Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Three Mecates again

Since August 7 I've made three mecates, and each one has been nerve-wrackingly, mind-tearingly difficult.  There has to be a better way (she says), all the while perfecting, measuring and note-taking on this most challenging of model braidwork pieces.  Up to now I've said this is the second-most difficult piece of tack I can make (behind bosals).  But I'm changing my mind.  Bosals are merely braided buttons:  extended and doubled, but still buttons.  Mecates are rope-making in miniature, a whole 'nother ball game.  It's a wonder I'm sane (??).

This post will cover the three and then take a close look at how we solved a problem on the last one.

The first one made (on the right above) took over 40 hours and just about drove me crazy.  I'm referring to it as L1 or Brown/White/Check (the check is black & white).  Check refers to the checkered strand, the 'fleck' as it is sometimes called...  A lot of mistakes were made with this one, and I sweated them out one by one:  set the threads at opposition not combination!  Learn to 'stroke' it and get the irregularities out, even though that destroy it...  How to repair a strand cut short,  knowledge which (frighteningly) came useful soon after...!  This mecate, 29 1/2 inches long, is currently for sale:
$200.00 plus postage.
[Ed Note:  SOLD 1809.28 - Thanks!]

The second mecate was the Roby Canyon Grey and it took an even 20 hours.  This was the triumph, the successful one:  it has the lovely grey strands in it and the unusual check strand, half grey half black.  Its length turned out 31 inches, one-ninth of a full scale 24-foot rope.  I am measuring the rope alone, from the head of the popper to the tassel knot.

And the third mecate, on the left in the first picture, was finished yesterday.  This third one is known as L2 or Black/Brown/White/Check, with the check being dark brown & white.  It took 23+ hours and came out at, depending on how you stretch it, 30 1/2 or 30 3/4 inches.  It turns out to be extremely difficult to exactly predict the length, for all that I kept exhaustive measurements.  (I'm working on shrinkage rates...)  The Roby mecate had had serious strand waste-ends and I was trying to eliminate that while still reaching 31 inches.
L2 was terrifically challenging also and I think I am justified in not making any more of these for a while.  Managing the artist so they don't burn out is a constant balancing act.

So what's so hard about spinning thread together and making ropes?!?  I've made a couple dozen of these so far...!!  and I think I've put up more posts on mecates than anything.  (By actual count there are 8 posts (not counting this one)!  Okay the Goehring had more, at 13, but still...)

Many model tackmaking skills are used in the making of these ropes.  This time we will look at attaching a further length to a strand that came up short.  This is what happened to the first mecate;  it also happened to the third -- and we got pictures.  :)

In this shot we see the ends of the strands coming out nowhere near each other.  The shortest one, white, is at 3", equalling 27" as it happens.  Since my goal is 31" this is tragically too short.  Heroic measures are called for.  Since I have the experience of L1 to draw upon, I know what to do.  Unspin a bit, attach 3 new threads, hope they hold, and re-spin!  Easy, right....?
This shot has a lot of info.  The clothespin has held the core end, giving it weight and distinction.  The finished rope is on the upper left.  The three new white thread extensions, clipped from the spool, lie below.
It's messy, attaching thread.  Open the existing strand into its 3 threads for about an inch.  Use the knife to spread and fray the last quarter inch or so on both ends of a join.  Overlap and roll the ends together at the same time smearing them with Elmer's.  In this shot each join happened at a different distance from the end of the threads, which is a good thing:  the bulges are staggered.  Don't take this sentence out of context...
Wait for the glue to dry.  Then spin two of the three threads together.  The third may be viewed at upper left, waiting its turn:
Putting in the third thread.  The strand is white no longer - the grey is from dirt on my hands - but I'm ignoring this.
And done.  What a mess.  The ends are obvious.  I take the scissors and trim and clip.

Better.  There's a bulge but it's manageable.
With the shortest strand magically lengthened, I finish out the mecate.  Seven inches on the ruler corresponds to 31", so that's where I decide to tie the end knot.  You see it barely made it -!
Tying the end knot.  Crown, crown the other way, wall.  Each strand has to be pulled through each time individually, with its 3 or 4 threads guided through the eye of the needle.
With the mind of its own that tack is known for, after this end knot is tied, tasselled and covered, I measure it again and find it's half an inch too short.  There Ain't No Justice.
Also, I forgot this button's interweave...!  Adding it the next day, when I had spunk again, covers up some sins but commits others.  Eh well, I can always find errors in these pieces.  Hopefully others will like them.

Next up is the hobbles for the Roby Canyon set, and their hangers.  When they're done the whole Hackamore and hobbles will be up for offers on MH$P, with a reserve.  I have dim dreams for the first Roby bosal and the L1 mecate;  they would make a fine Hackamore by themselves.

I also must buckle down harder on the Braidwork book... dreams which must be dragged into reality if we are ever to progress.

And this November is the Guide's 20th Birthday...

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Roby Canyon Hackamore: Progress

Progress has finally been made on the Roby Canyon set:  all that's left to do are the hobbles!  This piece is definitely for larger models.  I photo'd it on my Jezail (Shagya/Kaalee) this morning, and it fits her even better than Dry the Sea/Ichabad Crane.  The grey mecate came out beautifully, and it's all of 31 inches long!
This is the longest mecate I've ever made.  Even though it's a perfect one-ninth of a full-scale 24-foot mecate, it still seems incredibly long.  It's almost too long for this horse, and he's big!

Over the weekend I managed to finish Bosal 2 for this set (below right).  Somehow, it, as well as the mecate, came out a scoosh too big.  I tell you what, folks (voice of Bartok the Bat here), proportion is the greatest challenge in model tackmaking.
I failed to double the foundation in the heel knot (the white).  Tired of fuss, I chose to let it be.  The earlier, smaller bosal now has grand ideas of its own hackamore, since the earlier mecate did not sell.  (Read:  didn't fetch what I wanted it to.)  If dreams can be counted on, such a hack might have silver... never mind I currently have 4 other small pieces going...

Meanwhile back to the vision I saw in that canyon in June!  Finally putting the pieces together and finally getting a morning without rain, I had a little photo shoot... and the trees promptly dripped water on him.
This is not the easiest piece to take on and off.  You need to untie both the fiador and the cheek strap.  I've long accepted models' inflexible long ears.  This horse has such a sweet face.  :)

To suggest what the entire rig might look like, I added the closest thing I had to a plain TSII saddle.  This is TSII #117, from 1985, my first good basketweave.  It's 33 years old... still looks good to me...
Remember I'm selling the Hackamore, NOT the saddle!!
The mecate's tail end, or leadrope, is tied to the horn.  The mecate is looped in the bosal to take up the space between jaw and fiador.  I love this picture (below) because it caught the curve of her neck and the dish of her face.
Only now do I discover how easy it is to pick up the horse with one hand and get a close shot with the other, at an angle that shows the tack so much better than standing her.  How long have I been shooting ponies here??  Twenty-five years...??!?
The jaw strap is actually needed on such a large head.
I recently found out the Spanish term for the tassel at the end of a mecate:  la mota.  This tassel and its button are better shown in this shot:
I was going to end here, but this last shot seems perfect for the day.  It's 9-11 and this is a frightened horse.
Reach out to your loved ones today (and every day).

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Spinning Fate: Mecate Design

I've finished one mecate and am deep into the second - my first grey one, for the Roby Canyon set.  Both these mecates will eventually be up for grabs.  Yes, the one above is now available (customer wants another).  In the process of making the Roby, I seem to be spinning off so many spare parts that a second hackamore could almost be made!  However, given all the small pieces I'm intending to do right now, I think the best thing to do would be to sell those parts by themselves.  See the last paragraph for my current plans for these.

It was yesterday I decided to test my grey mecate design ideas by wrapping the strands around my Needle Awl and photographing them.  I'd never done this before.  Previously, mecate designing was all done on paper, in my head, or on the rope itself in the process of starting the spin.  There are only 5 colors!  But this way I could capture the subtleties and examine them at my leisure.  I was so intrigued by my results I decided to blog about them.  There were indeed subtleties -- and there was a clear winner.
This is what I had to work with.  You are looking at a week's work.  Each one of these strands takes 3 to 4 hours to make.  They're crafted entirely of hand-spun thread.  Although the photo doesn't show it well, the checkered strand (left) or 'check' as I will call it, is a pioneer.  It alternates white-black with white-grey.  I dyed the grey myself, as documented in a previous post.
The pair on the right, the black and white, are connected.   They will provide one black and one white strand, while the others provide two grey strands and two check strands.  One of the solid greys will be the core.

In the course of the Roby, I'd drawn a lot of design tests.  At first I took them from real mecates.  Later (the black ink ones) I invented my own.  I was pretty pleased with that last one (lower right) and decided to go with it...
...even drawing it up in my current N.A. Notebook.  "Dry" refers to Dry the Sea, the horse modelling for the Roby set; he is known as Ichabad to the rest of the world.
And then, as often happens, I was hit by a new and wonderful idea.  At least it happened before I'd actually started spinning!  Oh these inspirations.  They can be astonishingly worthy new ideas or they can be the most time-wasting rabbit-holes...!  My standard method of making Trad-scale mecates indicates only 5 parts to the twist (the 6th makes the core or 'inside' of the rope).   Yet my research revealed I'd once made a 6-part, that is, six strands visible with a 7th inside as the core.  Of course that means a lot more colorful options, and I was taunted, not to say tormented, by possibilities!!

What happened next was 3 days of rest from the Roby and completion of the first mecate, which turned out to be incredibly difficult (as well as taking three times as long as it should have).  (I had cut it too short and was busy figuring out how to extend it and undo a button with a lot of work in it.)  I had had an exciting night pondering the grey's design (amoung other things), and I thought it didn't have enough black in it.  My morning-after answer was plain:  check-check-white-gray-black.  To quote:
"Altho this doesn't place white next to black, remember the check strands are unusually white.  The grander, larger overall pattern is a simple alternate.  Altho I'm not completely "in love" with this approach for TSII mecates, I feel a 6 is way too ambitious at this time.  We are SO behind!  Also this 5 creates a way to show butt-joins for ABFTMH [pronounced Abaft-muh] which is really important!!"
ABFTMH, dear readers, is my next book:  Advanced Braidwork for the Model Horse.  (hint:  probably years to go yet...)
Butt-joins, for the uninitiated, is my phrase for where two threads must be stuck together end to end, with as little overlap as possible. 

It was a bit tricky to get the threads to behave for these shots, but a weight laid on them on the left helped.  I'm calling this first design One.  It is my original idea:  check-check-white-grey-black.
Here's Two.  The gray has been placed between the checks.
Another photo of Two, aligned the same as One.  white-black-check-grey-check.
I started to be unhappy about how the greys all disappeared into one another and how the white didn't contrast well.
Here's Three, checks next to the black.
Here's Four, black between the checks.  It didn't work quite as well, I felt, because the checks 'bled' into the black and the white was undistinguished.  By which I mean not having much contrast.
And here's Five, with the white between the checks.
At this point I suddenly realized One and Three were the same --!!  one read down instead of up.  Duh!!!  I also realized I wanted the checks to be together.  They were so pale, evanescent; they needed multiplying for strength.  That was the problem with Five; a single check wasn't very effective.  (It would've been more so if it'd been solely black and white.)  I could either have black and white together in my mecate or checks together, but not both; if I did, I'd have Two or similar.  The problem with Two was the greys didn't show well.  I did want the gradation white-grey-black.

And so my problem was solved.  My first design, the one that came to me in the night, had after all been the right one.  The rabbit-hole had been just that, a detour unnecessary.  Why did I have to follow all these detours??!!  My self-discipline is very ragged around the edges!  But at least I had some good ideas for next time.

Ever since then I've been spinning like mad.  It takes just as long to twist up the finished rope of a mecate as it does to make the strands -- more so, when I try to smoothe it out and all the inconsistencies bunch together and ruin things.  I can only go a few inches at a time; ideally, I now think, one inch at a time.  This is rope-making in miniature, and all parts must be even tensioned.  And that's hard, really hard.  Somehow mecates are the second-hardest piece of braided tack I can make (behind bosals).

UPDATE.  As of Sept 1 the grey mecate is finished; look for pictures on FaceBook.  Also, I have finally decided to take offers on the brown/black/white mecate (illustrated here and at top of post).  HORSE AND OTHER TACK NOT INCLUDED.  I'll put the small Roby bosal up on eBay; this auction will have to wait until after the 10th because we plan to be out of town.  But the mecate is indeed up for grabs.  You could email me right now.  : )  Given how much time went into it, I am hoping it could fetch around two hundred; but we shall see.  I'll put it up on MH$P and we'll go from there.  A deadline for mecate offers would be Sept 10th, at 9pm EST.
Thanks for looking!