Finishing Touches

The only things left now are to fit the forelock, mane and tail, fit the saddlery, and attach the horse to the stand.

The rocking horse kit comes complete with a section of a real horse's mane, still attached to the hide. There was more than enough to make the forelock, mane and tail for my horse, but it was pretty dirty and the hide was very dry, making it extremely stiff and hard to work with. The first job, then, is to soak the hide in water overnight to soften up the hide and loosen any dirt stuck to the hairs.

Once soaked, the hide becomes very pliable. I washed and rinsed the whole thing several times, using detergent to clean everything up. I did this in the bath in our house, which made things fairly easy, but you might prefer to do it outdoors if you're at all concerned about what might be in the 'dirt'!

Once clean, I allowed the hide and hair to dry for a few hours and then took it back out to the garage/workshop. It will take the hide several days to dry out ag…

Fitting the Eyes and Mounting the Horse

I described in an earlier post how I made sockets for the supplied glass eyes using a 22mm spade bit:

The instructions that came with the kit suggested attaching the eyes using wood filler as glue. I didn't feel confident that this would work, having never tried it before, so I decided to use epoxy instead.

Having checked that the eyes were going to fit ok and that everything was clean and dry, I mixed up some quick-setting (five minute) epoxy and spread some on the back of each eye, then used some tape to hold them in place while the glue cured. This worked very well.

The only things left at this stage were to fit the (real horse hair!) mane, forelock and tail, saddle 'er up, and mount her to the stand. But she looked so good, I couldn't resist mounting her straight away (stop sniggering at the back, Jenkins!):

Very cool. The combined horse and stand are very heavy so I never intended to mount the horse permanently at this stage - that would wait until she was safely inside t…

Varnishing and Hardware

The next step is to apply a couple of coats of varnish to the stand and the horse, and then assemble the stand. Things are really starting to come together!

There's not much to say about the varnishing. I used Ronseal's Ultra Tough Satincoat clear varnish. I didn't want a really glossy finish, hence the Satincoat, and I expected the horse and stand to get a few knocks from my three daughters, hence the Ultra Tough. I brushed on three coats, sanding lightly between each coat with fine (240 grit) paper.

My biggest problem with the varnishing was that I was doing this in an unheated detached garage in the UK in mid-December, so the temperature was barely 5°C (40°F): too cold for the varnish. It gets quite treacly at those temperatures, resulting in a pretty thick coat each time. That's why (I think) the finish ended up quite glossy, despite using a satin varnish. I did try warming up the tin of varnish with a fan heater, but that didn't make a lot of difference - I shou…

Our Horse, Dyed

Now that all the sanding and other prep is finally complete, you can move on to the finishing.  I dyed mine (her name is 'Rosehip', by the way) using Colron Wood Dye in Indian Rosewood; many rocking horses are painted, either in the classic 'dapple grey' pattern or in more individual style, but I can't offer any advice on how to do that.

I was quite nervous about starting this phase because I'd never dyed wood before and I really didn't want to ruin all the hard work I'd put in up to this point. However, having watched a few videos on YouTube, I dived in and it turned out to be very easy. The most important tip is to really flood the surface of the wood with dye, using a rag that is completely saturated. Spread it out evenly to leave a glistening, even layer, and then leave it! Don't be tempted to go back and touch up a small area, because any extra dye you add after the first coat has dried will darken the colour substantially and leave a patchy app…

Eyes and Tail

It's been over nine months since I last updated this blog, so I must apologise for keeping you all waiting so long; but now, the story continues...

Before moving on to finishing, I next drilled the holes necessary for the horse's eyes and tail. The kit comes supplied with two glass eyes attached to either end of a short length of wire - snip the wire to separate the two eyes. They're about 18mm (3/4") in diameter and the instructions suggest drilling holes to mount them, using wood filler as glue, without providing much detail. I pondered this for a while, but here's how I did it...

The location for the eyes is easy to find, as it's where a dowel comes right through the head to hold the two halves together. At this stage the ends of the dowel should have been cut off and sanded down flush with the rest of the head, but they're still easy to see:

I started by drilling a small pilot hole, maybe 4mm or so, right into the centre of the dowel, with the drill pe…

Sanding and Shaping

In previous posts, I completed the assembly of the stand and the rocking horse itself, so all the major parts are now complete; the next stage of construction will come pretty much at the end of the project - mounting the horse on the stand.  Before that though, there's a whole lot of sanding to be done!

Sanding the stand is straightforward; the wood is already very smooth as delivered and it consists mainly of large flat surfaces.  You should ideally have sanded each piece down to around 220 grit sandpaper before assembly, so the main tasks now are to ensure that there are no rough spots or glue residue left anywhere and to ensure that the wedged tenon joints are sanded flush.  You can use an electric sander for most of this, but the posts are a little trickier and you'll need to do those by hand, and take your time. If you'll be dying your horse, like I did, it's important to get a consistent smoothness across each piece, because the dye will be absorbed differently b…

On to the Rails

At this stage, with the stand and the horse's body completely assembled, I decided to make a small modification to the two rails.  These are the lengths of wood to which the horse's feet get bolted, and which receive the ends of the hangers.  As supplied, these were shaped to a point at each end, and were pre-drilled for the hangers, but they had sharp square edges. As all the stand's parts had nicely chamfered edges, I decided to add a chamfer to the rails as well.

The only slightly tricky thing here was to NOT chamfer the two areas on each rail where the horse's feet would go; I didn't want to be left with a gap where the chamfered edge ran under the feet. With the stand and the horse's body and legs assembled, I dry-fitted everything together so that I could lower the horse on the rails, drill holes for the horse's mounting bolts, and mark the outline of where each foot overlapped onto the rail.

With this done, I used a chamfering bit in my router table to…