Keepsake Plywood Rocking Elephant

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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

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.
Band saw
Clamps
Glue
Angle grinder
Flap sander for grinder (various grits).
Shellac
Screws
Wood plugs

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.

Plywood Challenge

Participated in the
Plywood Challenge

1 Person Made This Project!

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80 Comments

0
Jimbo3223
Jimbo3223

11 months ago

Thank you for updating your description to include the credit.
It's appreciated.

0
Tinkerer64
Tinkerer64

Reply 11 months ago

No Problem. I saw the image on pintrest when I was making this but it had no additional information. Seamster was the one that showed your name and information. Beautiful concept.

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seamster
seamster

11 months ago

Very nice! A gentleman by the name of James Harvey has been making very similar rocking animals (including an elephant, shown below) for many years: http://www.rockingrhinos.com/

If his work was the source of inspiration for your project, it would be proper and polite to attribute him in your intro to credit to his design and idea. Just a tip! ;D

James Harvey Rocking Elephant.jpg
0
Tinkerer64
Tinkerer64

Reply 11 months ago

Thank you! I had seen a picture of his work on pintrest but there was no additional information as it was not his post and no links to any of his work. I have added his name, website, as inspiration to my intro.

0
mijso
mijso

Question 6 months ago on Step 2

From step 2 have you a length x width x height dimensions just to give me a starting point to begin. Great job by the way and love finish.

0
craftyv
craftyv

10 months ago on Step 7

Thank you for the explanation re-the ears. I often skip the technical part of an Instructable because so many are too complex for me. Very well done.

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MG_Engineer
MG_Engineer

11 months ago on Step 6

Simply wonderful use of ply "in 3D"! I shared it with our daughter as a "hint" for them to hurry along with a grandchild! :-)

One question, please. I note that you fixed it to the rocker with its feet back from centre. Is this stable, or could it flip backwards?

Thank you.

0
Tinkerer64
Tinkerer64

Reply 11 months ago

The weight is very well balanced both as shown and when a child is on it. When the child is small they tend to sit closer to the handles/ears. As they grow and get taller they may sit farther back but still lean forward to hold the handle, this keeping the center of their mass centered. Also, I have added the rounded end protrusions to the bottom ends of the rockers which help limit the rocking action to prevent flipping over in case the child gets too rambunctious.

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MG_Engineer
MG_Engineer

Reply 11 months ago

Thank you for your reply, and for your well-considered design.

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robert.paquet
robert.paquet

Question 11 months ago

Is it possible to get the withd of the elephant before sanding step ?

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windham3
windham3

11 months ago on Step 7

Wonderful! Beautifully done. I'm seriously considering making this rocking elephant. Do you have full size patterns (profiles)? TIA

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robert.paquet
robert.paquet

Reply 11 months ago

Hello
Do you have full size patterns ?

0
Jimbo3223
Jimbo3223

11 months ago

Thank you Seamster, I was thinking exactly the same thing.
I designed my elephant, along with other animals, almost 20 years ago now.
As this animal is almost a carbon copy of my design, down to the leather ears and how they are fixed and the use of lighter wood for the tusk (I used maple), I find it difficult to believe that my design was not the basis for your creation.
I am flattered that you have made your own, but, for all of us whose livelihoods rely on creating original designs, and for the sake of all creators in this community, full credit must always be given when the design is not your own.
Thank you.

RockingElephant.jpg
0
Fastnate
Fastnate

11 months ago

Wow this is gorgeous!

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barry_johnson
barry_johnson

11 months ago

This was well-conceived and executed. A really beautiful piece.

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Rob Salmon
Rob Salmon

11 months ago

Great project, talented granddad, lucky granddaughter. Just to point out, beyond the craftmanship, and contouring...it is a very nicely proportioned elephant!!

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Vaughansfolly
Vaughansfolly

11 months ago

Can you say heirloom!
magnificent concept, never would have thought of this approach. Which is the difference between art and craft
+1 atta-boy

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xstfoc
xstfoc

11 months ago

I think this elephant is the most unique "rocking animal" I've ever seen. It's amazing and very beautiful. As I started to read your instructable, I immediately thought ELEPHANT = GRAY PAINT. Was I ever surprised and VERY pleased to see a natural finish that shows all the contours of the elephant's body !!!!! Great job !! You could make a lot of $$$$ doing these. Wonderful job.

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salemslot1968
salemslot1968

11 months ago on Step 5

Amazing job, looks absolutely fantastic 👍👍👍👍👍

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sbrown9578
sbrown9578

11 months ago

Beautifully done. I have never seen anything like it before. I am sure she is going to love it. Great job.