the 3 straps that had to pass through them... and once those straps were sewed down, precious little wiggle room for the rings.  I found out the hard way that I could not tie a lark's head knot with the latigo strap (girth strap, tie strap) on the near side, with anything like the ease a TSII saddle normally enjoys.  The ring's right corner was all but un-lift-able.  Embarrassing!  Wrassling with this problem and foreseeing an impossible struggle for the owner if she should ever want to change horses, I decided to put the Alta Cincha on the side which had the most immovable ring.  Thus, it went on the near side. 

Lacing this delicate little piece of buckstitched leather into place was every bit as hard as I'd feared.  oh so breakable... Yet another aspect of authenticity that got sacrificed was two loops of latigo strap around the lower cinch ring.  There just wasn't room.  You'll notice only one loop in the next pic.  The latigo strap passes down, through the Alta's keeper, around the cinch, back up through the Alta, under its top flap and then the strap makes a Lark's Head on the main (engraved) ring.  The tip is cut to a long point and left hanging.  

The Alta Cincha's top flap passes up behind the Lark's Head, down over the top, and under and through itself as keeper (that was really hard).  The Alta's pointed tip next passes through its own top loop, as planned.  There is a tiny hole in the tip of that point, for the cinch's buckle to be hung in.  (We won't mention this saddle's cinch has no tongues.  No room...)  Charros as well as Old West cowboys tie their saddles and mount their horses from the near side, so this really is the wrong side.  But nobody short of me will be taking that thing off anytime soon.  

Still it's an improvement over the 2014 version.

 Here sits #457, still glowing.  It was finally finished this afternoon,... after a mere 11 months and 3 weeks, and an eerily mathematically even 200.9 hours.  My godda bless, what a year!  In all that time, I succeeded in making 3 other pieces of tack:  a breastcollar for Brasenose, a complete rebuild of TSII #89 and an update on the King's Herd Hackamore.  (I also painted a Trad size resin during NMPM.)  Hard to believe.  I hope to do more in time to come.

For there will be time to come.

Here is the Sneak Peek I promised in the beginning.  Why don't I put the whole set on this horse?  Not from moral restraint (though I have some, believe it or not); nor from frustration at his rack (Saddlebreds are not shown in Parade at the rack).  But because, quite simply, the breed is wrong for the type of saddle.  We have other horses that are so much more suitable:  Toucano, Valhombra and SnowHammer (Alborozo) himself.  The bridle and breastcollar, however, are stylistically fitting (and insanely alluring).

I have plans for this horse.  He is inspiring me almost to madness.  Him and all those photo shows out there now.  

Use your imagination.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Left Cheek, Right Cheek

 There seems to be a pattern here...!  How my customers can bear to wait so long is amazing, yet I truly have been trying as hard as I could.  Tackmaking is still fun and wonderful.  It's just that there have been so many distractions, not to mention mesmerizations, going on...

During the early months of quarantine I was sailing along fine.  I heard from other artists how tough they were finding things -- how their muse was drained, their hope low and all their mojo gone -- but I just couldn't understand.  I could never lose my joy in creating:  it had always been part of me.  Of course there are ups and downs, tidal waves and retreats... but this... no: All things considered, I was doing just fine.  And then came July.

In late June my family entered a zone it had not been in before:  My Mom went into hospital for nearly a month.  It was not Covid19.  She had small bowel obstruction w/ complications.  It should have been an easy fix, but something went wrong, and for an 86-yr-old already on oxygen, very bad.  I could only advise from afar.  No one has been able to visit her.  She is in rehab now, God be praised, learning how to walk again.  Curiously, mysteriously (!) with her slow recovery, much of my mojo has returned.

 I've sometimes not recognized I was struggling, even when it was obvious.  Early July went by with no tack hours at all; other weeks, starting mid-July, had only 5 or 6.  It's ranged from 2 to 12 hours per week.  The last two weeks have accumulated a total of 7 tackmaking.  But after so much struggle, I do feel things are turning around.  Perhaps I've gotten used to balancing on a tightrope in a three-ring circus.

This is a very complex piece of tack, one that requires every bit of skill; and it is still teaching me.  Each concho and plate gets to be made from scratch, have its backing loop soldered on, then be set in Thermo-Loc.  Then engraved, and the Thermo-Loc shaved off -- a ridiculous waste of time, and I really hope I've learned to completely change my approach!  Future plates will be engraved first THEN have their backing loops soldered on, the work of polishing-after-soldering be just accepted... Then the conchos are set, again by hand.

Here you see me using scissors to clip the soldered metal lace at an angle, so there will be points on the prongs:

Three-ring circus it is:  there were plenty of other distractions going on.  Our air conditioner was not answering to its control panel and eventually failed to turn on at all.  (After much research we ordered another.)  With the choice to conduct classes online, we decided our internet was too slow.  We had lived on DSL for decades, never needing cable since we are not TV watchers.  (What does that say about our entertainment?  Only that we read at the table, and read,  and.. read... and ... READ...)  Now we have cable (and cable bills), hah!  On the roster of ridiculous things unattended to, the dishwasher is still broken, ye who have followed these adventures!  It's almost Shakespearean, the comedy of errors.  

There was regular life:  walks, runs, hikes, drives, canoe trips locally, of which the last two get catered to (I am particularly proud of our in-house canoe caterer!)  FaceBook went from mildly addictive to something I could not seem to control.  And every evening, almost without fail, we enacted our own Quarantine Routine:  jigsaw puzzles right before bed.  This, too, is an addiction of mine, and although I thought it was controlled, it wasn't completely and it ate a lot of time.  Why are humans so hypnotizable?

I've got a bunch of future blog post subjects and that's one of them.  I love puzzles.

 The process of 'sinking' the silver into the leather is a whole 'nother tack trick, one that's very hard to execute properly.  On this bridle I learned a new way to do it, in addition to the old way of tooling a shallow 'pocket' by eye.  The new trick was to outline after the concho was set, with a thin dull awl.

Here you see the conchos during the piercing stage.  Each slit is located by eye and cut with a needle chisel.


One by one, the conchos were set.  First the near cheekstrap, then the offside.  One piece at a time, cheek...  by...  cheek.

 Man, what a beautiful bridle.

On this style of cheekstrap, one hard part to build is the bit holding arrangement.  I've long since figured the how -- a friction keeper on the inside -- but executing it was tough with that lower concho in the way.  How to hide the stitches, showing as little as possible?!  Above, you can see the keeper's stitches on either side of the last concho's place.  (Remember that square of leather in the 2nd pic?  That's the keeper.)  Only one side is sewn at first here; (the other side is just holes).  Here's the back view (below).  Having the holes pre-pierced was an advantage.

Here's the same view with the last concho set in:

Real tack trick here:  The second side of stitches is done AFTER the concho is set.  How to sew them under the metal?  Bend the leather and raise the concho's edge.  It's flexible, leather.

Later, a thin lining leather is used to cover the prongs. 


When the cheekstraps were done, I had to decide what kind of buckle would be used on the crown.  My first pass at this saddle portrait, TSII #451, used a tongue buckle.  Yet for some reason the Muse wanted a friction, or double, buckle there.  I finally made one from scratch -- a lot of filing.  At first I thought it was too big and you'll never know how close I came to selling it.  Then I hammered it smaller and decided it was okay.  I eventually made a matching throatlatch buckle, from metal which had been hammered thinner to get a smaller gauge.  [Note from the future {08.30}:  evidence points to these 2 buckles being sterling.]

Here we see the 2 buckles right before engraving (sorry bad focus):


Although the indicated horse for this order is Alborozo, I've been shooting these pieces on Straight Bet, known in my herd as Toucano.  He is refreshingly different, a completely lovely color and still a Spanish breed.  He's also newer, something I hate to admit influences me so much, but it does.

The breastcollar does not fit him, because of the mane.  Perhaps I can be forgiven for showing him anyway.

A peek at the crown buckle, which caused me so much psychic effort.


I should end here, yet can't resist including a glimpse from April.  You can get an idea where this set is going.  No. 457 is not done yet.  Engraved cinch rings, their hanging and conchos and their straps, and the Alta Cinchas (decorative coverings) are still to be made; and I've discovered I didn't allow space for the straps' hanging at the front end of the pommel and skirt.  Destruction lies ahead.  [Note from the future {08.30}: There is actually space for the straps to pass between tree and skirt.  No destruction necessary, but some straining will occur.]

I am intrigued by the circus life.  Didn't those old-time circus people live on trains, in narrow quarters, out of chests and boxes, with very few possessions?  Didn't they take entertainment very seriously?  Weren't they free to pursue their highly specialized skills, in the company of others like themselves?  

There's light at the end of the tunnel.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Loot pix, round two: Dirhamri

This horse, plus her still-wrapped companion, constitutes Round Two of my loot pix.  There will be a third round, I hope, once I get together with my local dealer.  The companion was intended from the beginning to be trade goods, so I've left him safe in his cocoon.  Who knows, there might even be a round four.  This definitely is the year for long-drawn-out loot.

These shots were taken on a neighborhood stroll last week, when I was trying out my ideas about blue horses wearing blue tack.
It's been a long time since I've been smitten with a blue horse.  There was a time I collected them assiduously; I once won a Collector's Class with 8 blue horses.  But that was about 15 years ago.  Still, when I saw Boudicca I knew I wanted her.  She is unlike any Breyer I've seen; indeed, she is unlike any blue model horse I've ever known.  She's really grown on me.

The setting here is a neighborhood middle school (or, as I knew them when I was a kid, junior high).   We are now specialists in finding places to walk where and when nobody else is.

The inspiration for her name, Dirhamri, comes from Dihamri, a beach on the island of Socotra.  Where is Socotra?  It's in the Arabian Sea, off the Gulf of Aden.  How on earth did I find this one?  Because my husband found a tourist video of Socotra put out by the Yemeni government, and it happened to be really good:

Why am I naming an obviously Celtic horse with a Yemeni (Arabian) name?  But isn't this the same girl who named a thoroughly Russian horse a very British name...?
Brasenose, sculpted by M. Malova

Yeah, I'm that way.  They sounded good to me; the artist in me "just knew."  I've always loved naming horses.

This hackamore is the only blue piece in my collection of braided TSII tack.  It dates from 1995 and is called "April's Hackamore" after the horse it was first made for (an O. F. Indian Pony).  I find myself using it often.  It's midway in detail between the oldest ones like Duke's (1984) and the level represented by Fancy's Hackamore (2005).  It's ornamented enough to satisfy me yet is not so detailed as to make its loss or misuse a tragedy.  That would be the case with something like Rinker's Hackamore (2011).

It always amazes me how fast these ponies train:  one session and they're good to go.  :)  Still there is a wildness about her.  She's married to my most flamboyant and striking Akhal Teke, Talisman (Altynai) and she was given a foal from the start, barely finding out who she is.  Yet I love her and have a distinct sense of her personality.  I have confidence she'll be around for a while.

And I'm inspired to make hackamores in blue and white.

But first, finish a Mexican saddle and do two Akhal Teke sets... which happened to want blue stones.  Some things never change.