Monday, March 25, 2019

Akhal Teke No. 1: Jewelry decisions

How swiftly this Akhal Teke set goes.  Over the weekend I discovered how to straighten the spots, how to do a bezel and then, in a blaze of glory, how to do the jewels!!  I haven't designed and made tack like this in WAY too long!!  I was chuffed all Sunday.  :)  At the time I thought I couldn't possibly catch up blogging --- the tack was evolving too fast.  However, I now realize I caught most of it.  This neckband is not finished -- the ends are not done, nor are the coatings finished.  But this will cover what I've done up to now.
What a delightful bind to be caught in:  How to show off this delectable bit of tack without boasting TOO much...!   I'll content myself recalling it'll be offered up for sale once it's done.

We last saw the neckband like this.  I was not altogether sold on the alignment of the first batch of spots.  I thought they were a little crooked-y.  I switched to setting them one at a time.  Oh, my, the difference!  Can you tell the diff between the earliest (left) and the latest (right)?
The one-at-a-time alignment was so much better that I decided to do something very rare:  tear up my earlier work and do it all over again.  This is not a decision to be taken lightly.  Every one of those spots is handmade, with many steps of manipulation and forming.  All ikandis are one-time use.  If it's not right the first time, it's doomed:  Peel it up and try again.

The trick to setting ikandis is finding the balance between gun-too-cold and gun-too-hot.  If your gun is too hot and you press too much or too long, you carbonize the poor things.  The leather beneath burns (so does the glue) and the spot won't stick.  (Ask whether I speak from experience!)  If your gun is too cold, all three things that should happen don't.  You should SEE the heated glue pushing out from beneath the spot, oozing and squirting.  You should FEEL the spot suddenly become slippery:  it moves a little as if alive --  you can use that movement to position it subtly.  And, you should be able to SMELL the hot glue.
Hot-gluing calls for lots of practice.
Here is the piece after re-doing the left spots:
Much better.

This would be a good place to show how I'm making the spots.  (I'm stealing text from my previous post.)  Cut a 3mm square in thirds (the "before").  Cut a groove in your wood block.  (I smoothed it with another metal chisel, no sandpaper.)  Put a blank in it upside down and hammer a wide chisel on it very, very gently (or you'll cut it in half.)  This chisel was a gift from my father.  Presto, a roughly half-tube shape ("after").
I realize it's a very cluttered picture;  there are multiple forms, many saddles' worth, here.  But really it's just a pine block with decades of my spot-forming work on it...

The next hurdle was the bezels, or frame settings, for the jewels.  As I got deeper into making this tack, and studied so many references, it became obvious the jewels would be the main challenge.  They are almost always carnelian, with some turquoise.  Akhal Teke tack gemstones, in my references, were NOT faceted.  Using glass conebacks or Swarovskis, no matter how cute and tiny, would not be an option if realism was the goal.  Somewhat amazing myself, I showed great wisdom in choosing to attack one thing at a time:  bezels before jewels.  Somehow I had to make tiny frames and fit them into these 4mm x 5mm ikandi plates.

I tried silver tape, but that didn't work.  I thought of using Mylar, so successful for me in Draft Harness and smaller Parade sets.  Nope - too light.  After sleeping on it, I realized that only the ikandis themselves would work.  The color and texture of the metal must match.  (It's along about now I'm starting to wonder whether the Rio Rondo dangles I so eagerly ordered will match.  I hadn't ordered Rio Rondo parts in decades!!  I forgot the NMTM discount --  only to discover I had a standing credit from God knows how long ago!!  Thank you Carol... for existing!...)

I cut a thin strip from a larger ikandi and bent it to a ring, and squeezed and hot-glued it in place.  Lo and behold, it worked.
Only the daintiest handling and most patient manipulation could be used.  This is right at the edge of what I can control.
Ready for the last step!

All along, I'd been thinking how I'd do the carnelian.  Using actual carnelian was kind of stopped by mine being so yellow and light-orange:  it wasn't red enough.  I had some reddish Amber that was sort of closer to the right shade.  I remembered some Coral.  I hunted all over for it (that took a morning) and finally found the necklace.  But the Coral, though exactly the right color, was glass-hard, and my files made little progress.  I didn't have the tools to cut or shape it, let alone polish it.  Failure on this front.

After a long, hard, thoughtful pause, I ran to the grocery store, completely forgetting Sally Beauty Supply was just as close.
Remember:  Anything Goes if it Looks Right!  I had thought all along I'd have to turn to this.  The advantage is the many colors polish comes in;  I could get exactly what I wanted, which was that rich 'chu' orangey-red tone, with a brightness to it.  The trick then became building up layers; I wanted a slight 'bascule' or bulge, while capillary action gave me the opposite.  :(  The last best refinement was to cut a grove or tiny thin line of separation between the 'stone' and the bezel, only possible while the polish was still workable.  I used my littlest needle chisel a lot. 
Hooray for Sally Hansen.

Here's hoping the final clear coat won't mess it up.

I've only just begun.  The end plates have to be made, and final coatings/sealants done.  But I am very well pleased with it so far.

As I mentioned, this is a practice piece.  It is not my NMTM piece and was not intended to be.  I needed to start earlier than April.  I am hoping to complete this lovely set, gain knowledge thereby and launch into an Akhal Teke set for myself...  and THAT one could very well be using real stones, real silver.  When I know what I'm doing, look out Brasenose -- I've got some Amethyst that would look Splendid on you!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Starting an Akhal Teke set

I haven't been this excited about tack in a LONG time--!!!  I'm having WAY too much fun testing my ideas for an Akhal Teke set of neck jewellery, bridle and breastcollar.  Right off the bat I want to say that Yes, I've joined NaMoTackMo;  No, this piece is not it, because it was started before the official opening day; Yes, consider it a practice; Yes, I hope to be building a piece like this for myself for NaMoTackMo; and Yes, this Practice set will be for sale!

As usual, having taken pictures, in the time it takes me to walk to the computer room this went from a FaceBook post to a blog post.  At least this way I can indulge in shameless commerce.

This is Emerson.  I think he is the closest Breyer has yet come to an Akhal Teke.
My ideas for this kind of tack were, of course, formed and shaped by the over one hundred model Silver Parade Saddles I have built since 1979.  For the TSII a piece of silver tack should be a slam dunk.  Except it wasn't.  I have never made an Akhal Teke set.  I've never owned one.  As was the case with real Silver Saddles for way too long, I've never touched one, never seen one in person.
Thanks be to the Internet then, with its wealth of pictures.
My ideas for an Akhal Teke neckband, at this point in the career of the Timaru Star II, centered around ikandis, a brand name of iron-on spots.  All the metal seen here is created from ikandis -- gloss silver squares, 3mm and 5mm, if you want to know.  The 'jewels,' so prominent a part of Akhal Teke costumes, are not in yet!  That is plain blank leather you see in the little frames.  I can only move so fast.

The long slow part is making each spot by hand, shaping them on my stamping block.  They are only 1mm x 3mm.  Cut a 3mm square in thirds, cut a grove in your wood block, put a blank in it upside down and hammer a wide chisel on it very, very gently (or you'll cut it in half).  Presto, a half-tube shape, which is about at the limit of what I can control, sizewise.
I got impatient tonight and 'cashed in all my stamps' with assembly.  I plugged in the Monokote gun (Trim Seal Tool) and waited until it was very hot -- this is the secret of setting ikandis.  Three at a time, I put on the spots I had made.  The above has taken me 2 days.  But the look!  The look is what I was after.

The 'jewel frames' are made from 5mm squares.  I'm still working on how to do the jewels.  I know what I want, just not how to get there.
It's been a long time since I've made such tiny buckles and straps.  Twenty-four-gauge stainless steel wire, hammered, for the buckle and 26ga for the tongue.  That's my sewing scissors in the upper right.
The hardest part, next to the making, was manipulating such tiny spots for the hot gluing.

I'm having fun!!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Hunting A 12th Buffalo

Although it would seem obvious I have no choice, -- I conga the Buffalo!, -- the decision to hunt Waban the Charcoal was actually very difficult.  I am writing this while I still don't know whether I've been drawn, so the post should have an added depth and feel, and be more 'real.'  When I entered for Banff the Silver Dapple Buffalo, I was sure I'd win -- and I did!  When I entered for Waban I had no feel at all for what would happen.  Over the time of writing this, I've come to some conclusions.

This post is brought to you by a most extraordinary creature: a Charcoal Buffalo.
Photo by Breyer Molding Co
This is Waban, Breyer's latest "micro offering."  The deadline for entering for him was Friday the 15th.  Had I been on the road, as I often am, I would have missed him entirely.  This was one of the shortest offerings (or Web Specials) I've ever seen, spanning just 48 hours:  11:00 Wednesday morning to 11:00am Friday.  The numbers are short too:  only 50 head, as opposed to Banff, who was issued at 300 head.  But the price is anything but short:  a shocking (to me at any rate) $235.   Banff cost $145, back in 2014.  He was Frozen-inspired (seems to me).  We may never know what triggered the sale of a Charcoal.  Beware the Ides of March?!  I cannot think Waban has anything to do with Saint Patrick!
 I have been promising to do another Buffalo Conga post ever since BFest last year, when I got my 11th buffalo.  If nothing else, they all got cleaned for this outing.  Here's a link to my previous (2015) post:  Buffalo Conga  It gives all the collector details for my first 9 (and much else).

Since then I've added 2, which in itself kind of tells what the long-term expectations are for this herd.  Both my new ones happened to be from Heather Wells' disbursement of Karen Grimm's BHR (Black Horse Ranch).  The lightest brown one is an O.F., a variation to delight the heart of a collector and one of the first pieces I ever got from the BHR.  Greymantle is a genuine Karen repaint, and is signed BHR in gold between his hindlegs.  (Anyone getting the ElfQuest reference?)(Sorry, that's Greymung, my mistake)

When I saw Waban, it was the old story.  I felt I was the perfect customer, just what Breyer wanted... but the cost, the awful cost!  Is this inflation or Breyer taking advantage of/ trying to control a collector's market?   By entering am I sending a message I'll regret?  We'll never know how many people applied for him.  Whichever way this falls, there will be consequences!!  to quote Hiccup (of How to Train Your Dragon).

If I win, my BreyerFest fund will be set back;  out of that comes their own ticket price, as well as nearly every other BreyerFest item;  this fund grows slowly and unpredictably.  Breyer will have every excuse to do this again (!).  I am seriously considering an extension to my NaMoTackMo plans if I win.  Two sets of Akhal Teke tack instead of one; or even (gasp) make only one and sell it!  Are you serious?!  Since when did a buffalo weigh more than a set of Akhal Teke tack for your beloved Brasenose?  Or Emerson, it might well be... !!
But if I lose, I'm starting to think I'd be more comfortable.  There are buffaloes I don't have for this conga as is.  The Woodgrain.  The mysterious all-over-grey, issued in the 1970s.  Buffalo Days white, 1995.  And, thus, the Charcoal.  Secondary market hunting I'm comfy with,... and beyond, an even more enchanting idea:  Repaint!  Ahh, not for nothing are my fingertips still sparkling with trembling power in the aftermath of NaMoPaiMo... !!   I know of at least one Copenhagen Buffalo out there, a repaint if ever there was...  Not to mention the Wedgewood repaint I pinched a picture of in 2016 (photographer and painter unknown; credit will be given if you can tell me!).  You can pick up a decent Buffalo body on eBay for around $25...
Photographer / repainter unkn;  from  ?eBay?

I thought I'd add this shot, which shows how different and striking Taima, the translucent Buffalo, is:
Taima is a Connoisseur, one of the very few Translucents (clearware) in that series, and the only non-horse translucent I know of.  Thank you Margaret L.  !! :)

Here are all my Browns lined up.  The leftmost is the bi-eyed from 1997-1998.  The next 4, counting from the left, are No. 76s.  Taima is on the end right.  Next to him is Choc, the BFest Special Run from 2002.  (Issue of 850 if you're wondering.)

This facing shot shows how light the lightest-brown buffalo, the one from Karen, really is.  I'd never seen one like it.
One thing I already know:  To support my current congas, other congas are being broken up.  Anybody interested in a charcoal ISH, Stone Arab or Weanling?  Or an O.F. Inolvidable from my Yorkie Pasos?  Conversely:  I'd pay for a palomino (dunalino) Fylkir (G4 Icelandic SM) - !

The conga collector has to make choices.  Waban had me trembling on the brink, falling a bit faster than I should have and slowly coming to the conclusion that I'd be okay if I lost him.  I still don't know whether I've won... but at least I know how I feel about him.

1903.20  (March 20)
Note from the future:  I was not drawn.