Nutty Saddler

How I Make A Bridle

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I thought I'd post this topic so that I feel that I am contributing to the forum with more than just pics of my work.

How I make a Bridle - most of this is a plain bridle but to show the stitching I have added some fancy pattern work

For those of you who may be interested - here's how to make a bridle

Making a Bridle

Firstly, here are all the tools needed. These are JUST for bridle making, there are other tools for making harness and other saddlery. The price of these tools totals around £1000!

From the top, in their 'rows' left to right, they are:

Splitting machine, lighter, gas blow-torch, lead block, stain, staining stick and polishing cloth

Scissors, screw-crease, edge-shave, rawhide hammer

Pricking irons, scribe, compasses, chisels, various hole punches, head-knife, cutting board, plough gauge

Pliers, beeswax, stitching awl, steel rulers, pencil, pin-hammer, polishing horn, looping sticks

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The butt of leather is laid out on the cutting table. Different parts of the cow are used for different jobs. We only use the finest English leather.

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Then all the various width straps required for the parts of the bridle are cut. For this, a plough gauge is used.

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Here, Paul starts with the headpiece. In it's 'raw' state, having the straps cut to the correct length.

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Now the 'points' are made (to pass through the buckles) next, Paul is 'feathering' the 'point' – taking off some of the leather to make it easier to pass through the buckle of the throatlash.

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Now a crew-punch is used to make the hole where the buckle will go.

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The piece of the throatlash where the buckle will be, needs to be 'thinned' or 'split' so it can be folded over and the buckle stitched on. This is the splitting machine in action. It's the most expensive tool!

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Here, a hole is made at the 'split' of the headpiece – it stops the leather splitting up the headpiece where the cheek pieces and throatlash are.

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Now, the edge-shave is used to….yes, to shave the edges of the headpiece, and all the other pieces of bridle. It takes off the 'sharp' edge and makes it smooth and rounded. The parts which will be stitched together are not shaved, to give a smooth join where the leather is stitched together.

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Making a Bridle ...... Continuation

Then the edges of the leather are stained with special stain, and polished to make the edges nice and shiny and 'sealed.

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This process is repeated for all the leather component parts of the bridle. This photo (sorry the light is bad!) shows ALL the parts needed to make a plain Hunt Cavesson bridle, including all the buckles, platforms and looping. This one will have rubber grip reins.

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Here, Paul is checking measurements supplied by the customer, to make sure that the 'made to measure' bridle is a perfect fit. There are several calculations to do….get one wrong and you end up with an odd bridle! See there are 2 tape-measures on the go here, calculating where the cheek pieces will be buckling up on the headpiece.

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All the leather parts are now prepared. Time for some 'smartening up'. Here, the screw-crease is being heated with the gas canister, to make a nice smart crease along the edges of the leather. This not only gives a nice 'finished' appearance, but marks where the stitching will go too.

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Here, Paul is using the screw-crease. It has to be used quite firmly and quickly, to give a nice clear 'crease'.

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Now the crease is made, the parts which need to be stitched are marked with the pricking iron. Pricking irons measure a certain number of stitches per inch (saddlery work is still done in inches!) Usually, bridles are stitched at 10 to the inch. Show stitching is usually 12 to the inch, however, Paul is actually insane and sometimes stitches at 14 stitches to the inch – ALL by hand of course. It's not unheard of for him to stitch at 16 to the inch…Nutter that he is!

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Now, all that is left is to stitch the bridle together. This is done using 2 needles, one each end of a piece of thread coated with beeswax (helps to waterproof the thread and helps the thread run through the leather easier) and a very sharp stitching awl. The item to be stitched is held in wooden clams between the knees. Here, you can see the awl, one of the needles, and the browband in the clams.

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Here you can see a very intricate design being stitched into a noseband of a different bridle. There are 14 stitches to the inch.

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Here is a very much enlarged close-up of part of the design. You can see the 'pricked out' parts where the stitching will go, and part of the 'diamond shape which has already been stitched.

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After all the leather parts of the bridle go through the same process, and all the buckles are stitched on, the holes are made. First they are marked out using the compasses.

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Then the holes are punched using a hole-punch, hit with a rawhide hammer (so it doesn't damage the top of the punch) with a lead-block underneath (lead is soft, so it doesn't harm, the punch).

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And this is the finished product. One black 'Hunt Cavesson' bridle, with rubber grip reins, made to measure, all ready to be packaged and sent to our customer. J

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Just a a guide it takes about 8 hours to complete a plain hunt cavesson bridle

Hope this was of interest to you and gives you an insight to a trade that is hundreds of years old.

Nutty

Edited by Nutty Saddler

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Fantastic! Thanks a lot. I love a good tutorial

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16 stitches per inch!? Bonkers! I'll bet that looks awesome.

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This is what it looks like - this pattern is stitched on a piece of leather that is 1 & 1/8" wide

The shamrock is stitched at 16 stitches per inch - double hand saddle stitch

The stalks are stitched at 17 stitches per inch - single needle backstitch with the overlay on top so it shows

026-2.jpg

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THAT IS A GREAT TUTORIAL! Thank you Nutty Saddler!!!!

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THANK YOU!!!! This is so timely for me. I'm replacing a cheek piece on a bridle right now and it's inspired me to make a bride. What width straps do you generally use?

On the piece that I'm replacing, the cheek piece is rounded with hidden stitches. I've done a couple of short test pieces to practice getting that part right, but I'm still having one problem. I end up with a round that is smaller in diameter than the original on the bridle. Would it be unusual for that part to be made from a tapered strap - wider at the part that is going to be rounded over and narrower on the flat part? or is there some trick to getting a maximum round from a given width strap?

I don't think there is any core or filler on these pieces.

Thanks again for a great demo!

Ann

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Alb ( Ann )

The width of straps I use is really dependant on the style of bridle and the size of the equine - a Pony cavesson bridle will have 1/2" straps almost everywhere where as a Percheron or Shire bridle will have straps of up-to 1" wide - the same goes for nosebands - the smallest noseband I've done was 7/8" wide , the largest was for a Breton and was 2" wide.

Round ( or Rolled ) leather

The rolled section of the leather is made from a wider piece of leather - so a cheekpiece of 5/8" wide will be cut from a strip 1" wide - the bliiet and buckle end will need to be shaped down to the 5/8" width - the rolled section will need to be thinned a little to make ti easier to roll . There is not normally a core to rolled work unless it is very large such as a rolled throat on a headcollar.

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Thank you nutty sadler. I have just started making a bridle for my daughter who is into equestrian. I am pretty much a newby to leatherwork and this tutorial is great. Keep up the good work and happy new year to all.

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Great tutorial!

Where did you get the creaser and stitch hole punch??

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In the US, Booth& Co, sells Dixon tools. The website looks like they only have leather, but keep looking, there is a whole catalog of tools.

Kevin

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Yea I definately need to find some pricking irons for bridle work. Thanks for posting this!

Yea I definately need to find some pricking irons for bridle work. Thanks for posting this!

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I was doing some searching around on the subject since I have several bits that need bridles made for them and a one-ear bridle the might need to be remade entirely. While on my search, I ran across some really good information on the subject of measuring the bridle parts and your horse they are to be made for. I realize that part of this information is listed above, but having a good pictorial reference is very indispensable for those of us that are visual learners.

So, here they are...

How to measure your horse for individual bridal parts: This one has a PDF that you can download.

How to Translate Horse Measurements to Bridle Parts: This one also has a PDF that you can download.

Bridal sizing guide: This one provides a decent average for horse/pony sizes if you plan to be making bridals and halters that aren't earmarked for a specific animal.

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What are you using for thread? What's the secrete to laying out the design on the nose band?? Do you ever use that tiger thread? If so what sizes? Thanks! -Andrew

Edited by awharness

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I joined this group thanks to that tutorial, it's fabulous. Thanks very much!!

When you skive off, for example buckle seats or keeper thickness, do you dye the inside of the skive if so, what do you use? Do you use Edge Kote for the edges?

Can we pursuade you to do a rolled leather tutorial?

Fiona

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I joined this group thanks to that tutorial, it's fabulous. Thanks very much!!

When you skive off, for example buckle seats or keeper thickness, do you dye the inside of the skive if so, what do you use? Do you use Edge Kote for the edges?

Can we pursuade you to do a rolled leather tutorial?

Fiona

I too would love to see a rolled leather tutorial.

Johanne

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Sorry for the delay in replying but I have been off forum for a while.

The thread I use is 3/18 reverse twist linen thread that I pull through beeswax prior to use.

I use an edge stain on all exposed edges and on all skived/split surfaces.

Patterns are normally drawn on paper to get looking right and to get the correct size , this is then pinned into place ( using the pricking marks for holes) and traced over which leaves the pattern on the leather - this takes a bit of practice as you only get one chance to get it right . The pattern is then pricked out - sometimes one prick at a time - stitching is also a careful process as if a thread is pulled too tight it can tear the pattern , pattern stitching is completed with 3/25 thread.

I get my threads and stains from ABBEY England

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