Sunday, July 11, 2010

Figuring out tooling patterns

Every once in a while, I drag out parts of the old saddle I intend to try and replicate and try and figure out how the tooling on it was done. This saddle is probably around 80 years old or more, so the tooling on it is quite different than most modern day saddles. This weekend I was working on the skirts. The leather was old and dried up and the patterns were fairly hard to make out. I cleaned the parts up with lots of water and an old toothbrush (Jake was kind of worried it was his).  Once most of the dirt and grime was off of them, I set them on a towel on the cement floor. I placed a heavy board over them and set severl 5 gallon containers of water on top of the board. Once they dried, they are fairly flat again. Then I applied a heavy coat of Skidmore's Leather Dressing on the parts to keep them pliable. Once they were flat and dry, the tooling patterns are a little easier to see. The top picture shows the border design around a lot of the saddle. I'm going to have to try and find a meander stamp similar to the one used here. I don't have anything like it. The second picture shows a flower design that was tooled into the center of the basket weave on the skirts. I think I've figured out how he did that.

The first step was to draw a circle with a pair of dividers. I then reset the divider and made another circle about 1/8 inch larger around the first circle. Next  I used a small veiner and make a border inside the circle. The points where the veiner impressions come together are used as spacers for the next step. 

A smooth veiner was used to create the flower petals. One tip of the veiner is set in the center of the other veiner impressions, the other tip of the veiner was aimed towards the center point of the flower. I went around the flower making each of the right side impressions first.

Then go back and make the left side impressions.

A stop tool was used where the impressions come together at the bottom.

A pear shader was used to give some depth to the petals and a flower center was stamped in the  middle.

To finish it off, a border stamp was used around the outside of the border.

While I was working on the first pattern,  I had an idea for a second flower. It might be fun to play with this and see how many other variations could be done.


Ben Cox said...


You have put together a neat arsenal of vieners, stops and so forth to mimic the flower center and your variations are creative as well. The addition of the pear shader for more depth is quite effective. However I have seen these types of flower centers made time and time again with a form of Eiffel meandering tool with a dot. I looked at Barry King's and Wayne Jueschke's stamps and it doesn't appear as though either one of them have exactly one like it.

Recently Steve Mason did a basic flower shape/outline on some spur straps with what appears to be a Barry King Eiffel meandering/serpentine tool. Take a look.


ClayB said...

Hi Ben,
Thanks for showing me how this is actually done. I don't think I'd have ever figured out it was done with a single stamp. That thought never entered my head! I was pretty proud of myself for figuring out a way to recreate it with tools I had. A couple other people also told me it was done with an Eiffel meandering tool. One of them even offered to try and make me one. I think that would be pretty neat. I'd be willing to bet the original saddle could have been carved with home made tools. I've got a few hand made tools from a friend that worked in a saddle shop many years ago. One of these days I'll have to post a picture of them.

As always, thanks so much for your feedback. I appreciate it.