Saturday, July 7, 2018

The Sue Peet Bridle Set

This bridle was originally inspired by an earlier TSII piece, a headstall made in 2006 (Evans' 2nd headstall).  I'd always wanted to try another One-Ear that adjusted slip-fashion.  This bridle was also made as a test for Auction Barn for me, to see whether this venue would work for me.  It was completed in February of 2009 and had split reins.
The split reins themselves were inspired by a pair I'd made for K. Meekma in January, but differed in the details of the buttons.  These had Fan buttons, 9P 7B 1-3-3-1 (the 1-3-3-1 refers to the passes over and under of one finished outside strand, across the long axis -- a name I made up!), while Meekma's had 9P 8B  2-2-2-2s.  I loved my Fan buttons and thought they were amoung the prettiest in my repertoire, even though they were also one of my hardest buttons to braid!
But the March Auction Barn debut failed to meet reserve.

The next thing that happened was I chose to submit the bridle for the North American Nationals Auction ... and give it a new bit.  I must have gotten my engraving vise that February, because these bits were my very first sterling silver engraving efforts.  On the inside of one bit is picked out "09" and on the other is "SBY."
Sue Peet won that June auction.  The donation percentage was 50%.

The bridle was offered with a matching breastcollar and set of Romal Reins, to be made later but sold at the same donation percentage.  It took me til August to finish these.
Sue Peet later told me she never used them.... she just gloried in their beauty.  They were very well kept in their own airtight box.  When I first received them in 2018, they had been packed with fleece ... the first time I'd seen this in a lifetime of shipping model tack!
(She also purchased the Maximillian Bridle, a later NAN Auction piece.)

Ten years later, in the spring of 2018, at a local show, Susan Rudnicki Hurst told me Peet's health was going downhill.  Her disease had reached the point of barring live showing.  Hurst was dispersing some of her collection.  I had never forgotten the Fan Button Bridle set, feeling it was some of my best work.  I quickly came up with a proposal, and a commission was worked out.
In my turn, I too have not used these pieces, except for photographing them.  It seems that such high-calibre braidwork is doomed to spend large portions of its life tucked away or hung up.  Yet oh, how they enjoy their fifteen minutes of fame.  What glories may they not participate in -- what beautiful heads might they adorn -- !!
For so many years I've wished I had tack in hand to offer at BreyerFest.  This will be yet another test.

As of this writing the plan is to take offers on this Bridle Set and post them on MH$P.   I would like the closing to be Saturday the 14th, at 10pm EDT.  Your patience is appreciated while I deal with all the rest of BreyerFest, and a possibly recalcitrant tablet -- !  my only online link whilst in Kentucky.  If the winner is not present, shipping must be charged.

Thanks for reading, and Happy Collecting!

Friday, June 29, 2018

The KH2B Hackamore

This post is all about one piece of headgear, soon to be sold.... plus there's a sneak peek of another auction set at the bottom, BreyerFest bound.  As of this writing I'm still figuring out how to offer the hackamore!  I finished the KH2B in Colorado, and we'll see it here on many different sizes and colors of horses.  As per my previous post, it has a sister hackamore, and both were inspired by a much older piece.  I've named them all King's Herd's hackamores, so an appropriate title for this post could've been We Three Kings.  : )  The last pic shows all three.

KH2B stands for King's Herd's the second, B -- not "B" for second-finished (although it was completed well after my NaMoTackMo piece, KH2J) -- but "B" for "Brasenose."   In referring to these two new hackamores, I fell back on initials (Rio Rondo inspired no doubt) and my own practice of naming the piece after the horse it is most identified with. This happens whether I built it off that model or whether that model fell in love with it and insisted on wearing it the most.  (You know they do this.)  "J" stands for Jezail/Kaalee.
Readers of this blog will know this horse, Brasenose (above).  He was much in evidence when I needed to name these two pieces and the day with Jennifer pretty much settled it.  Braymere Saddlery.   He gives his name to this hackamore, but that does not mean it fits him perfectly.
(By the way he just invented this lay-down wood-background shot, which I wish I'd thought of earlier.)

This hackamore has character!  It was relatively simple to design buttons for the cheek - I took my cue from the red, and dk brown & rawhide will always be in style - and the silver beads are Hill Tribes. The curbstrap's tassel is dewaxed sinew, a trick I learned from Regine N. of Germany.  The glory of that beautiful braided-sinew curbstrap -- the most adjustable I've ever made, an inspired design that came to me out of nowhere -- is somewhat offset by the fixed length of the nosepiece.  In most of these pix the curb is on the 'middle' setting, and most muzzles are accommodated just fine.  But take a look:
See how the shank is higher than the mouth?  I'm not sure that's quite what's wanted.  (It could be a poorly-positioned shot.)  This Victrix has a big head and a fair-size muzzle.  Let's try another resincast:  Morgen Kilbourn's Maxixe [p. Mack-SEE-shay].
Oh much better!
This is a good piece for, shall we say, Not-Giant model horses?!
While we're on the subject of that curb, here's a close-up of the adjustment process.  (Another shot is in the previous post.)
The button and tassel must be inserted through one of the three slots, or slits, in its end.  I know the pic doesn't look like it, but both plier jaws are indeed through the second or middle slit.  The braided-thread keepers, or sliders, do indeed slide.  The nice thing about braided-sinew in tack is that it slides; it can be adjusted with gentle pressure.  What to do with the curb's end when you're using the smallest setting?  In this case I found I could tuck it into the curb and run the keeper up tighter to hold things.  The shot below shows this.
Incidentally this pony was the only red-colored horse in my photo shoot -- yet he came out looking just about the best of all.  He also is distinguished by being the only one shot wearing this hackamore with its very long crownstrap end tucked up in the cheekstrap, (through the connector actually), solving every problem.  "It can be done."

The beautiful headstall, with its fixed silver crownstrap-tip and its easy-sliding buckle (a cast Rio Rondo which I had nickel-plated), contains a rather unusual One-Ear slit.   Originally this was intended as a braided version of the lace headstall of the old King's Herd's hackamore.  I did try to make all 3 hackamores the same size!  But that slit wound up starting quite high on the head.  It appears to fit only the ears of the longest, largest heads.  Here's Victrix looking uncomfy:
And Jezail/Kaalee looking better ...  after all, she is the largest model in my photo-shoot.
The curb is set at its largest for this black mare's nose.

The KH2B manages to fit her, but only if you feel like racing, --- crouching low over her withers and leaning way forward!!  In other words the reins really are almost too short for so large a horse.  Again, they were made to exactly match the original old hackamore which I swear fit every horse in my herd.  I guess the average Trad was smaller back then.
The reins are on snaphooks for this very reason:  they can be easily detached.

Bottom line?  The best model for this hackamore appears to me to be the ISH and its brothers-in-size, such as the Lonesome Glory.
And never mind the one ear.  Just say it helps the crown lie flatter on the poll:  less pressure on sensitive nerves...  : )

This piece represents what I could put out between NaMoTackMo and our 2-month (May, June) summer sojourn to Colorado, during which not much could be made.  YES, it is for sale (auction).  I need to choose a method and am open to suggestions. 

                                       BENEFIT AUCTION AT BREYERFEST!!
Due to the generosity of a friend we also have an entire braided bridle and bc set up for auction!!  This will be the Sue Peet set, a curb bridle with 2 pairs of reins and matching breastcollar, made in 2009 for the NAN Auction.  Here are some pix from the deep files:
Romal reins and matching breastcollar are part of this magnificent example of miniature braidwork:
This set, which was made in my heyday!! and represents some of my best work, will be at auction in person at BreyerFest.  Find me with my clipboard and enter a bid!  Room 610.  About this one there's no question: it's to benefit Sue Peet.  This one-time performance shower and tack collector is struggling with major medical issues.  Ninety percent of the sale price goes to her.

We have been making model horse tack since 1979 with the goal of striking the perfect balance between detailed authenticity and durable working playability.  There is a happy medium!

Left to right:  King's Herd's Hackamore c. 1984,   KH2J  2018,   KH2B  2018.

I hope to have more pieces for sale later in the year.  I still have hopes of working on my braid book, with attendant pieces; I also want to re-create the bosal hack & hobbles set I saw on the trail this summer.  In addition there are a couple of saddles in the pipeline.  Announcements will be here and via FaceBoook under Timaru Star II Model Tack.  See also our own Tack Sales Info page on our website.  Timaru Star II.

Happy Bidding and Thank You!

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Kings Herd 2 Hackamores

This post covers the making of two hackamores, although the second isn't quite finished.  I was reaching for the deepest roots of my Muse, making a piece for my own purposes -- and salving my conscience with ideas of selling the second one.  The adventure began with my signing up for National Model Tack Month.  It will end when the last buttons are tied on the second hackamore -- and end again when that piece is sold.  But the fun and play won't end; I get to keep the first one.

To go back to the very beginning, I honestly do not know when my original King's Herd's hackamore was built.  It could have been as early as 1979 or as late as 1984.  (Given the existence of a couple of more primitive examples, I lean towards the latter.)  I wanted a piece of headgear I could really pull on, something that would hold up to the most strenuous play.
My entry for NaMoTackMo 2018.
Its headstall was plain lace, with a slit in it for a primitive split ear.  The reins were simpler still:  braided embroidery floss, something that would drape well but withstand every kind of wear, from water to dirt.  (Clearly colorfastness was not a consideration!)  The lace curbstrap was the plainest.  The shanks were made of 20-gauge galvanized, the thickest wire I could handle at the time;  their length was on purpose.  (Cast shanks, of course, were not available.)  The nosepiece, a 6-strand braid of skived leather lace, was the most noteworthy feature.  This would be the last mechanical hackamore I would make for almost a quarter-century (until 2006, Tissarn's).

I joined NaMoTackMo this year.  April was my birthday month;  I usually try to make a tack piece for myself.  This time I felt like indulging in a very personal aspect.  What were the roots of my craft?  What but that feeling of actually being on the horse, directing him, guiding him?  So often I'd played there, controlling his head with actual pressures through the tack.  Control is everything; that is one of the appeals of miniatures (at least to  me!)...  Not only had my skill set been much improved -- silver engraving, access to Argentium, rawhide braided buttons, making my own strap tips -- but I had a deeper-than-usual need.  I had been playing for a year, ever since closing the Lottery and stopping taking tack orders.  With this piece I would still be playing, yet heading back in the direction of bridles and saddles (as opposed to chairs and snowshoes!), using all my skill to achieve what I originally wanted from model tack.

The new hackamore, then, would have shanks of the same length as the ancestral King's Herd's one.  A peculiarity of the piece was it could fit any horse in my herd.  I wanted to keep that.  This requirement dictated the single crown strap, with no throatlatch; it also dictated similar reins, of exactly the same length.  That was the easy part.
The hardest part, clearly, was going to be the shanks.  I started by drawing a pattern, then taped and cut them out.  In a mysterious fashion, the first two patterns turned out too big, and it was the second pair that I actually used.  Cutting out the metal shanks did not go smoothly either;  the shape was very demanding.  My first attempt broke one.
When you've paid thirty or so dollars for a piece of Argentium one inch by six inches, such a break is a disaster.  I swallowed hard and went on.
The above shot shows I originally intended to cut out 2 pairs of shanks, but sheer difficulty stopped me.  I had drawn up slightly different shapes of shanks (curved vs bent; see above);  I wound up using the bent one.  It was closer to the original and easier to file.  After hours of hammering and filing, I had two shanks and some very sore fingers.
 This was the first time I'd set a strap-tip, with its accompanying braided strap! in Thermaloc, the grey plastic holding-medium for engraving.  There's a first time for everything, but this year is seeing a lot of firsts...
Engraving is like dessert.  It goes fairly quickly and draws all the attention.  Everybody is full of awe for its beautiful results; yet getting the slots in the shanks (and smoothing their edges) -- all done by hammering and filing -- is by far the most time-consuming, and must come first.
Rocker-engraved around the edge of the shank:
Free-form bright carving for the rest.
At this point I could show off.  Thank you FaceBook readers!
So far, so good!  No one had yet complained that I was practicing animal cruelty with those long shanks.   For a day or so that worried me and then I discovered they were perfectly in scale for Jezail/Kaalee!  The larger molds that Breyer was releasing these days had their uses...

In one titanic 6+ hour day, I made the nosepiece.  I practically had to teach myself to braid again.  That night I started this post with a storm of writing, of which these are a few excerpts:

"Up at midnight again.  I haven't had this many adventures with the TSII since the Great Clydesdales Caper.  Nobody would believe it:  More than 6 hours in one day (I usually make 1 or 2) and only 1 nosepiece to show for it!!  'Course there's also most of a Plate, a drawn page of instructions and in this case formulae for braiding the nosepiece.  Formulae that work.  This is what all the fuss was about, this is the real harvest...

 "So many struggles I can't catch them all.  My old nosepiece formula didn't work and I don't know why.  Its second half, for the interweaves, worked fine!  Go figure.
 "Nobody's gonna believe that that blue is an artefact, an accident, a consequence, not planned, not desired, not seen!!  It wasn't on my mind or in my vision until very late...  Nobody'd believe how hard it was just to get here:  5 hours before I could even start this particular button.  So many tries I'd stopped counting -- it was more than 7.  More than 7 times braiding these incredibly hard buttons with their delicate, hand-cut lace, and then undoing them when they didn't work:  when the formula and the reality didn't match...

 "I thought the blue would be great for the SALES hackamore!  but not the one I'm keeping.  I took pictures to that effect.  I was going to ask the FB world whether this was a good idea.  It could've been so cool.  It still is an option.
"No one would believe I cut the lace too short.  Me, a professional!  I trusted my own recipes, notes from before, long used.  I went ahead, and thus got very deeply into the darn thing (multiple times) but did it dawn on me how short that working end was??  Much too short to finish the whole button--??
"When the inevitable drew close, it spoke to me.  A tiny voice gradually becomes clearer, the Muse at its best.  I am unique in all your works, it said.  Stop now and be content.  No one else will ever get anything like this.  It will work, because all that blue ticking will draw attention away from the braiding flaws (and there are plenty!).  This button is tied too tightly, had too much effort put into it, for me to give up.  I find I do have limits, and this is one of them.  A consequence of accepting deadlines, in this case NaMoTackMo, causes me to accept a piece I normally wouldn't have.  And who knows, it might even grow on you.

"So this is what working to deadline does:  you create weirdos, and then say they look fine."

Next day I made a braided-rawhide (nylon sinew) curbstrap like nothing I'd ever done before.  It had no buckles.  Apparently time pressure has its benefits in new designs.
The curbstrap had a button with tassel on one end and three loops in a row on the other.  The tassel made it easier to pull the button in and out of the loops of adjustment.  I was tickled.  Braided-thread keepers were standard, their thread doubled so they'd have a much harder time unraveling or coming apart.

The headstall was braided-rawhide too, with a tasteful minimum (?) of braided buttons and Hill Tribes silver beads.  The hard part was making the buckle; any silver (Argentium) part with holes in it was going to cost a lot of filing, and this one had to be big enough for the strap tip.  However, it turned out quite large enough, almost too large.  I hadn't used the tip to measure with during filing, another goof I can put down to racing the clock.  : (  The buckle got some rocker-engraving too.
King's Herd's Hackamore 2, Jezail's version
The hackamore filled the requirement of fitting every horse in the herd.
And so I made the deadline, actually a day ahead of time.  I did NaMoTackMo!  All was right and proper...

Except my hackamore didn't feel quite right.  It was saggy, twisty.  It had little 'response.'  I mulled over it for a couple of days and decided what it needed was a leather curbstrap, not a sinew one.  After all the original had had a leather one.
This time I designed a very simple leather equivalent to the braided-rawhide design, with slits for loops and a leather end-knot or button.  I slit the end of a piece of medium (1/8") lace into thirds and tied a Crown-n-Wall with them, and left the ends.  I had to braid new keepers, but once on this curbstrap worked perfectly.  I also tightened the shank brace ends (slobber bar) to help prevent twist.  Such minor adjustments are critical to a proper 'feel' if you're going to pull the reins.
And it worked.
King's Herd's Hackamore, leather curb, Jezail's
The blanket is by Amber Wylie/Hobo Cat Creations.  I added a breastband to it.
Despite the proven history of the original King's Herd's headstall, the split ear did not fit Jezail very well (or Brasenose).  However, it was a pleasing braid design to have (and I don't have much choice about leaving it in!).

And now for the second hackamore!  This headstall also has the split ear.
There's that very sinew curbstrap.  Its tassel is dewaxed sinew.  There's a handmade Argentium strap tip.  The buckle is a nickel-plated cast Rio Rondo one.  The nosepiece braiding is the finally-perfected recipe I evolved that titanic day.  However the cheek buttons are unfinished!  Something to do in the weeks ahead while I'm in Boulder.
It is my hope to offer this hackamore sometime in late June or July.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

TSII #378, Kim's Carousel II

Timaru Star II #378
Restoring TSII #378 has taught me so much.  I got what I was after:  tremendous practice enhancing, preserving and updating a 23-year-old saddle.  Yet its two main lessons somehow managed to cancel each other out!  I learned heaps about restoring, replacing, strengthening and otherwise saving such old saddles; but I also learned that this work is, in cost-benefit-analysis terms at least, just not worth it.  In plain language, it would have been faster and easier to make a complete new silver parade set.  Rebuilding an old one was fascinating but in the end an exercise in indulgence.
How glad I am to be able to indulge, then.
#378 was originally built for the PAS.
The third main lesson this saddle taught me was the least surprising of all.  It is one I've known all along.  No matter how my brain tells me to hurry up and do a quickie -- no matter the reasons, be they solid as gold -- once the tackmaker really gets her teeth into a project, it proceeds at exactly the same speed as do all my past tack glaciers.  It sets its own pace.  Nothing less than the very best I am able to do with the skills and materials I have at the time will do --- and the devil take the clock.
TSII #378, Birds Eye view
Having said that, it became clear in the long course of this restoration job -- four months!  January to April -- that I was changing my approaches and trying out new things.  There was progress.  I started with the breastcollar, as it was a miniature sample of the serapes (hardest) and had something of everything.  On the breastcollar and the hip drops, I was lacing down the original silver tape, which was one layer thick and rather fragile.  In mid stride -- on the bridle -- I was replacing the tape but with only one layer.  At the end -- the skirts, fenders, taps and serapes -- I was ripping off the old tape and replacing it with two layers of fresh new tape.  Only by doubling was the tape strong enough to withstand the handling.  Lacing it down had the Mylar getting gummy with the new adhesive, so I cleaned it off with rubbing alcohol, which worked... too well.  Surpise, surprise,  I discovered rubbing alcohol would completely remove the gold of the Mylar!!  It is silver beneath...
As far as the prism tape went (the colors of the figures), I wanted to retain as much of the original as possible.  In the event, the nearside serape retained two snippets:  the blue saddle and the lower blue platform edge/rounding board stripe.  (Seen above on the buckskin.)  The offside serape retained its tail and pole (seen below).  Everything else, except for the forehead ornaments, had to be replaced.  A hard-learned lesson was to back all the prism tape.  In some cases I only managed nail polish!  but the horse heads and horses were backed with sheet aluminum.  (See below.)  Complete new medallions were made, not without some mental anguish over removing the originals, which dated back to 1995.
Off serape, After (2018)
Near serape, Before (1995)
Ultimately the original ponies, and nearly every piece of silver tape not recycled, wound up in my tack notebooks.  Below is just one sample page, showing holding them down with Scotch Tape.  The detritus is additional prism tape layers/pieces.  Some numbers:  This restoration job took 46 pages across two notebooks, N.A. XIII and XIV.  And they weren't small pages!  (That black stain?  Just a reminder of TSII #456, Star Wars.)
I made a fourth Needle Chisel.  It's second from right in this shot.  I'd needed that size for some time.  After this photo was taken I re-soldered and re-filed it and it is smoother and better than what is shown.
 An unbelievable amount of work went into updating #378.  New buckles and rings, replacing the galvanized with stainless steel, was the least of it.  The cantle was rebraided with new Galaxy lace (the old had turned white).  The seat piece was strengthened with a tree-like lining of metal and leather and a new undercantle was made.  The gold rings (this is carousel!) on the taps were replaced and their inner edges stitched down with the smallest Mylar lacing I possessed.  In some cases the original ring silver tape was kept.
The browband was replaced.  The ferrules on the bridle were stripped of an ancient coating of glue, polished and recoated with nail polish.  Much of the hardest work was, in fact, peeling off glue and coatings of one sort or another.  I learned how in the course of the work:  Rub hard with a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol, then wipe with the dry end; Kill all the Q-tips!  When the coating had softened, roll-peel it off, while continuing to dissolve it off with vinegar and more alcohol.   This photo finally captured the process; I was using my needle chisel.
I learned that glue grabs glue and to let the roll build up to large dimensions.  Peeling is addictive.  Once clean, the leather was dyed, Lexol'd and Leather Glow'd.  Alas, after I had spent days and days stripping the serapes, I concluded that such work did not really need to be done, at least on the leather...!  Removing it from silver made sense (it turned various shades of brown and grey and was mildly gooey).  But  I could have left most of that coating... it had done a good protective job for 23 years.  I did leave it on the taps, skirts, fenders, bridle and breastcollar.

The work involved in setting the prongs of the figures/medallions is as difficult and tricky as it's always been.  It is the only way I know to make absolutely sure that silver won't fall off.
Bottom side of pony medallion, before setting
Top side of same pony.  Prongs are hard to see, due to angle of shot.
 This is what the back of one of the restored serapes looks like, before edge-braiding and before its final black-leather lining is on:
 The saddle edges that previously had a thin line of stamped silver tape were now silver edge-braided with No. 12 Mylar.  Mylar tinsel is just about my hardest-to-braid material, but nothing else has got that sparkle!  It matched perfectly the carousel air and bling.

The corona blanket was very challenging, because it came at the end, when the artist's vision is just about drained (and they are looking ahead to something else!).  The original was made of pompoms, and while there is value in retaining original equipment, in this case the temptation to use advanced technology was too great.  (I.e. Melody's type of corona was SO much better!)  I found an LRB (Lorrie Batchelor?) blanket in my spares box.  Thank the god of forgotten purchases!! -- I couldn't have made a corona on my own in the time frame I had set.  With a lot of fiddling, because the corona was too big but fortunately had a fender gap, I made it smaller.  This view is of the process of the darting, having peeled back the chamois lining part way:
Then I darted it smaller sidewise -- too small!! -- and so had to cut some stitches.  Halfway through this tricky operation I realized leaving a hole in a middle would do no harm and gain some flexibility, which was what I wanted.  It looks bad, but all 4 seams have been stopped by dedicated stitches and the gap is hidden under the saddle.  Now the blanket is stretchy and can adapt to different backs.  The finished bottom is pure chamois, a thick but protective layer.
I am beyond grateful for the chance to pull out all the stops, devote myself to a lost art and go completely whole hog on a piece that might have been of interest to very few. Give me leave to do my utmost!  says Isaac Dinesen (author of Out of Africa), speaking of the artist.  Perhaps some of these restorative techniques may be of use to others dealing with old silver tape saddles.  For future TSII Parade sets, however (saving tape medallions for irregular spaces), I think I will stick with iron-ons.

Unless and until they, too, need restoring.

On to NaMoTackMo!  and beyond:  future sales pieces.