Sunday, January 23, 2022

20M: Collars and Hames


By the 16th week, two collars and two pairs of hames had been made for the lead pair of the Twenty.  This post will examine these most challenging parts of a miniature harness.  Strictly speaking, collar instruction belongs in the Guide; we'll show half a dozen collar pictures here.  But wooden hames are not in the Guide, and I'm pretty proud of these babies.  This is a long post with lots of details!

By the 13th week, I had solved the 1:18th scale working farm harness collars worn by the mules.  Soft stretchy leather was critical.  The white buckstitching, done with waxed linen thread, is hand sewn and spaced by eye.  (Note the birch strips in the background.)

I had plenty of old garment leather that was perfect for the job.  It might be buckskin, I'm not sure.  The bottom face of the collars used one coat of Dark Brown dye; the top face, ultimately three.
The small curved strip in the background (above) was trimmings from collar edges.  It is always surprising how narrow the final collar turns out to be.

Stuffing for these collars was those thin strips.  At these scales one strip did most of the job; only the swells and shoulders needed a couple more little pieces.  No need to bevel, just cut to fit.  (There is a wire inside the rim, as in all our collars.)  

Note the sewn-in keeper at the front center or throat of the collar.  There was not space for two keepers (as with most Trad scale collars.)  This keeper is critical for the hame strap.  It holds the hames in place, and thus the whole harness.  Of course no such thing exists in real life, but that's model collars for you.  At these scales the slipperyness is vast and the pressures necessary to position the hames mean no alternative but permanent gluing,... which I detest.

Here you can see the top strap, which holds the collar together.  The reference indicates a latch:  a lever bar, like a ski-boot fastening.  I chose to use a leather strap for this and to use plain friction (a keeper).  You'd be surprised how often I rely on friction, the most basic of joining methods!   The little chafe at the top of the withers, a tiny scrap of thinned leather sewn to the underside of the collar top, is for the comfort of the animal.

Do you remember my Snowshoes?!  There is a blog post about making them:  Creating the Snowshoes.

Can you guess the hames are made from the same material as the snowshoe frames?  That's right, iron-on shelf edging!  I swear that stuff is a miniaturist's dream come true.  You can buy it at Lowe's in many different colors.  I prefer the Birch because it's so light it can be dyed but looks lovely all on its own.

Paper patterns are de riguer in my tack shop.  I planned to use three thicknesses of wood for each hame, a decision dictated by scale.  (Okay, by snowshoe experience.)  That meant that I had to be clever about flipping the pattern for cutting them out, since there was adhesive on only one side of the wood strips,... and since there could not be adhesive on the outside of the hame.  Fortunately with these hames, right and left did not matter. 

Can you guess the solution?  Two blanks to make a sandwich and the third coming down on the top of that sandwich.  This would leave wood-side-out on both sides.

Here are all four right after the hot-gluing stage.

Next was filing and sanding.   A lot.

I also started fitting the hames individually to each mule's collar.  There was some minor adjustment, due to the handmade nature of the collars and the shape of the shoulders.

By the 9th of October, the hames looked like this.  Modelmaking sleight-of-eye is responsible for reducing the number of slits, and rings!, from 3 to 2.  There was not room for 3; and one of those 3 was not used anyway [in the references].

Yup, remember friction?  Those pins and staples (made from wire) were press-fitted.  Alas, this is another model harness where actual traction would probably break everything.  This weakness is contrary to my principles but made necessary by the level of detail I am using.  You have to draw the line somewhere.  God forbid they suddenly come to life and actually start pulling.  The only real strength the harness has to have is to survive its own making and to be able to be installed on the mules, i.e. strap-tightening and adjusting.  I am somewhat worried about those lower hame clips.  Only silver tape holds them on.

Making 1:18th hame straps was an exercise in some of the smallest buckles I have ever built, using 26ga wire.  The keepers were managed by using punched rounds of leather from my hole puncher.

As a reminder of just how small these mules are, here's a shot of my Suerat with them.

As is usual for blogging, the tack pieces have progressed quite a bit further than shown.  Next up:  Traces and Bodies.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Entering NaMoPaiMo


Moved by I know not what, today I entered National Model Painting Month.  Perhaps some inner sense remembers that right about a month from now, I'm usually very intently painting a horse.   For 4 years in a row I've entered and painted a standing (or near-standing) Russian resincast.  They were all sculpted and cast by Margarita Malova, I loved them all and very proud I am of them.  Yet last year I had a very tough time choosing between two horses.  Laura Rock Smith's magnificent carousel horse seized me the moment I saw it and has been inspiring me ever since.

The fact that I chose Orlik, the standing Orlov Trotter, then, made this year's choice extremely easy, almost fore-ordained.  For a long time now I've been aware it's time to start something different, no shame to the Tekes.  Growth under the snow?  It may be.  Have we all been frozen?  Silly rabbit.

His name is Coney Eye.

Here's my description with the now-obligatory Nudie Selfie:  

After 4 years of standing resincasts, I hope I’m ready for some action!  I haven’t designed the trapping colors yet but at least I know the horse wants to be ‘gold point Siamese,’ a white gray with maybe dapples.  The key here is “not an authentic portrait but deeply influenced by” historical Illions.

And here's some ideas I've been tossing about:
Giggleberry Farms Illions outside row jumper

Lise Liepman paint job

Giggleberry Farms

To choose a fantasy horse, however rooted in reality, for NaMoPaiMo, is very freeing.  To be clear, I'm not aiming to execute in miniature a real carousel horse, either one of today or a historical piece.  But I've been deeply influenced all my life by carousel horses and their music, and I doubt I'll stray too far afield with whatever he tells me.  This is a chance to see what the artist within will try to bring out, with the tools she has and the skills the previous 4 years have granted.   He's not prepped yet, I don't know what color the trappings will be, I don't have any gold leaf yet and I'm hock-deep in my latest tack project.

But I've got lots of jewels and a whole boxful of PearlEx.  I've leapt.  Come join us.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Puzzles: The Fourth Ten of 2020


In many ways the fourth quarter of 2020's puzzles was the most exciting and representative of the whole collection.  We did the largest one yet --a 3 Grander! -- as well as no less than 4 horse puzzles. One of the horse ones was a Panorama (my only, above), and another, one of my 2 most grounding, historical all-time favorites.  Think foundation stock!  We also did a famous old Springbok done only around Christmastime, and two puzzles whose quality was so questionable that upon completion, I promptly gave them away!  It was quite the furious fall on the puzzle board.  

This post records the last 11 puzzles we did in 2020, from September to December.  As ever, dates shot merely represent the day I finally got the camera together with the puzzle in daylight, not necessarily the date the puzzle was finished.  In every case the puzzle was finished BY the date shot, but usually one or two days prior.

Ravensburger 1500 Heiligenblut, Austria

Photo'd Sept 16, this lovely Ravensburger fifteen-er is a typical fill-in (above).  The collection boasts a dozen Ravensburger 1500s, and at this point -- one year in -- we had done all the exciting and favorite ones.  The ones left could be considered duplicates or merely good.  Of them, this one was a delightful green, with interesting mountains and cloud for me (I do all the solid colors).   I am not certain when we obtained this; it could have been as early as the seminal Ravensburgers, dating back to the sabbatical in Denmark, 1994.  Working it was better than I thought, and much enjoyed.

 Panorama is a line carried by F X Schmid of puzzles in wide format.  I'm pretty sure I got this off eBay sometime in the early 2010s; we first worked it in 2014.  The painting, by Ruo Li, was dramatic and attractive, although not strictly realistic in either its horse colors or its clouds.  Nonetheless I felt I had to have it, and it fulfilled my expectations of puzzle challenge.  The first time I did it I had to use 2 card tables!   Photo'd Sept 21.

Panorama 1K  Galloping

Here is another view of this wonderfully different size.

Everybody knows I love horses.  What they don't know is I love deer.  A desire and lust for pictures of deer, which always must have been latent, blossomed when I discovered hunting books in the early 90s.  You have to admit, a lifetime of concentration on one animal can lead dangerously close to burnout, and deer have a unicorn grace of their own.  There are so many different species!  (Yes, I have the Ken Whitehead Encyclopedia of Deer.)  This may explain why there are not one but two puzzles in this post featuring Moose.  Or you could just say we saw this really good puzzle in Peight's a few years ago and bought it.  Art by Mark Keathley, photo'd Sept 25.

SunsOut  1K  Into the Mist

The thirty-fifth puzzle worked in 2020 was this one, a Ravensburger 2-Grander.   The collection has nine 2-granders and I must have thought it was time for another.  Again I'm not sure whether this Ravensburger came back from Denmark or is a bookstore find from the 2000s.  The photo shows I was still using a pillowcase for a protective sheet (for the next puzzle), something I blush at now:  it was much too small for the job.  Photographed October 13.

Ravensburger  2K  Salzbourg

Here's the second Moose puzzle, again purchased at Peight's a few years ago.  Art by Terry Doughty.  It's hopeless to deny that I am fascinated by antlers!  This puzzle was particularly challenging with the dark background and many tree trunks and branches all alike.  But by this time in my puzzle life, I'm easily up to a good challenge.  Photo'd Oct 21.

SunsOut  1K  Rumble

Only one day after shooting the 2 Moose, this puzzle was completed.  Sam Savitt's Mares & Foals Springbok Octa is only equaled, in my heart, with another Springbok from the same era, a circular one with Carousel figures.  These grand old classics were in toy stores in the 1960s.  I'm reasonably sure this one was a gift in childhood and I'm certain that my Carousel puzzle was purchased in Tucson, during one of Grandma B's gift shopping trips for the granddaughters.  The same grandma and the same shopping trips gave me some of my earliest Breyers, so you can see why I consider these 2 puzzles the rootstock of the entire collection, almost sacred.  Doing them brings back strong memories of a card table in the back room of my grandparents' home; I can almost smell the orange trees and floor wax!
Springbok Octa Sam Savitt's Mares & Foals

All the Octas and Circulars were around 550 pieces.  The piece out of the Thoroughbred Mare's head was lost in childhood.  For some reason, this Thoroughbred Mare reminds me of Colette Robertson.
Springbok Mares & Foals detail 1

My copy is showing its age; the fit is loose.  Nonetheless it still goes together with the most satisfying feel, polished with age.  I'm familiar with every piece.  The stock is thick and the color excellent; plus, it was a great way to get started on knowing the breeds.  In my undoubtedly prejudiced opinion, there just is no better longer-lasting and quality puzzle than these old Springboks.   Finished Oct 22.

Springbok Mares & Foals detail 2

 This next puzzle is an oddball, if colorful.  I'm not at all sure where we got it.  A flea market somewhere, a hobby sale?  It appears to be of Lake Como, Italy.  Suffice it to say that once completed, I took it over to GoodWill, and thus cannot look up its details -- my photo is too blurry to read.  Despite being a lovely picture, it did not hold us;  too thin, too flimsy, too cheap.  Photo'd October 27.

Fame Puzzles 1K  Lake Como?

After that little jaunt, I settled down to a real stumper, a puzzle I've only done once before.  This is my favorite of the four 3-Granders and the only Clementoni I own.  This is a puzzle company based in Italy.  I think of them as Italy's Ravensburger.  The title is 'Sunset on the Coast' but I think of it as my lighthouse puzzle.  It's a photograph of a famous lighthouse and headland somewhere on the Canadian coast, possibly Brunswick.  As I said in an earlier post, this one took us a month and 6 days.  It was not easy!!  but that's what we want.

Clementoni 3K  Sunset on the Coast  Unfinished

Oddly, the puzzle itself stopped before the edges of the picture on the box.  I detest this and drew, in pencil, lines on the cover indicating the real edges.  The above picture shows how large these multi-grand jigsaws can get.  Photographed Dec 2.

Clementoni  3K  Sunset on the Coast

The fortieth puzzle of 2020 was this one.   Why I bought it, at the ever-popular Peight's in Kishacoquillas Valley, is obvious.  What's less obvious is why I let it go to GoodWill.  The quality is excellent; Cobble Hill is one of my favorite makers.  I worked it twice, once when we got it and again here.  I wanted to give it one more chance.  But all it did was confirm my original disappointment.  Despite obsessive detail on the harness, there were little things wrong with it and I just couldn't stand it.  Go figure!  Today, without the box in hand, I can't quite point out an example.  Maybe the reins (there are no offside reins) or a clip somewhere (the traces attach with no safes, not even a stitch); maybe the oddly formed bitheads.  The nearside checkrein is weirdly extended to the back or rump (?).  I guess I'm a harness snob.  Photo'd Dec 8.
Cobble Hill  1K  Buck & Babe

Since it was December I felt we should give the old family favorite, Coke Is It!, a run.  This is really a wonderful puzzle and a deep pleasure, even if you don't drink Coke.  Santa Claus is here, How not!!   For the third 2-Grander of the year, here is my largest Springbok.  I honestly don't know when this came into our possession:  not during Denmark.  Probably the Hallmark store in the mall, which would date it to the late 1990s - early 2000s.  It turns out this puzzle is the second of a series.  Somewhere out there is a similar Coke puzzle, oh boy!  The collection depicted belongs to the Coca-Cola Company and surely was a lifetime work of love to assemble.  Photo'd Dec 17.
Springbok  2K  Coke Is It!

This picture shows, again, how large these puzzles can be; that's a chair next to it.  It also shows I'd graduated to using a larger piece of cloth for my cover sheet.  This gray fabric was originally for model horse backdrops...  Still not large enough!  but that would be solved in 2021.  We also see, in the center, 2020's last puzzle and one of my most beautiful horse puzzles, Ravensburger's Arabisches Vollblut or, as I call him, the Silver Arabian.

Here's what's under the sheet.  Oh the warmth, the safe place in a life.  Of course I'm leaving up the Coke puzzle for a while, since it took so long to finish.  And of course, the black background is the last part to be done on these figural Ravensburgers.  I can't complain to the king of puzzlemakers but all that black is a boring waste.

The official title is Arabisches Vollblut or "Pureblood Arabian."  The English translation on the box is thus very bad:  "Arabian Thoroughbred."  This image has long been familiar to me; a tack customer first mailed me a clipping of it back in the early 90s.  (Remember the perspective makes his nose large.)  Yes, I have made that bridle!  When I saw it as a puzzle I must have leaped like a lion.  Photo'd Dec 30.

Ravensburger 1K  Arabisches Vollblut

By the end of 2020, the family habit of puzzles before bed had become set in stone.  It really is true that I can make time for puzzles but not for tack.  It is pair-bonding time and a quiet predictable interval most needed in the storms of a pandemic...  as well as a workable controlling of a near-uncontrollable addiction.  2021 saw fewer puzzles completed (31 instead of 42) but only because I tackled a 5-Grander, which took me more than 4 months.  Yes, there will be posts on 2021's puzzles.  Until then, have patience with my long list of desired-but-overcome-by-higher-priorities projects. 

Here are the three previous posts on 2020's puzzles:

Puzzles: The First Ten 

Puzzles: The Second Ten

Puzzles: The Third Ten 

 I think my New Year's Resolutions boil down to only one, yet how grand that one:  Start again on the next book.   And that may pinch the blogging even more.  We'll just have to see.