Saturday, November 27, 2021

I Don't Collect Pins

 I don't collect pins, I don't collect pins...  I don't know what possessed Lynn Isenbarger to issue her challenge to guest-blog about things we didn't collect, but this one clearly rang a bell.  I really did scrounge up every enamel pin in the house, even the ones that barely qualified (or flat didn't, like the brass unicorn), and sat staring at a 45-year story.  I promised I'd post on these some day.  Little did I know additions were right around the corner!

"Don't collect" is here used to refer to those collections that we usually don't desire -- can  tell ourselves that we don't want -- but somehow, behind our backs and despite our best intentions, they sneak in...

My collection begins with my old felt hat.  Above are my oldest pins, dating back to college, which is when I solidified the habit of wearing a broad brim hat.  (It originally was a sunshade for us health-nut sun-sensitive Bensemas.)  This group of equines and one fish probably consolidated around 1978 to 1982.  I'd had a horse from 1975 to 1979.  I may have gotten the pins at the Denver Stock Show.  It's equally possible I got them in local jewelry shops or flea markets or even garage sales, somewhere in Boulder or Fort Collins.  Nogales, even, is a possibility.  After all this time, I'm just not sure. 

They are surprisingly small.  This one clearly was intended to portray my white Running Mare.

The pinto (above right) was the last to arrive during this time, I remember.  I was trying out my likings and this collection grew slowly.

This one is kind of a linch-pin.  It's solid brass and certainly not enameled, yet it belongs here more than most, being my favorite and thus the core of the collection.  For most of its life it was very dull with reddish edges, and only for this photo-shoot did I polish it up, making him look like gold and showing detail lost for decades.  There is no name on the back, no way to know who was the astoundingly gifted artist.  He's about 1 1/4 inches high.

To go with my unicorn, I finally found a flying horse.   I was very pleased with this lovely little bit of Americana, the Mobil Pegasus.
 Somewhere in my college years, the wolf pin joined the pack. The wolf was, and is, a very important animal to me.  This pin has cracked its enamel;  see the lines across the neck.  The white spot on the flank has always been there.  Pins like these were individually colored and so variations occurred, much like Breyers today.

The Coelacanth [SEE-la-kanth] came in around 1981.  This is the only pin in my collection with the least little bit of politics about him, and I wore him with great glee to church.  He is a named artist original --unfortunately I can't recall who, Bill somebody! --and was rather expensive.  I just love the rippling blue over the golden scales.

Eleanor Clymer's book for teens, Search for a Living Fossil, the story of finding the first coelacanth, deeply influenced me - I read it when I was 12 or so.  Looking back, marine adventure as well as love of science were thus rooted in me for life.  Y'wonder, sometimes, whether I have this fish to blame for marrying a meteorologist and going canoeing all the time!!

The two Carousel pins in  my collection date from the early 1990s.  I had carousel fever from about 1988 to 1993 (well I still have it) but these pins entered then.  Below is a Philadelphia Toboggan Company outside row stander.  You can see the letters PTC in front of the pole.

This Stein and Goldstein (S&G) outside row jumper is a very famous horse.

This is the place for one of my very few jewelry pins, the Australian flag and its opal.  Without doubt this one came from our honeymoon in Australia, 3 weeks after the wedding, in 1988.

Now we come to the middle layers of my collection.  This strata contains everything from a Penn State shield (left) to a radio station trinket (WPSU).  The Rails-to-Trails pin is a charity contribution oddbit while the Navy League one came home with my husband after a tour on a carrier (I think).  Likewise the SDD (Synthetic Dual-Doppler) is the souvenir of a meteorological field experiment.  The two American Birding Association ones are also courtesy of my husband, an avid birdwatcher.  Dates of acquisition here range from c. 1990 to c. 2005.

Before I move on to the lowest, and most recent, layer, I see I've skipped the two US Postal Service stamps and the Hartland.  The stamp horses are two of the issue of 4 breeds that came out in 1985.  The other breeds were Appaloosa and Quarter Horse.  Why didn't I get all four?  Because they didn't grab me, that's why.  If they'd been in the form of the horse, instead of squares, I might've felt differently.

Likewise this undoubtedly rare Hartland pin must be desirable by somebody, but I never even took it out of its bag.  The words say 'Wave The Banner  2002  Collector Club."

The lowest layer contains some surprises and brings us up to date. However, I honestly do not know when this AHSA pin joined the collection.  Belleville Flea Market?  which would put it 1988 to 1995...?  I only know I loved the logo of a winged horse.

We have made it to 2019.  This fabulous dragon really is an enamel pin, although he is about 2 inches in diameter and flat on the back.  He's a broach or cloak-pin, very appropriate.  This is a souvenir of a book-signing by Christopher Paolini, author of the Eragon dragon series.   I have my dear friend Gretchen to thank for this one -- she just happened to be working at the bookstore!

Here, of course, is what inspired this whole post in the beginning, my two Sarah Minkiewicz unicorns, 2020.  Either I'm slightly richer or the quality of pin has gotten so high as to be irresistible.  As with much Mink merchandise, one has to be in the right place at the right time.  There is an element of luck to obtaining it.

You would think this story would be over.  I have far more pins than I knew.  They represent my whole adult life and I can't be affording these lovely things when there are so many horses and pieces of tack and movies and books and charities etc out there.  I don't wear jewelry.  I don't collect jewelry, I make my own.  I haven't used pins for thirty years and I have no intention of poking holes in my hat.

So what happens?  A friend gave me this:

I don't collect pins....

Saturday, November 13, 2021

TSII #413: Bridle Restoration


It feels like a very tricky thing:  capturing in a photograph the difference between the old and the new braided buttons on this restoration job.  The Nickel-plated bits, to be sure, are obvious.  I took this tack order on so lightly, sure I could simply slip off the old buttons and slip them back onto new lace.  Not so fast!!  The old sealant to those buttons -- and we're talking old here:  TSII #413 was built in 1999, twenty-two years ago -- had turned yellow and dull.  I've discovered I can't exactly get the sealant off, which is discouraging.  The differences are noticeable in person.  But my beloved camera has a tendency to turn everything yellow,... incandescent light or not.  It's taken some work and PhotoShopping to get the above picture of the cheekstraps of the bridle of 413.

Look at these top buttons (above).  Can you tell the old one is on the right, and the new on the left?  These are 7P5B braided buttons, done with (right) heavy white cotton thread, and (left) white linen thread.  The right, old one is slightly darker and yellower, with less distinct braiding.  The old sealant did that:  almost fused the threads together.  How was I to know that RC56 glue would do this across twenty years...  Sometimes it is discouraging to meet up with old pieces of one's work.

And sometimes it is rewarding and fun.  I am choosing a mix of true conservation of this tack --  recycling the dark small buttons, Spanish Ring Knots of 3P, as well as the crimps -- and of rebraiding.  Everything that was white is, so far, being rebraided.  Because it is a pleasure to be braiding again, I am indulging myself (in between bouts of mule harnessmaking).   I don't think I've braided much during the entire pandemic, something I'm blaming on Akhal Tekes.  :)

Below is a close-up of the new ear piece (left) and the old cheekstrap (right).   Merely taking off the crimp beads results in destroying the old leather.  Age and dryness has reduced it to a friable state, and it was time to replace it with fresh new kangaroo lace.

I don't have much of an idea right now how I'm going to handle the saddle, TSII #413.  My options range from doing nothing at all to complete disassembly and rebraiding.   That's kind of a tall order.  I'm rather glad the mules are waiting in the wings; when I get stuck, it's back to them. ... 

until I get stuck again.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

20M: Bridles


For two months, from July to August, I was working on these bridles.  To be sure, the time spent on them was mostly one day a week - Friday! -- with, usually, one hour on one other day in the week.  So progress was seriously slow.  Still, bit by bit, I managed to solve most of their problems.  I hadn't worked in this scale for a decade (2010's Pebbles Fine Harness).

Creation began with the nose, blinkers and crown, which was buckled on the near side with a fold-back strap.

I cupped the blinkers by pressing them over the end of a dapping stick.  At this scale, fingers would've worked well, provided the nails didn't mark the grain side of the leather.

The blinker stays were glued.  The stitchmarking was drawn on with a sharp awl, and I do mean drawn:  not dotted, but actual lines, using a small drafting triangle for a straight-edge.  Here is where real optical illusion took place.  At these scales, the grain of the leather was so large that the lines appeared to be stitchmarking and the eye interpreted the individual leather pores as dots.

The forehead drop ornament caused me some trouble.  How to make it small enough!  I stamped an ikandi with my littlest flower leather stamp, then cut out the flower as best I could with the X-Acto.  I set it down into the leather by tooling, before hot gluing, so it wouldn't stick up.

Curiously, the near mule was wearing a different bit than the off.   I chose to stick to my reference and give him his Liverpool.  Thank heavens I had Rio Rondo's teeny tiny stainless steel Liverpools on hand, previously filed clean of their edges.  It is amazing what is hanging around in the drawers of a long-term tack collector.

Making the buckle for the eensy bit of leather that holds the bit to the bridle was one of those mystical experiences that no logic can explain.  Its loops were smaller than my plier tips.  One has to use outside pressure on such a thing.  I dropped it several times, I can tell you that.

The photo below shows the long end of the strap for that tiny buckle still extant, (behind the bit).   Long ends were absolutely necessary, for manipulation;  I only cut them when everything was done, and even then tried to leave a long pointed end.

Getting the bridles on over the halters was far more difficult than I had anticipated.  It came down to "Once it's on I ain't taking it off," a rarity with me.  Adjusting everything took some dainty work and lots of patience.  You can see here that at first things were crooked:  look at that noseband.

Although the mule with the Liverpool did not have a bit brace bar, I put one on anyway, as a model necessity.  Otherwise the shanks would never stay lined up.

These harnesses have been very slow work for me.  Yet there is something satisfying about their gradual accumulation, their small-but-steady triumph over seemingly impossible problems.  I am deeply grateful for the patience of their owner.

Friday, October 22, 2021

20M: Halters


Although technically the bridles were made first, I want to start this series of posts with the halters.  During harnessing, the halters go on the mules first, underneath the bridles.  We are talking about the famous Twenty Mule Borax Team (hence my abbreviation, "20M"), and my reference is a 16-minute video.  I'll include a link at the end.  It is something of a relief to have too much reference instead of too little.

These tiny halters were begin August 20 and were finished on the 27th.  The horse head shown below belongs to a Stone Pebbles, scale 1:18.  I'm using kangaroo lace, trimmed, skived and beveled, and gold-filled hardware.  I found a Rio Rondo buckle for the crown, and I had rings and squares; but I was flummoxed about the halter squares.  Even if they existed out there, I didn't have time to order them.

So I made my own.

This is the cool part about being a model tackmaker.  I made them from gloss gold ikandis (a brand name of metal iron-on bling spots), using the smallest tube on my hole punch, my X-Acto knife, my needle chisels and some jeweller's metal files.

I was pretty pleased with how they came out.

I make my own rings using gold-filled wire (22ga in this case) and aluminum tubing cores, wrapping the wire around the cores.  My ring use is so small and specialized these days that it's just simpler, cheaper and easier to make my own rings for every piece the TSII puts out, instead of buying rings.

There is a square and ring for the halters' chinstraps.  These squares came from Rio Rondo buckles I had cut in half and sent off to be plated.  Alas, I've lost touch with my plater -- I don't know if they still exist.

The lovely mules are 1:18 resincasts sculpted and painted by Candy Liddy.  Their names, conveniently carved into their hind legs, are Hubert and Leo.

I don't want to think about how badly they must have kicked during that carving...!!

I've always said a change of scale is wonderful as a refresher and to combat burnout.  This scale certainly is challenging for me.  I haven't been this small (nor made halters!) in more than a decade.  But I love how these came out.

At this scale it is no shame to use glue.  The hardest work is getting the lace small enough:  it takes endless skiving, cutting and beveling, shaving it down and feeling it up, trimming the shreds --- and then doing it again.  It's a lot of hand work, but the only way I know to get it right... and I've been getting it right for a very long time.

Here's my reference link.  Although it features the wagon shop for the first 8 minutes (the first half), the second half is rich with harness detail.

New Borax Wagons on Parade

There are other videos of the Twenty Mule Borax Team, but this one sufficed.

Friday, October 8, 2021

The Five Grander

 On August 30 I finished the greatest challenge yet in my puzzle collection.  Did I say that wolf's-head was my most difficult puzzle?  Hah!!  THIS has been my toughest -- both the longest to finish and the most difficult to arrange logistically.  Although it looks as though it fits on the board perfectly fine, a puzzle as big as this one needs lots of space for all those pieces.  And I didn't have that space.  Arranging how to work it was just one of the challenges.  But oh!  what glorious fun!  It was worth whatever we paid.

I'm not sure when we bought this.  Certainly after Denmark, and probably from the Barnes & Noble less than a mile away. 

It's been in shrink-wrap for a long time.  The purchase date could have been anywhere from the early 2000s to around 2012. 
It's true we have another 5-grander but somehow that one was missing the shrink-wrap.  I always said I was waiting for a long winter for this one.  Welp -- Covid made me do it, a deep freeze if ever there was one.
"Dolomites Lake in the Sella Pass."  Those familiar with Ravensburger know that the Dolomite mountains form their most common scenes, their home ground as it were:  their roots.  For a Front Range Coloradan to be staring at mountains is not a bad situation.

I opened the shrink-wrap on April 16.  For the next 3 months, until the Fourth of July, no puzzle pictures were taken.  This is most unusual, and I must beg forgiveness.  One of the tools that made this puzzle possible was a sheet.  (Earlier this sheet was used for a model horse show arena.)  I folded it into the size of the board and stapled it closed -- I had a feeling it was going to stay folded like that for a very long time.  

  As I've said elsewhere, the sheet performed many functions.  It protected the pieces from getting lost or being directly stepped on, and, over time, from sun and dust.  It allowed access to the bookshelves and daytime use of the space, which was critical:  This is the assembly spot for all our trips.  And it protected against cheating, i.e. doing the puzzle outside of the designated puzzle time, which was right before bed.  Cheating has always been a problem -- call it managing an addiction.  After the border was done, George stopped work altogether and the whole thing became entirely mine.  Many days only a few pieces went in.

Here is a series of shots, taken July 4, that shows how far I'd come... and had yet to go.  The series shows how the sheet was folded up when time came to work on the puzzle.

See the yellow heavy-duty flashlight in the upper right?  The flashlight was an attempt to get light where I needed it, as the clip lamp (center) was really too weak.  Over time, the biggest problem was lighting:  "During the day, the light is so much better!"

Near the yellow flashlight can be seen a gallon Ziplock bag full of puzzle pieces.  This is how I solved the logistics of a too-small board.  I hand-picked-out every red flower piece and stowed them away, intending to do the flowers last.  This reduced the amount of pieces active at any one time.  Of course, it caused problems when it came time to do the smaller red flowers in the center!  Earlier, I'd also pulled out blue pieces -- there were two bags.  It's a matter of skill telling the lake apart from the sky.
I think the lower, red flower border was not done until now [July 4].  That would explain why I took these pictures at this time;  it was a major milestone in completion.

Here's a view of the whole thing without the sheet.  It's more than halfway done.  April, May, June -- oh, our blessed June!  Beloved, glorious normal June.  In June we went out to eat.  We stayed overnight in another town.  We hiked and passed strangers and didn't mind breathing their air.  June and early July were our real summer -- a few precious weeks.

Then came Delta and we were set back.  But that's another story.

My camera does not always behave when it comes to color balance.  This shot is much nearer the real color of things.  Note that the left side trees and mountains are filled in.  This was taken July 9.

Working on so vast a puzzle is a continuum.  I had hung over this board so much, so long, so intently, pivoting on my hands, that my right elbow had taken fire and became very sore.  It was in June that I had to take it to a doctor and July before I started physical therapy for it.  Diagnosis:  Tendonitis.  Cause:  Overuse.

[Ragtime piano playing; lots of handwriting; model tackmaking; canoeing...]

For me a puzzle is a world you live in.  It is of sufficient complexity to engage your brain yet offers enough simple success to keep you sweet.  Each piece placed is a little jolt of serotonin; it really is addictive.  There are only six shapes to Ravensburger puzzle pieces.  I have my own names for them all:  One-wings, two-wings, four-wings, four-heads, two-heads or standard, and three-heads, which I call boats because they have a downward-pointing belly and symmetrical ends like a boat hull (think canoe).  Two-heads are by far the most common shape.

Here's a close up.  Three pieces are 'missing' or not found yet in this area.  In the event it turned out that only one had strayed (it was found under the Monopoly box, if you please!!) and the other two had somehow hid out in the roses/red flowers bag.

Progress:  I had reached the red flowers.  This next shot, taken July 13,  shows a significant detail: the manila folder.  I use this stiff cardboard to transfer small numbers of pieces about.  I also had arranged many remaining pieces into shape-alike groups, something I do when "the end is near."  At this stage the remaining pieces are the hardest of the whole puzzle to fit, so I group them to make comparisons easier.  This phenomenon is caused by the simple rule that the easier parts get done first.

Note how just the pieces for the bottom quarter of the puzzle take up all the board space.  It really was impossible to lay out all 5,000 at once.

Here's a close up of some shape-alike groupings.  The largest cluster of rows is two-wings (sometimes I call these two-tails) and the darker group is boats.  Pieces are also laid out according to color.

Near the end.  This whole-scene shot was taken August 28.  Much is on view here:  The grey blanket-pillow (I always kneel on something), the Ace bandage piled up on the yellow sheet (for the elbow), the flashlight gone (it disturbed my couch-sitter too much) and a second small lamp seen to the left (unfortunately it also disturbed my couch-lyer).  A small white cardboard piece, originally a candy wrapping, serves as a transfer sheet.  This turned out to be very useful.  It was simply easier to pry up the section of puzzle I was trying to find a piece for and carry it around, comparing it to the shape-alike groups, than to try and find a single piece to match a given hole which was many inches away.  I had never had to develop this kind of technique before;  but I'd never done a five-grander before.

Evening lighting was so poor that I had to use a magnifying glass; it can be seen on the puzzle box.  Light makes all the difference.

The five-grander had taken me four and a half months.  For comparison, a two-grander, in 2020, had taken us 16 days.  A three-grander in the last quarter of 2020 (you'll have to wait for the Fourth Ten to see it) took me from October 27 to December 2:  a month and 6 days.  George helped on that one.

Finish.  August 30.  The whole cycle of cresting hope to enjoyed freedom to crashing disappointment to stubborn resilience was embodied in this project.  Four and a half months of my life are here, darkness and light, hope and horror, disgust and determination.  It will not be easy to tear down.  It's been up for more than a month.  But right around the 40-day mark, it feels right to go ahead and start another puzzle.  

For entertainment dollars, Ravensburger can't be beat.  What's up next?  Can ye believe it:  Another Ravensburger!  But this time, Geo gets to do more than just the border.