Sunday, November 10, 2019

TSII #457: Silvering the Tree

As usual, a few snapshots of one part of the second Goehring saddle are ballooning into an entire blog post.  Brevity, despair!  However there is an element of celebration.  According to my notes, the last time I made this saddle, a year had elapsed before I got to the horn cap.  This time, it has been a mere 5 weeks.  Huzzahh!!

    Last time (2013-14), by the time I got to the horn cap, the entire bridle and breastcollar were finished, with their intense array of engraved and soldered conchos (16 pieces for the bridle, 26 for the breastcollar.)  That is not the case today.  Today's bridle and breastcollar "are cut out," even tooled and dyed, but their silver is not started.  For much of the set, the silver isn't even present; it needs to be mail-ordered (brevity, despair).  I'm choosing to use Argentium for the entire saddle instead of the Sterling of the first Goehring, and my Argentium supply is quite limited.  But we will not complain.  Progress is being made.

There are accumulating small differences from my first Goehring saddle.  One is the size and shape of the seat pattern.
The original pattern is on left.  You can see the date, 1312.11 (Dec 11, 2013),  just 5 years and 11 months ago.  You can see that the current pattern is differently shaped, and it is actually longer front to back, since the cantle turned out higher.  That's what happens with individually-carved trees.  I have to make new patterns every time.
     Basketweaves have been the subject of conversation between myself and 2 other tackmakers lately.  Here is my contribution.
The whole basketweave section was done with a single Needle Chisel, by hand and by eye, with the help of a small drafting triangle.

 An interim step is the dyeing of the tree.  (Not 'dieing' --  don't irritate the sleeping proofreader, as one wouldn't disturb a sleeping bear --!)   This noxious substance, Oil Dye, gives a perfect wood-look, much better than any other dye.  I painted the tree outdoors on the deck, with a Q-tip, which I then wrapped up and threw away.  No clean-up, no smell, so yay!

Another difference from my first Goehring was in choosing to puff up or pad the leather part of the seat, in order to differentiate it from the 'wood.' This was complex and involved gluing thin layers underneath, shaving and then bevelling.  No pix were taken, alas.  Gluing the seat down required several passes in order to wrap the edges.

At this point one of the major design discoveries from the first Goehring is invoked,  an old friend from 30 years of making model silver saddles: Silver Tape!
The reasoning behind the choice of this material is better explained, and shown, in my earlier post on the subject: Silver Progress on the Goehring.  For now we will just say that without leather underneath, and without bending, Aluminum mending tape is perfect for this particular part of a model saddle.  Nothing will shift or fall off in the years to come, (as would be risked on almost any other part).  I was smart to save the backing pieces of paper from my earlier tries -- you can see them scattered about.  As I worked I found myself hoping 3 layers would do.

 The Goehring's pommel silver is in halves, right and left; so is mine.  A lot of fiddling and awl-stroking is in the cutting and darting, to fit the tape as closely as possible over a very complex shape.  In the end, 3 layers it was.  (Layer 2 shown below.)

Still another difference is that this horn cap turned out larger than last time.  However I am using the same engraving pattern approach.  Wheee---  after only 1 month (October to November) I'm engraving silver!!  For this tack shop, that is fast work indeed.
Last step:  engraving the pommel, technically embossing as nothing is cut.  Well, the pinpoints are cut.  This step must be completely by eye -- no pattern exists.  I make it up as I go along.  Silver tape is truly a one-time-use material.

What's next for this saddle?  Cantle silver, stirrups, signing the tree, and making conchos and strings, preparatory to fastening on the skirts.  If all that was done, the saddle itself would be finished (except for the cinch).  Oh I can feel myself resenting that cinch.  I hated it last time too.  H'mmph  h'mm...
Although I may have to let this rest over Thanksgiving holidays, I am pleased with how it's going.

There are, as I said, at least 8 other blog subjects lined up in my head, shuffling their feet and rattling the gate.  They range from my horse collection to TJS to a barn I saw on the Wyoming prairie, to BreyerFest, to stable blankets and my logo and ...   ....  brevity, despair!  Still, progress is being made.  I appreciate your patience.


  1. I always enjoy your process and beautiful work, and musings about various topics are welcome reading too! Never enough time in my world, so photos are the spark that get me going!

  2. I love this so much! Very impressive to make dye look like wood. Your silver work is always amazing :)

  3. Fascinating! I look forward to seeing this project progress.