Sunday, March 26, 2017

Imp's Birthday

It's not every year your horse turns 20, and I felt like Imp deserved more than just an extra carrot or apple on his big day (though of course he'll get those, too!) so I decided it was time to make a special gift -- and learn a new skill at the same time.

I've been making stuff from leather for a few years, and I have a growing set of leather stamps that I've used to create designs on some of the things I make. But I've always admired the way some folks carve flowers, leaves, and other pictures on to leather -- Sheridan carving is one name for it. I watched a few videos on YouTube that made it look easy and I already had the tools, so I hauled out my box of leather pieces and made some beginner efforts.

There on the left, you see my first scribbles and scratches. It was pretty ghastly. I tried sharpening my knife again --really well, this time, not just a few passes -- and it helped a little. By the next evening, with a little more practice, I managed the sample on the right. It;s a huge improvement, but still pretty awful compared to what it should be.  But those guys in the YouTube videos have a couple decades of experience so I'm not gonna be too hard on myself. This is perfectly good for only a few hours practice.

I picked out a design and some lettering and transferred it to my prepared leather. Cutting it in with my swivel knife took about an hour and my hand was cramped. I grip way too tight when I concentrate. I have real problems with spirals and tight corners, and this design was full of them, but I so liked the look of it that I decided I'd go for it. So here it is, all cut in. From a distance, it's not too shabby!

Now, I have to bevel the edges to give it that look of depth. In the professional videos, the guy just  scooted his beveler along between taps of his mallet, so smooth and easy and pretty. Mine hopped and bucked and went astray a few times, and again, I was probably gripping too tight and trying to hard to work it along. My beveling is the perfect match for the "wrong" example I saw in a book; all bumpy and uneven. Alas!

It took me about two hours to get the beveling done, and the shading around the letters. Doesn't that font look like it should say "Holy Bible"? But it's a very typical example and one of the only lettering templates I had in my collection. It looks awesome.

A little bit of shading and some various stamps used here and there, and I'm satisfied with my work. It's doesn't look too awful. In fact, from a barn aisle viewing distance of about five feet, it looks pretty darn good. Especially if you squint.

I painted Imp's name in black dye, and then put on a coat of "Light Brown" that turned out pretty darn dark. I should have maybe not done the second coat. Oh well. Rich dark color makes it look expensive and professional. Right? Sure.

Cut to fit and nailed to a scrap of cedar with some fancy upholstery tacks, and I've made pretty much the nicest stall sign I've ever seen. I'm sure Imp will give a snort of delight when I hang it on his stall tomorrow.

Happy 20th Birthday, Imp! 

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