Rustic Rocking Horse From Store Bought Timber

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About: I'm a woodworker/maker on YouTube

This rocking horse uses dowel joinery.

I have a detail explanation of the steps in this YouTube video:

Some of the cuts are done at angles to having a mitre saw, table saw, or bandsaw will make it a lot easier. I used a mitre saw and bandsaw for this and was able to get most of the joins tight.

The timber I used is a local hardwood (tasmanian oak) but almost any wood will work for this, including pine. The boards all come from my local big box store, including some 25mm dowel rods. You could substitute these for 19mm (3/4") dowel, so you don't need to worry about creating your own.

Step 1: Creating the Head and Seat

To start I took some boards and cut them too rough length. All the measurements are based on another rocking horse and I would highly recommend doing it this way. I could place my little one onto it and get an idea of what worked and what didn't and then adjust as I went.

I glued up 2 panels; one for the head and one for the body. You could certainly make these out of 1 piece of wood but I couldn't get anything wide enough. And because this is dressed already there wasn't too much work to do before gluing.

The design of the head is from an image I found online. Using a photoshop style program I found the edges and printed it out. Then I could glue it to the panel and cut it out on the bandsaw.

The seat is a narrower piece and has 2 curves cut out of it. To mark these curves I used a tray from a very large pot plant.

The head slots into the body using a shallow mortise (cut with a router and chisels), and some dowels are added from the underside of the seat.

This can be glued together now.

Step 2: Support and Legs

Next is the support piece that holds the legs. The legs are flared out to the side at a 10 degree angle, and flared front to back at a 15 degree angle.

The support piece, which will attach underneath the seat, needs a 10 degree rip cut along its edges. I don't have a table saw so I used a bandsaw and block plane to cut the angle and clean it up.

The legs needed a compound cut (cut at an angle in 2 directions) so they match the support piece and flare forward or back. If you have a mitre saw this is relatively simple to setup, but it's always a good idea to do a few test cuts to dial it in.

To attach the legs to the support piece I used dowels. I drilled holes into the legs, then using dowel centre points I could mark their location on the support piece. From there I drilled into the support piece.

Once I was happy with the fit I could glue the legs to the support piece. I started by adding dowels to the legs, then once the glue dried I cut them to length and glued them into the support piece. Notice the wood between the clamp and work piece. These are off cuts from the 10 degree cut and they square up the surfaces so the clamps apply force into the correct position.

Glue this section up now, it will be referenced later in the project.

Step 3: Feet and Rocker Blank

The legs will attach to the rockers with, what I'm calling, feet. They attach to the bottom of the legs using dowels, these are simply drilled through the foot into the legs and some dowels are pushed in.

Once the feet are attached (no glue yet, just dry fit) place them onto the 2 boards that are going to be the rockers.

The rockers are made up of multiple boards glued together. The boards roughly follow the curve of the rockers, this way you'll end up with less waste.

To attach the feet to the rockers create wedges that will be glued in place. These wedges are cut on a bandsaw and I used a hand plane to finesse them so they have a tight fit. This also gives a flat surface for the feet to sit on.

And once you're happy with the wedges you can glue them to the rocker blanks.

Step 4: Cutting the Rockers

Now that you have the feet sitting on the square rockers, we need to cut a curve into them. To create a big enough curve I used a long plywood arm with a screw into my work bench on one and, and a pencil on the other. This arm is then swung back and forth and a curve is marked.

I could then cut this out on my bandsaw.

I used a few different sanders to smooth out the curve, working my way up the grits. Clamping the 2 rockers together and then sanding meant that they both had the same shape. After I was happy with it I could seperate them and add a round over to the corners.

Step 5: Glue Up and Final Sand

At this stage all the pieces are ready to be glued up. Start with the feet, inserting the dowels. Then add that assembly to the rockers, again with dowels. You can add slats across the rockers or leave these off. Next are the foot rests and handle. It's a good idea to have drilled these holes prior to the glue up but it's not a necessity. And finally glue the seat/head assembly to the support piece.

Once all the glue dries give it a light sand and apply finish. I used a food safe orange oil.

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