Thursday, August 25, 2016
I saw Ricky when I was over at the AllTech for the 5K race. At the time I felt only the pleasure of seeing a nicely-designed piece of tack. (I reached out and slid his cheekstrap keeper down into place.) Later, after deep discussions with friends, I put together several factors, including the success of the Guide, my love of drawing and my interest in model braidwork. I decided I'd start off my long-delayed next book with a piece that was not too hard. I remembered Ricky's bridle and started looking for pictures of it. An old customer and great artist, Billie Campbell, gave permission to use these:
What slowed me down was the drawings. (Not to mention other things in one's life.) It had been 19 years since I'd made up a plate, a page of drawings for instruction. I knew from working with the Guide that I wanted to keep using vellum and drafting ink for the final originals -- these materials aged so well. But I had much less vision for the book as a whole. With the Guide I'd had a complete, finished volume. For my next book, Braidwork for the Model Horse, I had a title and a rough list of contents -- that was about it. There is definitely a casting-about quality to this project as I slowly get started on something that's been in the dream stages for at least 15 years.
Ricky's bridle began with the bits. I cut down some pewter bits, filed them a great deal, and added copper ferrules which I had made by scraping off the silver from some badly-plated silver tubes. What jeweller hasn't run across such things?!
The reins were hot-oiled, the only parts of this bridle to be so treated. It made them darker. But Ricky's reins were darker than the rest of the bridle too.
The button-and-slit fasteners at the bit heads had indeed stumped me. After a few trials, I settled on using Twisted-Loop Rein ends, pulled hard and rolled to their tightest extremity. I could not do these buttons as in full scale, rolled and pierced; the leather fibres were not strong enough at this scale. Twisted-Loop was already in the Guide.
You can't have this happen very often if you're a professional tackmaker. Mastering it was something I'd done back in the 70s. But here it was again, gnawing and calling, insisting that the situation was different, and that I needed to keep at least a copy for my personal tack museum. Perhaps the fact that there was no individual customer for the bridle had some effect. In the end I decided I'd have to make a second bridle. (I used a different bit.) Something that helped in this decision was that I'd made the cheekstraps with alternating grain-sides and flesh-sides-out... and Ricky's was clearly only grain-sides-out. (Remember this if you think us pros are always perfect -!)
So I made a grain-side-out cheekstrap with kangaroo, that most wonderfully stretchy, strong, forgiving leather, testing my much-labored-over drawings and measurements -- and this happened:
Much too short...
Ricky's photos clearly showed eight passes of slit braid, so I didn't want to add more. But have too little of that lovely cheek braid?? What was this bridle, if not that cheek?! Where'd I goofed...? I'd asked for the maker to cut slits at-need rather than use pre-cut ones:
The buckles are a large part of the soul of a piece like this. These buckles are made of hammered wire (with a ferrule for the tongue base). So little a thing as doming them makes a difference. Can you see that they were domed: hammered into a circular hollow on a dapping block so as to have a little arching overall curve to them? I am not speaking of the obvious curve, but the side-to-side...
Now for the photo shoot! Since many of these are on our FaceBook page I'm going to restrain myself to four.
Having seen the Jennifer Show prizes, I can't help but think that red Rajah would look great in this bridle -- !!
The next tack project really has to be TSII #456, the Star Wars set. I've had so long to think about it, yet only barely designed it... ! After that I'd truly love to start working on various pieces either as part of the book (recreating existing ones for drawings and measurements) or following the elusive muse. Blog subjects in the pipeline include Moody's Cave of Wonders, mending a blue-prism-tape saddle, a McGroarty saddle, a fifth installment of stable blankets (!) and more. Stay tuned!