SADDLERS SECRETS

The Empire Troop Horse Ordance Supplies, by Donna Nobilo

SADDLERS SECRETS

Postby sundown » Fri Sep 21, 2007 6:57 pm

Welcome to the first of a monthly bulletin where hints and tips about caring for leather and other items you may have in your collections. Some of these directions come from international Museum standard practice, others from experience in knowing what works. No responsibility will be accepted from the use, or otherwise, of these ideas.

Your TradeMe purchase has just arrived or you've returned home with your clearing sale treasure - what do you do with it now? Generally our Military items are made of several organic materials and various metals all requiring different treatments. Of course you can do nothing to your object but hang it on the wall. That's fine but if you intend using it, as in the case of a belt, bandolier or saddle, then some treatment is desirable - especially if your clearing sale saddle has sat in the corner of a shed being used as a perch by generations of hens!

Firstly, in the case of a saddle intended for use on a horse, it must be sound - your life depends on it!. Cracked or rotten leather and broken boards are dangerous and such saddles should not be used for riding in. Wooden boards suffer from Borer, a few small holes may be all that's visable. These indicate where the beetle exited AFTER it had chewed its way around the interior leaving a myriad of tunnels and rendering the wood weak. To assertain if borer are present place the item in a clean plastic bag and seal. After a few days fresh dust will be noticed if the borer are active . Treatment is labourious, Pyrethrim based insect killers available from hardware stores in the "NO" brand mixed with Kerosene instead of water and injected by hypodermic needle into every hole will deal with the grubs. Check boards for cracks, usually caused by a horse rolling on the saddle, and rusted rivets with worn holes which cause the saddle to move, creating strain on the steel arches and a sore back for your horse. Providing all is well with your boards you can treat them with a wash with sunlight soap and when dry oil with a mix of turps and linseed oil (one cup turps to 1 tablespoon oil) on a clean rag well rubbed in and left to dry. Dont clean with meths based cleaner as it will remove the original shellac finish.

1902 UP saddle (pictured) as found under a pile of junk in a farm shed, the white film is a few years of liberal mutton fat dressing!. This saddle was originally owned by Lt Col Doug Morrison who, as Major commanded the North Auckland Mounted Rifles in 1938. Doug resides in Whangarei and still enjoys his weekly pool at the RSA - at a sprightly 103 years young!
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Re: SADDLERS SECRETS

Postby greg » Sun Sep 23, 2007 7:18 pm

Hi Donna,

Do we have a before and after saddle??
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Re: SADDLERS SECRETS

Postby sundown » Sun Sep 23, 2007 7:54 pm

Hi Greg
My intention is to take you through the stages of restoring the saddle. Next month will be the webbing, then the arches etc etc. This will keep you in suspense and you will have to come back to view progress!
Cheers
Donna
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Re: SADDLERS SECRETS

Postby nbroadarrowz » Sun Sep 23, 2007 11:38 pm

Dear Sundown,
This series is great and I look forward to following it.
Have you made up and used the leather preserving recipe in our book?
The first thing a collector should do in the excitiment of getting a new peice is
'NOTHING'. Speaking from experience, things have gone wrong when I have rushed into preservation and storage of my new finds.
Barry
Student, researcher,collector and co-author 'New zealand Army personal equipment 1910-1945' ISBN 0-9582535-9-5
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Re: SADDLERS SECRETS

Postby Jonsig » Mon Sep 24, 2007 12:23 am

Hi Donna

This is all very interesting, I have a product that i use and it works well, plus it does not change the colour of the leather.
It would be nice to see that saddle after it has been cleaned up

Jonathan
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Re: SADDLERS SECRETS

Postby sundown » Tue Oct 02, 2007 9:11 pm

OCTOBER.
Thank you for your comments, I will touch on the leather dressing in a further issue. In the meantime, having stripped our saddle and assertained the boards are usable we turn to the webbing. The webbing used originally was English straining web this must be strained properly so it does not sag when the saddle gets wet. Nylon seat belting is, unfortunatlely, commonly used and is quite unsuitable - both in looks and practicality. The webbing on this saddle was beyond redemption so was carefully taken off - never throw anything away that might be useful as a pattern later. This left some very rusty steel arches. The rivets were rusted and needed replacing so they were ground off with a dremel and removed. What to do with the arches? You could sandblast but this can do more damage than good. An excellent gentle, rust destroyer can be made from molassas, obtained from your local farm store, cheap and easy. About a cup of molassas to ten litres of water put in a plastic container with a good fitting lid - if your object is larger then you will have to find a bigger container and use more liquid. Warning: your neighbours pets will find the smell irrestible - unlike the neighbours themselves! Keep it covered and outside! Depending on the amount of rust it will take from a few weeks to a month or more to convert, when done you simply wash in clean water and leave to dry. The molassas creates a coating which will prevent further rusting and can be painted over with a good primer/paint system. It will not affect the original sound paint or other metals, and is quite good for cleaning up nickel and brass which has bad veregris (greening) these include stirrups, bits, buckles etc. After the molassas had done it's thing the arches were given a coat of POR gloss black and re-riveted to the boards, ready for rewebbing.
Picture shows completed tree.
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Re: SADDLERS SECRETS

Postby greg » Tue Oct 02, 2007 9:37 pm

Hi Donna,

Does the molassas affect leather?
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Re: SADDLERS SECRETS

Postby sundown » Wed Oct 03, 2007 8:24 am

Hi Greg
The molassas solution is only for removing rust from steel. No it probabaly wouldnt affect the leather but I would not advise soaking leather in it for weeks. Dismantle whatever you want to treat first. If you have something which cant be dismantled, for instance a rusty buckle on a leather strap, then you will have to resort to carefully treating with a commercial rust converter and emery cloth. Wrap the leather with a few rounds of masking tape to protect it.
I forgot to mention the molassas solution will keep for ages and can be used over and over.
Cheers
Donna
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Re: SADDLERS SECRETS

Postby sundown » Thu Nov 01, 2007 10:13 am

NAMR Pennant.jpg
North Auckland Mounted Rifles Pennant showing damage by moth
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One of the most destructive pests you will come across in Military object conservation will be the moth - or rather the grub before it turns into a moth (the moth has no mouth parts so cannot eat). The grub is virtually a set of jaws of life attatched to an expandable storage bag with a huge appetite and munches its' way through wool (ie felt), leather and most other untreated organic products. The grub then pupates in a tough cloth-like coccoon which it spins in hard to get at areas like seams, under buckles and linings and the insides of canteens. Spraying with insecticide has little effect, the best way to deal with these guys is freezing. Museums use this method as an excellent way to control most pests and can be used safely on textiles, leather and wood. Home freezing would suit uniforms, numnahs, canteens , hats, boots etc.
Possibly a good start is to ask "Mum" if it's ok to put your beloved saddlery amongst the apple pies and peas first! Next place your dry object in a plastic bag - supported if necessary by heavy card or thin wood, to keep from bending. Remove as much air as possible from the bag and secure with a tie. Write the date on the bag. Leave in the freezer for AT LEAST TWO WEEKS - this ensures the grubs body has completely shut down - they can survive being frozen for short periods. DO NOT bend the object whilst it is frozen or you will have several pieces when it thaws out! After the freezing period leave in the bag and place somewhere safe to thaw naturally for at least 24 hours.
Of course you will have to be vigilent and make sure further generations of moths do not invade your collections. Natural pyrethrim based sprays in the form of Robocans are a good deterrent and can be used safely in sheds or homes.
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Re: SADDLERS SECRETS

Postby sundown » Sat Dec 01, 2007 6:09 pm

Morrison Saddle.jpg
Lt Col Doug Morrisons saddle after restoration
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DECEMBER LEATHER CARE AND CONSERVATION
There is as much written on this subject as there are stars in the sky. However I am a firm believer that the old blokes knew what they were doing, after all there was no such thing as synthethics in their day - everything was made of leather.

If your leather object is to stay on a shelf in your collection then you need do no more than to, perhaps, dust it. A vacumn cleaner with an upholstory brush head attatchment is a non invasive way of gently removing hard to get to accumulations of dust and dirt. For very grubby gear a careful wash with sunlight soap and lukewarm water is good. Avoid over soaking and excessive scrubbing as this will damage the leather surface - a good cleaning tool is made from a rolled up wad of hair from your obliging mounts mane or tail. Try using a pencil eraser on stubborn marks when dry.

Saddle soap is excellent for new gear or objects which are to be in regular use. Most saddle soaps contain glycerine which help preserve and soften leather. Glycerine also encourages mould growth and its use is to be avoided if leather is going to be stored for any length of time. NEVER use household cleaners or silicone products on leather.

Dry leather naturally (ie not in the sun or by excessive heat) it was a punishable offence in the Mounted Rifles to be caught drying your saddlery by the fire! When dry a conditioner will need to be applied to replace the natural lubricants lost during storage and/or use. The "modern" excuse for not conditioning leather is that oils rot the stitching. Rubbish! There have been scientific studies done by Master Saddlers in the 1990"s to prove that pure neatsfoot oil (not compound) does not rot leather or thread. What will rot it, however, is water and salt (sweat - both yours and your horse's) in other words lack of cleaning and conditioning. Up to 10% of the weight of any new leather item is fat and oils added in the tanning process, this must be maintained or the life span of the leather will be compromised.

Leather conditioners are available in a mind boggling array in Saddlery Shops. Because of the amount, and subsequent cost, which I was using with the Museum items I began experimenting with making my own conditioner. I have an English Saddlers Training Manual which was given to apprentices in 1904. In it are several good recipes for leather dressings one of which was adopted by the British Army and is in Barry and Mathew OSullivan's excellent book "NZ Army Personal Equipment". The 1904 Manual also has several recipes for leather dyes which includes one in which the main ingredient is urine. Of course urine is ammonia which is widely used in the leather industry and would have been in plentiful supply given that hundreds of men worked in the saddlery industry. Needless to say this recipe remains untried! The British Museum gave me a recipe for a leather preservative which they use and I "improved" on this to use here, our sub tropical climate dictated the need for a "dry" mould repelling preserver. To date this has been a great success.

Use conditioner and oils sparingly - little and often. Allow to dry and buff with a soft cloth. Some products contain beeswax - this is added as a polish and also for it's waterproofing value.

Store leather items in a warm, dry, well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight and heat. Cover with a cotton sheet - never use plastic.
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Re: SADDLERS SECRETS

Postby sundown » Tue Jan 01, 2008 11:57 am

CONSERVATION AND STORAGE OF PHOTOS AND DOCUMENTS

Whilst not exactly a Saddlers domain the conservation and storage of Photos, Maps, Letters, Diaries etc is of value to our collectors. The correct storage of these items is necessary if we are to hand them on in good order to following generations and makes the life of Museum staff easier if the items are in good condition when given to them for safe keeping.

First there is one important factor we must take into consideration and that is everything on this planet is decaying. Weather it is rock, wood, metal, flesh or fibre, it is breaking down and as it does so it gives off gas - pollution. Pollutants effect other materials and cause their decay to speed up, probably the best example of this is the tarnishing of brass or silver caused by pollutants in the air - ask anyone living in Rotorua. Sources of pollutants effecting collections would likely be MDF (customwood), rubber, sponge foam and expanded polystryene type products, plastics, paper, cardboard and wool. The gases produced by these materials commonly found in our houses and used to store precious items will, ironically, hasten the decay of the item we set about "saving". Many photos of the 1970's will now be ruined having been being placed in a plastic filmed "removable" album where the photos are now permanently stuck to the pages and the ink breaking down, along with the album!

So what to do with our military items when displaying? Any MDF, customwood, etc should be sealed with an Acrylic paint system or waterbased polyurethane (three coats at least) and allowed to dry and gas off for two weeks before adding objects. Fabrics such as linen, cotton, polyester and nylon are acceptable as linings for boxes, backings etc but should be washed before being used.

Acid free tissue, acid free cardboard and boxes and acid free photo albums are available at good stationery and packaging stores. They should be the only thing used for the storage of photos and doucuments. Wrap clothing and flags in acid free tissue and place flat in boxes. Silver fish bait is available from pest eradication firms, do not used moth balls as these give off gas!

Always use a graphite pencil for writing on backs of photos and on storage boxes - never felts or biros as these will move through the paper. To label a garment use an Artline pen to write on a cotton label or tag then sew to the inside of the garment (or tie on a label).

Use acid free card to back maps, documents or photos when framing. Most frame shops will do this for you as part of their conservation framing. Using glass when mounting items will help keep damaging UV light from the object. Avoid displaying items for long periods in direct sunlight.

Try to record any details of your items history including where you got it, how much it cost etc. You might know these things but unless recorded they are lost to your family when you depart for greener pastures. Computers discs are excellent for recording such details but also have downfalls. The British Museum has all its records backed up on acid free paper written in graphite pencil - guaranteed to last 500 years!
Display Case.jpg
This fine case was made by Trooper Duncan Alison Martins' family.
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1914 Letter.jpg
Letter written in 1914 stored, folded, in plastic album showing decay to the extent where it is almost impossible to read
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Re: 1912 Universal Pattern Saddle

Postby sundown » Fri Feb 01, 2008 3:24 pm

[The jointed front and rear arch saddle was invented in Austria by a village saddler in the mid 1800's. Around 1887 it was bought to the attention of the Inspector General of Cavalry, General Keith Fraser CMG, British Army, who decided this was indeed, just what the troops required.

Patent No. 25340 (1909) was applied for by Major James Morton of Brockley, London, in October 1910 and was accepted in January 1911 as "Improvements in Riding Saddles for horses, mules and other animals". The invention was described thus: "to employ two side bars pivotally connected together by arches and the said side bars have, in some cases, been twisted longitudinally so as to better fit the shape of the animals back. The side bars are provided with flat surfaces upon which the arches are pivotally mounted so disposed that the axis of the front and rear pivots are in alignment. Means are also provided whereby the front arch may be inseperably pivoted or hinged to the side bars and whereby the rear arch may be aditionally strengthened".

A Patent for a similar hinged tree was applied for in Canada by Frederick Mears in 1915. The 1912 Universal Pattern saddles were also made in South Africa and Australia, the majority being made in Australia.

Whilst the idea of a tree which altered as the horse lost or gained condition seemed a good one the 1912 UP saddle was not extensively used by the Commonwealth Armies. However Pack Saddles built on a similar tree were in wide spread use right through into the Second World War. There seems to be no official documentation on why the 1912 UP did not superscede the 1902 Universal Pattern Saddle as it was approved to do. Perhaps the rule of using up the existing stock before issuing the new meant the huge store of 1902 UP's almost lasted the 1914/18 Period out.

A more likely scenario for the 1912 UP not leaving the starting blocks was that it's "good features" were also it's worst. The tree was 10% heavier than the 1902 UP tree - at a time when reducing the weight carried by the Troop Horses was a major consideration. Sand and grit accumulated around the hinged parts of the tree which quickly wore away. The saddle was far more labour intensive to make than the 1902 UP, the hinged tree and double webbing system meant a new way of fixing the flaps and Numnahs. Thus requiring more material and labour costs and more time for already over-worked Saddlers with a more difficult job "in the field" for repairs. Indeed there must have been a few uniformed saddlers muttering under their moustaches. All this for an "improved saddle" which, unlike the 1902 Universal Pattern which fitted nine out of ten horses well, fitted only one out of every ten horses.

This 1912 Universal Pattern saddle is stamped NZ^D and has the Patent Number 25340 1909 stamped on the left hand board and H.G.R 1915 as the maker. The boards are marked Raynes & Sons Ltd, London 1915. The Troopers' initials and service number are scratched on the cantle (N.W. 1/13/448) indicating it was probably used in the New Zealand Home Guard during World War Two.

1912 UP.jpg
1912 UP Saddle
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Numnah.jpg
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1912.jpg
flap attatchment detail
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1912 Universal Pattern Saddle

Postby sundown » Fri Feb 01, 2008 5:57 pm

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Rear Hinge Details
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Re: The Saddlers

Postby sundown » Sat Mar 01, 2008 6:00 pm

After August 1914 large Government orders for Universal Pattern Saddles, Pole Draft Harness and Equipment were pouring in. Some Saddlery firms soon found themselves employing ten, or more, times their usual number of workmen. Wages for harness makers varied between 7d and 8d (seven or eight cents) per hour for a week of 50 hours or more. Overtime was at the same rate with no deductions made, nor any payment for holidays or lost time due to sickness etc - unless the employer saw fit to do so. Around 1917 one British Saddlery firm ground to a halt as workmen went on strike over the making of Horse Shoe Pouches at 2/8 (28 cents) each. They went to arbritation and lost the day! Not only was speed a matter of pride to the Tradesman but also workmanship and neatness of hand sewing the likes of which can be seen today on Shoe Pouches with the stitches at 14-16 per inch.

Apprenticeships lasted seven years, sons often following Fathers into the same trade. The first year, at least, was spent making wax thread ends and, for a "real treat", sweeping the floor if they were good enough. They were then put out on the production line, between Tradesmen so they could recieve a "clip on the ear" when required. If they were lucky they would move along the production line within their working lifetime. The Boss's deliberately preventing their staff learning the trade completely so they couldnt leave the firm and start up in opposition. Tradesmen who worked for companies' with Government Contracts were sworn to secrecy taking their "trade secrets" with them to the grave.

New Zealand leather manufacturers rarely marked their goods with their name making it difficult to recognise nowadays. Wiggins of Christchurch being a major supplier to the NZ Government still had the old patterns of military leather goods until moving to Auckland in the 1970's when the patterns were dumped.

Australian manufacturers commonly seen are Holden & Frost. One of many companies also involved in the manufacture of motor vehicles to take up War Office contracts. Probably the largest British saddlery firms involved and possibly manufacturing the best quality items were H.G.R. (Hepburn Gale & Ross) and D. Mason & Sons.

Originally in Birmingham, England, as Horton & Grundy in 1762, Daniel Mason took over the firm in 1853 and set up his brown saddlery business. The firm moved to Walsall in 1902, setting up in Wisemore - now the site of the Walsall Leather Museum - then moving to Marsh Street in 1919.

In 1885 D. Mason & Sons supplied to the War Office goods to the value of nearly $150,000. That year they had an order for 2000 sets of saddlery forming a complete outfit for Cavalry and delivered the order within six weeks. Messrs Masons hold a record insomuch as for 68 years they were not a day without orders on their books from the British Government - a record which still stands today. In 1886 Mr Daniel Mason retired leaving the business to his two sons Rowland and Edward King Mason. They continued growing the the business, asorbing John Leckie & Co and becoming a Limited Company in 1918. D. Masons supplied the War Office through out World War One with pack and luggage saddles, bridles, belts, bandoliers and all manner of leather goods. By 1935 some 300 employees were involved in every facet of leather goods from the dressing of the leather, cutting out to the finished article, including sports equipment, fashion accessories and equestrian goods.

With the mechanical era in full swing the horse was pushed back into the background and with it went the leather industry. Many manufacturers went to the wall unable to move with the times. D. Mason & Sons continued trading until 1970 when they became part of Allied Leather, trading as Strand Leathergoods. They went into liquidation in 1996 thus ending an icon in Leather Maunfacturing.
D Mason & Sons.jpg
D. Mason & Sons 1910. Only Tradesmen were allowed to wear a tie. This also applied in NZ.
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Howitzer 1.jpg
Howitzer Ammunition Pannier for use with Pack Saddles. Full, they weighed 150 lbs each.
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howitzer2.jpg
3.7 Howitzer Ammunition Pannier made by JB Brookes 1917
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Re: SADDLERS SECRETS

Postby Jonsig » Thu Mar 06, 2008 7:02 pm

Hi Sundown

You have said ......Australian manufacturers commonly seen are H.G.R. (Hepburn Gale and Ross) I thought that was a Uk company?
Other companies names I have come across stamped on horse gear are....

H.Griss, IPSWICH
Bliss&Co
ADAMS
STUDEBAKER
W.ATKINS
R.DEWSBURRY & SONS
WILMOTBENNEIT, WALSALL

A.McDOUGALL&SONS
BHGltd
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