Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap Day bonus

Jumping is hard, but it's not hard for Rodrigo Pessoa. In fact, it is so not hard for him, he can jump a big vertical backwards.
Don't try this at home, kids. Odds are, you're not Rodrigo Pessoa.

1:9 scale hunter seat equitation: jumping

Jumping is hard.

Even at big A shows, equitation faults abound. Riders jump ahead and get left behind. Eyes look down, shoulders round, heels come up, legs swing back, hands get rough. Good riding happens, too, of course, but it's tough out there. Nobody looks perfect all the time.

Not even George Morris.
Jumping is extra hard for 1:9  scale doll riders. In fact, it's nearly impossible for an unaltered, original finish Breyer doll. The main culprits, once again, are those stiff, plastic boots.
A flexed ankle is an essential part of the proper leg position. The heels should be down, or at least down-ish, the toes should point out, not in, and the rider's calves should rest against the horse's sides. The lower leg should fall slightly behind the girth, and the stirrup leather should be perpendicular, or nearly so, to the ground.
In the air, the rider should close his/her hip angle to follow the horse's jump. The shoulders should be in front of the perpendicular line of the stirrup leathers, while the hips stay behind it.
This common error is called jumping ahead. The doll's legs are too far back and her hips are too far forward. This weighs down the horse's front end, and also puts the rider in a precarious position should the horse stumble or stop.
Here's the opposite problem. Now the doll has been left behind. Her shoulders are behind her leg, and she is falling backwards over the jump. 
In all these pictures, the doll is looking down. Her neck has not been customized, so a proper, heads up position is impossible for her. Turning her head to the side makes this a little less obvious... 
but the best jumping dolls are those with customized, bendy necks. Look how much better this guy rides!
Hands should rest against the horse's neck in a long (shown above) or short (shown below) crest release. The long release should be accompanied by a looser rein, while the short release provides a little more contact.
Hands floating above the crest are a common fault in both the real and model show rings.
More advanced rider dolls may also use an automatic release, where the rider maintains a straight line from the elbow to the horse's mouth.
Rider dolls can make or break a performance entry. In today's competitive show ring, it's worth the time and effort to learn how to pose them properly. I hope this series has made that process just a little bit easier!

Sunday, February 28, 2016


Three weeks from today, I will teach a halter making workshop at BreyerWest in Albany, Oregon.
To prepare, I spent this weekend making halters--lots of them!
These halters will serve as samples for the workshop, but they will also be available for purchase. I'm hoping to have at least one saddle for sale, too. If you're attending BreyerWest and want to buy something, be sure to find me!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Resin casting 101: de-molding and clean-up

In the first installment of this series, Jennifer Scott demonstrated how to prepare a rubber mold for resin casting. Part two covered mixing and pouring the liquid resin. Now--finally!--it's time to open the pot, open the mold and reveal a Rajah.

Smooth-Cast 305's seven minute pot life comes with a forty minute de-mold time. At the end of that time, the tank is de-pressurized and opened.
The mold is removed and carefully disassembled. 
The sprues are filled with resin, which is easy to snap off. The paper thin sheet of resin next to the sprues is called "flashing." It is caused by liquid resin seeping between the two halves of the mold. Like the sprues, it's easily removed.
Three of the hooves have sprues. The fourth has a larger nub of resin created by the pour hole.
While the resin is still in the mold, Jenn uses flush wire-cutters to snip off the sprues.
The nub will be removed with the same tool after the resin has been freed.
Now it's time to carefully peel the resin from the mold.
It's important to make sure the resin has fully cured before you do this, or else the legs will warp and twist.
There's just a little bit of flashing to peel off. Otherwise, Rajah's seams are tight and straight, and his body is one hundred percent pin hole free.
Here's Rajah after just a short session with the carbide scraper. Gorgeous!
Thanks again to Jennifer Scott for allowing me to share her resin casting process. If you would like a Rajah of your own--and trust me, you do--visit Jenn's website for ordering information.

Resin casting 101: pouring the resin

There's more than one way to make a resin. Some people use a roto-caster, which results in a  lightweight, hollow cast model. Jennifer Scott prefers to use an air compressor and pressure tank (also called a pressure pot or casting pot). The filled mold is placed inside the pot, and the pot is closed. The air compressor forces air into the pot, which shrinks the air bubbles in the liquid resin to microscopic proportions. This creates a solid cast, but extremely clean model with no pin holes.
Jenn's resin of choice is Smooth-Cast 305. She likes it for its whiteness, strength, sandability and seven minute pot life. She used to use Smooth-Cast 300, which has a two min pot life, but she prefers having more time to mix, pour, fasten and fill the tank. Trying to do all that in just two minutes was crazy and stressful!
Different resins have different mix ratios, but Smooth-Cast 305 is 1:1 of Part A and B. Jenn likes to "cross the streams" as she pours for added mixing. As soon as the two parts combine, the clock starts ticking!
 Mix very thoroughly...
and then it's time to pour. Because she's pressure casting, she doesn't have to worry about degassing the resin or pouring in a slow, thin stream.
This particular mold uses a hind leg for a pour hole.You can see the other hind leg's air vent at the bottom of the photo.
When the mold is filled with resin, it's pushed back into the pot and the lid is fastened via the wing nuts. Everything must be good and tight before you start letting air into the tank.
Pressure casting requires at least thirty psi of pressure to work, but sixty psi is ideal. Jenn's tank tank is rated for up to eighty psi, but since there's no quality difference between sixty and eighty, she uses the lower setting.
It's better to mix too much resin than too little. However, resin is expensive, so Jenn pours the excess in a small medallion mold.
These will be wonderful live show prizes!
The mold will stay inside the pressurized tank for approximately forty minutes, so there's lots of time to cuddle Jenn's studio helper while waiting for the new arrival.
The third and final part of this series will cover removing the new resin from the mold and basic clean-up. Thanks again to Jennifer Scott for making these posts possible!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Resin casting 101: preparing the mold

Perhaps the best part of my recent visit to Jennifer Scott's home was helping her cast a Rajah resin. Because Jenn is awesome, she encouraged me to photograph the entire process so that I could share it here. Thank you so much, Jenn!

Rajah is a relatively simple piece, requiring a basic two-piece mold.
The mold is made from silicone rubber, in this case the pink is Smooth On Mold Max 30 and the blue rubber is Smooth On Mold Max XLS-II.
 The long "lines" from his chin and feet bottoms are air vents called "sprues." Sprues are necessary to release air from the mold. Without the, trapped air would leave a big gap in the resin cast. The round bumps are "keys" and are designed to fit the mold together and lock it in place. This insures you don't get a slipped seam or a face that has one half higher than the other.
The first step is to spray the mold with mold release.  Although you can cast resins without it, the mold release helps preserve the mold. Since molds are expensive and time consuming to make, it's best to baby them as much as possible.
Next, the mold is dusted with baby powder. 
This serves two purposes. It helps draw the resin into all the nooks and crannies and gives the resin a nice matte (non-shiny) finish.
Jenn uses a fan brush to spread the baby powder...
paying particular attention to all the tight little crevices around the hair, eyes and ears.
She shakes out excess baby powder...
and then blows on the mold to remove any remaining excess powder.
The goal is to have an almost invisible film of powder evenly coating the entire mold.
When that's done, it's time to cut the support wire. Jenn uses stainless steel wire found in the picture hanging section of a big box hardware store.
Rajah has wire in all four legs and his narrow little tail.
The horse will be upside down during casting, so the wires are shaped to prevent them from fall into the body cavity.
The inside of the mold is now ready for casting. The two pieces are fit together and  locked into place by virtue of all those "keys."
Jenn uses two pieces of mica board as her "mother mold." A mother mold is just a hard outer support shell for the soft and flexible silicone rubber. This helps the mold retain its shape so as not to warp or distort the piece being cast.
As an aside, Jenn says at this point, it's always good to stop and check your work desk. If you're missing something, chances are it's strapped to the mold!
The mold is placed inside the casting pot in preparation for the liquid resin.
Part two will cover mixing and pouring the resin.