Sunday, April 19, 2015

Two Shoulders & A Saddle Pad

This post is about creating the shoulders (pommel) of TSII #454.  This post also features my new CKTT (Cristina Brown) English saddle pad!  What do they have in common?  Both of these subjects are something I promised I would post on, but in the case of the saddle blanket, the promise was quite some time ago.  My apologies.  It seems the one factor model tack always has is that it takes forever.

I discovered Cristina Brown several years ago, but it wasn't until November of 2013 that I was lucky enough to snatch one of her saddles.  I saw on her blog that she had some upcoming sales, and before they could even be announced, I made an offer.  I didn't care what color it was, I just wanted one.  Indeed I was lucky.  I snagged a very nice multi-purpose black English saddle by this most detailed and talented of British tackmakers.  It even has tufting!!  However, it didn't have a girth... or a blanket (pad).

Cristina's blog showed something fascinating: miniature logos on pads.  I complimented her -- I'd never seen this on pads (and rarely elsewhere).  I also asked about a blanket for mine; and to my joy she suggested she put my logo on one.  To this day I'm not quite sure how it was done.
This lovely little quilted pad arrived in February (2015).  All I can say is thanks.
 I love model English saddles!

One logical beginning to the development of the shoulders of TSII #454 is, in hindsight, the Clyde Goehring saddle (TSII #451).  That one taught me so much about using a resincast tree.  Previously (since 2008) I had filled pommels with Fimo, guided by a tip from another tackmaker.  The Goehring's pommel had no leather on it at all, just silver, and I suppose that must have been working on my subconscious, because when the Gold-Tipped rolled around, I was hit by a brainwave.  Why not entirely sculpt the pommel, and do away with shaping it from leather?  "No one's gonna see any leather!"  Other engineering problems presented themselves, but they were all of the sort I thought I could conquer.
And so, with familiarity brought on by previous adventures, I pulled out the Fimo and sculpted away.  The shape is difficult to depict with a photograph.
All along I've had great difficulties with this part of the Western saddle.  It is, in some ways, the heart and soul of that unique shape.  Over a span of 30+ years, I had perfected my ways of making this shape, but as with all handcraft skills, somehow my art was still moving and changing.  I wanted to be able to capture the gullet and rim in ways I hadn't before, ways that would allow custom braiding and have a hollow space beneath, yet still be strong and 'playworthy.'  In addition I wanted to keep certain techniques I'd developed over those 30 years and had proven, time and again, that they belonged on a TSII saddle.  One of these was the wire-cored horn.
The horn of a TSII Silver Parade Set, when first born,  looks like this:
 I knew it would be too long for what I had in mind, so I chopped it, wiring the base shut:
Next was the most daring step of all.  I can hear friends bemoaning that I didn't make a mold of what I had so carefully sculpted.... My only excuse, flimsy but true, is that for now it is easier to sculpt another.  I took a deep breath and wielded the knife:  I sliced my handbuilt pommel in two. 
The idea was to embed the horn wires in the shoulders.
 I also wanted to have more than two points of connection with the base plate (bottom skirt), so I included more wires:
More sculpting followed.  For a tackmaker who's pretty much never sculpted in those 30+ years, recently I sure have dabbled in the stuff!
 Again, the shape is hard to show in photos.
 This three-dimensionality is what makes capturing a Western saddle in miniature so appealing, and so challenging!  The only way to achieve symmetry was by hand.  And model tack, especially a saddle tree, absolutely has to be symmetric!
Or at least very close...
This was what I'd wanted.  This was what I'd in mind.  The thrill of the chase was upon me.  After baking, the next step was the gullet braiding.  True to form, The Gold-Tipped fought me here, and the gullet braiding had to be done twice.
Thin leather and Galaxy lace, properly prepared, present no mysteries to me.  Nonetheless, handmade stuff has its quirks, and no two pieces are exactly alike.  The first time through the gullet braiding wrinkled and resisted.  Truly, I am on the edge of what I can do, even here.
How the mighty are fallen! -- err, using the anvil to hold the braiding in place while the glue dries.
This next view is taken through the magnifying glass.  It is looking up at the bottom of the gullet, underneath the shoulders.  I don't know if this area has a name, but 'throat' would be appropriate.
I'm using pins to help hold down the leather.  This is the only leather that will show on the shoulders of the saddle.
Silver taping is next.  As the Goehring explained ( Silver progress on the Goehring), there is at least one great place, still, for silver tape in my model tack. 
It's very hard to dictate this step exactly, as each piece is individually cut out and fitted.  It really is by hand and eye.  I peel off the paper in bits.
Darting takes place as the individual wrinkles dictate.  The goal is to cover the shoulders completely with silver and smoothe it down, leaving as few lines as possible.  Such lines will be covered up (hidden) later, during the embossing and engraving stage.
And now things are going fast and furious -- the end is in sight.  Engraving, as explained with the Goehring, is done with a dull awl.  The next step in the shoulders of #454 is insertion:  wiring.  It's yet another of those hard-to-explain steps.  The wires are pressed through the base plate and wrapped around leather and themselves to secure the shoulders to the saddle.  No glue!!  It's a trick to get the wires to not have bumps or lumps -- no soring of the back, please.  To cover the underside of the saddle, a lining is used, either fleece or chamois.  I usually use Elmer's for this lining step, in case it has to be removed later.
Pommel caps were used on this saddle.  That's a subject for another post altogether!
And the silver taping is done.
I've never made a Parade pommel like this before.  It's only taken 37 years!  My first parade set was made in 1978.  I'll have to post on that... the scrapbooks of the TSII... one of these days...

Thanks go to Kerie Okie for the original pommel idea, to Sandra Garner for her patience, to Melody Snow who first showed me ikandis; and to Cristina Brown for the terrific pad!  And to other tackmakers and friends, who know who they are, for long discussions...  much appreciated.  : )

Next up:  Fancy's Hackamore. 

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