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April 24, 2007

Those Spiral Concho's

Very Cool Concho Form

We have walked thru the formation of a 3D scroll form, and this next issue is an off -shoot of that same exercise, rendering one of the coolest forms of concho’s you have seen.

Lets begin with a circle and a series of how ever many leaflets or divisions that you choose. I think I laid out 8 here. I did the initial layout on E-Machine program and printed it out on a sheet of LABEL PAPER which is the coolest pattern transfer method around. You will see that I am leaving a circle in the center thru which I will pass a screw when the concho is applied later. You will need a circle of approx .200 larger to achieve the final size that you want.

I have used 16GA Sterling here, and feel that it gives the most form and lift to the final concho. I saw the perimeter out using a #2 blade. But once I start cutting the division lines I use a 6/0 or maybe a 4/0 if you are having trouble with excessive blade breakage. Saw each division line and move on to the next, ending each time up at the small center circle.

Once all of the divisions are cut we are ready to begin the primary shaping. Take a pair of small smooth jawed needle nose pliers and gently give each division a slight twist to its linear length. The twist will allow each of the compressed divisions to lay over the edge underneath of it.

Now we can commence pushing the divisions under the next until we have worked several times around the circle and pushed each division several times. As you do this the divisions will begin to force the central area of the concho up. Keep working until the concho is smooth and even in shape.

Next we can place the spiral concho into a large dapping die. Place the appropriate dapping punch on top of the spiral form and dome it gently so as to not crush the delicate edges of each separation. All we are doing here is raising the form or center of the Conch and adding some curve to each division before we move on.

They should be uniform and with a slight curve now to each division. We can move over to the jaw vise to tighten up the concho form now. I have tried quite a few methods of doing this next step but none seem to get me there as easily as a simple old squeeze with the vise.

So do what you have to to protect the surface of your silver conchos, and gently squeeze all around the concho until you have pushed one division under the other enough to solder in place. This step will distort the formed concho a little but the more important thing is to achieve the overlap from layer to layer.

This will give you some idea of what the ready to solder form looks like. Things will slow down just a tad here as we now have to solder each outer edge to one another before

We can move on with more shaping. So place the concho’s on the solder pad, and a little Handy Harmon paste flux, a little heat to get the flux just right and I have used EASY solder for this demo, but you could use MEDIUM or EASY45 if you choose. Carefully solder each overlap at the very outer edge unitl you have worked all the way around the concho. If you only solder a 1/16th section that is fine, in all likelihood it will hold thru the next steps just fine.

You do as you like, and what ever works is what we should end up doing. I have tried placing the conchos back into the dapping block but found it was to easy to crush the edges of each of the delicate overlaps, and once that happens it never looks the same again. So I now form mine using a Nylon hammer and a large dapping punch, with the hammer I gently keep tapping the divisions down onto each other to get them as close to one another as is possible. Keep tapping and tightening, until you get a nice tight crowned spiral form to the center of the concho.

You are ready to head back to the solder pad and walk thru all the same steps, with the fluxing the heating and the very same solder that you had previously used. If you have by chance applied a little excess solder in some places now is a good time to watch what you do and just use heat and skill to let it run and fill the entire joint for each division. BY all means be sure that each seam between divisions is completely soldered with as little or NO solder showing up on the top or front side of the finished concho. For this project you can and should do all the soldering from the back or bottom anyways.

If you played the heat just right and had just the right amount of solder on the concho it will come out of the pickle pot quite nice, something like these have. The clean up will be simple really, a little powered pumice and soap scrubbed around followed by the black emery and a stitched wheel then onto a green rouge on a stitched wheel and finish with rouge on a loose wheel, at that stage they are ready to engrave. You see here I have 3 different sizes and versions. I changed thickness and the number of divisions.

When you are done, I am quite sure you will be as happy with the results as I am here.
Hey, good night and God Bless

April 20, 2007

New Look for Stirrups

New Look for stirrups,

Strait from the fashion runways in Paris or Milan is probably your first thought, and I can understand. But really it is strait from a fashion runaway in Alpine Texas……….best term to use for a gathering of cowboys showing there very best collectable wears at an Art show. Where most attendees have faded jeans and a button collar shirt………and the obviously over-dressed man has a starched shirt.

There was a recent fantastic Art Show Gathering held in Alpine Texas, and while there were many folks involved in pulling this Show off………I don’t know them all and so would like to say here a special thanks to renowned braider Leland Hensley for his Curatorial duties of the Show, and of course all the folks who helped. Even more, we should say thanks to the excellent participation by the artists in attendance since it is their work that makes the Show come to life, and it was a Show full of life let me tell you. For all of you reading this, you should consider taking in this fine Show.

I myself, took a saddle that was ……….well, shall I say somewhat different from the ususal. We have been talking for the last few posts about the 3D scroll forms and the silver work done around that form of raising silver. This is yet one more chapter of the work done on the same saddle. In this blog we will deal with how we can impart a very unique look to our stirrups in a very simple manner. I like different………..it matches my personality. MY kids tell me I should call my blog “ life on the Odd Side”

Most of us have done the Tapadero thing, in both short and long versions, problem is that not very many customers want Tapaderos at any one time. Most of us have also done the nice Monel Stirrup with a carved Quarter Cover on the top, then to get even fancier we add maybe some Stirrup Bolts………………and get really crazy and carve the inside liner on the stirrups. I was sitting in the shop one night a little too late and after a little to much coffee, and just thinking how could I take a standard stirrup that almost ALL folks want, and make it a little different, and here is what I came up with.

I put together the entire stirrup in the manner described above, the carved quarter cover, the stirrup bolts, the carved interior of the stirrup. Then I masked off all but the Monel portion of my stirrup using mostly masking tape of the 3” painters variety, but also a few plastic bags covering the top edged and rubbed quarter covers. Once these are in place, I used a piece of .07mm Mylar and took a tracing of the outside metal portion of the balance of the stirrup. Onto this pattern I drew a floral pattern and began cutting with a fresh sharp HSBT bench Knife, I also used a scalpel in a few occasions till I had cut the back ground completely away from the pattern.

This FLORAL PATTERN was then laid and traced by .03mm pencil onto the masking taped sections of my stirrups. Now I used the scalpel the most to cut the masking tape according to the floral pattern until all was cut and each section of what is BACKGROUND is cut away leaving the floral outline in tape. Did I mention it helps to have a mug of the very finest coffee from Trader Joes called Bay Blend Dark Beans fresh ground and hot………………sure does try it some time.
Next, I headed to the shop next door to mine, which is my humble little Bit & Spur shop. I have a bead blasting unit in their which came from my friend Gordon Hayes by the way. I place 1 stirrup at a time in the cabinet, and using 85 pounds air pressure and #50 Glass beads I blast the pattern on each stirrup until I get and even uniform frost pattern from the glass beads. It is really quite clean, and quick to do. The clean up is almost as simple, there is just a little retouching of the once rubbed leather edges and wipe of the Monel sections with a solvent like Acetone being careful around the leather and you are ready.

Now since that Show I have done 3 more pair at customers request, I charge for this of course since it does take some time. But in it all, I think that I like the result when the background is left on the stirrup pattern and the floral section of the pattern is pulled up and away. I think the pattern is crisper and more readily discerned by a viewer. I may be wrong but it is my impression at this time.

One last thing that I should mention is the manner of attachment for the stirrup bolts in this case. Most folks solder the Concho to the end of the bolt that runs thru the stirrup. Since this concho was a screw down version with an exposed screw head, I decided to drill and tap the end of each stirrup bolt and screw the 3D Scroll conchos down to that by way of a fine thread machine screw so every thing matched in application and appearance.

Try it, you may find you like a stirrup with a different look. If you do that’s great, I may have a little company over on the “Odd Side” for a change. I hope you enjoyed it my leather workin silver bangin friends, I am not sure how much longer this Blog thing will last, but until next time take care and live Blessed.

Good Night America, and God Bless

April 1, 2007

3D Scrolls on the horn

Yes, even I am happy to have these rascals coming to an end as I have other things to get done and out of this some real neat things have come about. But to say the least and then move on, all that sawing was getting on my nerves.

The 3D Scrolls were carried over to the asymmetrical horn cap, a cool pair of billet loops, and a tiny rope strap buckle. All the mountings are done in a combination of blued steel and sterling scrolls.

Its all fabrication, and time to get a project like this done, there are no boundaries on what may or may not be done it is all within the imaginative limits of the designer/maker. I happen to like the inlaid asymmetrical horncap idea, but I certainly heard from others who thought it was ……………..shall I say “heresy”. Think of it what you will, we done it and will do it again.

The two most time consuming factors here are striping the concho backings and engraving the scrolls after all is said and done. Each concho backing is of 2” diameter, beveled steel washer with about 32 stripes around each backing, that was just plain tedious. There were also a pair of matching stirrup bolts with this outfit.

It was not a matter of being a complicated pattern that I engraved on the scrolls, it was simply laying down a “NEGATIVE” cut around the inside perimeter of each backbone of the scroll. I followed this with a pair of matching bright cuts that peaked at the center over the back bone so that the spine/backbone of each scroll was very bright indeed. From that point I shaded the scrolls to get some added depth where the scrolls passed under/over each other. The only other thing I done was to give any area that was silver but not a scroll form, a hatched pattern using a #50 round graver just for the sake of adding some alternative texture.

Good night and God Bless


3D Scrolls part 2

Back in part 1 of this tutorial we discussed the methods of making an item in silver literally JUMP up off of the surface of an item that you make. It is a really simple process of cutting a scroll shaped form, and then pushing the scroll form up and out of itself………sort of like push up Popsicle.
Now have you given any thought to just how many places that you could then use this form of raising items in silver and steel. I know that it can be done because I have done it in both. And why does the form have to be a scroll, now that you have tried a scroll and understand the format of cutting with the smallest saw blade possible, then lift/push an entity of the design up or down to create the look that is needed to achieve the desired effect.

Tonight however we will work on the application of the scroll forms that we talked about and built earlier in and apply them to the concho while in the flat. Part #2.
Photo by: Jeremiah

Lets begin with a design for a Saddle Concho which is adorned with a series of the raised scrolls. Each concho will have a total of 4 raised scrolls for this tutorial. Most modern saddles have 6 conchos on them, so we need 24 of the raised and pushed scrolls of the appropriate size to complete the design. I have used 14 gauge silver for the scrolls so that I can get a lot of lift in each scroll form. These are then set in place and medium soldered into place around the center. On this particular concho design we will adhere the concho to the surface of the saddle by way of a screw down thru the very middle of the concho dome. Now I happen to like this look on a Concho, while I know that others do not……….yes I know so, because they told me just that!!

Once the soldering is done and the concho’s have had time to sit and pickle to a nice white, we can then start the cleanup. With luck if the soldering is good, the cleanup will go quite quick. On this particular set of conchos I actually bead-blasted the surface first to get a nice even finish that would adhere some Antique which I will apply later. After the bead blast, I then hit them on a coarse wheel with Black Emery compound. When making this pass, I did not try to get into every crack and corner, because I wanted some surface to hold the color which I will apply later. Once the Black Emery stage was done, I put the conchos under my Bonny Doon hydraulic press and by using a male dome and a very soft urethane sheet I domed the concho blanks right into the urethane and had very little if any distortion. All I had to do was work around the edges a wee bit to tighten up the radius of the curve as it came to the lower edge.
Photo by: Jeremiah

With the doming done, I head to the Ultra-Sonic and give the items a good hot cleaning while I get other things ready like the steel sub base for each concho. For the base, I bought heavy bridge washers as are used in heavy timber frame style of construction projects. We cleaned the surfaces down to a smooth matte finish. From that stage we set the table on the Bader 2’ x 72” Belt Grinder and cut the bevel on each steel base. Each of the bases was then inlaid with a radial pattern of silver stripes and cleaned up to a matte finish again.

Now we get to do the hardest part of the whole concho project, and that is create the inverse dome that the screw head will countersink into. Let me explain, we will need to pick a screw size, so for this project I choose a #10 size PAN HEAD screw in Stainless Steel. From that we can measure the head with some Calipers and add to the actual screw head dimension to the total of twice the silver thickness and .050 as extra.
SCREW HEAD DIA + 2 times silver thickness + .050 = the diameter of recess we create

Now we can take a round rod and drill a hole in its end that matches the diameter callout that we came up with above. Don’t worry about how deep you drill the hole, just drill it and we can get on with it. Place the rod into a vise standing up, with hole facing up as well. Now hunt for a dapping punch that matches the diameter of the actual screw head or very close to it. Place the silver dome over the rod with it facing up as well, and place the center of the dome over the center of the rod, place the dapping punch on the center most point and tap lightly, and check the location for accuracy. If it is on the mark, then hit it a little more each time and increase the depth to the extent that the screw head will sit down inside comfortably.

NOTE, there is NO HOLE DRILLED THRU YET FOR THE SCREW TO PASS THROUGH, we invert the screw and check for fit. If we drill the hole to early, it will stretch when doming and no longer fit the screw tightly. With thie particular set of conchos it required 4 scrolls per concho be soldered into place. Thank goodness it was a six string saddle and not an old time 8 string saddle I was making…………..because I was getting tired of cutting and forming scrolls.

Well, there you go with what came of the 3D scroll project. The saddle is done and living quite comfortably I might add at an Italian Villa. I will expound later on the other items I made for this saddle with the 3D scroll effect and the engraving process.

Good night America, and God Bless,
Photo by: Jeremiah

The opinions expressed in the Western Folklife Center's Deep West online journals are those of the online journal participants and not the Western Folklife Center. The Western Folklife Center does not moderate these journals and as such does not guarantee the veracity, reliability or completeness of any information provided in the journals or in any hyperlink appearing within them.

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