There's been no time for a formal photo session, yet the desire to show off the last-finished parts is irresistible. These pix were taken inside, on the tack bench, without benefit of any horses, except in the background and towards the end. My unfamiliarity with smart phone technology and my native tackmaking slowness seems always to weave and dodge and dance around with my desire (and ability) to show off the piece the very moment it's finished. It seems like everything's a risk; I feel simultaneously ashamed and proud, on so many levels. I am, at least, grateful for an audience, so Enjoy! There are more exciting bonus sneak peeks at the end of this post.
For this particular tackmaker, the hardest tack parts to make are the ones in the smallest scales relative to the whole piece. On this saddle, that was the Alta Cincha or decorative girth strap cover. Mexican saddles have these doohickies, of which the nearest relation in North America is the cinch hanger. The Clyde Goehring certainly had one, and I made it last the first time around too (in 2014). Why do we make things so hard for ourselves?!?
Back then, in 2014, I made a kind of clip-on, with a metal backing. Here's a rare glimpse of that process with TSII #451, Clyde Goehring the First. The metal clips are on the left, their unfinished leather covers are above right and the paper pattern is between:
This is a close-up crop of one of the finished pictures for #451:
Fast forward to 2020. I'd had 6 years to research the darn things. These strap covers are very elaborate, with buckstitching, tooling, sometimes pitiado and up to 3 layers of interlacing keeper. (The Goehring used 2.) Now at last I believed I was ready to try a 3-D Alta Cincha, one that truly passed through itself rather than being one layer deep like the clips. I also chose, this second time around, to not try for the super-thin backing-leather scallops. I wanted to portray their texture without gaining their added bulk. I tried scalloping the leather of the Alta Cincha itself. To my amazement, I got the texture I was after. It worked.
What we see here is a 3-dimensional leather keeper before it's been sewn together and before it's been completely buckstitched.
Here's a shot of my miniature scalloping in action, making the linings for the main rings' hangers. The Needle Chisel being used is the red-and-white one in the above picture. The quarter gives you an idea of its size. I made this tool years ago (yes, it took forever to make it).
A close up: You can barely see the arc at the tip of the Needle Chisel. On a purely personal note, I did this exhaustive scalloping (usually 4 cuts per scallop) while watch/listening to Wes Anderson's movie Isle of Dogs... a very appropriate story for these times.
Below is an interesting shot of the process of fitting the Alta Cincha into place. Two facts are noteworthy on this step. The first is that, even after 6 years, I hadn't realized that the Clyde Goehring saddle featured only one Alta Cincha. I had so dreaded making two -- !!! I had certainly made two for saddle #451 back in 2014. Saved...
The second fact was that here is another case where I chose to sacrifice authenticity for ease of use, with an eye to the future. Given the scale and construction of the main engraved girth rings, there was precious little space for the 3 straps that had to pass through them... and once those straps were sewed down, precious little wiggle room for the rings. I found out the hard way that I could not tie a lark's head knot with the latigo strap (girth strap, tie strap) on the near side, with anything like the ease a TSII saddle normally enjoys. The ring's right corner was all but un-lift-able. Embarrassing! Wrassling with this problem and foreseeing an impossible struggle for the owner if she should ever want to change horses, I decided to put the Alta Cincha on the side which had the most immovable ring. Thus, it went on the near side.
Lacing this delicate little piece of buckstitched leather into place was every bit as hard as I'd feared. oh so breakable... Yet another aspect of authenticity that got sacrificed was two loops of latigo strap around the lower cinch ring. There just wasn't room. You'll notice only one loop in the next pic. The latigo strap passes down, through the Alta's keeper, around the cinch, back up through the Alta, under its top flap and then the strap makes a Lark's Head on the main (engraved) ring. The tip is cut to a long point and left hanging.
The Alta Cincha's top flap passes up behind the Lark's Head, down over the top, and under and through itself as keeper (that was really hard). The Alta's pointed tip next passes through its own top loop, as planned. There is a tiny hole in the tip of that point, for the cinch's buckle to be hung in. (We won't mention this saddle's cinch has no tongues. No room...) Charros as well as Old West cowboys tie their saddles and mount their horses from the near side, so this really is the wrong side. But nobody short of me will be taking that thing off anytime soon.
Still it's an improvement over the 2014 version.
Here sits #457, still glowing. It was finally finished this afternoon,... after a mere 11 months and 3 weeks, and an eerily mathematically even 200.9 hours. My godda bless, what a year! In all that time, I succeeded in making 3 other pieces of tack: a breastcollar for Brasenose, a complete rebuild of TSII #89 and an update on the King's Herd Hackamore. (I also painted a Trad size resin during NMPM.) Hard to believe. I hope to do more in time to come.
For there will be time to come.
Here is the Sneak Peek I promised in the beginning. Why don't I put the whole set on this horse? Not from moral restraint (though I have some, believe it or not); nor from frustration at his rack (Saddlebreds are not shown in Parade at the rack). But because, quite simply, the breed is wrong for the type of saddle. We have other horses that are so much more suitable: Toucano, Valhombra and SnowHammer (Alborozo) himself. The bridle and breastcollar, however, are stylistically fitting (and insanely alluring).
I have plans for this horse. He is inspiring me almost to madness. Him and all those photo shows out there now.
Use your imagination.