Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Diary of a Charro saddle

It is a real treat for me to bring you today's post. Well known tackmaker Vicky Norris of PCF Custom Tack (http://www.freewebs.com/pcfcustomtack/) originally published this photo series on Model Horse Blab and has graciously allowed me to reprint it here. This is a rare opportunity to peek over the shoulder of an experienced tackmaker as she tackles a complex project. I especially love that she shares both the failures and successes that are so common in this kind of work. That's it for me--the rest is all Vicky.

The Making of a Charro Saddle
by Vicky Norris

December 7. I started with one of Allison's pewter charro saddle trees.http://cgi.ebay.com/RDLC-Traditional-1-9-Scale-MEXICAN-CHARRO-SADDLE-TREE_W0QQitemZ220447491598QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item3353b1c60eI sanded it and then soaked it in vinegar (lemon juice works too). Then sprayed with automotive sandable primer and painted it with acrylics. You can see the original color here on the bottom side.
Then I took 2 different color paint pens to achieve the wood look that I wanted. That took a while. I wish I had thought of this while I was doing it!
Up until the next part, I knew what to do. Getting the look of inlaid wood gave me a few sleepless nights! I finally found some rub on color stencils in the scrapbooking isle that I think worked great. It has many coats of gloss on, but think I need to put more....
December 9. I got the pattern cut out. Leather is still drying in these photos, hence the different colors.
Dyed and stained to just the most gorgeous color.
Then... Remembered it was to go on a dark liver chestnut Alborozo.....So had to start over. Decided to do a little carving on this one. It is natural with Leather Glow as the finish. Still wet in this picture.
I've also started doing the braiding for the decoration on the saddle and for the halter.
December 11. I have started decorating the pieces. You can see the progression from one to 3 strands of braiding. I think this is going to look really good when It gets together.
December 15. Saddle pad in progress.
Underneath showing where the saddle tree goes into the leather.
I have put the decoration on most of it and glued the saddle bags on. I think the bottom of the saddle pads needs decorating too.
And on a model with the saddle pad under it.
December 16. It is almost all put together. Anyone else use cloths pins to hold things together while they dry? I found the best hole punch at Hobby Lobby last week. It is a little flower, so gives a really nice look to leather conchos. What do you guys think of the serape? Is it too colorful? They usually use solid or stripes like it is, I found this but can't find anything turquoise or black/turquoise.
December 20. I think I'm done, except for a few things to the saddle pad to make it more authentic. The camera batteries decided to die before I could get better photos, so will just go with what I have. Formal pictures (hehehe) will be posted later.
The bridles are very basic.
I wanted the breast collar to be a little fancier than the one I did for me, so did it this way. The halter really brings it all together. December 21. Finished.
Had fun doing it, but I will not do another for the price I quoted for this one!
This set will be shown on a dark liver chestnut Alborozo. I think the turquoise will really set his color off.
It's Jennifer again. I'm sure everyone will agree that this set turned out extremely well. Thank you so much to Vicky for allowing me to reprint her words and photographs. If anyone else would like to write a guest blogger piece, please do not be shy. I am always happy to share this space with my friends!


  1. That is absolutely fabulous! I too liked the colour when you first died it, too bad you couldn't do that though : / I always enjoy looking at your stuff, and how open you are to share tips etc... The saddle is incredible, great work :D

  2. Oh, I am in heaven. I have wanted a saddle like this ever since seeing the saddles at the special exhibit in Lexington over Breyerfest. They actually wove into the leather - like the whole saddle - intricate patterns! I was mesmerized. I WANT!
    I'll take a rich chocolate one if she wants to do another :)

  3. Thanks for sharing - I am no longer a paid Blab member and couldn't see Vicky's posts there. Very detailed and inspiring work! I chuckled when I saw the clothespins, I use them all the time :)

  4. Thanks for posting this Jennifer. I'm always happy to share tips and 'secrets' with everyone. The pieces that I died first will be used for my next Charro saddle which will be done next month. I already have the tree decorated with red inlay and have started on the trim. It is a commission, but thinking of doing one for my NAN donation. Thanks everyone!

  5. LOVELY saddle and bridle (makes me miss my Al ;.;), thank you both, Vicky and Jennifer, for sharing!

    Quick question though- what's the purpose of soaking it in vinegar?


  6. The vinegar is an acid and so oxidises the pewter so that the primer can 'key' in to the metal and doesn't rub off as easily. I have made two of these sets and they are great fun, although hard work embroidering the leather.

  7. Hi! I found your blog through a comment you left on Julie's Ridingaside blog. This saddle and tack is absolutely amazing! I've never seen anything like this. So tiny and SO DETAILED!!! Beautiful work!
    Patricia :o)

  8. WOW!! WOW! WOW!!!!! A friend of mine shared your blog link with me. Your work is exquisite!! I can't wait to really check out your blog and see your work!!

  9. Except for a brief hiataus,over a year, during a divorce I had been working leather for over a decade. It seemed that I had forgotten more than I knew in the first place. This instruction not only reminded me of what I had forgotten but taught me new skills also. I appreciate the clean and clear photography. I was able zoom in on sections that further improved my art. Thanks