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.  The blue or 'dummy' thread was intended to guide where the next pass of braiding would go.  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 artifact, an accident, a consequence, not planned, not desired, not seen!!  It wasn't on my mind or in my vision until very late...  [Editor's note:  the blue thread represents the path of the next pass of braiding, so to have blue left meant the button was unfinished.]  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 [directions I was following] and the reality didn't match... [i.e. when I couldn't follow the formula]

 "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.  [Ed note:  not long enough to follow all the blue thread]  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 [button].  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.