Kim's Blue Prism Tape saddle was restored in January, and I've been meaning to share some of the steps of that process. The most important (and trickiest) repair was the silver to the plates; I also replaced buckles. Something not shown is that the cinch was taken all apart, and then re-tied using the same yarn. A thorough cleaning and oiling was also done. Note: this is NOT the original blanket; it's just for photos.
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.
The offside front corner silver is peeling. Not to mention the all-pervading verdigris (the green stuff!) around the pin. The nearside is even worse:
The silver tape has fallen off entirely, and will have to be replaced.
I started by peeling off the fuzz lining, and unbuckling straps.
(As mentioned, the cinch was completely redone. I had such
a problem with twist!!) The buckles were relaced with stainless steel. Below, the old buckle is taken off by cutting the stitches (I find stitches much easier to replace than gluing). The verdigris is cleaned off with rubbing alcohol and just plain elbow grease and Q-tips and a fid (awl). Replacement buckles are halfway through getting their Aluminum tubes for rollers, which conveniently hides the ends.
The new back cinch buckle.
Now for the real disassembly. (Not every step is shown.) The seat
is taken off by clipping away the pins (the green spots) and taking out the front
saddle strings. OK so I've drawn arrows to all four, even though the rear ones stay in; sorry, put it down to PhotoShop enthusiasm.
I take them off very carefully by unbraiding the slit braids and easing
off the conchos. Each string is labelled as to where it belongs. Back then, I handmade all the conchos from aluminum, and so a lot of psychic energy is in them. They had a terrible habit of destroying the strings, due to not having big enough holes. If a string is broken, I make a new one.
The silver tape is removed. In theory it does not have to be saved except as patterns; but since I've still got the patterns (oh those stacks and stacks of envelopes) I don't need them. In the end the original silver tape of #381 winds up stuck on the pages of my N.A. tack notes notebook (volume XIII page 8).
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.
The prongs are there to clinch in the silver on top of the old blue prism tape. I long ago lost my trust in adhesive, so this is the (very hard & delicate & tricky) method I use to replace errant silver tape figures... those that can
be replaced (there are some that cannot, due to shape or location, but that's another story). You can call pronging and clinching "pulling out all the stops." The aluminum sheet is cut with an ordinary X-Acto.
The blue prism tape should be cleaned with a little rubbing alcohol. If it is loose, glue is allowed to hold it down. It will soon be held in place a lot better!
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.
Testing the fit. Ho- ho, did you think I was perfect??! Although there is leeway to these materials, some of the blue will have to be cut away.
Here's the trick. I lay down the pronged piece, use a miniature fid to prick a mark where the bottom edges of the prongs are, use a Needle Chisel to cut slits, use the same chisel to open the holes, bend the prongs down and try to fit them in. Enphasis on the word 'try.'
Using pliers helps. Occasionally I have to trim down a prong or recut a slit.
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.
This is what the underside looks like. The prongs have been pulled through as far as they'll go (without breaking them) and then gently pushed over and mashed down. Sometimes just a fingernail does this pushing, but I like to use pliers.
The finished plate. I like to run the dull awl around all edges of the blue windows, which trims, smoothes and shapes the metal. Also, in this photo, some blue has been cut away, using the X-Acto.
Although there is a risk of tearing, of breaking prongs, of non-smooth edges and snagging metal prickings, I still find this method to have solved all the problems of silver tape's lift. Adhesive is no longer depended upon; the only way that silver is going to come off would be actual breakage. The prism tape isn't going anywhere -- it's sandwiched in. The aluminum does not tarnish.
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!