Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Rocking Horse Project!

Yay! I finally get to reveal the secret project I spent about a bazillion hours working on in the last few weeks!

Let's see, our story begins long ago in a galaxy far away.

When I was little kid, my brothers and I had a rocking horse. Yeah, that's me in that picture above, wasn't I cute? Actually, that's kind of a terrible photo of me, but it's the only one that shows the horse/goat. My uncle Brian made it for us. It may have been lacking in certain aesthetic qualities (mane, ears) and may have more closely resembled a LaMancha goat (you know, those ones that look like they don't have ears?) than a horse, but I loved that rocking horse. And now, present day, this galaxy, I have a just-turned-two-year-old niece (Chloe) who always asks to see the horses when she comes over to visit. So it was a given that I should be the one to give her a rocking horse, right? I really wanted to make one, I even looked at some plans on line, but came to my senses pretty quickly and realized that I should not attempt such a thing. I lack the tools, knowledge, skills, and I also tend to inflict serious harm on my appendages when I wield a hammer.

Hopes somewhat dashed, I thought well fine, I'll just have to buy her one. Holy cow, have you looked at prices on good old fashioned solid wood rocking horses? I don't want some cheap plastic thing, or a plush horse, or some ugly plywood creation. Sigh, what was I going to do...

And then I remembered Craigslist, and I figured that some day, maybe by Chloe's third birthday, I would find a nice old wooden rocking horse on Craigslist that I could refinish a little, so I could at least feel like I contributed something to it. Yes, yes, this plan would work. But I figured it would take a while to find one.

So I sat down at the computer and looked, and there it was. Exactly the style that I like, about 20 years old, very reasonably priced, and not too far from home. Was this fate? It must be! What I wanted to find was there when I needed to find it. :-) A few emails and phone calls later, we had plans. Mom and I drove up to Rocklin on a Sunday morning and met with the seller, a super nice guy who even sent me home with some elk teeth, awesome! (He'd looked at my website and seen my elk tooth scrimshaw). I was of course instantly smitten with the adorable little rocking horse, though already plans were forming to make some changes... Now, I have to say, it was perfectly fine as is... well, other than the ears. Those ears had to go. But it was nice and strong and well taken care of and really would have been a lovely gift with no alterations (except the ears!).... I didn't have to go all artsy on it, that was my choice. :-)

Here is how it looked the day I brought it (HER, I shall now refer to it as her, she may not have a name but she's a girl) home. Pretty cute! The old vinyl ears were floppy though, so I knew right away I'd make new leather ones, I already had the right color scrap leather.

And then I thought well, there's that bald spot on the mane, I'm not sure I can find matching yarn to sew new stuff in (hee hee, a weave!) so then I decided maybe I'll just go ahead and replace the mane and tail. A rocking horse must have an adequate mane and tail... (no rocking goats, right!) But really, if I was going to do that, why not go all out and paint her, and fix a few little dings...

So, I removed the ears, mane, and tail:

And then filled the screw holes on the rocker, and a few dings here and there, and sanded:

Shopping for paint and yarn was kinda fun. Had to be JUST RIGHT. As a horse person, I'm kinda particular, and I wanted to make her a "real" color, but since the paint had to cover a dark stain I wanted a dark color. But I wanted her to be flashy, a real show pony!

Four coats of paint later, the base colors are on:

Time for some trim! Little details like a cinch, saddle stitching, socks, hooves, and a super cute face!

Six coats of gloss varnish later, I felt the finish was sufficiently shiny and well-protected.

And then it was time to add the finishing touches. I neglected to photograph how I made the mane and tail, but the mane was one of the more challenging parts. It's hand-stitched to a thin strip of heavy canvas, and that is screwed down into the wood. Now, I'll admit I went a little overkill with the hair (compensating for my childhood rocking goat I think). It's a whole skein for the mane and a whole skein for the tail. I could have easily used half a skein for each location and it would have been fine, but... it's all good. Cute fuzzy ponies are awesome. :-) The last thing to do was attach the ears (a pretty stiff dark brown leather, they should hold up well). And then she was all finished! I have no idea how many hours are in here. It doesn't matter. I LOVE how this turned out, and it's perfect how it all came together. :-)

The colors in the following pics look brighter than the in-progress pics because the ones below were shot with the flash, and the previous ones were not.

Seriously isn't that the cutest face? :-)

So today was the birthday bash, and I think it's safe to say that one little cowgirl and her new sorrel pony are going to be enjoying a lot of adventures together over the years. She immediately wanted to climb up and ride! :-) :-) :-)


Anonymous said...

Hey Katherine - Shelly here. Super cute pony!!! I want one!! Not for Jack either, but for me!!
The painted face immediately changed the whole character and the mane and tail may be my favorite part - you can never get too much of either! Great job.

Do you ever see rocking 'horse' donkeys??

And where the hell did you get that curly hair as a kid?

Anonymous said...

Awesome rocking horse! I would have loved to have had that as a kid! Jen

Mike Plumer said...

Hairiest darn goat I ever saw... Many times yesterday after you left your niece re-mounted her trusty steed and rocked boldly along. Your gift eclipsed the entire rest of the gift assembly. Wonderful loving gift -- and a cute picture of you in the bargain.

Anonymous said...

wow awesome project. Awesome job

brokenfeather said...

Aunt Katherine...
OK, that is a horse even I (the horse hater) could love.
Super job...I loved the 4 white socks!

Anonymous said...

Wow, it's adorable!!! You did a great job :-). She's gonna love it forever!


Anonymous said...

What a rockin' refurb! -BMc.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful pony! Gives me hope as I embark on refurbishing our pony! I was looking for ways to replace the mane an tail. Wish me luck!
Darcy, Morgan Hill CA

Nicole said...

this is beautiful!!!! I'm excited to refurb my old rocking horse for my first child due in August! can you tell me what type of paint and varnish you used for this???

Katherine Plumer said...

If I'm remembering correctly it was all Behr or Glidden paint from Home Depot (whichever one has the little sample size bottles available, since I only needed a tiny amount of white and tan). The paint was interior flat. I don't remember exactly what the varnish was called. The leftover stuff is at my mom's house, I can look it up next time I'm there if you want!

Unknown said...

I would love to know how you did the mane because I'm needing to fix one for my first grandchild. Could you please send me the directions.

Unknown said...

I have the same question, I am replacing the mane and tail on my son's rocking horse for my grandson that will arrive in 7wks.

BPFord said...

I also am restoring an old horse and need to know how to replace the mane and tail. Can anyone help?

amye said...

" I also am restoring an old horse and need to know how to replace the mane and tail. Can anyone help? "

Me too - help?

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Hi Karen, I'd like any tips you can offer on how you re-attached the rocking horse's tail.

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Unknown said...

Kathrine, I hope you don't mind but I loved your painted horse eyes! I searched forever for glass eyes for my rocking horse but didn't like any I found. So I was looking at other rocking horse eyes online and ran into your blog. I hope you don't mind that I used your eyes and horse head outlines on a rocking horse I did for my nephew. It is based on my favorite race horse. California Chrome! Thanks for the creative help!

Candy said...

Hi Katherine, found your site whie looking for ideas on how to replace the mane and tail on a darling little wooden rocking horse that is in need of a make over, any tips? I love how yours turned out!

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