Rocking Horse Pallet Art: How to Make Your Own Rustic Rocking Horse




Introduction: Rocking Horse Pallet Art: How to Make Your Own Rustic Rocking Horse

When I was little one of my favorite toys was my rocking horse. And I've always been the kind of guy to look at something and go,"I can build that!" So it did not take long for me to decide to build a rocking horse. On this project I used no power tools and leftover nails and stain from other projects I've done in the past. Also, the pallets were free to me. That being said I had to put extra time sanding and using a handsaw. In addition to being green the lack of power tools also proves that you don't need a lot of fancy tools to make a quality product. I believe that the extra work you put in will make you enjoy the final project that much more!

Step 1: Tools and Materials


  • 2 Pallets
    • One Pallet Must Have the Pictured Runner
  • Nails of Varying Length
    • I used 2-1/2", 1-1/2", and 1" finishing nails
  • Golden Oak Stain and Clear Coat Mix (optional)
  • 100' of paracord


Optional Tools You Could Use to Make Your Life Much Easier (not needed!!):

  • Power Drill
  • Appropriately sized drill bit to pre-drill holes
  • Power Sander
  • Pallet Pry bar

Step 2: Step 1: Acquire and Demolish Pallets

There are numerous ways to find pallets nowadays. Craigslist often has people trying to get rid of pallets, and Ebay always has someone selling dismantled pallets. However, if you drive by a place that has a stack of pallets out in front, just go in and ask if you can have a few. Most big name stores have processes in place to get rid of their pallets, so stick to smaller businesses. I got a truckload of pallets from a local roofing supply store. Other people have luck at farm and home stores. Just be courteous and ask before you take anything.

Be cautious of what pallets you use for what projects. For example, if your pallets transported chemicals, food, or other things that run the risk of carrying disease, chemicals, or other hazardous materials you might rethink building something out of it. Also, be cautious of burning pallets that are treated or soaked in chemicals, as you might breathe in harmful vapors. My pallets were all used to transport wrapped bundles of shingles and appear clean.

To take apart a pallet with a hammer and a small pry bar I first put on safety glasses of some sort. Then, I hammer the pry bar in between the runner and top deckboard. Carefully, pry up one nail on the one side of the runner then the other. With both nails sticking out, you can then use the claw on your hammer to remove the nails. Repeat this for every deckboard on the top. For the bottom deckboards you have two options. One, is to use the same process you used on the top deckboards. The second way is to just hammer the rails off the runners. Either way will work, but you must be careful not to destroy your deckboards. Also this may leave indents in the wood from the hammer blows.

Separate usable wood from the trash. My general rule of thumb was if it was cracked more 1/3 the length of the board, I would not use it. Also, be careful around the rusty nails, and never leave a board with nails sticking out. Remember safety is your number one priority.

Step 3: Design Your Rocking Horse

Draw, model, or in some other way design your rocking horse. Get your idea out of your head and into the physical world. Pick an existing horse to model yours after, or come up with a totally new design. It doesn't matter. All that matters is getting your vision on paper. I believe that having a guide will help in the long run. And don't feel bad if your picture isn't pretty, mine certainly is not. It just needs to represent what you want your final project to be.

Step 4: BBBBBuild the Base

DDDDDrop the base? No? Ok moving on.

For the rockers I chose runners that have the slots cut out so a forklift can lift the pallet from any side. I left about 6 inches on either side to act as stops so the rocking horse cannot tip over. Overall the length of my rockers happen to be about 30".

To round the stops I found a lid that was the same diameter of my stops. Using the lid as a guide I drew a semicircle. Then, take the handsaw and cut out as much of the semicircle as possible. Sand the stops to completely round them off.

To round the rocker itself, I did the same thing just on a bigger level. The patio table was the perfect size! Draw the partial circle onto one rocker and cut it out. Next, use the cut rocker to transfer the same pattern. I did it this way in case my first cut was not perfect. Finally, sand everything as smooth as possible. Especially the partial circle you cut out. The smoother that is, the better the rocking horse will rock.

From a smaller runner (approx. 1"x3") I cut two 15" segments, using a miter box to keep my cuts at perfect 90 degree angles. Sand both pieces.

To finish the base its time to attach everything. I put one segment centered on the 10" mark, and the other centered on the 20" mark. I attached with a combination of wood glue and the 2-1/2" finishing nails. This setup provides maximum strength and fills any gaps from wood that is not 100% flat.

Step 5: Legs and Seat Support

To make the support I made an I shaped beam. The beam is 12-3/4" long (the distance between the two base supports) and the top and bottom of the I is 8". Cut and sand everything from 1"x3" runners.

I made the I beam in the same way I attached the base together; with wood glue and nails.

To make the legs I cut 4 10" pieces from similarly colored runners (again 1"x3")

Next, I cut an angle in the four legs. I measured 5/8" down on one side, and then drew a line from my mark to the corner This was mostly guess work, so make it work for you. Cut and sand everything.

I then attached the legs to the base with wood glue and nails.

***This will be a major stress point. Make sure the glue and nails make a strong bond so your horse does collapse at the legs when someone rocks on it!!!***

Then, attach the I beam to the legs. The 2-1/2" nails were too long so I went down to 1-1/2" nails. To attach the I beam to the legs I used nails and wood glue, and I also sent nails through on both sides. This is another stress point on your horse. I used a sturdy chair to act in place of a workbench while I hammered in the I beam.

Step 6: Neck, Back, and Saddle

Measure out two sections for the neck. These will support the head and will be where the kids place their hands so make sure the two deck boards are strong.

For the neck measure, cut, and sand 2 12" pieces from the deckboards. Next, attach the neck pieces as close to one side of the rocking horse and with about 2" of the neck on the I beam. This is now the front of your rocking horse. The length of this can be extended to the full width of the I beam, but my legs got in the way. That being said 2" was more than enough to provide support. Use wood glue and nails to attach.

Now it is time for the back. I cut and sanded two pieces to 16-1/4" long from deckboards. I then cut out a notch in each board the width of the neck deck boards. See the picture for an idea of what I mean. Attach with nails and glue so that there is an overhang in the back. This will make sure there is space for the tail. Now you'll notice that our back has a hole in the middle about 1-1/8" wide. Most of this will be covered by the saddle, but the part in front of the neck will not. I cut and sanded two pieces: one 2-1/4" by 1-1/8" and the other 1-1/8" by 6" long. See the picture for how they fit. Secure both with nails and wood glue.

Then, we will make the saddle. I cut 3 deckboards 8" long. The last deck board I chose to have a knot in the middle. I used a hammer and a nail to knock the knot out (if no knot exists, you could use a drill and drill a hole). Sand all of your saddle pieces.

In the saddle piece with a hole in it thread 5-6 pieces of gutted paracord through the hole. Each strand of paracord was short enough to not drag on the floor. Tie a knot in each cord to keep them from pulling through. The side with the knots is now the bottom. Attach the saddle pieces from back to front with nails and glue. use your shortest nails on this. My 1" nails were too long so I bent over what stuck out underneath. If you decide to cut them make sure they're cut flush so no one cuts themselves on them.

Step 7: The Head

The head can be as simple or as intricate as you want. I choose a relatively easy design since I was limited by the saw I had.

To make the head cut three deckboards that are as flat and as similar looking as possible to 9-1/2". Draw your head design onto the three boards and cut them out. I choose to give my horse two distinct ears by cutting off the ear part of the board that will be in the middle. To give my rocking horse a mane I cut a series of one inch deep slits. My saw blade happened to make a cut that wide enough to slide in gutted paracord. Nail and glue one side piece together so you can still access the slots. Using lengths of paracord about 10"-12" long, and stuff in 2-4 pieces of paracord in the slot. Try pulling on the 'hairs', and if they come out add another strand of paracord in there. Once every slot is filled, glue and nail the last side on. Make sure some extra glue covers the paracord slots.

All thats left now is to nail and glue your head onto the body!

Step 8: Stain/Paint and You're Done!

I sanded over everything one last time, and touched up spots that I missed earlier.

Then you must choose how you want the finished product to look. Natural wood colors? Natural horse colors? Bright child friendly colors? The choice is yours.

I personally had some leftover stain and clear coat mix leftover from another project. The color was Golden Oak. I personally love how the stain interacts with the different kinds of wood. The darker woods have a deep rich color, while the lighter woods are bright and cheery!

You may notice I did not put handles on my rocking horse. This is mostly because I didn't have power tools to make the necessary hole. A drill and a large dowel rod would be the only things needed to add the handle. But that said I really love how it turned out, and it would have been a shame to stick a rod through horsey's head.

So there's how I built my rocking horse. How did you do yours? Tell me what you like/disliked about my horse in the comments below. I'd really like to know how clear this was because this is my first ever Instructable. Also, don't forget to vote for my rocking horse in the Pallet Contest!!


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Green Design Contest

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Pallet Contest

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