Saturday, June 29, 2013

Jesses, leashes and hoods... oh my!

As I was saying yesterday, the 'fun' part of my apprenticeship (so far) has been making the various pieces of equipment. I like to craft and learn new things, so it makes a lot of sense that I'd be totally into all of this craziness. Now, in case you are thinking of taking up falconry (which means you're a little bit crazy in the head), I should probably warn you that the crafting aspect is a huge money sink. Unless you're an avid leatherworker, or you practice macramé or other knot tying, it's pretty doubtful that you'll have a lot of the materials, tools and other accoutrements on hand.

For some reason the hood was the very first thing I decided I was going to make. I read all about how difficult they are to make correctly, but I was determined that I would beat the odds and somehow make some super fabulous, perfect fitting head piece for my hawk-to-be. I started with the Indian hood (though I'm still confused because I thought it was the Anglo-Indian hood...), which I was told is the easiest to make. There's even a really neat pattern generator based on a mathematic formula that someone came up with! I would assume the person's name was Slijper... since I think the formula is called Slijper's Cannon.... but then again I have no idea, so that might be TOTALLY WRONG!!!! Back to the hood - basically you pick the size you want (usually determined by measuring the bird), enter it in the software and print out the resulting pattern. From there it's a matter of tracing the pattern onto the leather and then sewing up the two side seams... honestly, I don't want to get into 'how' to make the hood, but if you're really that curious check out this tutorial.
My hoods came out like most of the pictures... but they just don't thrill me.

There's also no way of knowing if any of the hoods I've made are functional because they have to fit a bird, and I have no bird to "play dress up" with!!! The worst part of the hood making, for me anyway, was the top knot. I just wanted to leave it off because I think they kinda look goofy, but there is actually a function to the knot and it makes sense. You use it to help grip and position the hood when you're putting it on the bird... and since you're holding the bird in/on your left hand, you only really have one hand to work with. So... I googled how to do this blasted turk's head knot, and I was terrible at it. I've since sworn off hood making. For now...

That whole turks head knot thing really made me angry, so I avoided all of the equipment that had the word "braiding" in it. Next up I tried my hand at paracord jesses and leashes!!! What's a jess? Technically it's the combination of the anklet that goes around the birds leg (tarsus... fancy falconry word) and the leather strap that passes through the grommet in the anklet that you hold on to. I kind of tend to think of the anklet as it's own thing and the jess as the leather strap that you hold on to - remember this is NOT a lesson in falconry, so if I tell you something that's absolutely wrong, it's your own fault for believing it! Paracord jesses.... they seem so easy!! You cut the ends off, pull the stuffing out then pass one end through the other to form a miniature lasso looking thing. My first attempt actually went quite well, and the second one was a little more difficult, but still WAY easier than that stupid turks head knot. I decided to make a leash; might as well have a matching set, right?!? That leash and I ... we were not friends. I swore at that thing, threw it, yelled some more at it, stomped on it... and it never did become a leash. I tried EVERY trick I found online and could never get that damn paracord to go through itself for 4 feet. BOO PARACORD LEASH!!! BOO!!!

Then I gave up. For a while anyway... 

At some point I went ahead and ordered some kangaroo leather so I could make traditional leather equipment - the leather I got for the hood making is English kip, and not really used for jesses anymore. Kangaroo is a lot tougher and at the same time more flexible, which helps to get it through the grommet hole with one hand, but kangaroo is not cheap! As I was ordering the roo leather, I also added a couple of leashes, some swivels, grommets, grommet punch, grommet setting pliers, a glove, and leather strap cutter to my cart. It was not a cheap shopping experience.

Side note - I will say that I feel pretty lucky because one of the people I had the pleasure of talking to
when I was searching for a sponsor actually runs one of the largest falconry supply websites, and he and his business are located here in PDX!!! His prices are great and very competitive, and his customer service is top notch :) Ok... enough of the endorsement, but I really enjoy Mike and his company, so I think it's well deserved.

 And now, back to equipment talks! So I got all of the stuff in the mail, and I started cutting out leather straps for jesses and anklets. I'm super happy with how the jesses came out (as you can see in my blog title photo!!!!), but I think I need to make the anklets wider. Once I was able to complete a set of satisfactory jesses with slits I tried to figure out how to attach them to the swivel... the only way I could figure out to do it would have me passing the hawk through a tinyish ring on the swivel... obviously I'm not a magician so that cannot happen! A little bit of googling later and I managed to get the swivel on the jesses, and get one of the leashes attached to that all while holding the jesses in my gloved left hand leaving me with only my right hand. Then I looked over at the other leash I ordered... some fancy 'fox' leash (also named after a person I think.) I could figure out what the button was all about, and even how to button it back onto itself, but once again I couldn't figure out how to use the hole at the bottom of the leash. It's meant to attach to a perch, but again you'd have to pass the hawk through it to secure it, so it seemed... google time again!!!!! After reading a tutorial and looking at a page that did a little walk through, it all finally made sense, and I was left feeling amazed that someone came up with this system!!!

So, now that I was in love with the fox leash, I wanted more of them in different lengths, but there really aren't that many place that offer falconry equipment; turns out there's really no Walmart for falconry because there aren't that many falconers. I thought for a minute about custom ordering some leashes, but that seemed to get really spendy really fast. Braiding is about the only reliable option for making these leashes.... but do I have to?? 

... to be continued!!!!! (Mauahahahahahaha)

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