A Flat Pack Rocking Cat!




About: Mechanical Engineer, photographer

Hello Instructables! It's been a while since I've done a how-to.

My good friend and college roommate just recently became a father, so I decided to make a gift for his child. I ultimately decided to make a rocking horse. To make it a bit more unique, I decided to make it a cat instead of a horse (since there were inside jokes among my friend and I involving cats). And, given that it had to ship cross country from Pennsylvania to Washington state, I chose to make a flat pack design so I could reduce the shipping costs. It also uses mostly standard hardware found in knock-down furniture designs.

I took inspiration from a few different rocking horse designs I had seen around the internet (definitely Scandinavian influenced). I took dimensions from a rocking horse plan in a woodworking book I have and this design from Canadian Home Workshop to develop the general size and shape of my rocking cat. I also received some input an industrial designer friend on the overall shaping of the cat body.

Feel free to take this design and modify it as much as you want. It could certainly be made with more traditional joinery, and doesn't have to be made entirely of plywood. Have fun!

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Step 1: Materials and Tools

Here's a list of materials and tools needed to complete this project:


  • Half sheet (4'x4') of 1" thick furniture-grade plywood (it's more than you need but will provide some extra in case you mess up). I used birch plywood from ApplePly. Alternatively, you could use a full sheet of 1/2" thick plywood (4'x8'), cut it in half width-wise, then glue the two pieces together to create the necessary 1" thick piece.
  • 1" diameter oak dowel (at least 16" long)
  • 16 flat head cap screws, 1/4-20 thread, 2 1/4" length (McMaster-Carr part # 91263A567)
  • 12 barrel nuts, 10mm OD, 16mm length, 1/4-20 internal thread (McMaster-Carr part # 90835A210)
  • 4 hex drive steel threaded inserts for wood, 1/4-20 internal thread (McMaster-Carr part # 90192A124)
  • 5 minute epoxy
  • Spray adhesive (for attaching templates)
  • Paint (bold primary colors such as yellow, red, and blue)
  • Clear coat (I recommend a water-based polyurethane)

Tools: (the minimum required to make this)

  • Jigsaw
  • Handheld power sander (orbital, belt, or sheet sander) with coarse to fine grit paper
  • Drill
  • Self-centering doweling jig
  • 10 mm drill bit
  • 1/4", 5/16", and 3/8" drill bits
  • Countersink bit
  • Combination square
  • Straightedge
  • Center punch
  • Mallet

Additionally recommended Tools: (this will make the whole job a lot easier)

  • Band saw
  • Drill press
  • Table saw
  • Router
  • Belt/disc sander
  • Oscillating spindle sander
  • 1/8" and 1/4" roundover router bit
  • 10mm forstner bit
  • Transfer punch set

Step 2: Drawings, Patterns, and CAD

Attached are various pdf drawings, patterns, and CAD models. If there's a particular format you need, let me know and I'll see if I can get it to you. Some of the drawings can be printed to scale and used as patterns, I've indicated the paper size in the file name.

Step 3: Cutting the Runners

Print out a copy of the runner pattern. Cut and tape together using the aligning marks.

I cut my piece of plywood in half, creating two 2'x4' pieces, to make things a bit more manageable. Adhere the pattern to the wood using spray adhesive (I like using 3M Repositionable 75). Spray the pattern only, and make sure it dries completely before sticking it to the wood, otherwise you will be left with lots of paper stuck to the wood when you eventually remove the pattern.

If you're just using a jigsaw, go ahead and cut out the runner. Otherwise, trim the board down on the table saw for handling, then complete the rough cuts on the bandsaw.

If I were smart, I would have cut out a second strip of wood and screwed it to my piece with the pattern on it so would only have to do the cutting and shaping operations once, and the pieces would match up perfectly. Live and learn.

Step 4: Finishing the Runners

After making your rough cuts, it's time to do the fine shaping. Before you do that, however, go ahead and use a center punch to mark the holes while the pattern is still attached (It may come loose during sanding). Then, drill the through holes using a 1/4" bit (drill press recommended)

Using a sander, begin sanding the wood right up to the lines on the pattern. This process can take a little while, depending on how particular you are. Once completed, you can peel off the paper pattern.

After the fine shaping, it's time to round over the edges. You can do this with a sander, however, I used a trim router and a 1/8" roundover bit for a more uniform appearance.

Finally, I used a countersink bit on one side of each runner, on each hole, to allow the flathead screws to sit flush when the rocking cat is assembled.

Step 5: Cutting the Foot Runners

Start by cutting some plywood down to the proper size for the foot runners (11" x 2 1/2"). A jigsaw and a straightedge can accomplish this task, though it is much easier with a table saw.

After cutting to size, layout and center mark all of the holes.

Step 6: Drilling Holes in the Foot Runners

First, drill the two 1/4" through holes that are in the center of the runner, then countersink (make sure you countersink the proper side!)

Next, drill the 10mm holes for the barrel nuts. I made them flat-bottomed for appearance, but they can be through holes too. If drilling flat-bottomed holes, make sure you're drilling on the right side, and use a 10mm forstener bit. I neglected to take a picture during this step, FYI.

Finally, drill the cross holes on the ends of the foot runners. Initially, I had tried to do this on a drill press, but the holes ended up being out of alignment. The solution ended up being to buy a self-centering doweling jig. I bought a cheap one from Harbor Freight, which I ended up having to completely disassemble so I could calibrate it (it was not centering!).

Once i got it straightened out, I attached it and used a transfer punch to gently mark the wood. I then pulled out the punch and peered down the jig hole with a flashlight to see if the mark i just made matched the hole position i had marked earlier. If it didn't, I nudged the clamp a little in the desired direction and checked alignment again.

Once positioned properly, I set the desired depth on the drill bit. Finally, I inserted the drill bushing into the jig and drilled the hole.

Step 7: Test-fitting the Base

Now's the time to check if you drilled the hole straight and in the right locations. To do this, try to assemble the base together from the runners and the foot runners.

I had a several that were out of alignment. I ended up having to drill out some of the holes from 1/4" to 5/16", as well as drilling some of the 10mm holes a bit deeper and/or slotting them out a bit so things would line up.

Step 8: Cutting the Rocking Cat Body

Print out the pattern for the rocking cat. It's pretty large, so unless you have plotter you'll have to take it out somewhere to get printed. I went to my local print shop, and even though they don't have a large format printer, they were able to put together a 1:1 scale print for me from a few smaller printouts. The whole thing cost me a whopping $2.

Apply spray adhesive to the back of the pattern (make sure to let it dry!) then attach to plywood. Rough cut using a jigsaw or band saw, then do the final shaping with a sander. This is a bit time-consuming given the amount of details and smaller radii present here compared to other parts.

Step 9: Drilling More Holes

Use similar procedures used in the prior steps to drill the holes in the rocking cat body. Start with the flat bottomed 10mm holes (again, you can make these through holes if you want), followed by the corresponding 1/4" through holes for the screws (using the doweling jig). Finally, drill the 3/8" holes using the doweling jig.

Note that one of the pictures shows extra holes drilled for the seat mounting. Initially, I had made the design with three screws to attach the seat. However, their position made it tough to attach the doweling jig properly, and they ended up being way out of alignment. I changed the design to use just two screws in a position where the jig could attach securely.

Step 10: Finishing the Cat Body

After the holes are drilled, peel off the pattern, then round the edges by sanding or using a 1/8" roundover bit. After that, attach the body to the base to check hole positions and fit. I had to drill the 1/4" holes out to 5/16" like before and adjust some of the 10mm holes.

Step 11: Making the Seat

Print out and attach seat pattern to a roughly-size piece of plywood (note: my images show three holes on the pattern, which have since changed to two holes on the final design). Rough cut on the band saw then shape with a sander. Test fit the seat on the cat body. The two notches will probably require some fine tuning to fit properly (a chisel or file helps for this). You want the fit to be a tiny bit loose.

Step 12: Drilling Holes and Finishing the Seat

Since I changed the mounting design of the seat mid-construction, I had to come up with an easy way to mark the holes (this method also works if your holes are out of alignment). To do this, I installed the two threaded inserts, leaving the top of each protruding above the surface a little bit. I then put the seat in place and struck it firmly with a rubber mallet. The force of the mallet strike creates indentations in the wood which can be used to center mark the holes to be drilled.

Drill and countersink the holes, remove the pattern, and round the edges. I used a 1/4" roundover bit here to create a softer edge.

Step 13: Making the Handle/footrest

The handle and the footrest are identical pieces.

Cut two 8" pieces from your dowel rod. To cut the dado in the center, I took a piece of scrap wood with square edges and brad nailed it to the dowel. This gave me a means to hold the dowel still and square when cutting the dado. I used a band saw to cut it, but you could probably do it with a table saw and the right jigging or a chisel and hand saw.

Drill and countersink the hole in the center of the dowel. Use a sander to round the ends of the dowels.

Step 14: Permanently Installing Threaded Inserts

The four threaded inserts called out in the materials list are used for attaching the seat and foot rest. Thread each insert into the hole to the proper depth. For the seat, the top of the insert should be flush with the edge of the plywood. For the holes for the handle and footrest, the insert should be threaded in as far as it will go. The purpose of doing this is to cut the threads in the wood before the inserts are glued into place

Now, remove all the inserts. Lay a bead of epoxy in each hole, then re-install the inserts (remember, seat position - flush with surface, handle/footrest position - all the way to the bottom of the hole). It helps to use epoxy that has a mixing tip; it makes it easier to lay the epoxy bead in the hole.

Once the epoxy has cured (I waited 24 hours), use a 1/4-20 tap to clean the internal threads of the inserts, which likely got epoxy in them when they were inserted.

Step 15: Finish Sanding

The end is nigh! Time to do final sanding of all of the plywood pieces. I used a random orbit sander starting with 120 grit pads, then did a second pass with 220 git pads. Finally, I raised the grain, then did a final hand finishing using 220 grit paper.

Step 16: Painting and Clear Coating

I painted the foot runners, handles, and seat. They got a few light coats of primer, followed by a top coat of either red, blue, or yellow paint. I used spray paint for an even finish, but brushing paint on would work fine as well.

Finally, every piece (painted or not) got 4 coats of polyurethane. I used a water-based formula to make cleanup easier.

Step 17: Final Assembly

Here's a series of images from the instruction manual I sent to my friend so he could put his together. I attached a pdf of the manual as well if you're curious.

That's it! This was a fun project to work on, and will perhaps become a family heirloom.

I did the majority of the woodwork in the wood shop of my employer, the National Robotics Engineering Center.

Wood Contest

Participated in the
Wood Contest

Homemade Gifts Contest

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Homemade Gifts Contest

1 Person Made This Project!


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17 Discussions

Thanks for the awesome I'ble! Quick question for you - I see the seat and rocker rail PDFs have the paper size in the file name like you mention above, but the cat main body file does not say what size paper to print on. Should I just tell my local copy shop to make prints until the line indicated "1.5" (inches, I assume??) measures 1.5"? Thanks again for sharing.

2 replies

So the main body is an ANSI D drawing size - 22" x 34". But if you tell your print shop to print it at 1:1 scale (making the 1.5" line measure 1.5" on the print as you suggest) then you should be fine.


4 years ago on Introduction

Iincredibly extensive and detailed flat pack assembly guide! I myself do flat pack furniture assembly London. but this is ACE flat pack assembly! I've been re-reading and analyzing the whole guide for quite some time. I wonder, if you sum it up, how long did setting up A to Z, what the number would be. I would like to thank you for the blueprints and instruction files you have shared!

1 reply

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

I would say it took around 15-20 hours to complete, spread out over several days. Now that I've made one, I think I could probably get it done faster with everything I've learned.


Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

Oh man, I forgot all about the contests here. Thanks for the reminder, and the compliments!


4 years ago

With only 2 supporting legs I am curious how sturdy it is laterally.

3 replies

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

With the screws properly tensioned, it's pretty sturdy. It should be able to handle whatever a 50 pound 6 year old can throw at it.

It definitely was a concern though when I was designing it, which was why I went with 1" thick wood instead of 3/4". I guess the good thing is that it the rocking motion tend to make all the forces go in the fore/aft direction, which tends to discourage lateral movement from the rider.

If I can find the time, I'll try to run an FEA to get more concrete answers.


Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

Thanks for your comprehensive reply - I wasn't expecting an FEA but that would be awesome cool. Real life trials with any 6yo is good enough by my books :)