Timaru Star II Western Saddles

      Timaru Star II Western Saddles have been the foundation of our name and fame as model tackmakers for over 27 years.  We have made over 500 of them, each one by hand and one at a time, as fine miniatures should be, learning as we went.  This page represents a much-condensed virtual tour of my two Saddles Scrapbooks.  These Scrapbooks have one photo for every Western, Parade, McClellan and Peruvian Paso saddle I've ever made -- provided one photo exists!  Due to webspace limitations and other considerations, Parade sets are portrayed on our Parade page only.  Likewise with the Peruvian Pasos.  In 2004, a separate webpage was created for Western saddles notably decorated with braidwork; Braided Western Saddle sets are portrayed on the Braided Saddle Sets page--- imagine that!!!  If you detect "check number missing", a saddle number out of sequence, chances are it's on the Parade or Braided Saddles pages.  For examples of much older TSII saddles (such as #92 and #54, dating from the 1980s), see our Restos page, and also the second Parade page.  I hope someday to have a real history page here (surely the Internet is the answer to all scrapbookers', historians' and librarians' dreams); meanwhile, you can check out the Model Horse Gallery, under 'Y' for Young (see our Links page) for 'vintage' TSII work.

     At the bottom of this first Saddles page is a listing of every TSII saddle by number by year... if you're wondering where your saddle fits in the scheme of things.
       PLEASE NOTE that these numbers are NOT order numbers or model numbers--- you cannot order these saddles by number!!!  The numbers are chronological names for each unique, hand-crafted piece.  For example, No. 400 is the four-hundredth saddle I've ever made, since I started numbering them, in January of 1983.

Close Ups

TSII #443 was the only saddle built in 2005 that was not a Parade set.  It is presented here in new format, i.e., please forgive my laziness in not making it a link to a larger picture, but instead providing everything at once.  [I think this is a sign that web capabilities are expanding (I presume you can download larger pictures) and that I am no longer limited to a certain number of pictures per page.  (Of course, this may change again.)]

TSII #443 was finished November 17 with a customer-requested second breastcollar.  It is noteworthy for its pink seat, which was created by the extraordinary method of stitching up 28-pt linen, and then feeding the outer strands down into the saddle piece, and gluing them beneath, giving an inset.  (Why didn't I just glue it?  Ah, effect, effect,...  I was after making that edge bulkless yet perfectly turned, which is the secret to inlaid seats...)  I think this idea has potential, though only time will tell.

The stirrups were crafted from real rawhide.  Note the saddle blankets, made from craft foam in 2mm... Just right for those real-life foam pads!  The reins have an adjustment buckle so they can be used for Pebbles (1:16) as well as Little Bits (1:18).  Although this doesn't show it well, those pink buttons are indeed woven on and tied correctly.  Embroidery floss is not the most distinct material! and Little Bits is the smallest scale I care to work in, at least for the present.  But no other material was exactly the right color...  Even the edges of the conchos are braided 'round with floss; and the cantle and pommel are wrapped with it, then laced with minutely-cut silver mylar tinsel.  The bit is handmade Aluminum.  The beads are sterling silver.
This is TSII #438, the famous Buffalo Bill saddle.  As explained earlier, my model is not a perfect copy of historical fact, but a conglomeration of 5 different sources, none of which totally agreed with one another.  One source was a painting; two were photo postcards, one was a souvenir book, and one a photograph taken in a musuem.  The tree was carved by R. Nikolaidis.  The conchos are real silver.  This was the first time I truly used a tree, but I enjoyed it immensely.  Commissioned and owned by S. Rudnicki Hurst.
Here is a more complete look at the Buffalo Bill set.  The tiny cowrie shells, in real life a contrasting decoration used before silver became popular (and affordable), are depicted here in miniature.  I was inspired by those artists within the hobby who created Arab costume halters.  These cowries were hand-sculpted by Lisa Pisano of New York.  Susan Hurst sculpted the horse, "Wall Street Trader".  Finished in October of 2004.
This third-ever McClellan by me was done on the Harris (RDLC) tree.  It incorporates such improvements as hand-cut brass escutcheon plates, wooden-look stirrups, a cloth girth, and much better research: it's more historically accurate than either of my first two McClellans.  Many thanks to Randy Steffens.  Completed 0310.11, owned by V. Kirkpatrick.
TSII #417.  0006.26, owned by C. Neuhaus.  Intertwine tooling pattern in a nice mahogany red, with sinew & silver lacing on the cantle.  This set shows a combination of beads and braided buttons that go well together.  Note the two browbands (the second is draped behind the back cinch) for fitting several horse sizes.
TSII #414, "Silhouette Pine Cone."  A one of a kind experiment.  Future true Pine Cone patterns will be normally carved, not silhouette (inverted and darkened), and look more like real Pine Cones!  Future "Yucca Blossom" silhouette patterns will look similar to #414, but more like Yuccas.  Owned by T. Admidin; 9912.08.
TSII #412.  Rose-n-Thorns pattern, with full Buckstitching.  Owned by W. Nielsen, 9910.29.
TSII #411.  Oak Leaf carved, with 4 white tassels.  The bridle & breastcollar to this saddle are shown on the Braidwork page.  Originally sold to Kris Ercoli, shipped 9910.29; now, mysteriously, in the hands of Breyer---it is displayed during BreyerFest at the Hobby Information Booth.
TSII McClellan.  This set is my second McClellan; the first was built in 1995.  That one used a tree of Friendly Plastic; his one uses a RDLC (Jennifer Harris) tree.  This McClellan represents a mix of several years' issue, mostly 1896.  The white halter rope is inauthentic, but included because the customer wanted it and it looks good!  Finished 9910.29, owned by P. Beard.
TSII #398.  "Silhouette Rose" auctioned to D. Meiner, 9707.24.  This was at the NAN auction for 1997.  The piece fetched $660.00---a record at the time.  For its time, this was a very significant piece of tack: first use of double interweave rings (on the brow tassel), first black FB RB, first inverted carving---certainly the most ambitious breastcollar to date.
TSII #397.  Owned by C. Von Dohln.  This saddle shows a nice Rose-n-Thorns pattern and a rawhide braided horn.  The suede seat was done with chamois.  This is one of three or so very earliest braided saddles: the braided buttons on the concho tabs were the beginnings of carrying to the saddle what already was going on in the headgear and breastcollar.
TSII #339  From our earlier webpage, here is the only saddle (so far) we've done with the Rio Rondo basketweave tool.  1992, originally sold to S. Yarnell, now owned by C. Foote.
TSII #334.  "The Red Jewel Set" a case of restoration that went beyond.  This black saddle, carved in Intertwine, was originally made in 1992.  In April 2000 it was returned because the prism tape plates were falling off.  Completely new silver plates were made with new jewels.  Amarna's page tells more about this rebirth.
TSII #333.  Another case of restoration in which the original prism tape plates were replaced with silver corner plates.  Intertwine pattern, built in 1992, owned by K. Cabot.  There were only 6 Western saddles made with prism tape plates, not counting Parade sets.  Of those 6, two have been rebuilt (#333 & #334)and two more (#250 & #300) are in my possession.

An Overview of the Timaru Star II

     For all you collectors out there, how I wish you could see the scrapbooks!  All our pieces are extensively documented in writing and pictures; a Master Numbers List is kept as well as numerous booklets of notes on our tackmaking.  Not to mention the 5 shoeboxes of photos!!  Most do have photographs...this hobby has taught me how to shoot close up!  One of my dreams is to have all this published one day in hardcover...  If you see me at a live show ask to see the scrapbooks.  They are expanding!  If you have any suspected TSII tack pieces we would be glad to help you try to identify them.  I am particularly interested in the whereabouts and condition of TSII pieces made before 1988.

SADDLE NUMBERING: Why, where, and when:  In January 1983, fresh out of college and on advice from my father, I started signing and numbering the works of my growing hobby.  Before then, from the mid-70s through 1982 (age mid-teens through 22), around 50 saddles were made, but they were not numbered or signed.  They were more primitive--- indeed the earliest ones were downright 'Paleozoic'!  This was all in Boulder, Colorado, where I was born and grew up.  Starting with that first one, every saddle has been initialed and dated.  Every one, from 1983 to the present, has been signed with the same tool, a dental pick; this tool has been aided and abetted over the years, but never replaced.
     Look under the fender on the off side, on the base skirt, next to the girth ring, for the number.  Saddle numbers 1 to 100 were encircled with a cut ring on the leather.  The initials and 2-digit date are on the near side, in the same place.  In 1988, at saddle no. 222, the initials changed from SEB to SBY.  Over the years, as the saddles grew more detailed and more effort went into them, they started acquiring names as well as numbers, but the numbers are always there, a baseline and a record.  Aside from the primordial 50, only one saddle has been discovered to be unnumbered (117.5), a case of forgetfulness.  :)  See below for a complete listing.

SILVER SADDLES:  The silver Parade saddles, the TSII's most famous masterpieces, were numbered normally, as they were made, along with all the others.  I did this because I considered them Western saddles first and foremost, like any other... even as a Decorator is still a horse.  By 2002, after more than 80 have been made and it is clear they are in a class by themselves, I have had occasion to regret this.  It sounds so much more impressive to be able to say, "my seventieth silver saddle!" than to say "TSII #378"!!  This problem is dealt with by referring to current silver saddles in terms of two numbers.  I beg forgiveness for any confusion...!
      About forty silver saddles are the original, older technique of painted leather, which has proven to be remarkably durable and which I used up to 1988.  In 1988, at saddle #230, came the first use of silver tape (Aluminum metal-mending or plumber's tape) and all subsequent Parade sets have used it to some degree.  Of the existing silver-tape sets, (about 44 at this time) nearly half used prism tape, or colored holographic laser-flash film, --a trick first used in 1990, with Gerhardt's Green and Gold.
      In the fall of 2000, it was discovered that Mylar tinsel lacing could be used to 'rescue' the unfortunate ageing of the silver tape adhesive. In 2001, new silver Parade set mediums and techniques were introduced: sandwich layering and hollow-formed Aluminum spots.  By 2003, combinations were the rule: formed spots, Mylar and silver tape set the standard, with prism tape and other materials as desired.  In 2004, yet more methods were discovered, such as bonded Aluminum tape and gold Mylar.  As of this writing there are three painted sets reworked to silver tape and about four 'rescued' Mylar-tied taped sets ---these are the lucky ones.  There are now 7 LB size Parade sets and about 5 Classic size ones out there by me.

A TSII Saddle Numbers List

c. 1975--1982: about fifty, unnumbered, in these formative years.  Later (1989) numbered, and now referred to as the ohs (oh-one).  The first one sold to a customer was oh-eleven (#011).  My first non-local live show was Marney's Congress in 1980.
1983: #1--#41, forty-one saddles.  First year after college.  Number 1 was for a Breyer Shetland Pony and sold to Janet Marshall.
1984: #42--#88, forty-seven saddles.  Living with roommates in houses & apts.  Somewhere in here I established a separate mailing address for my nascent business with Mail Boxes Etc., which continues today.
1985: #89--#145, fifty-eight saddles.  These were the mass-production years; many 'dark-brown corner-carveds' were made.  The first silver Little Bit was #129.
1986: #146--#184, thirty-nine saddles.  Boyfriend difficulties.
1987: #185--#211, twenty-seven.  Engaged in March and moved to PA in May.
1988: #212--#238, twenty-seven again.  Got married in June, & rented a house.
1989: #239--#273, thirty-five.  Somewhere in here I being using a stopwatch for tackmaking.
1990: #274--#305, thirty-two.  The hobby is still virtually all mail-order.  The first BreyerFest.  Rio Rondo starts business, and releases the "Quarter Horse Stallion," the most important early resincast.
1991: #306--#326, twenty-one.  My second Little Bit saddle.
1992: #327--#348, twenty-two made.  Third Little Bit.
1993: #349--#363, fifteen.  Elaborate techniques are starting to slow down production.  Somewhere around here, I start putting customers through a lottery and limiting orders to just one large item.  We buy a house.
1994: #364--#375, a dozen.  In the larger world, Haynet is born.
1995: #376--#386, only eleven saddles made.  First McClellan.  First pieces in the NAN auction: two halters.  NAMHSA is born this year and so is Peter Stone Company.
1996: #387--#397, eleven.
1997: #398--#406, nine.  Portuguese bullfighting set.  I go online.
1998: #407, one.  Wrote the Guide, published in November.
1999: #408--#414, seven.  Second McClellan set.  Braided saddles rise to the forefront.
2000: #415--#418, four, plus the first Peruvian Paso set.
2001: #419--#423, five.  Christie Partee's Parade saddle and Eleanor's braided, two great milestones.
2002: #424--#427, four.  First pieces sold on eBay; the 'chocolate-chip-mint' set.
2003: #428--#430, three, plus Peruvian Pasos Nos. 2 & 3 and the third McClellan.
2004: #431--#439, nine.  Two spectacular silver Parades including the 1st bonded AL, the Elk, and Buffalo Bill (my first Western using a tree), not to mention five stunning braided sets.
2005: #440--#443, four.  Three were the most advanced Silver Parade sets yet; the fourth is Little Bits.
2006: #444, the Rose Medallion, largest and best use of prism tape yet.  The fourth and fifth Peruvian sets are made, now called P4 and P5.
2007: #445, Braided & Citrines, most ambitious Parade saddle yet which used real citrines as well as extensive rawhide braiding.
2008: #446--?  

HARNESSES and Other Tack:  Since 1982, I have made approximately 300 model harnesses.  The first 60 draft harnesses, up to 1991, were ornamented with spots or Mirrorflex; there were two Mylar-interlaced ones in there.  After that, chain platelets was the norm.  With the publication of the Guide (1998), interlaced Mylar tinsel for draft harness decoration returned.  Since 2001 draft harnesses use either Mylar or Chain Platelets.  The 300+ includes about 100 draft harnesses and about 4 sets of farm harness, one of them Classic size.  There are 3 or 4 Little Bit harnesses in existence.  There is also an Artillery harness out there with my first McClellan saddle to go with it (1995).  TWO complete Eight-Horse-Hitches have been made by me: one in 1986-1990, silver, for my own team of Black Belgians; and one in 1991-2003, (returned several times for updates), gold, for the Breyer Clydesdale.  This is the famous "Canadian 8-Hitch," owned by Ivy Olensky.  The Olensky 8-Hitch holds the record for the longest piece of tack I've ever made, in both senses (it is over 5 feet long AND took more than 7 years to finish) and the most expensive at well over a thousand dollars.

     The number of headgear pieces made has to land somewhere on the far side of a thousand.  Each saddle usually had a bridle with it and the Parade sets always did.  In the early years (mid-70s to mid-80s) I made rope halters, Western show halters with painted-silver and later handfiled Aluminum plates, English bridles, and Western bridles with wire bits at the rate of 5 to 15 each a year.  I made SM tack---extremely primitive English sets---about 12 sets between 1979 and 1985.  I also made several English saddles, of a generic type & many Classic size, from about 1980 to about 1984.  The 1986 TSII pricelist mentions prism tape used on Light Breed show halters.  Since 1988 over 50 prism tape Western show halters have been made.  But I just haven't counted them all.  As of 1997, no more English bridles have been sold.  All halters except Western have been discontinued.  Even the Western ones are rarely made as of 1997, although occasionally a braided one is ordered.  This trend shows signs of reversal with the fabulous 'jewelled' halter of 2006, made with real silver and brass.

     The first mention of "rawhide braided button" bridles in my pricelists happened in 1987.  They were actually braided from thin-cut leather lace and had waxed thread buttons.  Eventually 12 of these were made.  It wasn't until 1995 that I started offering braided sinew bridles, though I had been using this material for bosals for fifteen years!  See the Braidwork page for more on these...  Braidwork would go on to develop into something of a signature effect; it remains my favorite field.
      Along the lines of early braidwork, I made fancy Arab costume halters, characterized by four-strand-braided floss cheeks, tassels, chain nosebands, and braided leadropes with chain and tassels on them.  Later Arab halters carried glass beads set in the braiding.  I have only made 2 Arab costumes for myself (not counting a boxful of childhood horse costumes), only one of which is fit to show.
     To conclude, my sister and I, as children, made about 50 felt blankets, and other assorted pieces of clothing, for these 'horse dolls'.  Of all pieces of model horse tack, the most useful were those blankets, today replaced by Lori Batchelor's Pony Pouches.  Although the relics of childhood are now boxed and high on dusty shelves, from them developed a passion that has continued to this day.
May your horses and their accoutrements always bring you joy.
Susan Bensema Young 9906.18
Updated & edited 0007.15, 0104.02, 0110.06, 0204.19, 0304.03, 0306.07, 0311.21, 0404.14., 0504.27, 0602.14, 0803.29,