Saturday, November 27, 2021

I Don't Collect Pins

 I don't collect pins, I don't collect pins...  I don't know what possessed Lynn Isenbarger to issue her challenge to guest-blog about things we didn't collect, but this one clearly rang a bell.  I really did scrounge up every enamel pin in the house, even the ones that barely qualified (or flat didn't, like the brass unicorn), and sat staring at a 45-year story.  I promised I'd post on these some day.  Little did I know additions were right around the corner!

"Don't collect" is here used to refer to those collections that we usually don't desire -- can  tell ourselves that we don't want -- but somehow, behind our backs and despite our best intentions, they sneak in...

My collection begins with my old felt hat.  Above are my oldest pins, dating back to college, which is when I solidified the habit of wearing a broad brim hat.  (It originally was a sunshade for us health-nut sun-sensitive Bensemas.)  This group of equines and one fish probably consolidated around 1978 to 1982.  I'd had a horse from 1975 to 1979.  I may have gotten the pins at the Denver Stock Show.  It's equally possible I got them in local jewelry shops or flea markets or even garage sales, somewhere in Boulder or Fort Collins.  Nogales, Mexico (south of Tucson), even, is a possibility.  After all this time, I'm just not sure. 

They are surprisingly small.  This one clearly was intended to portray my white Running Mare.

The pinto (above right) was the last to arrive during this time, I remember.  I was trying out my likings and this collection grew slowly.

This one is kind of a linch-pin.  It's solid brass and certainly not enameled, yet it belongs here more than most, being my favorite and thus the core of the collection.  For most of its life it was very dull with reddish edges, and only for this photo-shoot did I polish it up, making him look like gold and showing detail lost for decades.  There is no name on the back, no way to know who was the astoundingly gifted artist.  The unicorn is about 1 1/4 inches high.

To go with my unicorn, I finally found a flying horse.   I was very pleased with this lovely little bit of Americana, the Mobil Pegasus.
 Somewhere in my college years, the wolf pin joined the pack. The wolf was, and is, a very important animal to me.  This pin has cracked its enamel;  see the lines across the neck.  The white spot on the flank has always been there.  Pins like these were individually colored and so variations occurred, much like Breyers today.

The Coelacanth [SEE-la-kanth] came in around 1981.  This is the only pin in my collection with the least little bit of politics about him, and I wore him with great glee to church.  He is a named artist original --unfortunately I can't recall who, Bill somebody! --and was rather expensive.  I just love the rippling blue over the golden scales.

Eleanor Clymer's book for teens, Search for a Living Fossil, the story of finding the first coelacanth, deeply influenced me - I read it when I was 12 or so.  Looking back, marine adventure as well as love of science were thus rooted in me for life.  Y'wonder, sometimes, whether I have this fish to blame for marrying a meteorologist and going canoeing all the time!!

The two Carousel pins in my collection date from the early 1990s.  I had carousel fever from about 1988 to 1993 (well I still have it!) but these pins entered then.  Below is a Philadelphia Toboggan Company outside row stander.  You can see the letters PTC in front of the pole.

This Stein and Goldstein (S&G) outside row jumper is a very famous horse.

This is the place for one of my very few jewelry pins, the Australian flag and its opal.  Without doubt this one came from our honeymoon in Australia, 3 weeks after the wedding, in 1988.

Now we come to the middle layers of my collection.  This strata contains everything from a Penn State shield (left) to a radio station trinket (WPSU).  The Rails-to-Trails pin is a charity contribution oddbit while the Navy League one came home with my husband after a tour on a carrier (I think).  Likewise the SDD (Synthetic Dual-Doppler) is the souvenir of a meteorological field experiment.  The two American Birding Association ones are also courtesy of my husband, an avid birdwatcher.  Dates of acquisition here range from c. 1990 to c. 2005.

Before I move on to the lowest, and most recent, layer, I see I've skipped the two US Postal Service stamps and the Hartland.  The stamp horses are two of the issue of 4 breeds that came out in 1985.  The other breeds were Appaloosa and Quarter Horse.  Why didn't I get all four?  Because they didn't grab me, that's why.  If they'd been in the form of the horse, instead of squares, I might've felt differently.

Likewise this undoubtedly rare Hartland pin must be desirable by somebody, but I never even took it out of its bag.  The words say 'Wave The Banner  2002  Collector Club."

The lowest layer contains some surprises and brings us up to date. However, I honestly do not know when this AHSA pin joined the collection.  Belleville Flea Market?  which would put it 1988 to 1995...?  I only know I loved the logo of a winged horse.

We have made it to 2019.  This fabulous dragon really is an enamel pin, although he is about 2 inches in diameter and flat on the back.  He's a broach or cloak-pin, very appropriate.  This is a souvenir of a book-signing by Christopher Paolini, author of the Eragon dragon series.   I have my dear friend Gretchen to thank for this one -- she just happened to be working at that bookstore!

Here, of course, is what inspired this whole post in the beginning, my two Sarah Minkiewicz unicorns, 2021.  Either I'm slightly richer or the quality of pins has gotten so high as to be irresistible.  As with much Mink merchandise, one has to be in the right place at the right time.  There is an element of luck to obtaining it.

You would think this story would be over.  I have far more pins than I knew.  They represent my whole adult life and I can't be affording these lovely things when there are so many horses and pieces of tack and movies and books and charities etc out there.  I don't wear jewelry.  I don't collect jewelry, I make my own.  I haven't used pins for thirty years and I have no intention of poking holes in my hat.

So what happens?  A friend gave me this:

I don't collect pins....

Saturday, November 13, 2021

TSII #413: Bridle Restoration


It feels like a very tricky thing:  capturing in a photograph the difference between the old and the new braided buttons on this restoration job.  The Nickel-plated bits, to be sure, are obvious.  I took this tack order on so lightly, sure I could simply slip off the old buttons and slip them back onto new lace.  Not so fast!!  The old sealant to those buttons -- and we're talking old here:  TSII #413 was built in 1999, twenty-two years ago -- had turned yellow and dull.  I've discovered I can't exactly get the sealant off, which is discouraging.  The differences are noticeable in person.  But my beloved camera has a tendency to turn everything yellow,... incandescent light or not.  It's taken some work and PhotoShopping to get the above picture of the cheekstraps of the bridle of 413.

Look at these top buttons (above).  Can you tell the old one is on the right, and the new on the left?  These are 7P5B braided buttons, done with (right) heavy white cotton thread, and (left) white linen thread.  The right, old one is slightly darker and yellower, with less distinct braiding.  The old sealant did that:  almost fused the threads together.  How was I to know that RC56 glue would do this across twenty years...  Sometimes it is discouraging to meet up with old pieces of one's work.

And sometimes it is rewarding and fun.  I am choosing a mix of true conservation of this tack --  recycling the dark small buttons, Spanish Ring Knots of 3P, as well as the crimps -- and of rebraiding.  Everything that was white is, so far, being rebraided.  Because it is a pleasure to be braiding again, I am indulging myself (in between bouts of mule harnessmaking).   I don't think I've braided much during the entire pandemic, something I'm blaming on Akhal Tekes.  :)

Below is a close-up of the new ear piece (left) and the old cheekstrap (right).   Merely taking off the crimp beads results in destroying the old leather.  Age and dryness has reduced it to a friable state, and it was time to replace it with fresh new kangaroo lace.

I don't have much of an idea right now how I'm going to handle the saddle, TSII #413.  My options range from doing nothing at all to complete disassembly and rebraiding.   That's kind of a tall order.  I'm rather glad the mules are waiting in the wings; when I get stuck, it's back to them. ... 

until I get stuck again.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

20M: Bridles


For two months, from July to August, I was working on these bridles.  To be sure, the time spent on them was mostly one day a week - Friday! -- with, usually, one hour on one other day in the week.  So progress was seriously slow.  Still, bit by bit, I managed to solve most of their problems.  I hadn't worked in this scale for a decade (2010's Pebbles Fine Harness).

Creation began with the nose, blinkers and crown, which was buckled on the near side with a fold-back strap.

I cupped the blinkers by pressing them over the end of a dapping stick.  At this scale, fingers would've worked well, provided the nails didn't mark the grain side of the leather.

The blinker stays were glued.  The stitchmarking was drawn on with a sharp awl, and I do mean drawn:  not dotted, but actual lines, using a small drafting triangle for a straight-edge.  Here is where real optical illusion took place.  At these scales, the grain of the leather was so large that the lines appeared to be stitchmarking and the eye interpreted the individual leather pores as dots.

The forehead drop ornament caused me some trouble.  How to make it small enough!  I stamped an ikandi with my littlest flower leather stamp, then cut out the flower as best I could with the X-Acto.  I set it down into the leather by tooling, before hot gluing, so it wouldn't stick up.

Curiously, the near mule was wearing a different bit than the off.   I chose to stick to my reference and give him his Liverpool.  Thank heavens I had Rio Rondo's teeny tiny stainless steel Liverpools on hand, previously filed clean of their edges.  It is amazing what is hanging around in the drawers of a long-term tack collector.

Making the buckle for the eensy bit of leather that holds the bit to the bridle was one of those mystical experiences that no logic can explain.  Its loops were smaller than my plier tips.  One has to use outside pressure on such a thing.  I dropped it several times, I can tell you that.

The photo below shows the long end of the strap for that tiny buckle still extant, (behind the bit).   Long ends were absolutely necessary, for manipulation;  I only cut them when everything was done, and even then tried to leave a long pointed end.

Getting the bridles on over the halters was far more difficult than I had anticipated.  It came down to "Once it's on I ain't taking it off," a rarity with me.  Adjusting everything took some dainty work and lots of patience.  You can see here that at first things were crooked:  look at that noseband.

Although the mule with the Liverpool did not have a bit brace bar, I put one on anyway, as a model necessity.  Otherwise the shanks would never stay lined up.

These harnesses have been very slow work for me.  Yet there is something satisfying about their gradual accumulation, their small-but-steady triumph over seemingly impossible problems.  I am deeply grateful for the patience of their owner.