Introduction: Keepsake Plywood Rocking Elephant
I wanted to make a special keepsake for my granddaughters birthday that she can keep and pass on to her kids. I decided to make a rocking animal for her that would match her nursery. I decided to make it from plywood to help accentuate the shape of the contours for a very unique look. I found a picture of one like this on pintrest and have just been told that the original design was by a man named James Harvey. rockingrhinos.com
Supplies and tools:
2 sheets of 3/4 inch furniture grade Baltic birch plywood.
2 feet of 1/2” steel rod for the ear supports that also double as the handle bars.
Remnant leather that I found at an antique shop for the ears and tail.
Glass eyes I found online.
Large paper for template.
Flap sander for grinder (various grits).
Step 1: Layout
I started my project by laying out some sketches on a roll of freezer paper since this allows for a decent size drawing without having to tape multiple sheets of paper together. I drew up the elephant from both side so that I could easily transfer the patterns onto separate halves to make the cutting and shaping easier later on. After coming up with a size and pattern for the elephant and rockers I did a rough cutout on some 2” thick foam. I then borrowed the neighbor’s kid for fitting the size to a young child. This was a good thing because my first attempt was too small. I adjusted the size by a few inches and now had my template that I could use to determine how much plywood I needed.
Step 2: Cutting and Gluing
Rough cut out all pieces using a jigsaw so the the pieces can be handled easier for the smoother curing on the band-saw. The band-saw will not tear out the back side of the plywood like the jigsaw does.
Glue 1 center piece with no legs and three pieces with legs
together. I used a glue bottle with a grooved rolled that I purchased from a wood working shop but a small stiff brush, scrap piece of wood, or cardboard could be used to spread the glue as well. Clamp with bar clamps or weights and let dry for 24 hours.
Step 3: Shaping
Using the angle grinder fitted with a flap sander, begin shaping the body, legs, head and trunk to a you liking. I have never done this type of sculpting work before so I did not know what to expect it to look like. I could be making a lot of dust and fire wood for all I knew at this point. As I continued on it began to take shape. I now knew I was no longer making fire but still might have a deformed elephant. My son told me that his daughter would love a deformed elephant if her Grampy made it for her, so I continued on.
I made the elephant in halves for multiple reasons. I could lay them side by side to make sure the were symmetrical. It would allow me to sand and shape the inside of the legs with the grinder before the halves are glued together. It is also lighter and easier to handle in two pieces rather than one large piece.
Once I was happy with the basic shape I glued the two halves together and let them dry for 24 hours. I then shaped the final body shape to round off the body. I added an additional layer of plywood to the side of the legs, belly and face so I could round them of more and get rid of the large flat sections which did not look good since there was no graining effect in those large areas.
Step 4: Rocker and Sanding
Glue four pieces of rocker together to form each side. After the glue dried, I clamped both rocker together and sanded them at the same time to make sure they were the exact same size and shape. This will ensure a smooth rocking motion. I then glued and screwed the 7 slat s to the rocker. The screws were counter sunk and then glued plugs into the holes to hide the screw heads. I only left about 1/4 inch gap between each piece so that the gap would not be large enough for my granddaughter to get a foot or toe stuck in.
Now for the sanding, sanding and more sanding. I wanted this to have absolutely no rough spots or places that would splinter. Did I mention you need to sand this?
Step 5: Ears, Eyes, Tusks, and Tail
I bent (2) 12 inch pieces of 1/2” steel bar to from the handles / ear supports. Drilled holes into the head and epoxied them in place. After these dried I cut ears from pieces of remnant leather. I used contact cement to attach the leather ears to the steel bars And wrapped the leather back onto itself over lapping about 1/2 of an inch. I then cut some thin strips of the leather to make some leather cord and stitched the overlapping leather together to help keep it in place if the contact cement were to fail.
For the tail I cut a piece of leather, covered one side with contact cement and rolled it together to form a piece about 3/4” in diameter. I cut one end of it to make it look hairy like the end of an elephants tail. I then drilled a hole into the back of the elephant and epoxied the tail in place.
I formed two tusks from a piece of poplar and white washed them. I drilled out a hole for the ends to go into and glued these in place.
Finally the eyes were counter sunk in the fave slightly and epoxied into place.
Step 6: Attaching the Elephant
I now placed the the elephant on the rocker base. I transferred the angle of the slats under each foot onto the foot of the elephant. Using
these marks, trim each for to Match flat on the slats. Place the elephant back on the platform and trace the foot location on each slat. Remove the elephant and drill 2 guide holes for screws through the slats. From the bottom side drill a counter sunk hole for the head of the screw Place the elephant back on the platform and glue and screw the feet to the slats running the screws from the bottom up into the foot. Glue plugs into the counter sunk holes to hide the screw heads.
Step 7: Finishing
I did not use any stain and coated the entire piece with three coats of clear shellac. This really made each alternating layer of plywood really pop giving it a really unique grain look. I was really happy with the final project but even happier with how happy my granddaughter is riding and playing with this wonderful rocker.
Participated in the
1 Person Made This Project!
- Jimbo3223 made it!