Monday, February 16, 2009

Rolling along--still more on buckles

I am always trying to improve my tack. One of the best ways I've found to do that is to study as much tack--of both the real and model varieties--as possible. Real tack reminds me how things should look and work. I try hard to notice both the big picture things like general proportions and the more subtle nuances of style and decoration. Model tack is instructive in a completely different way. I am always curious to see how other people tackle the challenges inherent in creating detailed, small scale work.

One of my favorite model tackmakers is Corinne Ensor. Although she also makes lovely saddles, it's her strap goods that impress me the most. Her bridles and harnesses are amazing--elegant, in scale, and highly detailed. Over time, I've figured out how to incorporate some of those same details into my own work. However, it's just been in the past few days that I've finally unraveled the secret to successfully adding rollers to etched buckles. I have no idea if this is the method Corinne uses, but I think with some practice, I will consistently be able to achieve Corinne-like results. Hooray!

Unlike my previous attempts to make roller buckles, this time I did use either aluminum tubing or ferrule type beads. Instead I bought some very thin (.008") metal sheeting from a local hobby shop.I measured the inside width of a Rio Rondo buckle and cut a long strip of sheeting to match. Using my round nosed pliers, I shaped one end of the strip into a tight curl. I fit the curl around the buckle, squeezed it shut and snipped off the excess with my wire cutters. Of course, each roller required additional shaping and trimming, but that's pretty much the whole story. This particular solution seems so obvious to me now. I can't believe I didn't come up with it sooner!

The results of my labor--almost a dozen 3/32" tongue buckles with rollers.
And here they are in use on a pair of open front jumping boots. I still need to trim the buckle tongues a bit, particularly that middle one. I did not make the nifty rubber bell boots. Those are some of Jana Skybova's. She's yet another tackmaker whose work I greatly admire.The matching ankle boots. I am very pleased with these roller buckles. Not only do they make the boots a bit easier to put on, but they will also reduce wear and tear on the buckle strap.
Unfortunately, every improvement comes with a cost and that cost is usually time. It took me nearly two hours to prepare the buckles for these boots. Practice should reduce that substantially, but buckles with tongues and rollers are always going to take longer to make than buckles with neither. Wouldn't it be great to discover a way to add detail that didn't take more time?


  1. They look fantastic! I'm also trying to learn and improve my work so I enjoy hearing about your discoveries.

  2. Awesome. :) What gauge wire do you use for buckle tongues? Or are these straight pins?

  3. It really depends on where the buckles are going. Usually, I use 26 gauge for bridle buckle tongues, 24 gauge for English girth buckles tongues, and even heavier for Western cinch buckle tongues. Needless to say, I have a lot of spools of fine wire lined up against the back of my desk!

  4. Thank you for this Tack Tip! I'm making a girth for an english saddle, and this will help a lot.:)


  5. I was wondering if you might be able to suggest the best place to buy the metal sheeting? I'm in the uk and I'm thinking ebay may be the easiest option!

    1. I have always been able to find it locally, either at a craft type hobby shop (Michaels, JoAnns, Hobby Lobby) or a RC/Model Train type hobby shop.

    2. Ah thank you! :) I'm pretty sure there's a model train shop somewhere locally, I'll have to investigate!
      My local hobby store otherwise is hobbycraft and unfortunately they don't stock anything suitable! There's a somewhat limited range of hobby shops here in the uk! (or in my area, at least..)

    3. I live in the UK and I have this problem too