Tips, Tricks, and Various Bits of Information

Just a quick something while I continue to plug away at class work and the edited version of the saddle tutorial.  Hope you find some useful info in here!  I may be able to expand some of these topics into full posts later, so if there's something you'd like to see more of, let me know!

Reference Material
My favorite book is The Essential Book of Horse Tack & Equipment.  It's primary focus is on english tack, but it's got great information on bridles, bits, gadgets, martingales, saddles, boots, you name it.  The photos are awesome, the diagrams are great, but the best part is the information on fitting and the thought processes behind it.  I love knowing the 'why', not just the how or what.

A great online resource is used saddle listings.  They usually show photos from a lot of different angles, including both sides, the top, and underside.  You do want to be cautious and make sure that you're using a quality saddle as your reference, though.  If you're unsure, a quick search with the brand name of the saddle will help shed some light on the quality.

Tack catalogs can be extremely useful, both hard copies and online.  Dover Saddlery and State Line Tack are the two that come to mind first.

I have the neat freak gene from my mom and the pack rat gene from my dad.  I like things to be neat, tidy, and organized but it's easy for me to squirrel things away willy-nilly when I'm stressed or tired.  I found that a really good way for me to combat that habit is to keep as much stuff as possible in clear containers within easy sight.  I'm less likely to pick a box and shove something in it if I have a visual reminder of what actually belongs in that box.

I have half a dozen or so rectangular bead containers from Hobby Lobby that I love.  Those are great for storing spools of wire, hardware, jump rings, beads, and are great tack boxes for Stablemate stuff.  You can get half-size ones in Walmart's crafting department, too, which works even better for me.  Here's a photo of the two I'm in the most often.

The most-used supplies live in the one on the left.  I've got silver wire, thread for raised bridles and saddle piping, stirrups, bits, chain, and metal embellishments & crystals.  Extra blades for the snap-off & Exacto knives live in the long middle section.    The case on the right holds extra silver wire as well as copper and gold.  Miscellaneous traditional and classic scale hardware lives in there too, along with some glue I never use, foil for western saddles, and metallic thread.  (I had to tidy these things up before I showed you guys! I would have felt like a hypocrite otherwise, haha)

Anything you use a lot should be in easy reach.  Glue, tools, and toothpicks live on the far right side of my desk.  Not only because I'm right handed, but because that's "dead" space that I can't work in very easily.

I've mentioned them before, and I'll say it again: Dixie cups are amazing.  I tuck all of the little bits and pieces of a project in it's own cup and use alligator clips and pushpins to keep them out of the way.  If there are enough projects going, each cup has a masking tape label added to it.

Little Tricks
Use glue as an alternative to gum tragacanth for smoothing down the fuzzies on the edge of cut leather pieces. This should be done after dyeing your leather.  Use a tooth pick to spread a bit of glue on the edge and fuzzy side.  Shape it with your finger or the tooth pick and let it dry.

To cut even pieces of lace, I lay a strip of double sided tape on my cutting mat.  Line your leather up with one of the guides on the mat and stick it down.  I use and Exacto knife and even up the top edge first, then cut my strips out.  I use this method for pretty much everything that requires straps.  Stirrup leathers, bridles, reins, breastplates, you name it.  It's best if you work with leather that you've already thinned, but you can thin each strap individually, too.  Dyeing is a toss up; the Eco-Flo dyes don't seem to absorb all the way through the leather, so I always have to go back and redo the edges.  It would probably be just as easy to dye after I've cut the straps.


  1. The double-sided tape is a great tip! I know what I'm buying next time I see some :)

    Have you ever considered keeping your orders in progress in the box or envelope they'll be shipping in, rather than the dixie cups? My husband and I did that for some custom orders for Star Wars costuming, and because we'd already sourced the boxes, knowing how big the end product would be, all we had to do was put the packing peanuts in, tape the box shut, and take it to the Post Office, pre-addressed and just waiting for stamps. Quick, easy, and no fuss.

  2. Thanks for the suggestion, Sharon! Based on my workspace conditions, the size of the finished product, and often how many I have going at once, storing in progress orders in boxes wouldn't be practical. Since the finished product is so small and light, it falls into the lowest bracket of priority shipping and I'm able to charge a flat fee for 9/10 orders.

  3. Great article. I'm going to see if I can find that book you mention because it look like an excellent reference tool. :)

  4. I know this is an old post but I am going to say this here anyway, I (as someone who can't find gum tragacanth anywhere in NZ) have found the matt varnish (the paint on sort) works well too