Sunday, June 30, 2013

Saddles with Sophie, part two

Today's post picks up where yesterday's left off--the flaps have been cut and detailed and it's time to start work on the seat...

Saddles with Sophie, Part Two

by Sophie Lightfoot

Here I have cut the tree out of an old beer can and covered it with a layer of craft foam and  skiver leather.
Once the glue has dried, I attach the saddle skirting.
Bottom view of the finished seat section.
Next I cut and prepare my girth straps.
Hole punching! I use a 0.5mm mechanical pencil with a METAL end. I hold this onto the leather and tap the end with a small hammer until it goes through the strap. 
I stitch the finished girth straps onto the sweat flaps. 
 My girth straps are  both glued and sewn for maximum durability.
Once that's done, I glue the sweat flaps to the saddle flaps.  When the glue has dried, I  go back and stitch then together.  
I used orange thread on this saddle so the stitches would be more visible. (Note from Jennifer--I often use blue thread in hopes that the saddle will help bring its new owner lots of blue ribbons.)
I now attach the stirrups and leathers, and then mount the seat section onto the flaps. BE EXTRA CAREFUL that it is straight and even.  If it is offset, it will ruin the look and balance of the saddle when on the model. After mounting, I cover the underside with leather so it looks neat.
The saddle so far...minus panels
I make the panels using the same method as my knee rolls (skiver stretched over foam).  I the glue them to the underside of the saddle, using clothes pegs to hold them in place whilst the glue is drying. 
 More pegs!!
The finished saddle!
Huge thanks to Sophie Lightfoot for sharing this wonderful tutorial!  If you've enjoyed this series, please let her know by posting a note in the comment section.  That's also a good place to direct any questions about saddle making in general or Sophie's process in particular.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Saddles with Sophie, part one

In the last five years, I've fielded countless requests for an English saddle making tutorial.  My answer has always been a polite but firm no.  "The topic's too big for a blog post," I'd say.  "If I ever write all that down, it will be in the form of a book."  

To my friends I'd say later, "There will never be a saddle making tutorial on the Braymere blog.  Never, ever, ever!"

File that under famous last words.

Earlier this week, British tackmaker, Sophie Lightfoot of Half Moon Studios posted a wonderful series of photos on Facebook explaining how she makes English saddles.  I asked permission to republish her words and pictures , and she generously agreed.  Although not exactly identical, Sophie's method is very similar to mine.  If you follow these steps, you should be able to build a live show quality saddle!

Without any further ado, here's Sophie:

Saddles with Sophie, Part One

by Sophie Lightfoot

First off, you need a saddle pattern. This is the English hunter/jumper pattern I use for most of my tack.
Trace your pattern carefully onto the leather. Make sure it is very accurate.  Otherwise, when you cut out the pieces, they will be wonky.
The pieces are now ready for skiving and treating.
Skiving is a process that gets rid of excess bulk and thins the leather down so it sits nicely when part of a saddle.
Once the pieces are skived, I treat them with Gum Tragacanth and Edge-Kote
This seals the fuzzies and colours the edges so they are lovely and neat!
Next, I coat the leather with Super Shene leather sealant.  This locks in the colour and makes the leather shine!
I add stitch marks and slots for stirrup leathers and D rings
To make the knee rolls, I cut a piece of foam to fit the shape of the saddle flap.  This is glued onto a slightly bigger piece of leather...
and covered with skiver leather.  I pull the leather as tight as possible so it lies smoothly over the foam.
Once the knee rolls are finished, I glue them to the flaps and add stitch marks.
This picture shows the undersides of the flaps.
The next step is to add piping to the front of the flaps. In this saddle's case, there's one row of black and one row of blue. 
Here I have cut slots in the flaps for stirrup bars. I use bent wire attached to leather lace, which is pushed through the slot and secured with glue
Various saddles in progress...
Tomorrow, I'll show you how to take those pieces and turn them into saddles.
P.S. From Jennifer--If you're a Facebook member, be sure to check out Sophie's studio page: Sophie Lightfoot (Halfmoonstudios) for more pictures of her tack and finishwork.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Two at the zoo, part two

Sube isn't the only new equine at the Denver Zoo.  On May 13, Topaz the Grevy's Zebra delivered her third foal, a filly now called Xena.
It's a fitting name.  At just nine days old, Xena is proving to be a true warrior princess.  She's big...
and sturdy...
 and full of sass!
Unlike quiet little Sube, Xena is a perpetual motion machine.
Not content to waste her time sleeping...
she's a rolling, 
scratching, 
exploring, 
racing,
and nursing fiend.
Poor Topaz!
I think she's got her work cut out for her with this one!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Two at the zoo, part one

Seth's company picnic was held last Saturday at the Denver Zoo.
While the boys checked out Bird World, I spent some time with the Mongolian Wild Horses.
In particular, I wanted to check in with three week old Sube (pronounced Soo-bee). 
At first...
the horses weren't very interesting. 
Eventually, however, Sube and her mother, Yisun, did me the favor of walking around. 
Sube seems to be a very quiet foal...
staying close to her mama most of the time.
Occasionally, though, she got brave...
and wandered out on her own to play...
and explore. 
She's filled out quite a bit since my last visit... 
and she's no longer wobbly on those legs. 
She's just as cute as can be...
but she's no longer the Zoo's youngest equine.  Tomorrow I'll introduce you to Xena.