Saturday, October 16, 2010

How to make an English girth, part two

Part one of this tutorial can be found here.

While I am waiting for the sealer to dry, I prepare the buckles.  I used to use handmade buckles, but now I prefer 1/8" Rio Rondo square or oval buckles with added tongues and rollers.  
I thread two of the buckles onto short lengths of prepared 1/8" kangaroo lace. I use a small dab of glue right behind the fold to secure the buckles in place.  I careful not to glue the entire length of the strap shut.
Instead, I leave those ends loose so that I can glue them onto either side of the non elastic girth end.  
After the glue has dried, I reinforce the area with two or three tiny stitches.
The process is nearly identical for securing the buckles to the elastic end of the girth.  I thread each buckle onto a short length of folded kangaroo lace.  I glue the lace over the elastic and then secure the buckle straps with a row of short stitches.
And that's it--the girth is finished!
Questions, comments, ideas for another tutorial--please post them all in the comments section!


  1. Gosh, your work is beautiful. I remember you posted something about how to get the rollers on the buckles a while ago, I'll have to look it up. What did you end up using by way of metal for the rollers?

  2. Just fantastic, can't wait to try this!

  3. I am presuming you are using hand dyed leather verses factory dyed leather. How do you prevent the dye from seeping onto the model?

  4. Allie--thank you for the compliments! I'm using the thinnest sheet metal I can find. I think the "silver" is actually tin but I can't remember for sure and the packaging is long gone.

    Anonymous--I dye leather in advance and it's pretty dry by the time I get around to using it. I'll usually clean/moisturize it a bit with Leather Amore or glycerine soap and I'll check the "bleeding" then. Usually there's little to no seepa . On the rare occasions that there is, I'll soap the whole hide down and let it dry thoroughly. I also but on several coats of sealer (that's covered in part one of the tutorial) and I never use the girths until they're a couple days old.

    Personally, I've only had tack stain a model once and that was a girth. However, I stuck it on the model wet and left it for several days so that was my own fault. It didn't matter anyway because that was a body quality OF I use for tackmaking. I've never had a customer complain about this so I don't think it's a major issue.

  5. Thank you again for this tutorial! Maybe you could show us a picture of a girth where you used selfmade buckles? Just to compare the two versions. ;-)

  6. Very interesting, Jennifer - thanks! It's a more detailed process than I would have thought.

    Question: I notice you add tongues to the buckles first, and then attach the leather. How do you do this? I do it in reverse - glue the leather to the buckle and then add the tongue.

    Allie: I found some super-thin metal sheet here: which I think is similar to what Jennifer uses. I've used this stuff successfully (although getting that perfect curl can take some practice).

  7. Shanti, you can see the elastic end of an older BCS girth in this post. The handmade buckles worked just fine, but I think the Rio Rondo buckles with rollers look a bit more polished.

    Danielle, I've always added tongues first. I know a lot of tackmakers add them second but I've never done that. I bend the leather over on itself and cut a slit. Then I thread one end of the leather through the buckles and poke the tongue through the slit. I pull the leather down over the bar where the tongue is attached and (usually) glue the bend closed. I find this really easy but if your way is working, I wouldn't mess with it!

  8. The way to make the perfect English girth is to save up your pennies and have Jennifer make it!

  9. I would love to see a step-by-step of the construction of an English saddle. I really have no idea how all the parts come together, and would love to see at each step!

    I too put tongues on the buckles first - I don't think I COULD put them on after, I have no clue how that would work, haha!

  10. When I make buckles with tongues, I fold the leather over the buckle and glue into position. When dry, I use a pin to pierce a hole in the leather below the buckle bar, and thread the tongue through that. My theory is that the leather stops the tongue from becoming too floppy - I've had buckles where the tongue just doesn't stay upright, but flops over to the left or right. That's really annoying when you're trying to do it up!

    When I first started making tack, I would cut a slit in the leather and then glue it onto the buckle, but had trouble positioning it so the slit was even.

    I second Erin's hope for an English saddle tutorial!

  11. I seriously doubt that I will ever publish a complete saddle tutorial here. I hate to sound mercenary, but if I ever do commit all that to paper, I want to be paid for it!

    In the meantime, you ought to check out Linda White's saddle making article that was published recently in Model Horse Performance Magazine. Her materials and method of construction are very similar to mine. The differences are mainly in level of detail.

  12. Fair enough! (Maybe you should make a booklet - I'd pay for that! :P)

    What issue of the Performance Magazine is that tutorial in? I'm still waiting for my issue (received my back issue of the July issue today). Can we hope for some Jennifer articles in the future?

  13. Hey! Fantastic work, like always!
    I think I'd like a tutorial for making boots!
    Do you think it would be possible?
    anyway, thanks for all the great tips you gave! :)

  14. Great tutorial, do you think this would work for breastplates on harnesses?

  15. How do you make the perfect stitch marks on the girth?