Rocking Horses


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These horses require very labor intensive hand crafting.  I made two horses.  
Each one took 6 months to craft in my spare time. (click images to enlarge)

Horse 1 "Gabrielle"  

This is the first Victorian horse I made. The pictures below, 'Creating a Horse', are a chronology of her construction.

 gabrielle_window.JPG  gabrielle_rear.JPG gabrielle head.JPG (191993 bytes)

  Horse 2 

horse2.jpg (187764 bytes) The head position on this horse was changed to tilt higher. 



Construction Details 

The horses were created from plans contained in the book  “Making Rocking Horses” by Anthony Dew.  They are entirely  hand carved, mainly from pine with the exception of the legs, which are made of laminated oak.  The laminated construction gives the horse great strength in places which would be weak such as fetlocks and ears.  The horses can withstand extremes of humidity and temperature without movement, which would be impossible if they were carved from a single block.

Before the detailed carving began, more than two dozen pieces that make up the body of the horse were hand fitted, doweled & glued together. 

After carving and sanding, shellac was applied to seal the wood.  A mixture of rabbit skin glue and gilders whiting was then applied [gesso] to give the entire horse a ’shell like’ coating.  After which an oil-based primer was applied, followed by two coats of enamel paint.  The dappling effect was applied using a piece of fine muslin wrapped around a small piece of foam rubber, dipped into black paint and dabbed onto the finish.

Tack consists of a handmade genuine leather bridle, complete with noseband and bit, breastplate & saddle with girth & stirrups.  It is all individually detachable and is made from real leather.  The leather saddle and saddle flaps were cut from leather panels that were hand stained with the  edges beveled, burnished and coated.  The design in the saddle block and flaps was hand tooled from a pattern I designed and traced onto the leather.  The bridle was fastened together using leather rivets.  The buckles enable it to be easily removed from the horse’s head.

At the time the horses were made I had no source for real horse hair so macramé cord was used.  I unraveled it, brushed out and glued into holes drilled along the back of the neck.  The tail was made in the same manner.

The “swing stand” is constructed of pine; except the cross struts which are oak. The spindles were turned on the lathe.  All the metal pieces (e.g. swing irons) were made by hand from either flat steel or round rod.  The stand was stained and polyurethane was applied as a final finish.

The horses measure 49" tall & 20" wide with the safety slide base measuring 8' long.  Each horse has an extremely durable finish that is easily maintained with wax polish.  If scratched they can be touched up carefully with clear polyurethane.    


Because each horse is hand crafted, each one is unique. Truly a one of a kind family heirloom to be cherished thru the generations!

  Creating a Horse

The pictures below will give you an idea of the steps required to create a Victorian rocking horse.  They were scanned from old Polaroid photos so the quality isn't that great. 
(click images to enlarge) 

Step 1 - The Stand 
rh create 1.JPG (100497 bytes) The glider stand was constructed of pine with maple  runners.  

 The standposts were turned on a lathe. 

rh create 2.JPG (72920 bytes)


    A cherry stain & polyurethane coating was applied as a finish.


Step 2 - The Body
rh create 3.JPG (82797 bytes) Pine was used for the body construction with the exception of the legs which were carved from oak giving them strength and durability.  
A bandsaw was used to cut out the legs and muscle blocks.  A hollow rectangular box is the base of the body to which all other prices are joined.


Step 3 - The Head
rh create 4.JPG (50946 bytes) The head was constructed from a solid block of laminated pine that was cut with a bandsaw & then rough shaped using various size chisels, gouges, files & a drawknife.


Step 4 - Gluing the Body
rh create 5.JPG (87792 bytes) The lower part of the legs & hocks were carved prior to fixing. 
The pieces were joined together using wooden dowel and wood glue.  Heavy duty clamps were used for tight, durable lamination. 
Once the glue was dry, carving began!


Step 5 - Rough Carving the Body
rh create 7.JPG (88972 bytes)     rh create 6.JPG (84549 bytes)    The tools used for rough carving were the same as those used
   for carving the head. 


Step 6 - Sanding  
rh create 8.JPG (80680 bytes) Once the rough carving was complete, hand sanding was done.  
This was done four times with different grits of sandpaper to achieve 
a smooth surface.


Step 7 - Painting
rh create 10.JPG (62748 bytes) This was a very labor intensive process! 
 Gesso, a mixture of rabbit glue & whiting (fine chalk) was applied over the whole horse. Six coats of gesso were applied  which provided a very hard, tough and smooth surface over which the paintwork was done.  The gesso was hand sanded for a very smooth surface & sealed with four coats of shellac. Two coats of primer were applied & sanded (again!). White and gray paint were mixed to create the dapple gray shade used for the whole body.  Next, hand stippling was applied.  This was done by taking a fine piece of muslin and wrapping it around a piece of foam to make a pad.  The pad was lightly pressed into black gloss paint and dabbed onto the horse.  The weave of the muslin leaves a 'hairy' pattern on the horse.  The hooves, eyelashes & rim of the eyes are also painted with black. Red paint was used for the inside of the ears,  nostrils and mouth. White paint was used for the teeth.  


Step 8 - Mane & Tail 
rh create 12.JPG (65273 bytes) This horse was made years ago prior to the Internet being widely used so I wasn't able to find a source for real horsehair for the mane & tail.  

rh create 11.JPG (65448 bytes)

Instead I unraveled macramé  cord and used that.  It was a tedious process to unravel & comb out the cord prior to attaching it.


Step 9 -  Tack & Saddle 
rh create 13.JPG (60720 bytes) The saddle was made from a large piece of leather that was hand cut, dyed and tooled.  

 All the tack is completely removable. 



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