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It was Christmas of last year when I was at my brother’s house celebrating with family. We were all sitting around watching the kids open their gifts. Near me was a rocking horse that my dad built for our youngest niece, Charli. I took the opportunity to examine how he made it, and what all went into it. My dad didn’t use the Kreg Jig for his rocking horse, so when I was looking at it, I was contemplating how I’d change it up to allow for pocket holes. I decided I wanted to try and build one of these rocking horses myself, since the baby who received my Viking cradle is going to turn one in April (the 11th to be exact). Charli received her rocking horse for her first birthday, so I thought this might be nice to give to Gabriel. My dad said that he used one piece of 1x8x72 of maple, so I went to Menards to get the same. I then started drawing out all the pieces I’d need onto that plank to get an idea of how I could maximize my usage of the wood. Turns out, he was fairly close in using the entire board with minimal waste. The only part I had to join wood together was for the horse’s head. However, I think in retrospect that my horse’s head is larger than what my dad designed. The picture below shows my parts layout for this project.

Cutting out the pieces was a snap. Most pieces were easy blocks, with the exception of the legs (angled cuts) and the head (total free-form cut using my scroll saw). I made the head by finding a horse’s head picture on Google images and printing it out at the size I’d need. I traced the shape onto my joined wood and cut it out that way. Once all my pieces were cut, I put each piece that needed pocket holes through the Kreg Jig and set them aside. I then went back and painstakingly sanded each part to a fine smoothness, and then routed each piece that required a softer corner. More fine sanding after that, I was able to glue and screw in the Kreg screws. The body and legs were screwed together first, and after that I applied the legs to the rockers. Man, what a pain that was! I wanted to hide the pocket holes on the legs to the rockers, so I put the pocket holes on the inside. Well, doing it that way, I couldn’t get my DeWalt drill in there. Neither with the long bit, nor the short bit I have. What I ended up having to do is put an even shorter bit (No.2 square head) onto a hand-held ratchet screwdriver and screw them in by hand. Well, even then, the body of the horse was impeding my ability to get the screw bit in there. I’m sure some neighbors could hear my frustration, and I probably even invented some new curse words, but eventually all four screws were in place securely. Should I ever build another rocking horse, I’ll just put the pocket holes on the outside and call it a day. This is what I get for trying to be careful in hiding pocket holes. Some pieces are too small to be attached with Kreg Screws, so I’m gluing them in place and will also pound in finishing nails with my nailer. That’s why you see the clamp on the saddle piece in the next pictures. The horse’s head will have some woodburning in it, and I plan on using rounded wooden screw plugs to create the eyes and nose of the horse. I will even put some in to mimic the bridle of the horse too. I’m also prepared to woodburn Gabriel’s name on the seat.

This is how far along I am right now. This weekend I plan to do a ton more to it, and probably get it to the staining/finishing stage.

This is another view of the horse body and rockers. More pics to come soon! 1/19/10 Update OK, I've attached the head after routing it, sanding it, and sawing a groove down the back of the neck. This will allow for the mane later on. Below you will see a sample of the mane material I'm using. By the time this was taken, I've already added the screw plugs for the bridle and the eyes. After some more sanding of the wood filler, I should be ready for staining. Enjoy the new pic!

1/19/10 Update Part 2 I took some more shots of the rocking horse. Last night I attached the head to the body and added the screw plugs that make up the eyes and studs on the bridle. I also inserted the handle for Gabriel to hold onto when playing with it. This is what it looks like:

Like I mentioned before, this is the groove I cut into the back of the neck, using my table saw to do so. It took three runs through, but it now fits the mane material nicely. If I fold the material over twice, creating three rows of braided cord, it's snug enough that I won't have to worry about the glue holding it in place. Just to make sure, though, I plan on punching in a number of finishing nails to help secure it in place. I wouldn't want it falling out due to his tugging at it.

Also, I'm rather proud of how the name turned out, so I wanted you all to see his name up close. This will look really neat after I've stained the piece and added coats of finish to it.

1/21/10 Update OK, you guys wanted it, and here it is. I drew out the plans to the best of my ability for the rocking horse. If you have any questions, please ask.

1/25/10 Update I made the mane and the tail finally, and have them ready to install after I stain and finish the horse. I applied them to the piece just to see what it would look like. Well, here it is, what do you think?

1/27/10 Update I finally got around to staining the rocking horse. I ended up going with a Minwax Red Oak stain, and I like how it turned out. I can still see the woodburning fairly well, and let it dry over night. Here is a picture of it stained.

Then, because I'm the curious type, I wanted to see how the mane's color will contrast with the darker stain. As it turns out, it looks really sharp. Kristina and Odin will love this horse for their boy, Gabriel. I went on to paint the studs in the bridle a silver color using Testers model paint. It does an excellent job of turning those wooden screw plugs into curved metallic studs. I'll have pictures of that on here really soon.

02/02/10 Update

OK, now the horse is done, and delivered over to my friends the other night. The mane and tail were attached using Gorilla Glue, and then finishing nails sunk in such that they would act as rows of teeth to help keep the mane and tail from being pulled out. After the glue dried, it was pulling iron. Perhaps the finishing nails were overdoing it, but I just wanted to be sure. Kristina and Odin were amazed at the workmanship, and little Gabriel didn't know what to make of it. We sat him on the horse but soon he cried. I think he was a little scared to be on something that rocked. He'll grow into it, I pretty much guarantee he'll grow to love it. Something like this just takes time. Kristina is a stay at home mom, and a budding photographer, so expect to see some pics from her soon of Gabriel and the horse.

02/04/10 Update

The FINAL picture of the rocking horse. I attached ears to the horse just before giving it over to Kristina and Odin. Odin gave me a nice piece of elk hide, to which I cut into two shapes almost looking like a spade from a deck of playing cards. I then dunked them both in the same stain as used on the piece. After they dried, I folded them in half and punched small holes near the rounded part, so I could then sew together to make sure they wouldn't spread back open. After that was done, I tacked them into place using black carpet brads, three for each ear. The result is the horse below. They turned out GREAT.

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Comment by Mindi Carwin on December 10, 2011 at 9:55am

Don thank you so much!!!  I have been looking at your other posts and am amazed at your skill.  Congrats on your expected baby!  Being a parent is hard work, but the most rewarding!  I wish you all the best!  Thanks again!

Comment by Don Grubish on December 10, 2011 at 9:48am
Mindi,

the bridle and his name were both woodburned, and the studs on the bridle were painted silver with model paint. The legs are only 10 degress cut,thats all I needed. The rope for the mane and tail is actually frill usef for making drapes. You can ind that at any fabric shop. I want to make another horse at some point because we're now expecting our own child. On that horse, I'm going to expose the pocket holes because like I said that was hard to get in there.
Comment by Mindi Carwin on December 9, 2011 at 4:52pm

I LOVE this horse!  You did an amazing job!  I have a couple of questions for you, I would like to make this for my little boy.  Did you wood burn the strap on the nose?  Also what kind of rope did you use for the mane?  And lastly what angle did you cut the legs at?  It looks like the top is 4 inches and are both sides 9 inches?  I am new to wood working and love it but I have a lot to learn.  I got a good laugh when you said your drill didn't fit to screw in the legs because you were trying to hide the pocket holes.  I did the exact same thing yesterday when I was making a stool for my daughter, I had to take the whole thing apart and turn the pieces so the pocket holes face out.  So fun!

Thanks so much for sharing!

Comment by Ian W on March 15, 2010 at 4:44pm
thanks brother
Comment by Ian W on March 15, 2010 at 4:44pm
thanks brother
Comment by Ron on February 5, 2010 at 11:42am
WOW, very nice.

Cheers,
Ron
Comment by Don Grubish on February 4, 2010 at 8:21pm
THERE, that seemed to work.
Comment by Don Grubish on February 4, 2010 at 8:21pm
I'm trying to post the final picture, but for some reason it won't accept it. I at least posted it in my albums, so you can definitely see it there.

Comment by Ron on February 4, 2010 at 8:42am
Don,
The stain lots great and the mane is fantastic, looking forward to the final pictures.
Cheers,
Ron
Comment by Don Grubish on February 3, 2010 at 10:56pm
I still need to add absolute finished pictures, but the project is now done and handed off to Gabriel's parents. They LOVED it!

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