I’m only now beginning to realise just how labour intensive it really is making a rocking horse. Steve and Bea (my tutors and mentors) from Tetbury Rocking Horse Works have been in the business for 30 years and are, very kindly and patiently, passing on their skill and knowledge to me. They make it all look soooo easy. I’ve tried to document the days I’ve spent so far putting this knowledge and skill into practice, so here goes....
Step 1: Using the template, mark up in pencil the outline of the components for each horse....head, legs and body. On the head, using a bradawl, mark eye and bit positions where indicated. Note the letter ‘A’ on the plank - this is the size horse I’m making...you have to match all the body parts or you’ll be in trouble!
Step 2: Using a power drill create a cylindrical hole at the bit position.
Step 3: Note how the template is positioned to give minimum wastage when cutting multiples for a large order.
Step 4: Using a bandsaw I cut the outline of the horse head. Steve drew gently curving lines on waste bits of wood for me to practice on. Power tools like this are completely foreign to me. ‘Imagine you’re driving a car and you’re approaching a bend.’ Steve said, ‘You don’t drive right up to the bend, then turn. Start going into the curve before you reach it.’
It took me all morning practicing before the eureka moment kicked in and I stopped going ‘off line’ as Steve called it.
Step 5: Completing cutting the mouth out.
Steps 6, 7 and 8: We move onto the jigsaw for the tighter curves under the horse’s chin. First I used the power drill again to make a cylindrical hole between the neck and jaw as the curve there was just too tight even for the jigsaw. Then I clamped the head to a base to leave both hands free to guide the saw round (what were to me) complex curves. Again Steve set me to practice on waste bits of wood with ‘S’ shaped curves drawn on them. This time it felt much more natural since I’d practiced so much with the bandsaw.
Steps 9, 10 and 11: Shows how the horse’s head looks now the mouth/jaw is complete.
Step 12: The legs have been cut out using the same tools I’ve used on the head. The top of the legs have been cut at an angle of 15 degrees as have the indents to fix the legs to on the body base. This will create the ‘splayed’ legs that will fit over the ‘rocker’. Note the F(ront) and R(ear) pencilled onto the body base. It’s terribly easy to attach the wrong legs to the wrong end! I’ve marked in pencil the screw hole positions on the legs -I checked and re-checked the screw positions and still nearly attached a leg incorrectly. Front and back can look awfully similar to the uninitiated.
Step 13: Clamp the base to a workbench. Drill screw holes at a 15 degree angle (parallel to the cut of the leg) in position and paint the inside and top of the leg with PVA glue. Position the leg to the body base and screw in tightly. This requires some pressure and the screwhead needs to be indented into the wood (not stand proud at all).
Step 14: All four legs correct and in place.
Step 15: You can see the splay of the legs at this angle. I’m so proud, yet we’ve barely started.
Future stages will be posted as each part of the project is completed, but for now I need to get rid of a ton of sawdust and shavings that seem to have formed a rather fetching hoodie that goes right down to cover my boots!