Saturday, April 6, 2024

April 2 Hackamore mid-rig

After 3 days of long and hard effort, the bosal to April's Hackamore is done!  Historically, it always has taken me at least 3 days to do a bosal,... and often much longer!  This bosal is the last part of April's to be made, and her hackamore is the 5th of the 8 pieces for my next book.  April's making has been documented, drawn, photographed and written up, which of course took a lot longer than 3 days.  I finished the bosal today, Saturday, in what feels like an all day marathon.  But the natural next step, rigging the hackamore, has, once again, revealed my rustiness.  I managed to overlook the fiador knot.

Rigging a hackamore is normally great fun.  It's all about untangling string, really, and adjusting everything through elaborate turns so that the headgear fits the horse.  We have the horse, Rapadura -- Celeste to the rest of you, -- Eberl's Lippizaner Mare in silver bay.  (She was named after piloncillo, the crystalized sugar cane juice.)  Yeah, my book needs more up-to-date model horses,... the horses in the Guide are antiques, sigh,...   

But tonight, after the long creative drive, I swung into rigging the moment the bosal was finished,... and, possibly predictably, ran out of steam.  I struggled a great deal and re-adjusted my hand-braided white fiador at least 3 times.  And somehow forgot the fiador knot, even with the original April's Hackamore hanging from my lamp right there in front of me.

 All the time I was thinking 'this fiador is too long, I've got to say it's shorter!,' I had missed out that some length would be needed for the fiador knot.  This knot brings together the loop on the near side and the ties on the off side and rests pretty much right under the horse's throat.  The tiny bit of black thread on the loop tip is a temporary marker.

I'll tackle the rigging again sometime later, when I've got more time and oomph.   

Meanwhile, my plan is to auction this little gem of a hackamore during BreyerFest, along with the Peach Rose 2 bridle, my Peruvian Paso resincast and his braided Jaquima halter (he will be fixed price), and any other pieces I happen to finish between now and then.  Oh yes and a fistful of Minkiewicz pins, extras all!  Room 612.  See you then -!

Thursday, March 28, 2024

A Silver Bridle Repair

 A few years back, an old tack customer of mine had been asking about a minor repair for a silver Parade bridle, but I'd let it slide.  When she won the recent Black/Blue/White mecate, things had a second chance.  When I opened her box, my first words were "I never thought I'd see this again!"  It was like magic, transporting me back to the time of one of the TSII's most influential and beautiful pieces.  It lay in my hand:  the bridle to #422.

Here is the saddle's scrapbook picture, today found on the TSII website (under Parade sets).  No. 422 is a portrait of Louise Cottam's Edward Bohlin silver parade saddle.  A nod to Eleanor who saw to it that I had the hardback coffee-table book, Saddlemaker to the Stars, which had the reference photos I needed.

Its relevance rests on its combining gold figures within the silver, its elaborate silver spotting (done with Mylar), and its unique stylized-maple-leaf-like shaped silver spots, which I individually made out of aluminum.  Each spot had 2 prongs and was clinched in place.  Oh and I made the bit.  Whether it was sterling or Argentium I'm afraid I haven't had the time to dig out.

At first glance it was clear this would mainly be a polishing job.  I wound up polishing before, during and after the repair of a silver oval figure (a flat spot) on the noseband which had broken loose.  This post will show both how the spot was fixed and what I use to polish silver on model tack.

At the time of its making, certain methods and procedures were cutting-edge technology for me and I strongly held them secret.  But as time has passed, my attitudes have changed.  This post (and others) reflects that,... It is becoming clear to me that while model scale braidwork (and its book) is a professional interest of mine, the equally-famous subject of Silver Parade will most likely have its book-equivalent (or whatever) much more of a scrapbook, a gallery or an identification list, (probably) hosted on my website (as it is already partially) and online.  Such are the evolutions of ageing.

Here's the bit up close.  Although the photo doesn't show the color well, take my word for it, it needs polishing.  I've started in with the fine jeweller's file, and the shiny spot at upper right is the result.

Here are my chosen tools of the trade of model silver polishing:  Wright's Copper Cream, X-Acto knife, fine rattail jeweler's file (leather braided handle), microbrush (thanks Robin!), and Q-tips. 

The scissors cuts off the ends of the Q-tips when they get too blobby and dirty.  You then have a smaller Q-tip, which is more useful than before.  Note I do not use a cloth or paper towels, except during cleanup!  Thank heavens the aluminum did not need polishing.

The method of construction of the silver bands, or plates, on the cheekstraps and noseband, had been very advanced for me.  Essentially a strip of what I called bonded aluminum had been laid underneath a leaf-spot on one end and a pinned domed concho (a Rio Rondo concho) on the other.  The strip was held down by the leaf clinches and pierced by the pin.  Seeing the piece again after 23 years gave me priceless data on what had worked and what hadn't.  The cheeks were fine.  The nose, that place of maximum flexion and bending, had broken.  I have found this to be a near-constant in the silver parade sets that come back to me for repair:  the places of greatest bending are always the places that break.

Below you can see how the broken end of the oval flat spot curls up after the break.  I'm peeling off the lining leather in order to get to the backs of everything.  I had to gently coax it off with the knife;  the glue was not really water-soluble.  This was rather nerve-wracking as the lining leather was so soft and fragile.  (The third and fourth fingers hold the face ornament on its chains.)

Here's what's underneath.  The largest rectangle-shaped silver is the two prongs from the leaf, showing they were placed pointing inwards, viz., their cuts stressed the leather in the least harmful direction.  The tiny silver dots and curls (one shows at uppermost left) are the Mylar lacing of the teeny spots.  The green corrosion, verdigris, is from the brass pin used to hold down the concho.  Wipe and scrape clean.

Here we see the pulled-out broken spot, at lower left.  Next to it is its replacement, cut from a piece of bonded aluminum.  This is a term I made up to refer to silver plumber's tape laid on top of Maid-O-Metal sheet aluminum.  Oh how I love that stuff:  it can be drawn on, it's easily cut, it doesn't tarnish, it solved so many silvering problems.  Best of all, since the adhesive on the tape doesn't touch leather (or indeed, admit air), it did not decay or fall off.  The replacement spot has already been engraved, that is, drawn on with a blunt awl point.

Here I am cutting new slits with a needle chisel.  The oval spot will be placed between the leaf and the concho.  The slits are slightly curved, the better to fit against the existing spots.  Skill is called for not to cut too wide a slot.

Here's the coup de grace, pushing the prongs into place prior to folding them over.  I'm a huge believer in clinching tack.

There were a couple of unexpected consequences to this repair.  (When ever aren't there?!)  One was the slender line of dark brown leather to either side of it, missing in the original version since the old silver had run directly into its neighbors.  The other was that the color and texture of the silver didn't match.  The new was brighter.  Twenty-three years of oxidation had had its way.  I immediately decided to replace both sides of the noseband.  After that, I glued the black lining leather back on.  A touch of Leather Glow to the leather parts of the bridle, to protect and shine.  More polishing of those ferrules (sidewise stroking of Q-tips with Copper Cream, and stroking with the file).  Finally the bridle is done.

Hopefully no one will notice that browband and nose are henceforth subtly different!

For a few moments I regretted I didn't have an expensive finished Western resincast, and then I remembered. 

My own NaMoPaiMo horse from 2021, Orlik, sculpted by Margarita Malova.  He is that rare beast who can display both Western and English, plus costume, harness, regalia and almost anything else.  Multi talented little guy...!

Christie responded kindly to this repair.  I can only reflect that more than a bridle has lasted all those years.  A good customer relationship is beyond price.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

The Conga Dance


A few days ago I was corresponding with Eleda Towle, one of the 3 fantastic volunteers for Identify Your Breyer (IDYB).  My original goal was to add to their database the difference between the Gangsters;  IDYB did not know (!), so, after hard search, I supplied this knowledge myself.  (For the record, the POA is Tony.)  I then told her I was eager to submit a new and improved picture of my conga.  I said it was one of my life's bucket-list items to have a conga of mine featured on the site. 

Stock Horse Geldings

To my surprise, she gently and politely informed me that this was not a thing to hope for.  "Be aware that we won't be adding conga photos to the new site, only individual model photos. ... our site is for identifying models, not a photo gallery."  She added, "Later on, we may add a 'side site,' to allow people .. to upload pix of their collections, ... and show them off, if they like."  She told me, "We get so many beautiful conga and artistic photos."

 Identify Your Breyer is brewing some great changes behind the scenes, and the promise is for much the better.  A new version will "look and feel as much like the original as possible, but it will ... have a dedicated search. ... each mold that has multiple names will have all those names listed, so searching on any of them will find the mold!  Hooray!"  

Here's a full paragraph quote from Eleda:

"If there are releases in that mold that we have small, fuzzy, or busy backgrounds for, though, we welcome photo submissions for them.  We are requesting solid white, grey, or black backgrounds (colors skew the appearance of the model's color), with good lighting.  Straight side views and a photo clearly showing the face marking are what we need, and we prefer them to be at least 1500px on the long side, which lets people zoom in to see details.  They can be sent to  If you'd like photographer credit, let Steph know how you'd like it written (both names, initial and name, etc).  :-)"

While this is not my only conga, it is my highest count and the one that most closely corresponds to the commonly accepted definition of a conga, vz., every color produced on a single mold.  I have always loved the gentle sweetness of this horse, who appeared in plastic in 2014 (he was in porcelain before that, in 2002).   For a long time I lazily pursued this conga, refusing colors I did not particularly like.  Then last year I realized I was only 2 colors off a complete set, less, of course, those whom mere mortals could not hope to obtain.  In this case that's the bay (test sample), the bay pinto (deluxe kids' club member) and the glossy Liam (only 45 made).  My 2 missing colors were the palomino and the current Red Dun Pintaloosa (here shown at far left).  I picked up the palomino at BFest for ten bucks;  my good friend GreyWoodsCat / Margaret Loesch very kindly gifted me with the Red Dun.

This is what they usually look like.  I am normally gazing up at them.

The white horse in front of the black velvet pin board is a WIA product, a Marwari stallion, one of my first 2 WIAs.  These also were obtained from Margaret.  My favorite dealer!

Looking down on them, one can see I've jammed much of my Classic scale collection onto a single shelf.  Behind can be seen a semi-conga, the complete Blossoms from 2012.

 The quilt on the wall behind was created by my mother-in-law, Ruth Young, an accomplished needlewoman.

Summer Prosser sculpted this gelding who embodies gentle grace and timeless simplicity.  He is classic for me:  not just the scale, but with the meaning that he has class and enduring appeal.

Another blog post about my Classics is here:  Reshelving the Classics.


Thursday, February 29, 2024

Black/White/Blue Mecate Up for Offers


This is the story of one mecate, which I am already thinking of as my NaMo piece.  It was finished on the 28th in a minor blaze of glory, and I am pleased with it.  But it's an extra, -- a duplicate, -- turned out in the book process.  I'm now taking offers on it, until Saturday night;  details below.  Its formal name is April 2 Mecate 1.  

This is the first piece of tack the TSII is offering this year.  I'm changing my mind about Peach Rose 2 and the future April 2 Hackamore;  they may wait until BFest.

Showing 2024 on leather popper

 Twenty-five-&-a-half inches long from knot to thread-end, this handspun and hand-twisted mecate is made of embroidery floss and dental floss, plus a bit of leather and metal, and one braided thread button (7P6B with 2 rings).  (The metal is wire inside the leather popper.)  The tassel is multicolor.  The blue is a deep blue, DMC 824, not so dark as navy but not sky blue either, more of an ultramarine.  The popper is signed SBY and 2024.  Hackamore (below) NOT included -- that's Duke's Hack which I'm using to display this mecate with --!

You are bidding on the Mecate only!

Email me (sbytsii (at) verizon (dot) net, text me (814-470-7199),  or pm me on FB with your offer.  This mecate will close Saturday night March 2nd at 8pm Eastern.  (That's a week before Daylight Savings, folks.)  This closing date may be extended if I deem it necessary.  If the amount climbs over $40 there will be no postage charged for domestic buyers.  Overseas winners will need to pay postage separately.  I accept PayPal and personal checks.  You are offering for the mecate ONLY, not the hackamore, not the horse, not the girl,...!  Check here for updates.

Current bid stands at:     $100   bidder 1

Update:  SOLD,  Thank you so much C. P.!

Doll by Field of Dolls

I originally meant to make a copy of April's Hackamore (April 2) during February, in a parallel effort with NaMoPaiMo [National Model Painting Month].  (I had made tack during the first NMPM in 2017 -- successfully.)  What I actually finished this time was two mecates and a fiador:  half the parts.  Recall that, for the book, the making is closely and exhaustively documented, which takes inordinate amounts of time!  The bosal will take longer, of that I'm sure, but the headstall should be swift.  April's Hack, the 5th of the 8 pieces in my next book, is surprisingly simple.  I love its color scheme of deep blue, black and white.  It's another piece where I'm having to eat my words about not liking embroidery floss!  Here Mecate 1 is draped over an obvious horse, the black-white-and-blue Emerson, Eclipse (Beau Soir in my herd).  Don't think you can't just play!

Right after finishing

The reasons I don't want to use this mecate for April 2 have to do with texture, visual contrast and length.  The whole point of the book's pieces was to replicate an earlier piece; but it had been too long since I'd made a mecate and I re-invented how to prepare the strands, thus failing to match them to an earlier, easier phase of my skill.  April's mecate has smooth strands.  It had originally been made in 1996, then disassembled and re-spun in 2007.  Here's a probably-inadequate pic:

I started out with the white strand and, dang, like the over-experienced rope-maker I am, I pre-spun it, combining the white dental floss with the white embroidery floss in two halves.  This gave a rope-like texture, which April's didn't have.  That should have been my first clue I was trying too hard for the situation.  But I was blind and moved on to the black strand, which has a lovely blue trace around it.  Here also I pre-spun the strand separately.  The resulting rope-like strands not only changed the texture, it made the whole mecate shorter, a potential disaster.

These two pix show the details.  It may not seem like such beautiful rope-work would be undesirable;  but my goal was to replicate April's, made when I'd first learned to spin.

See the white strand's rope-like texture

This next shot shows the making of this very Mecate 1.  Both the white and the black/blue strand clearly show as 2-strand ropes.  This also shows the braided-thread strand, a miniature attempt at a mecate's checkered strand.  For Mecate 1 I put it in all wrong, resulting in (to my eye) a confused texture, without clear contrast of color.  

There you have it:  This sales piece was deemed a mistake merely because it was too advanced!  Undoubtedly I'm being overly critical, as artists are apt to be.  It's still a lovely piece and will be fine for someone else's uses.  There are multitudes of models out there for whom a 25" mecate is just the right size!

Which brings us to the photo shoot.

My doll Chalif, by Anne Field, is my only Western handler in anything like blue.

Amazingly she stands up by herself!  But put a girl on a horse, and no photographer can stop themselves from blazing away.

I particularly like the way she can bend her neck and move her gaze around.

Once again, this particular hackamore is Duke's and not April's.  I needed a way to exhibit just a mecate and Duke's was handy.  The shots show its length.  Duke's Hackamore on its own is also in my next book.  The book will cover four Bosal Hacks, of which April's falls second.

It is so much fun to be braiding again.  April's black-white-&-blue bosal is up next!

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Progress Report 3: Peach Rose


The Peach Rose bridle chapter is finished, which means we've reached the nominal halfway point of my next book!   Of 8 pieces of headgear, Peach Rose is the 4th.  Finally, after far more effort than I ever dreamed of, ---a whole lot of other parts, sideshows, preparations, materials chapters and formulae -- real progress has been made.  This chapter is made out like a recipe.  First there's a history, then a list of materials specifically for that piece, followed by steps for making that piece, its own Plate, and photos of important aspects of the making.  You'd think this was what I was after in the first place; but there was SO much else to cover, just getting up to braiding speed!  The Peach Rose chapter is my first and so-far-best manifestation of such a recipe,... and I think we're actually well past half way.

The previous three pieces of headgear did not have the benefit of this approach.  The first and second pieces, Ricky's Bridle and Duke's Hackamore, were simple enough, and their Plates (drawings) extensive enough, not to need an ingredients list.  Malaguena's got to have its list put in afterwards.  I had not known, offhand, that Mala's would take 16.2 feet of 4-ply sinew to build --!!  The below photo of the parts of the gorgeous pink Peach Rose bridle is featured in the book.  (A few more minor parts, like leather lace and a bit shank brace, are listed in the text.)

The Peach Rose chapter has a lot of photographs... forty-two to be exact(!).  The above '102' is a photo number.  The picture at the top, the finished replication bridle laid out, says '132', and that is currently how many photos are in the book.  Compare this to the 83 or so in the entire Guide(!).  I have felt the Guide's lack of photos, even though when it was published it was cutting edge.  Here I am able to rectify the situation.  I just hope I don't go too overboard,...!  The main emphasis of my book, after all, will always be the Plates.

I was trained as a draftsperson.  It has been heavenly pleasure to be drawing and inking again.  However, only a third of this next book will be inked plates.  The writing is fun too -- we're over 100 pages!  It's the photos that are really holding me up.   When one extensively documents the making of a single piece of tack, by still photography, one has to choose which photos to use;  to process them;  to fit them into a page or pages;  to number them, and come up with descriptions for the Photo Numbers List, a kind of index.  And THEN rewrite the text to accommodate said photos!   The process is neither fast nor easy.  It once took me a week to do 13 photos.  Here are some rejected pictures from just two parts of the Peach Rose chapter:

See what I mean by exhausting?  Even so I fear there's a chance that some of what got in is duplication.  My frustrating behaviour is that illustrations for a carefully described procedure will often be added to later on, (and thus references have to be stuck in).  I have also treated different materials (Mala's is made from sinew, the Peach from embroidery floss) differently.  In addition, I've tried to write up the Peach Rose as though it were the first piece a reader turned to, partly because so many hobbyists are more comfortable with embroidery floss than I am myself.  And that means even more references,... which is tough because we haven't gotten to pagination yet!  When I brought this up with my in-house guru, he said to not refer to page numbers at all, but to sections!  So the whole thing is changing constantly.

Here's another rejected photo.  The foal, whom I put in for scale, was later felt to be too distracting.  The beads are examples of Hill Tribes Silver. 

Nonetheless, progress has been made.  Here's the future back cover portrait of the Peach Rose Bridle:

And here's another sneak peek from the back cover.  I tried this out in black-and-white and liked it so much.  This is Ricky's Bridle, worn by Sheila/Gold Dust, the Bobby Jo mold sculpted by Morgen Kilbourn.

 Here's a link to the book's Progress Report 2 blog post.  And here's Meet the 8, the name of the 1st progress report.

My next book is not going to make BreyerFest,... but it might be finished by the fall.  November 6 will be the 26th anniversary of the publishing of the Guide.  If you can't make one year, try for the next...