Chapter Newsletter #2!

Hello all I will start this newsletter by talking about rocking horses and the making of. This first part came from Jack O’Rourke explaining how he got interested, or should I say hooked. Jack says:

As a woodworker, I have for a long time wanted to make a rocking horse, one of the things I never seemed to get around to, that is until a couple of years ago Pat Gannon showed me one of the many he had made over the years so I decided to give it a go. Pat kindly offered to help and put me on the right track supplying information as to the plans, the best timber to use, what carving chisels to buy, best paints and so on. The drawings I got from England, the timber I sourced locally and after turning a carver’s mallet I was ready to go. I decided to make a medium sized horse which stands at about 1.2m, high the saddle height is around 800mm and is just over a metre long, ideal for children from four to forty. At Pats advice I cut ply templates of all the pieces, head legs etc very useful when it comes to making more, as I surely did. The next step was to cut all the shaped parts, legs, head, on the bandsaw, if you don’t have a bandsaw you can manage these with a good jigsaw. Then I glued together all the parts using a good wood glue and when set, (twenty-four hours} got down to the carving. I admit I was a bit nervous at first, afraid I might take away too much but I was soon chipping away, quite enjoying it as I saw the shape of the head and body coming out of the wood. The main carving done I started the final shaping and finishing, with a rasp and lots of sandpaper from 60 grit down and lots of elbow grease. I had at this time sent for and received from The Rocking horse shop in Yorkshire the leatherwork, saddle, reins, horsehair, eyes and all the bits and pieces that go to make the finished horse

Then came the painting, I started with two coats of white water-based paint (child safe) and then two coats of a grey tint, fine sanding between each coat. The dappling and details around the head, hooves and knees took a little time to get right before I could put on the finale two coats of water-based varnish.  Two more operations to complete, first the fixing of the leatherwork, saddle, stirrups, mane and reins. the second was the making of the stand. This I made in ash and required two turned posts, floor plate and top rail, the photos tell the rest of the story.

When Jack told me, he was interested in making a rocking horse I was only too happy to help as much as I could. I don’t think he had done any woodcarving before but being a skilled joiner and turner, it seemed to come easy to him and when I saw the finished horse, I began to think, maybe he should have been advising me. (however, I won’t hold it against him).

Just to add a few things to what Jack said and answer a few questions which might be asked, First the wood we use is American poplar, a timber which is readily available and though classed as a hardwood is easy to carve and finish. The traditional way of preparing the horse for painting was when sanded, to give it a coat of gesso.  Gesso is a mix of a glue made from rabbet skin and plaster mixed to a thick paste and painted on, then when hard is sanded down giving a smooth hard finish I use a mix of white acrylic paint, Polyfilla and some wood glue which gives a similar but more flexible finish.                                                                                                                                             The mane and tail are real horsehair and the tack, (as it is called) is good quality leather, the fittings are solid brass. This particular design is a reproduction of a Victorian Rocking horse, but I have seen some made in solid hardwood like mahogany or rosewood and highly polished. Another material which can be used quite effectively is birch plywood, Jack made the one in the photo. I will go into more detail about this type in the next newsletter and answer any questions any of you guys might have.#


The next piece is from Cecil Barron who demonstrates that you can turn bone! Here’s what he says about it:

The bone I use is the shin bone from cattle. Your butcher will give you one . I boil it in water and bleach to whiten it and cut it into pencil sized pieces on my band saw.

This is the thickest bone available. In olden times horse leg bones were commonly used.

It turns well much like acrylic pen blanks. Use a small scraper. Polish with burnishing cream

A flat piece of bone can be glued to a timber blank so discs can be made for inlaying


Last but certainly not least Jim Hynes has been going to pieces. Segmented pieces that is! Jim writes:

With the lack of club activities during the lockdown and some encourgment from Pat Gannon I decided to try a bit of segmented work. After watching a couple of videos I learned the first to do is make a drawing to get the information you need.Things like the shape of your project,the size,the number of rings and the number of segments.Having done all that prepare your wood stock.I went for 12 segments per ring and decided on an enclosed vessel.

I also made it in two halves making easier to turn the inside.One half was turned mounted on a face plate,the other half mounted on a chuck.When ready the two halves are brought together and glued and the outside turned to a finish.It worked well enough,but the joint where the two halves met on inside are very rough.I don’t have cranked turning tool to get in at it.(I’m one tool short of greatness!!!).And the shape did not work out quite as planned.

I hope to improve a bit the next time

If you are working on anything, woodturning or otherwise why not drop Pat Gannon a mail with any details!

pat.gannon  at  hotmail.com