Sunday, February 8, 2015

Tack Repair Takes Off

You've all seen my saddle restoration projects and the horse-y this-n-thats that I've made now and then. But now, after a year or so of mentioning it consistently to friends, I'm finally starting to get a small reputation with my skills. My friend Paige has been really good about handing me awful stuff, usually with a line like "I'm just going to throw this away if you can't fix it, so..." Case in point, this braided rawhide noseband: 

The braiding on the noseband itself is so fine that I thought at first it was a piece of cotton rope. The individual strips it's braided from are less than a millimeter wide. It's a piece of art showing extreme skill in construction. Unfortunately, a bad horse got ahold of it and chewed it up. The leather headstall was dirty, dry, and mangled. I cut and tied a new one from latigo leather, and wrapped some thin sinew around the noseband where it was ragged. The color matched, and as the leather strap went over that spot, the mend was not very noticeable. A little saddle soap and conditioner later, and we have piece that's ready to get back to work.

"Okay," says Paige, "You think you're so smart; Here's a leather handbag I've had since the 80's. A puppy chewed up the handle. I've taken it to other places and they say it can't be fixed. Let's see what you can do."

I bought a spool of matching plastic lace for three bucks (Yes, the original used plastic lace, not leather.) and pulled out a booklet I'd photocopied ages ago about leather lacing techniques. The drawings turned out to be difficult for me to figure out, but I found a video on Tandy Leather's site that made it clearer. I used my sinew again, to stitch where the puppy had chewed through, and my stitches were hidden when I worked the lacing over them.

You can see where I started the new stitching, can't you. Me, too. It kinda bugs me now, but it's not bad for the first time ever using a technique. Paige was pleased, and maybe someday I'll get a minute and can work that stitch so it's a little more elegant.

Back to work, handbag! And keep away from those naughty puppies!

So, now I had a new skill to practice, and a spool of plastic lacing to use up. I decided to try my hand at another noseband. Using new leather and hardware from my stash, I worked up this in two nights. (Lacing takes more time than you'd think!) The pattern stamped on the leather is from a stamp I made myself from a nail. You might remember seeing it in my posts about the charro saddle.

Here's a closeup of the noseband, with fancy stamping and that pretty lacework.

Here's the finished noseband, with handstitched keepers and buckles, and a little touch of silver at the sides to make it interesting.

 My beautiful and slightly blurry Imp models for us. (Ignore the tatty green halter around his neck. He really could use a new one, but it has his name on it, and I'm a little sentimental.)

After taking the pictures, I posted the noseband for sale and sold it in five minutes for $25. Not bad for something that I made with stuff I had laying around. The girl that bought it has a palomino. It'll look terrific on him!

Paige had been talking me up to her friends, so I got a call from a woman who wanted me to clean a saddle she wanted to sell. It wasn't a terrific challenge, but it was oil-tanned leather, which I hadn't worked with much before. When I first hit it with the saddle soap, the leather changed color alarmingly, turning from red to a greyish-brown. I was certain I had ruined it -- and as the saddle is worth thousands, you can understand why I panicked a little. But a little rub with neatsfoot oil put it right. *whew!*

Dusty and sad... 

Shiny and happy! 

And then Paige came through again, with another friend who had a bag similar to hers that needed the lacing re-done. This time the lacing was real leather, not plastic, and she had included several yards of the stuff so I didn't need to buy any.  I re-did the entire lacing at the bottom, and the top half of each handle, then cleaned and conditioned the entire bag so it will be good to go for another 33 years. 

Leather is a very satisfying medium to work with. I am constantly pleased with how well it responds to treatment.

That said, I bet you're wondering how my Manuscript Challenge is going. I need to get going on that. I still have the neckline and embroidery on the tunic, and then I start with the armor!  I've got plenty of things coming up to show you.