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#1 bruce johnson

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 12:02 AM

There is a link to an ebay sale of a stitching horse, and it got me thinking. I have that same Tandy model they sold several years ago. I have found it to be comfortable, the angle of the head right for me, and a good purchase that has paid back several times over. Some of you have heard me talk or write of the Irish harnessman who spent an afternoon and evening with me. A thoroughly enjoyable time, and I think about it a lot. He basically took over and straightened me out. He sharpened my "points" and the ones that didn't pass muster were turned into awl darts, a rousing game to play with Bushmills at hand. He showed me tricks of handsewing and tying in your buckles on strap ends, sewn or not.
He took a horsehoeing rasp to my stitching horse's jaws to add a wee bit more taper to the top for finer stitching. He actually said it was much better to begin with than most of the pictured ones sold in America. The Tandy ones operate with the left foot. I had sat at some in other shops later that were right footers, and might as well have used some other part of my anatomy to run them after a few miles on mine. He said that traditionally the saddlers stitching horses were stood up with less cant to the jaws than mine, and were all right footers. Some had the strap to tighten the jaws, and some had a cam or other hardware on the outside of the jaws to allow deeper pieces to be sewn. The harness stitching horses had more cant, and were right or left footers, and most had the strap in the slot closure. He knew of no particular reason than that's just the way it is.
Since we are pretty international and have a lot of traditionally trained workers on board here, I'd like to hear more about stitching horses and how they are ta' home, wherever that is......
Bruce Johnson
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#2 barra

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 12:37 AM

I'll throw in Saddlers Clams into the mix. The jaws came in different widths. Narrowed ones were needed for making harness shaft tugs. For those not familair with them, they are held between the knees while sitting on a stool at the bench. Depending on your bench/stool height combo, you can add a bit of extra wood at the base to adjust the height. It is easy to then adjust the angle to suit the individual. Some have a hole in one side where a strap can be threaded thru. One end is attached to a staple and the other end attached to a stirrup iron for adding tension to the jaws much like the pedal on a stitching horse. I have never bothered with this though. The bend in the jaws is under tension to keep the stitching job firmly in place as you stitch.

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Edited by barra, 27 February 2009 - 01:03 AM.

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#3 Rawhide

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 07:13 AM

I don't think I can contribute much, but I bought one from craigslist about a year ago. It was fairly rickety, but I replaced the legs to sturdy it up. Nothing fancy. The jaws were in terrible shape, so I purchased some hard maple and had a guy cut the basic profile out for me on a band saw, and I finished them up at home. (Hardest damn wood I ever cut...I thought it was concrete inside).

Anyway here are the results and I can't tell you how valuable this thing is.

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Marlon

#4 Jordan

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 07:57 AM

As far as clams go, I do know that woodworkers used a variation of one in conjunction with a workbench, to hold long and odd shaped boards for hundreds of years. I don't know if one craft borrowed from the other or which used it first though. I still have not had time to build me a horse but I do have the tools I need and a plan to follow in part thanks to members here.

#5 TrooperChuck

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 11:16 AM

I'm hoping to build a stitching horse some day. Until then, I'm using two stitching clamps I built after viewing several owned by other people.

The first one is made of 1" x 4" pine and is held shut with a large spring clamp. I guess you would call this one a stitching pony, because you put it under your legs while sitting on a chair. For a couple years this was the only stitching clamp I had, and it was a real challenge to clamp and sew saddle skirts in it!

The second one I made from some 1" x 4" hickory that my brother gave me. (He's a cabinet maker, so I get lots of excellent wood from him.) The clamp that I used as a model for this one had a swivel base, but I opted to make mine with a fixed base. I now do almost all my stitching on this clamp.

I've looked with envy at some of the stitching horses members of this forum have made. Someday...


Attached File  My_Leathershop_012.jpg   262.79KB   385 downloadsAttached File  My_Leathershop_011.jpg   245.28KB   431 downloadsg]
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#6 Rawhide

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 02:35 PM

I'm hoping to build a stitching horse some day. Until then, I'm using two stitching clamps I built after viewing several owned by other people.

The first one is made of 1" x 4" pine and is held shut with a large spring clamp. I guess you would call this one a stitching pony, because you put it under your legs while sitting on a chair. For a couple years this was the only stitching clamp I had, and it was a real challenge to clamp and sew saddle skirts in it!

The second one I made from some 1" x 4" hickory that my brother gave me. (He's a cabinet maker, so I get lots of excellent wood from him.) The clamp that I used as a model for this one had a swivel base, but I opted to make mine with a fixed base. I now do almost all my stitching on this clamp.

I've looked with envy at some of the stitching horses members of this forum have made. Someday...


Attached File  My_Leathershop_012.jpg   262.79KB   385 downloadsAttached File  My_Leathershop_011.jpg   245.28KB   431 downloads


TrooperChuck,

That's a pretty nice clamp you made. The only thing I would change would be where the ends of the clam shells come together. It looks like it would be tough to get you hands really close to the work.

Anyhow, I assume that you're a state trooper (or were)....if so, thanks for your service! :clapping: :police: :thankyou:
Marlon

#7 TrooperChuck

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Posted 28 February 2009 - 12:33 PM

Marlon, thanks for the advice. I've contemplated rasping down those ends for a while, but just haven't done it yet. There have been a few times, when sewing small pieces, that I've wished they were a bit more narrow.

Yep, I was an Alaska State Trooper for 22 years. During much of that time I was involved with youth groups like Boy Scouts and Civil Air Patrol Cadets. The kids always called me Trooper Chuck, so it kinda stuck with me.
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#8 gtwister09

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Posted 28 February 2009 - 08:47 PM

Bruce,

To add some to your information on stitching horses. There actually was a reason for the functional designs of what initially started out as two different strains of stitching horses.

This information has been derived from hundreds of discussions with harness makers and saddlemakers as well as researching a lot of older harness books, patents, tool history and such on various types of stitching horses.. I started this research in order to determine the best design for saddlemaker stitching horses after talking with a stitching horse maker in New Mexico who made only harness maker stitching horses. He provided me with the initial information about the difference between the two

My discussions were limited to mostly older leather workers that understood why the horse was created for a certain function. Almost all of them knew the difference in the strains and why. I usually discussed other areas of interest when they didn't know the difference between the two horses or the reason for the design differences. Several different Amish leather workers and harness makers were a wealth of information as well as a bunch of saddlemakers across the United States. Almost 100% of them agreed upon the unique functions and designs on each type of stitching horse.

Saddlemaker Horses

Deeper jaws (usually full length of the jaws)
Initially locked from below.
Full length jaws and locking from below gave you maximum throat capacity.
Usually required mechanism that raised the price of the stitching horse.
Cant (angle) on the jaws was slight to zero.
Saddlemaker horses were mostly right handed but I have seen two pair that were left handed. ***


*** However we must remember that throughout history the tool world has predominately created right handed tools rather than catering to left handed users.

Harness Maker Horses

Reduced throat capacity of jaws.
Initially strapped in the jaws. Reduced cost.
More cant angle than the saddlemaker horses.
The strap in the middle to close the harness maker jaws was OK because they usually repaired or made straps, tugs, billets, etc and didn't need the increased capacity.

In fact the angled iron swivel jaws of Randall's were patterned after the harness makers. Some of the additional notes that weren't included in the Randall patent for the iron jaws was that the harness maker jaws were more conducive to this pattern than the deeper saddlemaker's jaws.

Now we have all sorts of derivatives of harness and saddlemaker horses. The lines between them have been greyed or blurred and most people have lost the history of the difference between the two. We have some that swivel, some saddlemaker horses that are slotted on the front to allow even longer projects to be held and derivatives that have no cant but have strapped jaws and other derivatives that have a swivel canted jaw that locks from below.

A couple of things need to be remembered about leatherworking tools of old (as in the case of the horses)

(1) Modifications (sharpening, shaping, etc) were generally performed on every piece of tooling as part of the apprenticeship program. This would have included the modifying of the horse jaws to accomodate the normal closed gap position (the one for the most widely used thickness of leather) as well as thinning the upper and outer edges of the jaws for finer detailed work. This process made sure that the apprentice knew the reason for the modiifcation (unfortunately in talking with many of them it was after they had spent some time doing it less than perfect - the idea was that hard learned or hard earned lessons were not fogotten that easily).

(2) Quality of tooling. In the case of the older stitching horses many of them were created with the thought that they were equivalent to a piece of fine furniture.

Regards,
Ben


#9 Kevin

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Posted 28 February 2009 - 11:07 PM

I have 2 stitching horses that I use. The one at work looks to be the same as the Farm woodwork pattern. I think I paid 75.00 for it back about '81. Some of the hardware looked like it was made from stolen aluminum road signs, so I've redone the hardware.
The legs all fell apart, so I reglued them when it was new, I think after 12 years I ended up using epoxy paste on them. They're holding up well now. The jaws on mine are oak, the seat is pine and the legs are oak. Oak is too brittle for the jaws, the horse has fallen over a few times and little chunks break off the corners. I put brass strips inside the jaws so I can just lay the flat of the awl on the brass and get a good angle everytime. Oh, and the rear legs aren't placed back quite far enough, so if you get back too far she'll buck you off everytime. But we've come to work together ok over the years.
At home I have a Randall that looks like somebody left out in the weather for a while, but its all there and good enough for what I do here.
A friend of mine is a master saddler from Hungary and her horse is a totally different breed. The seat is kind of low so your thighs are horizontal. The jaws are at the same height as your elbow. I guess this is all ergonomicaly (Iknow tht's wrong) correct, but I can't see what I'm doing when my work is that far away. The final difference is that it has a wooden screw and S shaped wooden nut that you tighten the jaws with. I find it tedious and clumsy, but she is fast and thinks our stitching horses with foot controlled jaws are tedious and clumsy.
Kevin

#10 tonyc1

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Posted 01 March 2009 - 01:34 AM

Attached File  200Jaws1.JPG   64.04KB   367 downloads Here are snaps of my old "nag". I've had it for 40 years and I really don't know how old it would be, as it was ancient when I got it. It appears the timber may have been pretty green when it was made as the seat has a cup in it. The jaws are secured by wedges and the legs are mortised. The closing mechanism is iron which is attached to a sliding foot lever to apply pressure. The foot pedal was almost as worn when I got it so it must have had a lot of use in the heyday of horse transport. I have put a larger seat on the original as it allows me to sit farther back, I reckon the bloke it was made for may have been shorter than me. It was painted green originally. I'm certain that although it is old, it will well and truly see me out!

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#11 Timbo

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Posted 01 March 2009 - 11:20 AM

Thanks for that Tony!!!!! I have never seen a jaw mechanism like that. The mechanics are very simple yet effective and very reproducible!!! That is really cool.
Tim


#12 Lippy

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Posted 01 March 2009 - 02:26 PM

Barra showed images of Saddlers Clams. What would be the advantage of a clam vs. a stitching horse?

Towards the end of this video about the making of a Hermes leather bag it shows clams in use. Once you get past the sales "fluff" the video shows some really fast hand saddle stitching too by folks who look like they've done it many times before.

Vergez Blanchard shows a clamp online. http://www.vergez-bl...s...lg_us&num=2 Likewise, Abbey Saddlery has this one. http://www.abbeysadd...il.cfm?id=FS025

Do you know of any other companies who make the clams or has anyone seen plans to build your own?

#13 barra

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Posted 01 March 2009 - 08:53 PM

I get the impression that Clams are more an English/European saddlers item. Being in Australia we tended to follow the English traditions when it came to saddlers tools. I had only ever seen a stitching horse once in my life until I started to lurk here on LW. I have now made myself a (rough as guts) stitching horse just to see if I liked using it. I find that I would use the horse and Clams 50/50.

The benefits of the Clams over the horse as I see it would be that.

1. Clams generally speaking have a deeper throat and are universal for large items and strapping.

2. Also while you are seated at the bench you are withing arms reach of all your tools if you have given some thought to how you have racked them.

3. Clams are light weight and therefore easily portable.

4. It is easy to adjust the height of the jaws to suit individual tastes.

5. Clams come in different jaw sizes to accomodate items like shaft tugs that need narrow jaws. You can then just reach for the narrow jawed clams and not have to either have 2 horses or one with inter changeable jaws.

As noted, Clams can still be obtained commercially but it is relatively easy to make a functional set. You can get hold of a pair of barrel staves, add a length of timber to the bottom to suit you and then rasp the top so the jaws meet. I have also made a set by steam bending timber. I used the veggie steamer. Crude but it worked. As a general rule of thumb you steam for 1 hr per inch of timber thickness. Of course you need to use wood that lends itself to steam bending.

Barra

P.S. Have a look at the on the floor clamp model that Rawhide has made. Works for me.

Edited by barra, 01 March 2009 - 08:55 PM.

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#14 Lippy

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Posted 02 March 2009 - 03:39 PM

Barra,

Thanks for the clam information. I'll get back to you as soon as I locate our veggie steamer!

#15 oldtimer

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Posted 03 March 2009 - 02:18 PM

This is the Swedish Army (pre-1956) version of a stitching clam for field use. It is made of birch and has a hinged leg.
The clam rests on one leg and is held tight with the other leg on top, and it has a good function.
/Knut

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Edited by oldtimer, 03 March 2009 - 02:19 PM.

"The gun fight at the O.K. corral was actually started by two saddlemakers sitting around a bottle of whiskey talking about saddle fitting"...





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