Heartwood Rocking Horses


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How to make rocking horse stirrups

classic walnut 2015

foot pegs

This is an article about how to make your own stirrups for a rocking horse, but I admit that in the past I have been very anti-stirrup with my rocking horses. My goal is to make the horse very user-friendly, and small children never seem to have a lot of luck when trying to use actual rocking horse stirrups. This could be because their feet don’t fit, they require an unnatural leg and foot position, they are not at the correct length, or they just don’t provide a lot of stability. I have created an adjustable foot peg system that works very well. But for people looking for that traditional image of a rocking horse with stirrups, I have come up with a different method.

I have found that visually, people do enjoy seeing stirrups on the horse, especially if I make a leather saddle. ¬†For my English style saddles, I simply order the smallest pony size metal stirrups for real horses. They are installed with regular stirrup leathers and are fully adjustable. The size may stand out as large relative to the horse, but this is the smallest size that will actually accommodate the shoe of a 5 year old. Here’s the end result…

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heirloom wood hand carvved rocking horse with hand made saddle and bridle, brown and white paint horse, yarn mane and tail, glass eye

First stirrups, original but a bit chunky

I recently made a horse with a western saddle. I wanted to make the stirrups myself, and attempted to do so by joining pieces of wood together to create strength. In order to maintain the strength, the entire thing became a bit over sized. I was ok with it at first. But I came upon a post of another rocking horse created from birch plywood. This horse had stirrups as well, and I wanted to try this method myself for creating a more realistic stirrup. By gluing three pieces of plywood together, I create a very strong single piece that can be cut much thinner than simple wood on its own. Here’s images of the final product, plus a comparison with the first stirrup I created.

So I don’t have any photos of the process, but here are the basics:

1. glue up 3 pieces of plywood. I cut mine into an oval in the rough shape of a stirrup.

2. draw the outline desired for the stirrup.

3. drill a hole into the center of the stirrup with a wide drill bit.

4. use a coping saw or jig saw to cut out the shape.

5. with a saw and chisel, shave off a few layers of plywood on the cross bar of the stirrup to create a thinner cross segment.

6. sand everything down to desired smoothness.

7. finish with oil and shellac

I also was able to find cheap children’s sized western stirrups online, but using plywood provides an even cheaper method that is also hand made, and can be adjusted for size and shape.

plywood horseHere’s a link to the plywood-based horses, where I first saw this idea. RockingHorsesJaffa on Etsy. They are lovely! I don’t plan to use the plywood method for my horses so I don’t mind sharing these lovely horses with you.

 

 


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Sneak Peek! Almost finished!

I’ve been working on this walnut horse for over a month now, and couldn’t resist rubbing one coat of oil in after sanding all day to see what colors arise. I have loved working with this walnut, and am so glad to have tried something new! I always thought walnut would be very hard to work with. What I found is that it is harder than poplar, but that means it doesn’t splinter as much, and it’s a little more predictable. It is like carving into a block of frozen chocolate, whereas poplar is like carving into a mealy apple. Well, maybe not that bad. I still like the poplar, but the feel of slicing the walnut is great fun!

With this reclaimed lumber, none of my grains match up very well, but I enjoy all the variety and seeing the different lines and colors. Maybe I’ll try harder in the future to use colors that are more similar. But for now I really love this one, and it will be very unique! I still have the rockers to finish, and the mane to install. And then lots more oil and buffing! Here’s a sneak peek for now!

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