How To

How To...Cut Your Own Lace

I know the blog has been pretty dead, and I apologize. I'm a little dead on my feet, too, but hopefully another couple of days of sleeping in and regular schedule will fix that. I'm trying to get some year end things together, so regular blogging probably won't happen soon. As a bit of a peace offering, here's a handy how-to. Consider it a belated Christmas present from me to you.

How To Cut Your Own Lace

Unfortunately, precut lace (even from hobby sources) doesn't come in miniscule, which is the size I usually need. It's always seemed silly to me to buy something that I'm going to need to cut down anyway, so I generally cut my own from the hide I have on hand for tack making. I actually use scissors most of the time because I rarely have the foresight to set up for this. If you don't have a perfectly steady hand or slightly wobbly edges bother you, this is a great method for getting nice, straight edges on your lace.

As always, click on the images to enlarge. I doodled on some of them to help out, so it's recommended if you can't read the tiny, shrunken writing.

If you want to try it yourself, you'll need...

Leather

An Exacto knife

Double sided tape (Scotch is all I could find, I have no brand loyalty)

A ruler with a metal edge

Gum Tragacanth or water

A solid surface to cut on (preferably with a grid) and

A box cutter or knife as pictured above (or whatever you're comfortable skiving with).

Anyone who has tried cutting leather with a straight edge and an Xacto knife knows that it has a tendency to wiggle. The trick is finding something to keep the leather stable while you cut. Something that's removable, won't damage the leather, and won't mess up your work space. That's where double sided tape comes in.

First things first, thin your leather. I find it easier to get an even surface by skiving a piece of leather instead of individual straps (though some leveling may be necessary later). "How to Skive" isn't covered here, but I've included a photo to hopefully give you an idea of the comparative thicknesses of my leather. The unskived leather is about 1mm thick, maybe just a hair thinner. I'll skive the ends of the finished straps down so that they lay flush when I add buckles or other hardware.

Once the leather is thinned its time to lay down the tape. I bought my cutting mat at Hobby Lobby for less than $10, and the grid has proved quite handy. If you don't have a grid, you could always draw one and tape it to your cutting board for this project. The key is to have one perfectly straight line that isn't going to move around and will extend past the edges of your leather.

Peel out a length of tape that is slightly longer than your leather; a quarter of an inch or so on either end is fine. Lay the tape down over your straight edge, like so.

Make sure that ALL of your leather will be firmly affixed to the cutting surface. Wiggly leather means crooked lines. You may need to lay one more than one piece of tape down - I needed three for this piece.

Once the tape is down, lay your leather down over it with the smooth side up and overlap your straight line so that any crooked edges will be trimmed away. There should be tape on either end, too. I've marked the line I picked as my guide line with arrows in the following photo.

My cutting board isn't marked in units small enough for me to use (those squares are 1/4 across), and whether you want to eyeball it (what I do) or mark the edges of your leather for precise measurements, you'll need a straight line at the top to measure from. I trim off the top edge of the leather (anything above that 9 line) to give me that straight edge. This is where the metal ruler comes in.

Sometimes an exacto knife will eat into the edge of a plastic or wooden ruler, giving you an imprecise cut. A metal ruler eliminates that problem.

I prefer to use an Xacto knife to cut strap goods instead of the wider blade shown in the first photo. Your mileage may vary, but it should be noted that I always (or at least when I'm not attempting to take pictures) have my left hand supporting the ruler. The extra tape on either side of the leather helps, but is not enough to keep the ruler stationary.

Once you've cut your straight edge, you can mark both edges of your leather with your preferred measurement (keeps your line straight) or eyeball it. Most of the straps I need are short enough that being a little bit off isn't a problem. If you're working anything large than Stablemate, I'd recommend measuring it out and nicking the edges as a way to mark the leather. You can see just how narrow I cut my lace in the following photo.

Most of the time you can slide the tip of your Xacto knife under one end of a strap and peel it up. Do this slowly and carefully - if you're working small and thin or hit a particularly weak spot, the leather may snap.

Sometimes you'll get the tape, too, but that's not a problem. Just peel it off of the back. In most cases, you'll notice that your formerly nice, smooth leather is now a fuzzy mess.

Run some Gum Tragacanth (available from Tandy or a variety of online hobby resources) along the back and sides to tame the fuzzies. Water will also work, but is a little less permanent and won't add the same body that Gum T will. You can see the difference a little Gum T makes below.

And there ya go! Your lace is ready to use.  It should be noted that I typically dye and seal my leather prior to cutting lace. My current project requires black lace, and I thought it would probably be easier to see what was going on if I used natural leather.

Questions? Post 'em in the comments!

Tutorial: Galloping Boots

Protective leg-wear can be an essential part of a good performance set up.  Unfortunately, it can be hard to get the boots to behave.  Adding a bit of wire helps them keep their shape around the leg, and in some cases will even keep them up without adhesive or sticky wax! The following tutorial is for a basic galloping boot fitted to Wee Jay.

Tools

Mini clothes pins

Exacto knife

Sharp Pointy Object TM (a large needle will work well)

Scissors

Supplies

Leather, skived into thin and VERY thin with enough for straps

32g wire

Glue (I use Tandy LeatherBond)

Note:

This tutorial will walk you through one boot.  Remember that you'll need to flip the pattern and some of the steps accordingly, and that galloping boots for the hind legs are generally a little taller.  For the sake of time, this tutorial assumes that the user is familiar with the techniques for skiving and dyeing leather.

In

this photo

, you get a good idea of the general shape of a brushing or galloping boot.  These boots provide protection for the inside of the leg and offer some protection on all sides.  They generally cover the inside of the ankle without restricting motion and are almost as long as the cannon bone itself.  They are fastened with velcro tabs or buckles and straps, which are always on the outside of the leg facing back, to keep a horse from injuring itself.  Our tutorial is made with leather tabs that would, in real life, velcro on.  You could easily modify this tutorial to include faux buckle straps if you were so inclined.

We'll start out by cutting the general shape of a brushing boot to fit your horse, leaving both ends long.  You can always take a little off, but it's much harder to add it back on.  

Here you can see a finished boot (top) and the rough pattern (bottom)

Wrap the boot around your horse's leg to check the fit, trimming at the top and bottom where necessary.  It can be helpful to use your fingernail to leave an impression in the leather as a guide for trimming.  Once done, use your fingernail or a needle to mark the long ends of the boot for trimming.  This is best explained by a photo:

Since this is a blank resin, I used a needle to poke the leather right behind the cannon bone.  The end of the leather will sit in the natural depression created by the musculature of the horse's leg and reduce bulk.  Trim along those lines, and get ready to wire the boot.

If you haven't already, make sure your VERY thin leather is ready.  This is the lining for the boot, and you'll want it to be dyed to match the exterior and sealed well.  It needs to be thinner than the exterior of the boot, but not so thin that the ends of the wire break through.

I used two strands of wire, but you could certainly use three if you felt so inclined.  Make sure that the wires are inset slightly from the short end of the boot to prevent scratching, and use a pair of pliers to turn the ends in a very small hook shape. The photos don't show this, unfortunately, because I hadn't thought of that when i took these photos a few months ago! Leave 1/2 to 1 inch of wire (or whatever you're comfortable with) at the other end of the boot for handling and shaping later.  Lay down your glue pretty heavily, place the wires, and cover with the lining leather.

Trim the excess lining away from the boot and, while the glue is still wet, wrap it around your horses leg to shape it.  Wrap the excess wire around the boot as many times as possible to help it retain it's shape.  If the lining begins to pull away from the outer shell, hold it in place until the glue sets or use a mini clothes pin to clamp it down.  If your model has tucked up legs, like WeeJay, it can be easier and just as effective to shape the boot around a hind leg, where it's easier to reach.  Use your finger to gently shape the area around the ankle so that it molds to the leg.

Once the glue has set well, usually less than 15 minutes, remove the boot gently and lay it flat.  Trim the excess wire as close to the edge as possible and wrap the boot around your horse's leg again.  It's very likely that the boot is far too long and the leather overreaches.  Trim it back so that it falls about mid-way around the leg or a little shorter, but still overlaps the rest of the boot.  The photo is of a finished boot, but you can see the slight overlap anyway.

I prefer to cut a small slit for each strap and glue them to the underside of the boot, but that can be difficult to do with this particular method.  These straps are trimmed to a point and glued to the boot, using the tip of a needle to simulate stitching.  When gluing the straps down, it's helpful to work with long sections of lace and trim all of the straps at once to keep them even. A mini clothes pin can be used as a clamp while the glue is drying.

Using some of the lining leather, trim a long strip that's roughly the shape of a tongue depressor.  The rounded bottom should fit over the bottom edge of the boot, and it should be as wide.  Real brushing boots often have a protective strip along the inside of the leg, covered by material.  That's what this will be.  Again, the general shape is best described with a picture:

On the left is the protective strip, next to it is the boot, and on the far right is a finished boot. Apply glue to the underside of the strip and place it over the boot.  While the glue is still wet, use a needle or Sharp Pointy Object (TM) to stitch mark the leather.  While marking, push the leather gently towards the center of the boot to give it some dimension and shape.  You can see the effect (blurrily) in the photo above, and more clearly below, where four stages of construction are shown.

L to R: pattern, wire and lining, trimmed with tabs, and finished.

Once you've stitchmarked the entire protective strip, your boot is done! One down, just three more to go.  You can modify the design by using contrasting or colored leather or changing the size and number of tabs.  Some boots use buckles, while others use large velcro tabs.  Neither are hard to simulate with a little practice.

Good luck with your boots, and I'd love feedback on the tutorial as well as photos of your finished products!