Introduction: Wooden Rocking Horse Giraffe - Made Out of Kitchen Worktop

Here is my instructable on how to make yourself a rocking horse in the shape of a Giraffe. The giraffe, now known as "Gilly" is ideal for any child young or old. It was a pleasure to make and a pleasure to watch so many children have many hours of fun on her.

Gilly herself is made from entirely reclaimed materials that I had knocking around my workshop and the house. (I think the only thing I needed to buy was the wood filler in the end. But was lucky enough to have the wood knocking around our workshop for the rockers too)

Some of stages are in a different order than what I originally did so some of the photographs may have a previous stage not done or mid way through (for example the head and neck were not fixed permanently in place until the rocker was completed) and you may notice this through out the some of the photos.

Step 1: You Will Need:

Materials You Will Need

100g Ball Of Black Wool

Off cuts of 1 1/2" (40mm) thick Oak Worktop (this stuff must be solid wood throughout not the chipboard kind)

1 metre of 3x2 Pine for the Rocker's Struts

A 4' length of 10" x 2"thick Ash for the Rockers (any hardwood would do - soft wood will probably not take the strain as well)

10" length of 1" square tulip or beech for Turning the horns (a rolling pin would also work well for this project)

1/2" thick solid oak for the Ears

Offcut of Broom Handle or 1" thick dowel to use as the handle bar

PVA Glue

2 Part Epoxy Resin Glue

White Primer & Eggshell paint for the Rockers

Mahogany Stain & 1/4" artist brush

Tools You Will Need

Heavy Duty Bandsaw, with a cutting depth of at least 8" for shaping the head (but you could also use a jigsaw and shape the head by hand using a mallet and chisel)

Angle Grinder - With 80 grit and 120 sanding disc

Lathe (for turning the horns, but you could use some already turned pieces such as a pair of drawer knobs or light pulls for them instead)

Mallet and Carving Chisel

Bench Drill with Forstner Drill Bits to match your broom handle handle bar

Dremmel or Foredom with suitable wood burr (I used 1" saburr wood burrs on my foredom)


F Clamps ( heavy duty ones with quite wide openings)

Spring Clamps

Spoke Shave

Belt Sander


Bevel Gauge

Work Mate or Outside workbench to work on

Dust mask and Face Protection

Step 2: Cutting Out Your Pieces

This project requires a fair amount of solid wood worktop. It has to be at least 1 1/2" thick and I was lucky enough to have some Oak worktop these were offcuts from when my friend refurbished her kitchen that she no longer had any more use for.

This stuff as offcuts is widely available from eBay. Many people, like my friend who have done up their kitchen usually have a big offcuts knocking around or several up for auction. Some I have seen go for only £6-10 for the rough size you require for this project.

If you can't find Oak worktop then you could also use Beech for this animal (walnut I have used but the colour would be too dark for a Giraffe, but could be used for an elephant instead).

As this wood was quite thick, parts like the legs, back/seat and neck are kept at their original thickness. (This was also due to the limited amount of worktop I had to play with too.)

The only thing you need to double the thickness on is the head. This also allows more room to shape the head and give the child more to hold on to.

Cutting Out Your Pieces

1. Transfer the templates to your wood

Using The templates provided transfer them onto your worktop using a pencil. To minimize as much waste as possible I would try and leave about 1/2" gap between each piece drawn onto the worktop. However do not draw anything between the two legs, as these offcuts will be used later on for the shoulders. You need to leave a large piece for your seat top, roughly 2' long and 9-10" wide however each child is different in age and size so you may want to increase this but I found this size good enough for most ages up to 10 years old.

2.Cutting out the pieces

Now, either using a jigsaw or bandsaw begin to cut each piece out. I used a bandsaw for Gilly, you should now have 2 head pieces, a neck and 2 legs pieces

Step 3: Assembling the Back to the Legs and Belly

Once all your pieces are cut out the body is more or less ready to assemble. (I found this was easier for me and more fluid to carve later on.)

1.Cutting an angle at the top of the legs

Using my band saw I tilted my table to ?? degrees and then ran the top of the two legs through it before being glued and screwed to the body

2.Installing The First Leg To The Back

You want to do the front leg first as this has a straight egde for the legs to line up to. Using a F Clamp secure this in place and mark two holes for your screws. Drill two pilot holes and then countersink as these need to be hidden much later on. This can then be glue and screwed securely in place.

A converted car jack I had lying around proved most helpful in installing the first leg, but an extra pair of hands would also work just as well holding the second leg in place while the first pair are secured in place.

3.Installing The Second Leg To The Back

Now using the first leg, now secured in place, take the second leg and place this near Gilly's curved bum. You want to leave a small over hang of her bum roughly about an inch or so, but this is up to you. Using the first installed leg eye up the second pair from behind so they both are line up with the body. Two straight edges can also be helpful for this, at either side of the leg.

Repeat the second step of this stage and your giraffe should now sit by herself. Leave to dry overnight while placing the legs on your bench and additional F Clamps holding the legs in place (belt and braces)

4. Installing The Belly.

The belly, which is a narrow piece of ?? Oak is now cut to size and then installed between the legs, glued and left to dry. I found a bevel gauge a handy tool to help me find the angles I need to cut between the legs. Gilly then needs to be uspside down while the glue dries.

5. Installing Extra Muscles

"Muscles" are now glued into place using spring clamps. These are basically triangles that are offcuts from the original cutting out stage that I added, but you don't have to do this. But I think these are useful in building up the shape of legs.

Step 4: The Head

Now onto the head.

1. Gluing the two head pieces together

This is the only part of the project that required two pieces to be glued together. These are glued and clamped together overnight. The finished result is in the first picture.

2. Roughly cutting out the contour of the mouth

Now to add some contours to the face and nose. This is done by making a few shallow cuts on your bandsaw. This is a very risky step and I found holding the head at the back with a large F clamp rather than your hands kept your hands well away from the blade. The finished result is in the second photo. If you don't have access to a bandsaw with a large cutting height then a mallet and chisel could also be used for this stage

3. Softening the edges of the head.

The next step was to remove the sharp edges of the head. Using an angle grinder and a sanding disc (80 grit) work at the angles of the head and contours of the mouth too. I found holding the head with a large F Clamp on a workmate helpful. I would strongly recommend that you do this process (and further carving on this project with an angle grinder) outside. Also please remember to wear face protection and a dust mask.

Once you are happy with the shape, finish with a 120 grit sanding disc on your angle grinder.

4. The Nostrils

Once you are happy with the shape of the head you can now draw the Nostrils onto the nose. These are then drilled out using a Forstner bit for the larger areas and then shaped further using a Foredom/ Dremmel with a 1/" saburr bit (or wood burr bit to fit a Dremmel). This process was not pictured unfortunately.

Step 5: Mounting the Head to the Neck

The next step is to attach the head to the neck. The neck at this point has not been shaped with your angle grinder yet as there was still more to add to the neck first.

1.Cutting a contour in the neck for the head.

The top of the neck is then cut for the contour of the head for where the head will be attached to the neck using two dowel joints. I found it best to lay them both flat on the bench to position them in place, such as the correct tilt of the head you want. I wanted Gilly's head looking more or less straight forward, but you may want it differently.

Once you are happy with your position remove the neck and using a piece of paper under the head copy the curve of the head. Some people may find a profile gauge more handy for this step but I prefer using a piece of paper.

Cut out the negative space of the template and transfer this onto the top of the neck, then cut out with your bandsaw.

2. Joining the head and the neck using dowel joints.

A dowel joint is made by drilling two holes into the neck and then two corresponding holes into the head. A dowel is then half inserted into one hole on the neck and then the opposite hole on the head. These dowels are then glued into place as well as more glue being added the rest of the join before the head is hammered down with a mallet. For more detailed information on how to do this please see the webpage below

I found a bench vice quite handy for holding the head upright to dry so it would be kept dead level.

Leave this to dry overnight as you need gravity to help keep the head upright again.

Step 6: Adding the Shoulders and Shaping the Neck

The next step was to add the shoulders to Gilly. This would act as a counterweight for the head, which was starting to prove to be quite heavy.

1. Cutting out the shoulders

You should have two rough offcuts from the negative space between the legs. These are you two shoulder pieces. If they currently don't have a straight edge at the bottom you will be needing to do this now so that the head sits nice and level on the body.

These are then glued and clamped into place and left over night. (See first photo)

2. Carving the shoulders into the neck

The next day you can now begin to shape the shoulders into the neck line. This proved quite difficult for the angle grinder for me and so was carved using a good ole mallet and chisel. (See second photo). You need to do this both side of the shoulders

3. Finishing the neck and shoulders

Once you are happy with the rough shape you have roughly carved with your mallet and chisel you can now finish off the wood. Take your angle grinder with a 120 grit sanding disk and remove the chisel bumps you've created. Also you will need to soften the edges on the shoulders and round off the neck's edges.The finished result should be something like the third photo

Step 7: The Ears

Now to add a bit more interest to the head.

1. Cutting out the ears.

The ears in the photo are the finished result. These are cut out of the apiece of 1/2" solid oak off cut left over from cutting the belly. The contour of the head was also added to the joining edge of the ear using a profile gauge.

2. Carving the ears.

Each ear is then shaped using my foredom, using a 1" saburr burr bit. You could carve these also by hand and shape with a dremmel if needed but this would be more time consuming.

3. Installing the ears

Again the ears were installed using 2 dowel joints and lots of glue. More info on dowel joints can be found in the link below

Glue in place and leave to dry overnight, making sure the head is kept upright.

Step 8: The Horns

1. Turning the Horns

The horns are then turned on a lathe using piece of 1" square wood (I used a tulip offcut I had knocking around - but you could use beech or an old rolling pin).

I could have used some of the worktop offcut but I felt that this was too risky on the lathe as this was made from laminated bits of oak and needed something that was just one solid piece.

These were turned on one length to maintain symmetry with a long tenon in the middle and then parted off.


If you don't have access to a lathe you could also use a pair of drawer knobs or light pulls for the same effect, but using a piece of dowel for a tenon between the knob and the head

2. Installing the Horns

Now using a matching drill bit for your tenon in your hand drill drill into the head. I aimed for between the two ears roughly 1" apart. Glue in place and leave to dry overnight, making sure the head is kept upright.

Step 9: Installing the Handle Bar.

Now it's time to make our Giraffe ridable! For this I decided to keep it simple rather than making a bridle (which giraffes don't have anyway).

1. Measuring your Handlebar

For this I used a broom handle and cut it to length (you could also use a matching 1" thick dowel).

To figure out how long you need it I take the thickness of the neck and add the width of both your hands. As the oldest person going to ride it may probably be you (who could resist!) it makes sense to add a bit more to it

2. Installing your Handlebar.

Once you have cut the handlebar to length it's now time to install it. To do this you need to bore a hole into the neck of the Giraffe using a corresponding Forstner drill bit. Thankfully for me the head managed to clear the drills table and could rest perfectly horizontal on the table, giving me a 90 degree hole. But if you're not so lucky, a hand brace or powerful battery powered drill should do the trick

The handle was then coated with lots of glue and then inserted into the hole, making sure it was the same distance out from the neck on either side.

Leave to dry overnight, making sure the head is kept upright.

Step 10: Making the Rockers

For this I used some 2" thick Ash as I had this lying around my workshop.

1. Create your template for the Skids

To create the template for the skids (can't think of a better name for it) I found out how long the giraffe would be and then added and extra 7" either end. I then took a piece of old wallpaper of the length that I needed and folded this in half, then drew my shape for the rocker.

2. Transferring your template to your wood.

The most economical way I found of getting the most out of your wood is to place the two skids as close together as possible edge to edge. I used a 4' length of a 10" wide board and this just covered the curve.See the diagram above , this is not to scale and is just a demonstration drawing.

3. Cut out your Skids

This was then transferred onto the wood and then cut out on my bandsaw.

4. Drilling your mounting holes

Two holes are then drilled at either end, roughly 7" away from the edge into both rockers at the same time. These are then screwed together so they would both be identical to shape

5. Shaping your Skids

The next step is to then smooth out the curves (particularly the outside curve). For this use a spoke shave, which is time consuming but well worth it! Next finish the whole surface off with a belt sander to make the wood nice and smooth.

6. Installing the Struts

Two further pieces of 3x2 are then cut to the spread of the legs plus 1" either side. These will be the struts of the rocker on which the Gilly will be mounted to.

The two holes used on the rockers while shaping are used again for running a screw through to hold each strut into place. Countersink these first (as we won't want to see these later on)!

Adding lots of glue onto the ends of each strut is highly recommended. Once you have a fully assembled rocker you now need to place the giraffe onto each strut. This is to hold them at the correct angle while the glue dries.

Leave this to dry overnight and don't touch it, or you might adjust the angle of the struts!

The next day......

Dry fitting the Rocker to Gilly

1. Positioning Gilly to the Rocker

Once the glue has dried you now need to drill the holes into the struts which will then be used by the screws to hold the Giraffe to the rocker.

To do this place Gilly back onto the struts and then position her so she is square and equal on either side of the rocker. Next draw around each foot.

2. Drilling the holes

Next turn over the rocker and drilled a hole into the centre of each foot print. This is then countersunk. 60mm Screws are then inserted into the holes, protruding very slightly from the surface at first.

Gilly is then placed on top and lined back up with her footprints we mark out in the first step of this stage. The indentations left on each foot now marked the pilot holes you need to create for the screws to go into each foot. Each foot is then drilled into but about half an inch.

3. Dry fitting

She is then dry fitted together but not permanently. This will happen at a much later on in the stage as we have lots of painting to do first. This would however be a good opportunity to test out how she rides and if any adjustments need to be made to the rocker such as the curve of the Skids.

4. Filling the screw holes.

At this point you might want to start thinking about filling in some of the screw holes you've made. I used a basic white wood filler into each screw hole on the skids that go into the struts.

Step 11: Mounting the Head to the Body and Carving

Now the body and the head are more or less finished it is now time to mount the neck and head to the body.

1. Installing the Head and Neck to the body

For this you need 4 dowel joints in the base of the neck and shoulders and lots of glue. You could also put in a couple of screws underneath but I found I didn't have enough room to do so.

Leave this to dry overnight

2. Final Carving

Now that all our part for together you can now do the final carving using your angle grinder and sanding discs. Most of this is just shaping where the shoulders met the neck but you may find other spots too you might want to shape such as the inside of the legs. I used a 80 grit and then moved onto a 120 grit disc.

Step 12: Making and Fitting the Mane and Tail

For this I bought a whole 100g ball of black wool but you could also just buy a length of inch thick black rope and skip this stage

1. Measuring out the length of wool.

Measure the length from the tip of the nose to the base of the neck. Then run off about 7 lengths of wool at this measurement You need to repeat this step twice more so you have 21 strands in total

2. Tying your strands together

Now tie your 7 strands together and do this twice more so you have 3 lots of 7 strands.

Now knot all 3 groups together tightly.

3. Plaiting the strands

Now plait them together up to the position of her horns and then tie another knot.

If you're not sure who to plait then this should help

4. Trim off the excess

Now cut off the excess (can be seen in the first photo) and then frill this out.

5. Gluing the mane to the neck

The whole mane is then glued into place using a 2 part epoxy resin glue and left to dry.

Repeat for the tail

Repeat this again but on a smaller scale for the tail. This is then installed by drilling a hole using a Forstner bit into the back pair of legs and then gluing in place with epoxy resin again.

Step 13: Painting on the Animal Print & Oiling

Now the fun part! To create an authentic animal print you need a mahogany stain or brown paint (not water based) and a 1/4" wide artist brush to paint the print on.

The nostrils and inner ear are also painted in this colour to create added depth to them.

Painting the rockers

The rockers too are also painted using a white primer and then eggshell as these would probably take quite a bashing in their lifetime.

Once the stain was dry the whole giraffe was given 2 coats of linseed oil with the excess then being wiped off on each coat.

Step 14: Fixing the Rockers to the Giraffe & Testing It Out

Now everything is now painted we now need to finally fix the rockers to the Giraffe. Repeat the dry fit we did earlier but add a liberal amount of glue onto each foot and screw each foot down in place and left to dry.

After a good 24 hours the Giraffe is now ready for her first test drive. My nieces were only too happy to oblige!

Woodworking Contest

Judges Prize in the
Woodworking Contest