Tag Archives: tips & tricks

Repairin’ for Erin: Straightening a Bent Leg

My friend Erin is a dedicated and accomplished hobbyist. Among other things, she is a committed and skillful performance shower…

English Performance Champion at Breyerfest 2013

English Performance Champion at Breyerfest 2013

…and makes top quality western tack:

Pleasure saddle made in 2014

Pleasure saddle made in 2014

Erin has been wonderfully generous with her knowledge, helping me learn about working with leather and improve my performance entries. So I was excited to find an opportunity to me to use my skills to help her out in kind.

Although Erin’s short foray into oil painting was pretty successful, she doesn’t do any customizing or repairs herself. Being a clumsy person, I’ve inevitably learned to repair models. Earlier this month I was visiting Erin and found several horses to kidnap and repair. I figured I could do some mini tutorials as I went.

The first horse in need is a OF Stablemate Arabian Mare who was formerly a part of Erin’s mini show string. Alas, Miss Pinto has been staying home since she developed a bent foreleg.

Ouch! That can't be comfortable.

Ouch! That can’t be comfortable.

Bent legs are a relatively common problem in plastic models and can be caused by heat, pressure or a combination of the two. You can prevent bent legs by protecting your horses from extreme temperatures (e.g. never leaving them in a hot car) and packing them carefully for any transport.

Fixing a bent leg on a show quality model follows the same general practice as bending a leg while customizing- only you need to be much more careful about the finish. Overheating an area can cause the plastic to bubble.

To make this repair, you’ll need a heat gun, a wide bowl of cool water (big enough to dunk your horse into), and something to protect your hands while you shift the leg. I use an old pair of thick socks. The plastic will be hot when you touch it, and you will burn yourself without something over your skin. Trust me.

Curious cats are optional but encouraged.

Curious cats are optional but encouraged.

The key to this is to take your time. With your hand protection on, turn on the heat gun and wave it back and forth slowly over the bent leg, keeping the gun about 3/4″-1″ away from the horse to prevent damaging the finish. Move the gun so that every side of the leg gets heat. Bends are generally going to happen between joints. Pinpoint the place you need to manipulate to fix it, and aim to get that whole area warm.

Erins Arab Mare - heating area

The red block shows where I’m aiming the heat for this fix

After a minute or so, gently try to bend the leg back into the correct place. If it doesn’t move easily, heat it a bit more and try again. Once you’ve got the leg in the position you want, dunk it into the bowl of water. That cools the leg and (hopefully) keeps it in the new position.

Erins Arab Mare - cooling

Once the leg is moved some, check your horse again. Is further bending needed?

Frances is skeptical

Frances is skeptical

If the leg is being stubborn, heat and move it again. Something you have to do this a couple times to get it right, as the leg naturally wants to move back into the bent position. Be firm, and show the leg who’s boss… but gently and slowly, so as not to damage the finish.

The final result: showable once again!

The final result: showable once again!

With only about ten minutes of fiddling, this mare now has a straightened leg. She’s ready to go back out on the show table!


Timely Tack Tutorials

So I’ve had blogging on my to-do list all week and failed to check it off… I shall strive for betterment in that department. Meanwhile, other bloggers are sharing brilliant tips that I am carefully cataloging for future use.

I have been keeping my tutorials page more or less up to date, and trying to organize and list all of the best model horse tutorials out there. Two of my most recent additions are particularly awesome and deserve special notice.

The first is a DIY English stirrup tutorial from Ebb&Flow Studio. This tutorial is both simple and brilliant. The finished products look realistic and lovely, and are made out of simple materials that most hobbyists probably already have on hand.

I both rejoiced and cursed inwardly when I first read this tutorial- it was only a week or so earlier that I finally caved and bought cast stirrups! I am going to NAN this coming year (more on that in future posts!) and I need a new English set for Nightfox. I’ve been making my own stirrups, but I decided to pull out all the stops for my NAN debut. (After re-reading Dreamflite Design’s stirrups review, I went with the Horsing Around ones). But I definitely plan to use the Ebb&Flow tutorial for future projects!

Nightfox in English at NW Congress. Lots of things to improve before NAN!

Nightfox in English at NW Congress. Lots of things to improve before NAN!

The second tutorial that rocked my world this week is from Grace Ledoux (Stage Left Studios) by way of Anna Kirby of Dreamflite Design. Back in 2012, Anna wrote a lovely little tutorial about cutting lace for mini tack. She showed how she used double sided tape and a metal ruler to get very thin, very straight lace pieces. At the time, I was not making much tack and was not that motivated towards this kind of perfection. My loss!

I’ve struggled in past tack projects with getting nice pieces of lace, especially getting consistent widths of narrow lace appropriate for mini tack. When I saw Grace’s lovely thin straps at Sweet Onion, I was re-inspired and she said that Anna’s method was the secret to her lace. Then, last week, she posted a video tutorial showing the method.

I am so looking forward to using this method for my next tack project! Teeny beautiful straps will be mine!

Lovely wee straps on a Stage Left Studios bridle

Lovely wee straps on a Stage Left Studios bridle


So behind!

Yikes! Can you believe it’s already August? I mean, I can, I just wish it wasn’t. I could use another month to catch up on… everything.

One thing I’m very behind on is blogging. I have a lot of pictures and progress waiting to be shared. The other thing I’m behind on are my goals for the Rose City Live at the beginning of September. Here’s what I’m hoping to get done by then:

  • repair Nightfox’s finish
  • finish acrylic details on Hale resin- and name him!
  • sculpt, cast, and paint a rider for Nightfox
  • prep and paint Chryselephantine 2.0
  • repair and repaint Alpo

WIP herd 8-2-13

And here’s where I am on those goals:

  • Nightfox has some acrylic repair, but needs socking and pastel
  • Hale needs work on his hooves, eyes, and chestnuts. Also a name.
  • The rider is sculpted and awaits casting- more on this later!
  • Chryselephantine is just getting her first layer of acrylic, along with last minute details like veining.
  • Alpo has a new leg but still needs to be sanded and get his tail back on. Plus painting!

So I have a long way to go. Right now I’m waiting for Blick Art to open, so I’m taking the time to catch up the blog on my recent antics! For there are many.

As mentioned above, Chryelephantine is finally getting some paint!

Chrys - acrylic layer

I don’t always do an acrylic layer before pastels, but it can be helpful in speeding up the process. Plus, I’m trying to follow the basic steps I used on an earlier palomino that I really liked, and this is how I started. Also, this light color does a great job of showing last minute blemishes that need to be fixed before I move into pastels.

During this stage, I am also adding last minute details with modeling paste. To show the part of her mane that is shaved (as per Saddlebred show standards) I did a layer of modeling paste along her bridlepath to the forelock, with a bit of shaved-hair texture.

Chrys - bridle path

She also got added veining and some neck wrinkles. Next she’ll get a bunch of socking, and then it’s time to add pastels! I’m really excited to get her in clothes.

Lots more stuff coming… my first adventures in resin casting! Building a full-scale panel jump! General madness! Stay tuned :)

The Start of a Roan

I had planned on painting my roan draft stallion using acrylic paint to do hair-by-hair roaning. But after a couple sessions, I really wasn’t satisfied with how it was looking. At the same time, I ran across part one of a nice roaning tutorial by Amanda Brock (Rogue Horse Studio) and Caryn showed me her first roan (done with a similar pastel technique) who was turning out quite nicely.

Caryn's horse (in progress). Can you believe that's her first roan?

Caryn’s horse (in progress). Can you believe that’s her first roan?

Inspired, I washed the acrylic roaning off my resin and started to work on him with pastels and pencil. He already had a sealed blue-grey-brown base coat, and I started in on some white pastel using Amanda’s stippling technique. I also added some hairing detail with colored pencils. I was all ready to start doing some serious hairing with white charcoal when I dropped him on the floor. Sigh.

I was actually pretty lucky- all he lost was an ear. But it took me another few hours of work to get him whole again.

Building a new ear using Sarah Rose's super glue and baking soda technique

Building a new ear using Sarah Rose’s super glue and baking soda technique

After shaping his new ear, it took a few coats of acrylic to get it somewhat matching again. Then finally, using my white charcoal pencil, I started adding individual white hairs.

hale - hair roaning started

It’s crucially important when doing hair-by-hair roaning to a.) keep your pencil very sharp and b.) keep references handy. I’m using multiple hair growth charts (download them here) as well as close up pictures of flanks, armpits, and other tricky areas.

Keeping the pencil sharp enough to draw hairs on a stablemate scale resin requires a lot of sharpening. I used a regular sharpener plus sandpaper. You have to do it almost constantly, and that means you go through a lot of pencil.

When I started roaning, I had two full sized pencils.

When I started roaning, I had two full sized pencils.

Happily, there’s an art store within walking distance so I was able to pop out one afternoon and buy six more pencils to use.

hale - charcoal pencils 2

I’ve got a whole collection of nubbins now, but I’m done with the first layer of hair detailing.

Even with all the sharpening, it’s basically impossible to get all the little hairs quite right. To keep things from being too stark, I go over each section with a medium-stiffness brush, keeping with the direction of the hair growth. It smudges the drawn hairs slightly and takes off any excess dust, which softens the detailing in a nice, more realistic way. I seal each layer with Dull Cote before moving on to the next. As with pastels, the sealer “pushes back” the color a bit which also helps prevent any stark lines.

On his neck and shoulder, the hairs have been brush-softened and sealed with Dull Cote. The starker hairs on his barrel have just been drawn in with the pencil.

On his neck and shoulder, the hairs have been brush-softened and sealed with Dull Cote. The starker hairs on his barrel have just been drawn in with the pencil.

I’ve been finding time to do a bit of work every night, and by today the first layer of hair-by-hair roaning is done. I need to do a bit more blending in some areas, but I’m going to give him a break for a bit so I can come back with a fresh eye. I also might work a bit on his acrylic details so I can better picture how his coat color will look on the finished horse.

I’m still working on a name for him- I’d like to find something from French Brittany, since the Breton breed is from there. It’s an area highly influenced by Welsh and Gaelic language, which is always fun.

Martouf the Strawberry Blond

I’m continuing to work on Martouf as time allows. I was able to put in some really good time on him last weekend, and I can really see his body color coming together now.

martouf - 2-22-13

His mane and tail are a complex color. As a chestnut-going-grey, he’s got a whole bunch of tones in there. I was actually a little afraid to start working on the hair at all, but I got brave yesterday. My main reference horse has a reddish mane with greys around the roots and a lot of variation. I started out by gathering together a bunch of colors that might work. I used Jaime Baker’s brilliant tip about comparing to a printed reference page to find out which I really wanted to use.

martouf forelock - colors

Martouf already had a very thin light chestnut coat over his hair to help me visualize. I started adding in the other colors, keeping an eye on my reference and also on the overall flow of color in the sculpted mane. My technique was basically to keep adding color, in thinner and thinner lines. If there was a swath of one color that I could fit my brush into, that meant it needed another line of a different color added.

martouf forelock 01

Besides varying the colors, it’s really important to make sure you find and paint every bit of sculpted mane or tail. Sometimes it’s hard to get at, for example, the edges of a lock of hair, but it’s really important to maintain the realistic “weight” of the hair.

martouf forelock 02

Also, note the color of the shorter hairs where the mane meets the body color. Often those are the color of the body more than the mane. I used some Titan Buff to transition between the white/grey of his body to the reds and darker greys in his hair.

martouf forelock 03

In the last picture his forelock is about 95% done. I still need to add a few more bits, but I ran out of time. I’ll add that when I tackle the tail- but I want to wait til I have 2-3 free hours before I start that!

Great Painting Tip from Jamie Baker

Jamie Baker is a great model horse artist, and is always very generous with sharing her techniques. She shared a brilliant (and so simple!) technique on Blab that I definitely plan to use.

Jamie Baker tip screenshot

This idea is a cool compatriot for another tip from Blab about visualizing colors, which I posted about previously.

Have I mentioned I can’t wait to start painting again?

This post needed a picture. Check out the butt on this gorgeous guy!

This post needed a picture. Check out the butt on this gorgeous guy! I know it’s the angle but… dayum. Cool reference for the pangare, too.

Too Much Fun with Organization

I love a lot of things about this hobby- I love the horsey aspect, the learning, the crafting, the people… and I love how often it gives me an excuse to organize. I loooove organizing. I get maybe a scary amount of pleasure from things like binder tabs and well formatted lists.

In preparation for the show this weekend, I wanted to better organize my documentation. Sure, I had it all laminated and in plastic sleeves, but isn’t it just an absolute hardship that I had more than one in each sleeve and sometimes they covered each other and I couldn’t tell exactly where they were? Oh, the humanity!

So armed with a stapler and some fresh sleeves (not too fresh- they’re from Goodwill) I set about making a pocket for each reference.

A line of staples down the middle keep the two references from sliding around, and a slit down the right side of the bottom one provides a way to slip the bottom paper in and out.

I did the same for performance and separated the two with sticky-note tabs to make things even handier. I’m very pleased with this method. The individual pockets also allow me to easily store relevant notes with reference material. For example, my little sketch that reminds me how far apart lope-over poles should be can be tucked in with the western trail pattern.

I was a little bit stymied when it came to organizing my wee little text only bits (for pleasure classes or other relatively simple events). I almost gave up and put them all together in a sleeve, but was saved from that terrible tragedy by some sweet card holder sleeves (again from Goodwill). These divided each sheet into four pockets, and from there I could easily delineate more with staples. Voila!

It’s beautiful. My heart will sing a little song every time I use my handy dandy newly organized reference binder. Is it Saturday yet?