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Basic Saddle Stitch Tutorial By Nigel Armitage

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15 hours ago, Sheilajeanne said:

Wait - Baker's? Are they Mennonites? When I lived in Richmond Hill, there was a Baker's Harness Shop just a short distance from our house at Bathurst and Hwy. 7.  They did heavy horse harness, but also catered to local English riders, and their needs: light tack and saddles, tack repair, etc.

When the Bakers decided to give up their farm and sugar bush, and move to the States to join other Mennonites, a non-Mennonite named Carmen had already been apprenticed with Mr. Baker, and taken over the business. Since then, the shop has moved several times, and is now devoted to the needs of the local English riding fraternity only. They no longer make heavy horse harness.

https://www.bakerssaddlery.com/articles.asp?ID=83

Of course, I'm wondering if there's a connection between the Baker you mentioned, and the family I knew in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Maybe the harness making branch of the business followed Mr. Baker to the States, though I know you are in the U.K. Perhaps another branch of the same family?

Edit: not Mennonites, but Pennsylvania Dutch, which also includes Mennonites and Amish. I remember going into the shop where they sold maple syrup, and the women who were behind the counter had on long cotton print dresses, and lace bonnets. And the Bakers always used horsepower on the farm and in the sugar bush.

https://www.yorkregion.com/news-story/1455409-family-comes-to-grips-with-thornhill-development/

Sheilajeanne,    as what  Tannin writw, the Bakers I refer to as I am in the UK is Bakers tannery in Colyton Devon UK.  Thjey ar ethe oldest and last remianing tannery still producing the best quality oak bark tanned leather for the saddlery, Harness, leather goods and Cobbler trades.  their leather is the best we have in England and far excells the quality of any Veg tanned leathers which I rarely use. I doubt they will have any connection with the Bakers you refer to. There has been a Tannery on the same site since mid 1700's by all accounts and it has been in the same family for generatons.

 

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2 hours ago, Tannin said:

Phil, I am also impressed to read that you use a highly polished awl. Awl shaping , sharpening and polishing tips are always welcome here - if you care to share some? 

Being a relative novice I struggled a lot with that, even following some of Nigels excellent and helpful tips for stitching multiple layers (something he makes look straightforward of course!).  The problem being me and my inadequately prepared awls no doubt.  So more recently I have been using (hushed voice) a cheap Dremel-like tool to drill my holes after first marking them out with a pricking iron.  Would prefer to get away from the Dremel-lie tool but it improved my results in the short term (being a cheap copy it has only 1/10th the power rating of a real Dremel - that's ok for my needs, probably safer that way!).  I am a traditionalist at heart and dislike using power tools, esp. for leather work.

Tannin, regarding awls,  I do not sharpen them as sharp edged awls cut the leather too much when pusihng through the leather on the work I do. The very tip will be sharp enough to make the initial incision  then the first 1/3 of the blade is what open the hole up,  I want the hole to open up not be sliced open as when the stitch has been done and pulled to tension, this will close the hole up a bit as the thread will sort of re seal the awled holed.  Past the tip, the four facets are well polished. I will polish a new awl blade if I need to replace one but then after that, continuous use will also polish and keep the two edges smooth and sort of rounded so those two edges do not cut the leather, they sort of prise the fibres apart rather than cut, cutting the fibres will weaken the leather between stitches and this can cause problems later on when the work has been in it's intended use.

You will find veg tanned in mulitple layers is worse to sew than Oak Bark tanned, the fibres in Veg Tan tend to rip rather than accept a smooth awl as at times you will see fluff sticking out of an awled hole in veg tanned and the same when pulling a stitch through, Vrg tan is drier and more fibery inside as it isnt as greased as Oak Bart Tanned is. Oak Bark Tanned leathers have a much tighter fibre structure than Veg Tan. When sewing say 3 layers of Veg Tan, depending on the leather, you have to go through the first layer, pull the Awl out, go again, then might have to go again to make one awl hole, but with Oak Bark tanned you can glide through as if the leather is sucking the Awl blade in and once an Awl is going well with the Oak Bark, I rarely have to touch it again but also technique does come into play.  The awl blade I find needs to be more sharp sided to sew layers of Veg Tan, this is where it cuts the fibres which isnt good whereas a polished awl with more rounded sides will wedge stuck in Veg Tan as described above by having to go at a hole a couple of times, this could be where you are having Awl issues.   If you tried with Bakers Oak Bark tanned, you would be putting the Dremmil into a dark draw and leave it there.   what leather do you usually keep in for sewing. If I do polish an Awl, it is only done with Autosol on a dedicated strop for Autosol use only.  

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Thanks Phil. :) I have a large box of mixed  leather offcuts that I bought from an active saddle making company in the UK (I forget their name, would have to look it up).  The quality, and smell, of the leather seems excellent to my untrained eye/nose, especially the thicker stuff.  Various colours (black/tan/brown), thicknesses and surface textures.  It met most of my needs so far, very well.  Not sure if some/all of it would be oak tanned.  I'm guessing oak tanned leather sells at a premium.  Not sure how common it is for saddle making(?) these days.  I think some of it is used for high end shoes too.  Perhaps I should look at making something nice from oak tan - but perhaps improve my awl work first.

Edited by Tannin

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14 hours ago, Tannin said:

Thanks Phil. :) I have a large box of mixed  leather offcuts that I bought from an active saddle making company in the UK (I forget their name, would have to look it up).  The quality, and smell, of the leather seems excellent to my untrained eye/nose, especially the thicker stuff.  Various colours (black/tan/brown), thicknesses and surface textures.  It met most of my needs so far, very well.  Not sure if some/all of it would be oak tanned.  I'm guessing oak tanned leather sells at a premium.  Not sure how common it is for saddle making(?) these days.  I think some of it is used for high end shoes too.  Perhaps I should look at making something nice from oak tan - but perhaps improve my awl work first.

Your welcome.     I would say that as the offcuts come from an active saddle making company I would have thought it will be Veg Tan. That is most common everywere nowadays and I cant say I see or hear of saddles being produced form Oak Bark.  It is distinctive in its smell and feel that Veg tan does not have and you dont see Oak Bark tan bridles and tack etc in tack shops or see finished bridle and tack products in Oak Bark advertisd as that on line. There is plenty of trouser belt makers using it and shoe and boot makers.    When I speak to folk about Oak Bark, they generally say Ooh that must be premium priced and expensive but no, it is on a par with Sedewicks, you'll be paying about the same but Oak Bark is the superior.  I charge it out at £14 per 1 inch strip for harness backs and sedgewicks is the same, and both the same for bridle butts and strapping shoulders.  Oak Bark bridle butts can be stiffer leather as it's not as heavily greased as harness backs than Veg tan on purchase but over time once its been worked and then put to use n a horse then it supples up with grease feed to be the best feeling supple leather imaginable in a way Veg Tan doesnt.  In my mind Veg Tan goes soft and floppy rather than what I call supple and firm.

Edited by philg9

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