This saddle, TSII #381, was built in 1995. It thus lands squarely in the middle of a decade of Prism Tape saddles that I made, starting in 1989 and petering out by 2000. This technology was part of the first great wave of improvements in my tackmaking that followed my marriage in 1988. As is typical with new and flashy effects, prism tape on saddles first appeared on a parade set, #343 (Gerhardt's Green & Gold) in 1989. I would use it on halters, harness and corner plates. I liked the effect so much I gave it a fancy name: Filigree Enamel Inlaid. The last prism tape parade set in this wave was #421, built in 2000. In that stretch of eleven years, 78 saddles were built; twenty-one (21) of them were Prism Tape Parade Sets in one form or another (26%). Another saddle from a year earlier (1987) was redecorated (in 1997) in prism tape; this was #197, the famous Perfect Tommy's.
Prism tape faded out in TSII tack with the rise of better braidwork, the shaped aluminum spot and with the realisation of silver tape's decaying adhesive. But it was never common in saddles that were not Parade sets. In the entire 1990s decade, my scrapbook shows just 7 Western saddles using prism tape on their corner plates. Two used red, two had pearl and 3 used blue. This is one of those three blues. Many saddles from this time are missing photos, and I'm only looking at the photos. There could be a (very) few others.
The number one complaint is that the silver tape is falling off.
Here is TSII #381 at the beginning of the process.
I started by peeling off the fuzz lining, and unbuckling straps.
The silver tape is used to make new plates. I trace around them on sheet aluminum. This is Maid-O-Metal at 36/1000s inch thickness. I have dinked with (PhotoShopped) this picture considerably to enhance the lines in shadow. The prongs are drawn in freehand.
If needed, a file is used to smooth off the edges of the aluminum filigree, inside and out. It's easier to file while the figure is still part of a larger piece of metal.
Here we have succeeded on two of the three arms. I'll have to bend the Aluminum for the third arm. Note the blue peeping outside the silver in 2 places. It will later be cut away.
Except for the horn cap, which showed no signs of loosening (and which I can't really fix this way), all the blue plates on TSII #381 were treated in this fashion.
There are a couple of cautions to be broadcast with using pronged sheet-aluminum cut-outs to fix silver tape corner plates on tack. One is I would really recommend lining the piece with some thin black leather afterwards. You don't want the undersides to scratch anything, or snag. Use a white glue designed for leather, and if you have to get in there later for some reason, the glue can be soaked off. This lining causes thickness problems, but the bother of getting and using really thin leather (try garment) is worth it.
A second problem is corrosion of the prism tape itself, and this is a different beast. I'm still solving this one. I know what causes it: there is an extremely thin layer of metal inside the prism tape, and somehow, either by moisture or oxygen penetration, it can become tarnished. When that happens the prism tape turns black. Nothing can fix it - it has to be replaced. I have backstock, but the real trouble is finding the time and the patterns to recut so many silver figures. What if the figure doesn't allow pronging? or doesn't have silver around it? At the moment all I have are ideas, mostly concerning treating the backs of the prism tape with some impermeable coating, such as nail polish. Or maybe another layer of silver tape. It's thin enough.
Field trials needed.
Thank you, Kim, for being willing to share the guts of your saddle!