Wednesday, July 19, 2017

BreyerFest Goodies

I am unable to resist posting the traditional "BreyerFest Loot" shot.  I plead temporary insanity.  In fact more Hartlands than Breyers came home with me; one Stone and one resincast also made the trip.  There's tack here too of course:  two blankets (of which you shall hear more -- I'm overdue for a blanket post!) and one fabulous saddle.  The saddle cost the most by far of all these pieces.  It is by Heather Moreton of Desert Night Creations, and it has its own odyssey.

You will note amazingly few of the BreyerFest tent pieces (Speical Runs):  I only wanted two.  Am I really that insane, since it's obvious I can afford them if I want them??  Hah!  One of a tackmaker's tough choices is what to do when Breyer releases a new mold in a different color, after you've already bonded with an earlier one.  I've already bonded with my bay Harley D Zip.  (Great color, hand chosen, hard to get.)  Having drawn the matte buckskin for my Surprise model, I felt I did not want him.  In addition, mane, tail and gender changes do not necessarily make a new model, not from a tackmaking point of view...  and my shelf space is not limitless.  Of course I thought the other colors were lovely, and I may change my mind in the future, but for now...
The same argument applies to Nazruddin.  Though he is beautiful in chestnut, I've already bonded with my palomino (as readers of my website will recall:  he's there now, wearing the TriColor Silver Parade saddle!).
The red halter, worn here by Kaalee/Jezail, is clearly meant for the Marwari.  Kudos to Jody Power of Jaapi halters, by the way, for consistently coming up with a halter design for Breyer's theme each year -- she nailed it this time!!!
 I really wanted the Kaalee (black roan Yasmin) as she is a new mold for me.  Of course I REALLY wanted the Rangoli, but as most of you know -- the odds against were astronomical.  : (   I am falling back on Plan B for him, outlined in an earlier Breyerhistorydiva response:  Wait til he's released in bay and then etch my own.  Remember Rinker? -- I've done it before!

Speaking of Breyerhistorydiva, she is responsible for me desiring my only Zodiacal series horse, the infamous Lobster Butt.
He was a bargain at $10.  Thank you Bonnie V.

The Perlino came looking for me, not the other way around.  But I had always wanted one.  When the seller unwrapped him and I saw the peculiar finish of his coat - neither glossy nor matte, but somewhere in between, a fantastic semi-gloss - I went and counted my money.  Yea, it happens like that sometimes!  Pricey he was, and remains (except for the saddle) my most expensive piece this year.  But I love him dearly and do not regret it.  Perhaps I needed the saw-him, fell-in-love, &-bought-in-minutes experience, and to prove I am not always staid or restrained...

Hartlands clearly dominated this year's take.  I came home with 6 Hartlands and 5 Breyers (and one of those Breyers was an elephant).  Yes, this little guy is a Hartland:  He was released in 1989 by Hartland Collectibles, the very first resincast sold by a plastics molding company.  According to Gail Fitch, approximately 150 exist.  Prior to 1989 (and for much afterwards), resincasts were exclusively the domain of private sculpting and casting artists, who usually painted them as well.
This is Hartland's Miniature Horse, a portrait of Heritage Hopeful, sculpted by Kathy Moody.  He is the first mold of all the Moodys to hit the open market.  Yes, this little cutie started the entire Moody canon!!  If that isn't enough, I got him from Karen Grimm's estate, so he's one of my BHR horses as well.  I said I wanted a driving pony.  Fitting around that mane will take a good harnessmaker, cough, cough, grin, grin...

Here's more of my BHR take.  Talk about a bargain:  they were $1 a head.  Just because the paint had bubbled a bit...!  I took the opportunity to handpick all three.  I've always admired this color.
Only close up does the damage show.
For somebody like me, who does not collect to show, but enjoys 'shelf' models out of all proportion, these horses are a fine bargain.

Speaking of bargains, take a look at these two remarkable finds.  These are Regal Series 11" Hartlands, and both of them were released only in 1967.
Nothing like finding your heart's desire in a body box (right), or (left) on sale late Saturday night!!

Yes, alas, something terrible must've happened to that Arab stallion on the right.  He is the Superb issue #9916 in Red Bay.  'Superb' meant the model was glossed.  All those little spots are paint flecks, which I am hoping I can remove; but the legs are another matter.  Still, conferring with model vets gives me hope.  I am thankful his sheer beauty was enough to save him.  Sometimes people don't know what they have;  I paid $5 for him.

Why am I so quick to grab such a doleful case?  Take a look at what I already own. The red on the right I've named Prince King Kamehameha, and his necklace is his symbol of authority; he's the ruler of all my Hartlands.  I got him in 1979 from a neighbor family, who had obtained him on a US Army base in Germany(!).  That means I've had him for 39 years.... and in all that time, I've never seen another like him...
Both my 11" Arab Stallions here are featured in Gail Fitch's book, Hartland Horses and Dogs (2000).  In the middle is #99131, Red Bay with white face and stockings, issued only in 1968.  I named him Merlin.  His tail and front leg are broken but you'd never know.  The factory eyewhites make a difference, don't they?!
Put together, it becomes apparent the new one is a bit darker than Prince King, especially in the face.
My new Saddlebred is #9936, Cherry Red Bay, but not a Superb.  What a pair she'll make with the new Arab.  H'mmm.... think I'll name him Maharajah...
It's enough to make a person declare a new breed.

But I have found my next breed to fall in love with, and it's the Akhal Teke.  Nearly 2 years ago, at Region X Regionals in 2015, I photographed a Sarah Rose Khan.  I was so impressed by his conformation and all the details of the spine.  Then when Sarah released the Mini Khan, I had to get one.  (Collecting the mini Roses has been a great pleasure!)  In other adventures, I hired Jenn Danza to repair some ears in 2016; I thus had drawn to my notice what a good painter she was.  She's right in my own state of Pennsylvania!  I decided to plump for this horse, and the deal was struck.  I was to pick him up at BFest this year; and he was worth the wait.  Jenn had fulfilled my wishes to perfection.
I had commissioned a "golden bay, so light you couldn't tell whether it was a buckskin."
I wanted a hardy little runner, thin and lean and ready to race over the desert.  Apologies for the slight out-of-focus shot below.
He is dearly perfect, and by far the most detailed, per inch of horse, paint job I possess.  I knew after NaMoPaiMo I was hiring a good painter, but this exceeded my expectations!
Those little black-rimmed ears -- !!
Thank you Jenn.

Blankets.  There had to be some, eh?  I got lucky and was able to talk a seller into splitting the Eve and Claus set.  I also got lucky with my Karen Grimm/BHR purchases; this Stone Morgan was hers and I got him for the blanket.  There were 2 Stone blankets of Karen's available but I already had the red-edged one; this one is rarer.  Thanks again to Heather Wells for all the work she is doing with the Grimm estate...!
These model Baker blankets were only offered by Stone in 2001.

And finally, my big ticket purchase for the year was a Western saddle.  This deal has been in the works for at least a year as well.  Heather has done blogs and videos on the making of this piece.
It did indeed take her 4 years to finish.  Her final blog post of this saddle is at
She had this saddle, plus other pieces, displayed at the Morlan Gallery (Transylvania University, KY) exhibit "Enough to Swear By," in the fall/winter of 2016, which was all about miniatures by famous artists.  At that time I made an offer.  No one else apparently made an offer.  To make a long story short, that's how I got lucky this BreyerFest!
Thank you Heather for the opportunity to purchase a saddle which I know meant a lot to you.  I will treasure it.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Miniature Wickerwork Chair part II

By gaw, 'twas quick at t'finish.  This is a quote from James Herriott, but I find it relates to a lot of model projects.  After over a month of preparatory work, I did the entire bottom of my chair in just 2 days -- July 1st and 2nd.  My chair differs from the original tutorial in several ways:  it used smaller thread (Tandy's #30 Fine Sinew), the diamonds are different (because I goofed), I used thick cardboard instead of mat board and as a consequence there are two courses on the edge of the seat (not one), and I used braided buttons on the feet instead of merely wrapping sinew around them. 

Also, I used a much simpler cushion.  Miniature upholstery, despite being that blog's main offering, is not my forte.

This chair was finished so quickly that no pictures exist of doing the entire lower half, nor of finishing out the top rim.  This is where I caught up:
Here (above) we see the top has been woven to the correct width and has had its binding put round.  In full scale this "edge braid" is made from the stem wicker somehow (I've always wondered!!) but in model, the effect is easier to achieve.  A simple overlay does the trick.  I did wonder whether my white-glue choices would work on the sinew.  Up to now, my braided rawhide bridles have hated glue and I've used as little as possible on this material, turning to fingernail polish in the last extreme (as for end conchos).  However, Elmer's and Aleene's worked well enough... what a relief!
Above, the ends of the stems on the bottom are uncut.  I've started one of the legs, wrapping sinew down from above.  This is my original working end.  The other legs will use separate strands.

Clipping the stem ends would've been even more fun if my nippers had been SHARP.  As it was I used scissors along with them.
I had grand plans for those legs. First I had to insert separate strands for the three, and wrap them down, gluing all the while -- there wasn't any way to keep them wrapped before I braided my buttons.

Instead of merely gluing my sinew standing ends, I tried to bury them, as is proper in rawhide braiding.  This is a shot of where the needle had to go to thread a standing end.  It looks simple but the needle tip just about jammed into the seat binding.
(Above) That needle is actually bending, to avoid the seat binding.  You can see it pressing down on the seat binding.  Because it could bend, this worked.

Leaving the legs for a moment, the seat binding, two rows of 3-strand braid of double sinew, was something I had to invent on the fly.  The original tutorial called for one row of braid.  I tried 4-strand and then 5-strand braid, but these were too narrow.  In the end I decided to go with the plainest, most obvious solution.  Although I'm not pleased with how the butt ends met up (I had to forcefully glue them)(center of back, visible below) the rest of it is fine.  There is a heavy, elegant simplicity to that binding;  it is not out of scale with the rest of the chair.
The binding of the lower half was similar to the upper rim, with one difference:  I was able to bury my ends very nicely, and make it look much more like the braid flowed together, -- as if it was continuous.  On the upper rim the binding ends just turn under and stop.  Charmingly, the lower binding made an arch out of the center front edge (see below).  This happened totally by mistake but it gave the chair an understated elegance.

Back to the legs:  this was my first try of a braided button for a leg.   Emphasis on "try" as it turned out a failure!  A 3P5B (Spanish Ring Knot) was the wrong size for such a long, narrow diameter.  I went for Pineapples (4P5B) and was happier.
What I hadn't realized was that it mattered which direction I wrapped the sinew around the leg.  In two of the 4 legs I had to go back and re-wrap, so that the sinew came up from below and left, instead of from above and left.  That was the best way to do the buttons -- have the dead end fastened at lower left. 

And before I knew it, all weaving was done, ends glued and hidden.  I made a cushion out of fleece padding and white denim.  I knew from saddle blanket-making that white denim is perfectly in scale for canvas, and I wanted a very simple white cushion.  In the event it is probably a little too simple.  It's also probably a little short.  But I like it.
I signed the chair underneath.  Now for the last step:  dyeing.
I had known all along that this project would require dyeing, unless I wanted white stems to remain.  I had even taken a bottle of dye all the way to Colorado, in readiness.  In the event, the dyeing took place at home, in PA.  I used a color I'd made up myself, called Half Tan.  It was four-fifths solvent, a very light dye.  It matched amazingly well, darkening things only a little bit.
Outdoor photo shoot!!
 This truly looked like wicker.  Apparently I've got the mythical "good ol-fashioned shrinking-ray." (quote from Julie Froelich)
Like a good saddle, the ultimate test seems to be whether it looks comfy to sit in.
I wish I had a suitable model setting...
For those of you who have read thus far, Be of good cheer.  I am working on a Bosal Hackamore, and it shall come to BreyeFest with me.  When done, 'twill be auctioned.  The colors are natural lace, silver, White, Deep Blue and Deep Green -- inspired by our Maine trip.

Come and visit room 610 at the Clarion!!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Miniature Wickwork Chair part 1

It was probably Ann Field who put me on 1inchminisbykris (thanks Ann!) but it could equally have been Kristian Beverley or Bobbie Allen; or some other interesting blogger!  In any case the discovery was made over the winter; the fire was lit, the seed planted.  Granted it took quite a while, months, to fully germinate.  I had been sunk in a parade set at the time (Sept '16 thru May '17).  I needed something to intrigue and attract my muse, preferrably completely different, and the truth is I've always loved miniature wickerwork.  When I saw Kris Compas' chair and the accompanying tutorial, I gave it time, but I was hooked and I knew it.  For those of you asking the unaskable, Does this mean I won't be making any more tack, the answer is Of course not.  I am designing hackamores and have found a Bond pictorial saddle to portray and offer.  I'll always be braiding headgear (note that material: artificial sinew, miniature rawhide!).  I just needed something I really wanted to do right now, and this is it, on many levels.

Here's a link:  1inchminis by Kris    This is a blog about making one-inch scale (Classic scale) dollhouse furniture.  Most of it features pieces like stuffed armchairs, tables, beds, wine racks, stoves and refridgerators, but in with these largely paper-based projects were several woven baskets, a wicker table and Mein Gott a fantastic wickerwork armchair.   It had so much detail!   Where did this come from!!  The author says, "This is a serious project with some investment in materials."  I haven't heard such a quaint denial since the Denver Saddlery Catalog's Horses are big and their strength is great.  This chair has been a Master's degree in twelfth-scale wickerwork.  Facts such as I built two test-pieces and have been at it for a month and only gotten halfway, speak for themselves.

Very wisely, the author of the Wicker Chair tutorial has her audience make a test piece.  I got to acquaint myself with new materials:  foam core board (gotten at WalMart), cloth-covered stem wire, and woven cording.  The stem wire was a major struggle to obtain.  It's easy enough to get at Hobby Lobby or Michael's, but the damning detail is that these stores only carry it down to 22 gauge, and you need 26!!  I have now bought enough to supply all my larger projects for quite some time to come...  In the end I had to do as the author suggested, and order online.  Don't, for pete's sake, enter 'Panacea products', Panacea being the makers of my 26-ga cloth-covered stem wire, into Google!!  You'll get marijuana stuff, completely not what I had in mind...

The cording, to my amused astonishment, was another struggle to get right.  I had thought all along I was going to use Artificial Sinew, my old friend.  Nope.  It squished.  While I was in Boulder I managed to get to a Hobby Lobby (they don't occur in the East) and bought 5 kinds of cord, thread, hemp, etc.  In the end, after weeks of testing, none of them would do.  The mark of the master miniaturist is the willingness to go after the right material for the right look, and it seems to be part of the art that this takes a long time.  Many little steps are needed, and many tests happened before I was completely satisfied.

Here is my second test:  Woven cord, Hobby Lobby called it.  
Rag rug nubbins, I called it.  Laundry basket largeness.  It was too big and puffy.  However, I learned about the front and back sides of the various patterns:  they were not symmetrical.  See the top row?
My next attempt compressed three materials on the same test piece: 
Waxed cording (on the bottom); finest hemp (in the middle); and white waxed linen thread (top).  I had great hopes for the hemp, and I thought the white waxed linen held promise.  (Brown waxed linen also held promise.)  Unfortunately the hemp was very hard to get hold of -- only a small amount was to be had at Hobby Lobby and it was expensive.  It came with 3 other too-large hemp ropes and so was wasteful as well.
The day after I got back from Colorado I tried out my old friend, #30 Artificial Fine Sinew from Tandy's, using my previous test piece because making a third one was too much effort.  And lo, it worked.
My N.A. notebook crows:  "Its fineness attracts my miniaturist's soul.  This is finer than Ms Kris' recommended material!  Why does 1 sinew look so good and another (the greenish old Tandy's) look so bad??  Partly color, partly texture.  Now to find whether the cloth wires dye...  IT DOES  IT DOES   LIKE A DREAM    SQUEAL !!!!!"

Needless to say, we were off to the races.

While in Colorado I had thought my Mom, an artist from way back, would have mat board; but she didn't.  Instead, for the seat, I found an ancient cardboard, taken from the back cover of a pad of artist charcoal paper that must have been at least 50 years old.  Whether this was a good idea remains to be seen.  It is heavy and strong, but it drilled badly and is thicker than called for.  With my sinew being thinner than called for, it may be hard to cover when I get to the seat edge-binding part.
This photo was taken in Maine:
Now we can see the true scale of the chair.  (That's the Classic Stock Horse Gelding, a model  I'm indulging  in conga-lining...  still got one to go, the black)....
The cardboard, in two layers, makes up the seat.  I'm using glue with this chair, something I've resisted working with very much, but there comes a time....
What was I doing in Maine?  For complex scheduling reasons we couldn't go canoeing over Spring Break and so the Maine trip was a make-up.  In the event, it rained so much we could only paddle for 3 days.  But they were fantastic paddle days and Stormie, the chestnut, went along on all of them.
Some work was done in Maine on this chair.

Six days have gone by between the above picture and this one.
Now we're at the stage where all the prior work starts to pay off.
Mistakes still can be made; and they were made.  The 'diamond' in the center back is too low!!  What to do!!  I had 4 choices:  I could leave it; I could pull all out and redo it higher; I could pull part out and redo it larger;  or I could add in a smaller diamond above.  I chose this last.
The diamonds are still too low, but this time I just said, "It's fine!" and rolled on.
Considering I started this chair May 19, the day after the parade set was done, and here it is June 30th and the thing is only halfway done, methinks I have a life.
Latest picture.  The arm flange is done.  In fact I have clipped those wires and done the back edging, unable to wait and do the legs next as the tutorial suggests. 
The tutorial calls for mere double-wrapping for the bulges at the ends of the legs.  For this old rawhide braider that is not good enough; what I think is called for are Turk's Heads, braided buttons!!  And you thought I was straying!!  Not to worry, my good friends... 
 Part II will cover the lower legs.

In this last picture, note the badly-dye-stained notebook lying at left.  Aye yai, a souvenir of haste at trying to finish the great #456.  I hadn't spilled dye that badly since the 1970s.  I'm afraid one of my conclusions of NaMoTackMo was that tackmaking has a notably higher percentage of can't-finish-to-a-deadline, and accidents, than had NaMoPaiMo.  Food for thought.

The chair should be done by BreyerFest, and will be taken there.  I have not decided its fate.  If someone makes me an offer I can't refuse, it'll find a new home.  Meanwhile I'm enchanted with all I've learned, and fully intend to put it to work on a sleigh of some sort.  Surreys?  Carts?  Snowshoes!!  More furniture:  sofas, rockers, tables!  Oh the relief...  not so much at the wickerwork, as at having found a field that was worthy of me....

See you in Room 610--!!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Silver Edge Braiding, Part II

TSII #442, built in 2005.  4-Strand Round Braid on cantle.
The topic of silver edge braiding got away from me, and I had to divide my post in two.  Part II will deal with the braiding itself, as much as I can portray with just photographs.  This post will cover starting, braiding and ending the Four-Strand Round Braid.  I learned this one from Bruce Grant's book, Leather Braiding (1950).  It's on his Plate 35, and he calls it "Second Method."
Cutting the slits is part of edge braiding, but it's a skill I'm taking for granted in this post.  I have made Needle Chisels (as mentioned in my book The Guide to Making Model Horse Tack), out of needles and paintbrush handles, in order to have miniature thonging chisels.  For my current (2017) saddle (TSII #456 Star Wars), I am using my largest Needle Chisel.  The blade is about 1.2mm wide.  The slits are cut parallel to the edge of the leather, a little less than their own width apart.  I'm afraid I space by eye -- experience is the best teacher here.  I'd guess my spacing is about 2/3rds or 3/4ths of the width of the chisel; the above shot and the third one down provide some example.

Of course the first time my Galaxy silver strip is pulled through the slit, all its handcut irregularities are revealed!  My best efforts are not perfect.  I must be prepared to go to an ungodly amount of fuss and care trimming it.
The tinest trimming can make a difference.  I want my lacing to slip smoothly through the slits, and be neither so thin that it's liable to break or to not cover the leather edge when braided; yet not so thick that it sticks and deforms in the process of braiding.  It is possible to close in on the right width for all the 18 inches, but time must be put in at this stage.

To begin, I've learned to always look down on the grain side of whatever I'm edge braiding and start at the extreme left end.  On cantles this turns out to be the off side.  My breastcollars and tapaderos have many sections of edge braiding and each section has to be done individually - just start at the left end.  The braiding thus travels from left to right.
I open the slits with my Needle Awl or miniature fid, one at a time, as they are braided.
 I don't use needles with Galaxy lace.  I just cut a point on one end of my strip.  The point has to be small enough to easily pass through each slit and let me grab it on the other side.  This works out to be about half an inch of point.

The magic number with Four-Strand Edge Braid is four.  Starting with the first slit, the next slit is the fourth one to the right.  The starting slit will turn out to be useless -- the end will be withdrawn later --  so leave about two inches of dead end at this time.
Tension, or how hard to pull, is essential to the skill of braiding.  With Galaxy lace the tension turns out to be critical, nothing less than the heart of the silver braiding effect.  A strong yet controlled pull is needed:  enough to deform the lace slightly and mold it to the shape of the leather below it, yet not so much as to break it or stretch it so much it discolors.  Only experience will give this sense of how much tension to use.  My most common failure is not pulling enough.

The Four-Strand edge braid basically follows a figure-8 path.  Here the first pass back is shown, through the second slit.  Once through, the lace is bent again to go to the right.
The next picture shows two steps, so I'm showing it twice.  The silver strip has passed through slit 5 and been pulled tight.  Meanwhile my Needle Awl blade is entering from lower right and poking into the pass made in step one.  This is where the working end will go next.
The whole path of the working end describes a figure 8.  Now it comes back towards the left, pulls tight and slips under the old pass laid down in the first step.  From now on it must pass beneath itself, once on the grain side and once on the flesh side, every lap.  This makes the appearance of a braid of 4 strands.
Care must be used to avoid breaking the silver with the Awl.  The Galaxy can stretch, but only to a certain degree.  Here is really where experience comes to aid; I am always surprised at how strong the lace is, but I have had my share of breaking it.

View of the back side (flesh side).  Having passed under, the working end enters slit 3 (remember him?) and emerges.  It's held under my thumb here.
The next action is to bend to the left (or right if viewed from the grain side), and slip under the silver immediately to the left.  To put it another way, go under what's coming out of slit 4.
I find the action of silver edge braiding consisting of a great deal of time running the strip through my fingers, trying to keep track of the silver side.  It is both boring and soothing.
The Four-strand Round Braid really does follow a figure 8 path, overlapping each pass one slit to the right when viewed from the grain side.
Here's the grain side view.  After passing the working end through, it will slip through slit 4, on top of the silver lacing already there.  Each slit, each pass, must be enlarged gently with the Needle Awl.
I can't emphasize it enough:  Even Tension is the difference between rough, clumsy-looking braiding and smooth, professional-looking braiding.

And then there's Problem-Solving!!  My point has become so worn and frazzled it's delaminating.  When this happens, I shorten the lace a little and cut a new point.
How to end the braid?  The quick answer is to pass through the same slit twice.  What to do with that standing dead end at the beginning?  Here, it is withdrawn, pointed, and braided in reverse for a couple of passes.  I mean the figure 8 is done in a backwards direction, with the silver filling in gaps and extending the braiding back to the start.  The last pass can be merely a loop crossing over the leather edge, as shown.
The Galaxy end can be glued down on the flesh side with white or brown glue.
Here's the top of my new breastcollar shoulder.
For reasons of design, the edge braiding was done before any figures or pictorials were added to this breastcollar.  Normally, all tooling and silvering is done Before any edge braiding.  "Do as I say, not as I do!"
I will end this pair of posts with the same shot of my unfinished, completely silver edge braided saddle, TSII #456.  When this shot was taken, the seat had not yet been fastened on.  Only time will tell whether entirely edging a saddle with silver braid was a good idea!  The beauty is fantastic but the increased delicacy and fragility will require dainty handling.
TSII #456 'Star Wars' unfinished.