Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Preparing cast pewter parts

For more than twenty years, Carol Willliams' Rio Rondo has been the model horse hobby's go-to source for all kinds of tackmaking supplies, including cast pewter bits.  One of my favorite Rio Rondo bits is #E607, the Weymouth combination.  The size and proportions of this bit make it a perfect choice for a dressage type double bridle.  It does have one drawback, however.  Like many of Rio Rondo's cast hardware items, it requires a fair amount of prep work to make it usable.  Today's tutorial explains the preparation process.
Interestingly, I use the same tools for prepping bits as I do for prepping leather lace--an X-acto knife and 220 grit sandpaper.  Additionally, I sometimes use a small file to help clean up  really egregious seams.
The first step is to carefully remove all the extra bits of pewter left over from the casting process.
Then, I gently scrape all the seams with the knife's blade... 
and follow that with an all over sanding.  The pewter is surprisingly soft so it's important to go slowly and check your work from several angles to prevent lopsidedness.  
Don't forget the insides of the bit rings!  I use a small piece of rolled up sandpaper to clean those hard to reach seams.
Although most pewter bits are generally sturdy, this particular bit is prone to breakage in the area where the snaffle section meets the curb.
If you sand the snaffle piece like this, you're likely to end up with two separate bits.
As much as possible, I try to hold the bit like this so as not to stress the fragile area.
Before and after.   It took me approximately one hour to achieve these results.
Prep-work is not the most glamorous part of tackmaking, but it's one of the most important.  Take your time and the results will be worth it in the end!

12 comments:

  1. "For more than twenty years . . . "

    Good grief, I can remember when cast hardware came out, and I'm not even part of the "first wave" of hobbyists! Granted, I was a kid, but still. They seemed like magic. I got cast Western bits in my Christmas stocking in . . . probably 1990, I guess, to replace the earring-wire ones on my bridle (which went with my Rio Rondo-kit Western saddle).

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    1. I think I placed my first Rio Rondo order in 1990. I bought the saddle kit and put it together immediately. I had almost no real tackmaking experience and the results were not pretty. I didn't care, though. I was just tickled that I had actually made something that was readily identifiable as a Western saddle!

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  2. Thanks for this. :)

    How would you compare Rio Rondo's Weymouth to the ones sold on TWMHC? Is there as much cleanup/prep-work involved? (this goes for any of their pieces, really)

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  3. The Sulser Saddlery bits sold by TWMHC are an absolute DREAM to work with. They are made of white bronze rather than pewter and they are much cleaner, harder and shinier. I don't usually have to prep them AT ALL. Unfortunately, they're also proportionally smaller. I don't like them nearly as much for a normal traditional sized dressage bridle. However, the long shanked bit is my first choice for a saddleseat bridle.

    The pewter bits from TWMHC are somewhere between the Rio Rondo bits and the Sulser bits. The require some clean-up but nothing like the bits pictured in this post.

    I don't know if the Rio Rondo molds are just old and worn out or if I'm just getting pickier and pickier, but it seems as if every time I order pewter bits from Rio Rondo, they're just a little bit worse than the time before. I can only imagine how overwhelming it might seem to a new tackmaker to get a messy bit like this, and then to BREAK it while prepping. Hopefully, today's post will help someone avoid that scenario!

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    1. Thanks! I may give TWMHC's pieces a go in the future then. I don't mind prep work, but it takes an awful toll on my wrists. :/

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  4. A have yet another question to ask you. What king of matte sealant do you use after you paint your horses?

    ~Alyssa

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  5. (Model horses, that is).

    ~Alyssa

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    1. You're funny. As you might have guessed, I don't usually spray Rev with sealer. ;)

      For models, I usually use Kyrlon Matte. It's tougher than Dull-Coat, plus I like that it has a little sheen to it. I know some people prefer their models to be completely matte, but I'm not one of them.

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  6. Thank you! I very much appreciate it.

    ~Alyssa

    (Wouldn't Rev look funny with sealer on him)?

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  7. Where do you get your sealer? And if you were fixing a Breyer horse leg, would you still use Kyrlon Matte?

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  8. Silver polishing cloths also add a little extra shine once you've finished sanding. I have a n Ensor saddle with the shiniest Rio Rondo stirrups I have ever seen!

    I haven't tried it yet as I haven't used a Rio bit for ages, but I would like to try mounting the bit in some blue-tack or similar and then use the polishing wheel on my dremel to get a shiny finish.

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  9. When I want a polished finish on cast pewter pieces, I rub it with my dull awl. Often that's the only way I can reach those tiny inner surfaces.

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