Figuring out the best way to attach stirrup leathers to a saddle is one of the biggest challenges when you're trying to teach yourself how to make miniature tack. I briefly touched on this when I wrote about developing my new tree-making technique. Now that I have been using that technique for a while I am still very pleased with this technique as I think it gives the most realistic and accurate effect. My stirrup leathers and the way they attach to the saddle is just like real life, in that you can pull the top of the leather down to adjust using a buckle, and the stirrup leather can be slipped off the back of the stirrup bar in an 'emergency'. But they are still very secure. Recessed bars mean that there is less bulk under the riders leg, and I have found that this was the hardest thing to get right.
I start by marking up the tree with permanent marker. The black dot in the photo above represents the level that my bar will sit. I use the pattern for the skirt to make sure that the bar will sit about half way down the skirt, so there will be enough skirt leather to cover the bar and stirrup buckle, but it isn't so high up that you can't access it.
I use a dremel with a 3/64" diameter drill bit to drill the holes. This is the right size for my silver wire which is 1mm diameter. I use silver coated wire as it is strong yet malleable. I thread about 3-4mm through and then crimp the wire using pliers. I then use my mini anvil and my jewellers hammer to gently hammer the wire until it squashed flat and almost flush with the brass tree, as seen below.
By doing this, the wire is effectively locked into position. I also flatten the wire along the length of the bar a little, again to cut down any bulk. Then the bars get trimmed a little, not to their final length as I will do a final trim when the skirt gets put on. I want to make sure it's long enough so that the stirrup leather is unlikely to slip of during normal use, but not so long that you can't get the leather onto the end of it.
The completed metal tree with finished stirrup bars.
The next instalment will look at the next stages and how the bars look when the flaps and skirts are introduced.