Heartwood Rocking Horses

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Quick Q&A

So, lately I’ve tried some new techniques. I’ve done a lot of googling, and found not a lot of clear answers. So, here’s a tribute to my questions and the answers that I discovered via trial and error. Now I know! Maybe if someone else wonders they may somehow find the info on this site!

1. Can you use the Sharpie oil paint marker on milk paint? text written in sharpie oil paint marker over milk paint with oil finish

A: Yes!

2. Can I put an oil finish over sharpie paint marker, and then finish all that with shellac?

A: Yes and NO! I oiled the sharpie paint and it was fine, no smearing. But then I was surprised that when I brushed shellac over it all the white began to smear. I ended brushing over just the white with shellac and trying to brush around the lettering after. Overall this makes the finish uneven. I’ll see later if it continues to smear with future coats. But for now I plan to stick with milk paint for lettering, especially if I plan to cover it with shellac.

3. Can I use oil to finish cedar? Can I use wax over that?

A: Yes! I used Tried and True Polymerized Linseed Oil on this lovely cedar from Honduras. Really makes the grain look amazing, and though it won’t dry in the normal way that an oil finish will because of the cedar oils, I like the look better than using a glossy finish. I then used an oil/beeswax mixture, warmed on the stove and rubbed in by hand and toothbrush, over the oil. It soaked in after a while and dried to the touch. I hope this will add some protection and prevent the oil/cedar wood from drying out to quickly.

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New Photos and New Site Setup!

I’m so excited to add new photos to the site, recently taken by photographer Julie McMillan of Silver Birch Studio Photography. They are stunning! I also took this chance to change the site set-up a little. Hopefully things will be a little more clear and a little less wordy in some instances.

Most noticeable is the change to the Stable. I changed this to be the Custom Design area to showcase my 4 main styles to give people ideas of what they can order. But I have also branched out into custom shapes, figures, heads and whatever else you can think of, so these 4 shapes are not the only thing I have to offer.

I also added a Currently Available section to display horses currently available for immediate purchase. These are either here at my workshop or reside in a retail location as specified. Prices are listed as well. I hope this make it easier to tell what you can pick up right away and may draw attention to the wonderful shops that are hosting my work.

Enjoy the new photos! I’ll be using them to apply to the Southern Highland Craft Guild, the Piedmont Craftsmen, and the Carolina Designer Craftsmen Guild so look for updates on that process.

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Carved cedar horse head wall hanging, and adventures in shellac!

So, I’ve had this old cedar stump sitting in the garage for a while. A local craftsman and friend gave it to me a while back to try out. I met him at my first craft fair and he generously offered to give me some different types of wood that I hadn’t tried before, like this cedar. cedar stump

 I decided to try to sculpt a horse head figure from this single piece of wood. I’ve never tried anything like this. I usually carve from a flat piece of wood that has a narrow profile. I made some sketches of what I thought might work and came up with this:

drawing for cedar stump horse head carving

 My idea was to have a carved mane sticking straight out the top of the head like rays of sunshine. The horse would have a happy energetic expression.

Here’s my first delve into the wood, about a few hours worth of work.

beginning cedar horse head carving

 I soon encountered several checks or cracks in the wood. I also uncovered a knot in the wood that was a beautiful purple color. I decided I wanted this to be in the center of the horse forehead. It reminded me of the Third Eye idea. I also discovered that the easiest way to continue would be to have the ears laid back rather than facing forward. I still wanted to have the mane stick out, but realized it wouldn’t be very tall at this point. Here’s more progress…

beginning cedar horse head carving

beginning cedar horse head carving

beginning cedar horse head carving

 At this point the shape of the head has been determined by the different cracks and features I encountered in the wood. I decided that a nice round neckline will look the best on this horse, and I will try to carve a mane into the side of the neck rather than straight up and down. Also, I learned that the center of the stump has a hollow spot that I will have to incorporate into the mouth of the horse. The expression became a little more wild, feisty, and somewhat surly compared to what I had in mind, but I liked it!

Now it was a bit tough for me to envision exactly how to continue and what the final shape would be. I got the idea to print out a copy of a photo of the head so that I could draw a final outline.

photo copy of cedar horse head to create new outline for carving drawing for cedar horse head carving

 With the final goal in mind, I removed the last of the wood. The hollow center created some difficulty in shaping the mouth and teeth, but the result was a one-of-a-kind, expressive creature! The original intent was to place glass eyes on the head, but when I tried placing these it made the face look a bit too scary and a little strange. I went with carved eyes and really enjoyed sculpting them. Some of my best eye carving so far! I learn and improve with every project. Here’s some images of the final stages and sanding process…

 cedar horse head carving sanding time beginning cedar horse head carving sanded more beginning cedar horse head carving sanded

 So, this post is getting long, but the final step was the most risky. I know that cedar cannot be finished with oil, which is my favorite finish. The oils in the cedar will prevent the oil from curing, and oil will have to be continually applied to keep any kind of finish.

So I decided to try shellac. This is all-natural and non-toxic, and will seal the wood to keep the beautiful red cedar colors and prevent any more cracking as years go on. I have never used shellac so it was an adventure! I did the flat base first. A piece of walnut that I’ve been saving because it has a fun look to it.

shellac the base for cedar horse head wall hanging shellac base for cedar horse head wall hanging

 Then on to the head. The process must be done quickly to prevent drips from drying into the finish. I did several layers and sanded the imperfections out between each one. Each coat dried for about 1-2 hrs before sanding. It was difficult at first but each coat became easier to apply without runs and defects. I found that the best way to apply shellac to a rounded sculpture with fine details is with a wedge shaped make-up application sponge.

carved cedar horse head sculpture shellac finishshiny shellac cedar horse head top view sanding cedar horse head carving after shellac coat cedar horse head carving side view sanded shellac

 The first hanging on the wall!

carved cedar horse head sculpture wall hanging shellac side view cedar horse head carved sculpture wall hanging shellac front view

This is a little too shiny for me. I read that you can sand the finish one more time and then rub in wax to create a matte finish. I tried this method with oil first, and once it dries we’ll see what I think. Final photos will be posted to the Stable when I get professional photos done. Thanks for joining me on this adventure!

cedar horse head carving sanded shellac oil rubbed

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New, custom stand alone figures

This is Simon, a custom carving of a friend’s horse. I am happy to announce that I now plan to offer custom carvings of horses in any stance. I can replicate a photo or use my own design and add your horse’s coloring. This one also includes the big Simon’s real horse hair. I hope to add a page to my site soon to describe the process to order your own custom horse carving. So much fun for me to do these new stand alone carvings!

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New video for the site!

Here’s my attempt at creating a quick video of the process of making a rocking horse. I always daydream about it while carving, and this is about as complicated as my skills could create! Enjoy!

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A look at the past year, and looking ahead

Well, it has been a wonderful year in 2014. This was my first full year of officially being in business. I learned quite a lot! I began with getting professional photos made, which lead to creating this website, submitting applications to art guilds and local stores, and updating my Etsy shop. I have fine tuned my designs and carving skills, and am so proud of the finished product of each horse I make. I have sold horses all over the states, from Hawaii to Arizona and New York, and even Canada! I have also discovered a few different techniques that I will use in the next year. Here’s a few changes that I will make; small, but fun to incorporate and share with all of you!


I have discovered a new, food-grade, non-toxic, all natural oil that is much more durable, dries faster, and looks better than the raw oil I have been using. It is partially polymerized linseed oil, and I have been using Tried and True Danish Oil on the last several horses with great results. This is not the same as boiled linseed oil, which contains heavy metals to aid in drying. Also not the same as traditional Danish oil, which can contain synthetic materials or dryers and takes at least 30 days to cure and become food safe. The Tried and True linseed oil has been partially heated over time, causing partial polymerization without metallic or chemical additives, and speeding the drying process once you apply it to wood. And it is safe for me! I may try some of the other Tried and True natural finishes as well in the future.


I made my first all-reclaimed-lumber Toddler horse this year. This involved joining a few pieces of walnut together to

hand carved toddler rocking horse natural wood

oak with walnut rockers and light mane

create the wide rockers, which I previously made from plywood. It is beautiful, and is very popular. Walnut, however, can be a difficult wood to find in the reclaimed lumber world. I may be able to use oak instead, though the dark walnut is a great color contrast to an oak or poplar horse head.

I talked with a local small-scale lumber mill in the area (Bee Tree Hardwoods)  about buying sustainably harvested lumber, instead of reclaimed lumber, when the reclaimed supply is low. What I learned is that it can be very hard to become officially certified in the sustainable lumber industry, and that the certification is usually used for exotic or endangered wood species. This lumber yard often uses urban harvested trees from construction lot clearing or downed residential trees. I like this. Also, they claim that most lumber growers use sustainable practices because it is in their best interest to take care of the land and keep the trees healthy and growing for generations. This makes sense to me, though I don’t know much about the industry and haven’t done much more research about it.

But there is a chance I may use lumber from this local mill if reclaimed lumber is not available. I trust that is comes from near by, and is harvested ethically and sustainably. I will still use only reclaimed lumber as much as possible, and will of course use it for customers that prefer using only reclaimed materials.

In the New Year

2015 will be my first full year of creating horses full-time. I hope to reapply to the Southern Highland Craft Guild in May if I can create 5 new horses. I also hope to apply to a few other artist guilds that promote annual or semi-annual art fairs. I learned this past year that online sales were greater than local in-store sales. I would love to learn if the art fair market would be another good market for the horses.

I am also making my first custom horse sculpture that will stand alone without rockers. I hope to expand the options of horse related creations, including mounted carved heads, wall hangings, or book ends. I’m open to all your imaginative ideas!

Thanks so much to those of you that have taken interest in Heartwood this past year! I love hearing from you! And it is always my greatest joy to hand deliver horses and see people’s reactions and joy in seeing the horses. There is something special about horses, about hand crafted wood creations, and about working with other people to put their dreams into reality! I love every minute, and hope children love their horses as well!

Have a wondrous, imaginative and creative New Year!

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Nest Organics Event

Here’s all the details about the holiday market coming up at Nest Organics. You can find four of my horses for sale there as well. Come see all the other amazing local craft and art items and meet the artists!

Details about nest organic's artisan market 2014


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Walnut for toddlers!

I wanted to feature a new horse that I just completed for the Grovewood Gallery in Asheville at the Grove Park Inn. They requested all non-painted, natural horses, and I was hesitant to try this with the toddler horse. I usually use birch plywood for the rockers, which look best painted fun colors. But I tried using some walnut, and though the color doesn’t blend perfectly across the rockers, I really love this new warm look! You can find this horse at the Grovewood Gallery, or order yours today by sending me an email.

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Holiday Artisan Market downtown Asheville, NC


Nest Organics event 2014Here’s me posing in front of some of my horses on display at Nest Organics downtown in Asheville. I’ll be joining other artists that sell at Nest for an opening reception on Nov 28th from 7-10 pm. Come on down and meet the artists, and enjoy free beer, wine and live music! And the following Saturday and Sunday enjoy the Holiday Market featuring the local artists of Nest Organics at a special market event. I’m not sure if I will have any extra horses on hand to bring to the market, but I’m sure there will be plenty of wonderful locally made crafts and wonderful people as well! Enjoy!toddler and racer rocking horses on display at Nest Organics store

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The holidays are coming!

tools and rocking horse head to be carvedWell, things have been busy here at Heartwood. So busy that I haven’t had time to update the site in a while. And sadly so busy that I was not able to attend the Art in the Park event last weekend! I wish I could have been there, but all the horses I have on hand are slotted to be sold, so I didn’t want to bring them out into the public with nothing to offer that someone could actually purchase and take home. Hopefully this was the right decision.

I am excited to announce that you will soon be able to see my horses in shops here in Asheville! Look for them towards the end of October at the Nest Organics store on Lexington in downtown Asheville. This is a beautiful store with all natural products for infants, kids, and the home. They will be carrying my smaller horses, and possibly featuring a large one in the window!

Also, by the end of November, the Grovewood Gallery at the Grove Park Inn, with one of the most spectacular views in town, will be featuring my larger horses and a small one as well. They have the most beautiful hand made furniture and art, and lovely wooden toys. If you haven’t been there you really should check it out. And enjoy a hot chocolate out on the Inn veranda or by the giant fire place!

I can still take another order or two in the Asheville area for the holidays, and am always able to start orders for next year as well!