The Awl & Needle
About Our Tack
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Unique, quality goods are produced by hand in the traditional style from cutting to finishing.

Tools Traditional equipment and hand tools give a unique character to each piece, unmatched by today's mass-produced commercial tack. All pieces are handcut, edged, burnished, stitched and dyed with individual attention to detail and craftsmanship. The result is tack of outstanding strength and beauty. Tack that, properly cared for, can last a lifetime.

Leather is our primary consideration when it comes to creating quality tack. We use only genuine English Bridle Leather, specifically tanned to meet the demands and quality sought after in fine tack. Strength, luster, closeness of grain and back finish are just a few features that are to be considered. Other tannage, such as side leather, strap leather or belt leather, which are often used in commercial tack, are not meant to be used to create quality, durable tack that will last for years, and improve over time with proper care.

Each piece of leather is carefully selected from the hide and hand cut. There is no assembly line approach using mechanized cutting - a machine does not detect flaws and weakness in the leather. Such flaws are detected through handling and examination. Although they may not be readily visible, they will show themselves in time.

Creasing is another unique trait of hand crafting. After each piece of leather is selected and cut, it is moistened and allowed to become almost dry - at which time a fine crease is run down each edge. The edges of the piece are worked so that the sharp 90° edges are smoothed. This allows for a smooth feel in hand and protects the surface of the leather from being pulled and disrupted. Quality is in the attention to detail - when the edging comes to a point the crease will follow the entire perimeter as opposed to running off the end - closure of the crease is a true feature of hand crafted detail.

Peter Sewing In a Bridle, the Crown Band features two straps divided from one solid piece of leather - one strap to the throat latch and one to the cheek piece. When leather is cut to facilitate this feature, the end of the cut is a potential weak spot. To overcome this problem, quality bridles will finish the cut into a small hole punched through the leather. This hole distributes stress over the circumference of a circle instead of focusing it into one point. The holes and creases leading to it are treated with a finale, or stamped design, to make it eye pleasing as well as functional. This is another fine point of hand crafted tack.

Keepers are a crucial part of any tack, and must endure an incredible amount of wear-and-tear and stress. Therefore, the only way to produce quality keepers that will last is through hand sewing. Before joining the keeper, it is edged and creased. Once fitted the keepers are moistened and "boxed", or squared off, and creased again to ensure a neat, crisp line. The thread used to sew the keepers is treated with bees waxed for added strength and durability.

Hardware used in tack is also of prime importance. Hardware must offer strength and durability. We use only stainless steel or brass where strength and durability are required. Chrome is also offered where appropriate, but nickle plated hardware is never used as it is inferior and will not last.

Hand Sewing Hand sewing is a key feature of quality hand crafted tack. Hand sewing involves sewing with a needle on each end of a common piece of linen threat. We treat our threat with bees wax before drawing it through the leather. The thread is drawn through the leather, one needle from each side, both passing through the same hole. The wax locks the thread in the hole and seals it against dirt and weather. It has been noted that even when the surface of stitches wear through, the internal threads do well in keeping the leather secure until it can be properly repaired. If one stitch becomes damaged and breaks, it will not run out as is common from machine stitching.

A very important, and often overlooked, detail is the treatment of the edges of the leather in hand crafted tack. A quality piece of hand crafted tack will be burnished and dyed. We hand burnish all of our tack with a unique natural substance called gun tragacanth. This is a substance derived from pistachio nuts and produces a very fine finish on the edges of the leather when rubbed in by hand using a piece of wood or an antler. Treating the edges in this fashion allows the cut fibers to be aligned and sealed. This finish prevents water from penetrating into the layers of the hide. The edges are dyed to provide consistency of colour and attention to detail, rendering each piece more pleasing to the eye and satisfying to the touch.

Finally, tradition and pride of craft dictates that tack makers place a symbol unique to their bench on each piece of tack they create, to identify their pieces. The "Fleur de Lis" is our makers' mark. Our stamp is our signature and confirms that each piece meets the exacting specifications of our craft, ensuring that you receive a true custom and handcrafted piece of tack.
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