Introduction: Hobby Horse

This toy started life as a statement from my first daughter. One day she saw a horse on television and stated that her daddy could make her one of those. Being a little under 2 years old(at the time) I thought that this was a bit of a whim and that she would forget. However after a few more requests and a couple of orders I decided that it might be a toy she would play with and get some enjoyment out of, and no sooner had I finished it than she tried to feed it after she had put it (upside down) in her toy high chair, she has continued to have fun with it ever since.

We then had a second daughter and I decided to make another so both could play together.

This was my first toy so when started I didn't really know how to go about it, so I sketched what I thought would be a simple horse head shape. The finished article was originally going to be a rocking horse, but I latter felt that a Hobby Horse would be better as it would be more mobile and would hold interest better.

Step 1: Templates

From the initial sketch I came up with a plan for the head consisting of five sections. The plan has been transferred to a grid the scale (1 square = 4.96 mm, diagonal length = 7.01 mm) from this I made templates for the sections by tracing the parts onto some scrap hard board and cut out the sections on a band saw once the templates had been smoothed off they where ready to use on the wood for the horse:


The first horse was made from some scrap pine, which although has lasted well, does show a few dents and pits. So for this horse I am using a hard wood. A local wood shop was selling some recycled shelves I the varnish, smoothing the surface as much as possible to ease finishing latter. I don’t currently have a usable workshop so different parts have been made around the house in whichever room I happen to be decorating. The preparation of the shelves was carried out in the garden using an orbital sander fitted with dust collector

Step 2: Using the Templates

For the first of the horses I attached the templates to the wood and cut the shapes roughly on a band saw. I then used a router and follower to cut the sections accurately. if you don't have a means of holding the materials this can be a bit tricky, try using the rubberized mesh mats from DIY shops, but make sure the mat does not stick out from under the bit you are shaping as it will get caught up in the router bit .

This time I copied the shapes to the wood by drawing around the templates. I then cut each part as closely as possible on the band saw. The resulting sections are quite good,but require close sanding to the template lines. I did this on a drum sander mounted in a bench drill. Again because of the high levels of dust I did this in the garden.

Drum Sander

This was just a piece of hard wood turned into a cylinder, to which a nut and bolt was used as a spindle in the drill chuck. A strip of sand paper was then glued to the cylinder. (If you have some Velcro back paper this would make changing grades easier and only require a single drum)

Rounding over the edgesparts

The next step was to round off the edges of the sections. To make this easier I fastened the pieces to scrap wood as show then clamped the scrap in a bench. I used part of a ½ inch round over bit to remove the corners

Step 3: Turning the Axle Case

I made the axle by turning a piece of scrap mahogany into a cylinder, the dimensions don’t have to be accurate as long as it has an approximate diameter of 50 mm to ensure that it will not split in use. the case was 105 mm long but can be as short as 60 mm – the limiting factor is the length of the drill bit available for you to drill the axle hole.

I sanded the case while it was on the lathe, then removed from the lathe and drilled a mortise using a 20 mm spade bit on the bench drill - this was to take the shaft for the hobby horse. I then drilled the axle hole (12 mm)using the center marks from the lathe too ensure that it was centered the axle case was then trimmed to size.

Next time I might try to drill the axle hole first, before tuning would make holding it a bit easier, or possibly drilling it while its still on the lathe.

Step 4: Making the Wheels

When it came time to start the wheels I found that my compass had gone missing, so I decided to draw around a circular object, I used the base of a CD container (143mm diameter) for the wheels and a "spice pot" for the axle ends, I then cut out the circles on the band saw.

That’s when I remembered that wheels need centres and I had forgotten to mark them. Luckily I had not sanded to the lines and there was just enough line left to use some geometry to mark the centers (For which I had to borrow a compass)

Mark an arc on the inside edge of the circle keep the compass settings the same, where the arc crosses the circle draw two more arcs (one from each intersection) to cross the first arc. Using the intersections as the center draw two more arcs to cross each other. Draw a line from the center of the first arc through the intersection of the last two. Repeat this 3 times around the edge of the circle and you have got the center.

A few other ways for marking center:

  1. Second geometry method - do not cut the circles out first.Pick a point on the circumference of the circle and draw and arc inside and outside of the circle Use the point where the arc bisects the circle as the center of another arc (don’t change the compass) Draw a line through the two points of intersection for both arcs. Repeat this 3 times around the edge of the circle and you have got the center. I use three lines because it confirms the other two.
  2. Use a pin some string and a pencil - put the pin into the wood, attach one end of the string to the pint the other to the pencil at the radius for the wheel. Hold the string taught and draw the circle the pin marks the center.
  3. Turn the wheels on the lathe the centers are set by default.
  4. Cheat use plastic wheels with a threaded bolt as the axle, this however does wear the axle case after time.

Step 5: Using Dowel Joints

No screws where used in this project instead dowels where used to hold the parts of the head together. I drilled 6 holes all the way through the main head piece and used dowel points to mark the position of the holes in the piece to be attached.

The dowels are really only to help locate and hold the parts while the glue cures so they only need to extend 4 to 5 mm into the joining part. I found the by drilling through one dowel covered both sides.

To prevent break-though when drilling I held a piece of scrap under the work piece

Step 6: Gluing Up

Once all of the pieces had been sanded they where ready for gluing, I used Gorilla Glue for this project, Its an Isocyanate based pre-polymer so If you follow the same route ensure that you have plenty of ventilation and use gloves. I would also recommend keeping asthmatics and children away while the glue is curing.

The glue works by a chemical reaction like expanding foam and as it reacts it expands into the wood making for a very strong joint, it is also porous when sanded, which suits the finish I wanted to use.

Care should be taken not to use too much glue, especially on the axle as it does expand quit a lot and could stop the axle rotating.


I held the axle together by clamping the wheel to the axle end the used another clamp the hold the wheel onto the axle until the glue went off. Once the glue had set I applied 3 coats of linseed oil as a finish which darkened the horse quite a bit compared to the first pine version of the horse which had been varnished.


The head was glued separate from the shaft and I used the clamps to hold the parts onto the dowels until set. The eyes are simple toy eyes (search for Googly eyes on E-bay and you should finds some) I used 1". They have a small stud on the rear so all you need do is drill a hole the same diameter as the stud that goes all the way through then glue the eyes in place.


The shaft is secured with glue into the hole on the axle case and then at the head end into the hole in the head left when the cheeks are glued to the central section (see the plan pictures).

Both horses are in regular use, both inside and outside the house (watch out for the skirting boards and the wall paper?).

Hope you liked this and have a go at one yourselves

If you like this take a look at my other instructable (so far) a motorbike

Or at my web page:

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