Chapter Newsletter #3

Hello everyone, picking up from the last newsletter on the making of a rocking horse I had a couple of questions from Chris Hayes, first the cost of the materials. The timber for the body as I said is American Poplar also known as tulipwood and can be got from most timber suppliers, the stand can be made from any timber, I have made stands from red deal, ash, mahogany, I like to contrast it with the colour of the horse and the lot will cost around eighty euro. The leatherwork, hair, fittings etc come in a pack and depending on the quality, range from £240 to £280, the top price gets you solid brass fittings and real horse hair. Anyone interested, look up

The horse shown in the photo is made from birch ply and was made by Jack O’Rourke and here Jack describes how it is made.

After making a couple of the painted horses (which are for the grandchildren) I decided to have a go at a laminated one. This type takes one 8×4 sheet of birch ply, is cut on the bandsaw (or jigsaw) and is made up of around thirty pieces. The plans which again come from the rocking horse shop gives you all the shapes and the sequence in which they are glued. The carving of ply is a little more difficult than solid wood as you can only chip off small pieces due to the laminations so you have a lot of work with the rasp and sanding. With the solid wood painted horse any fault or small mistakes you make can be filled out and painted over, not so the ply version, great care has to be taken with the jointing and the sanded finish as the clear varnish hides nothing. The stand is made as for the solid wood horse and the leatherwork and fittings cost are much the same. I have to say I got great pleasure from the making of these and knowing they will be passed on through the family for a long time to come.

Thanks, Jack, for your contribution and all the helpful information, you must almost have a herd by now, I am beginning to suspect you have found a way to breed them.

To finish this off, the original rocking horses were made on bow rockers and are still made but I think these can be a little bit dangerous and can tip over if ridden too vigorously, hence the invention in around 1880 by an American, Philip Marqua, of the swing stand, so much safer and much more common today.

The next item comes from Jim Hynes, the completion of his segmented vessel, carry on Jim.

Just a few notes to follow on from last week with a photo of the finished item.With 12 segments per ring the saw cut is 15 degrees.The wood used is cherry in the lowr part, the lighter wood is maple and the hoops,base and top is walnut.Before parting it off it got two coats of sanding sealer and 6 coats of Danish oil.Each coat was cut back lightly with 0000 steel wool.

The next item was sent by Ciara Dowling and she explains it herself, I love it Ciara.

Here is a progression of photos of the process i went through making and carving the STAY SAFF display I have up in merrion square park.

I jigged sawed out the letters, flowers, leaves and hearts and than power carved the details into the flowers and leaves which i than painted. these were all done at home durning the hight of the covid crisis this spring. while in work i also power carved out 5 mushrooms and painted them in work, which are also used in this display.


The final contribution comes from Chris Hayes.

Long ago and far, far away……………………………..Well, not too long ago or very far from here, a man called Mick asked me if I would consider taking over his woodturning class in the local Adult Education centre in North Dublin. With some trepidation I went along one evening to see what it entailed. Having completed a course myself with FAS and becoming addicted I knew something about how these courses ran but this was something different. Firstly, there were only five small Record lathes for ten students and  a minimum of equipment and tools! It seemed to work however and with the added benefit of being paid too I agreed to start at the next session.

Looking back now on how few tools were available to the students and having to share a lathe, it’s hard to believe it was subscribed to at all. But there was always a demand at enrolment night in early September or January and sometimes we would have had sufficient to run a second class.

 After a few seasons things changed dramatically when the school underwent a complete overhaul and upgrade of all facilities in line with changed times. This to my delight included a brand new state of- the- art woodworking room with machinery and industrial standard dust extraction. Nor was the woodturning forgotten. We were presented with four larger Record lathes with matching sets of tools and chucks. Altogether we now had ten lathes having acquired extras here and there. I no longer had to loan some of my own equipment to keep things moving along. The teaching became easier all round as the lighting and other facilities were much improved too.

No accidents or incidents* happened, fortunately. I had learned quite early to maintain the tools and equipment before classes even it meant coming in in my own time. I would think all teaching is like that inasmuch as preparation is half the battle and self-rewarding too.

All students expected to make something while learning the basics and the usual project was a table lamp which involved both spindle and faceplate exercises. If there was time other things such as bowl might be attempted. Nobody ever went home at the end of the course empty-handed. I found it satisfying to see everyone finish with a project made by his or herself even if the final shape was not quite like the original design.

Of course, teaching beginners to turn does not make anyone a skilled turner. That, as we all learn quite soon comes only with practice or not all. Not everyone who joined our courses went on to buy a lathe and make it their hobby. I have no way of knowing for sure as I rarely met any of the clients afterwards. But some did and became very good at the skill. If anyone seemed interested in taking it further, I always encouraged them to join the Guild and, if it suited, to come and checkout my own chapter.

Sadly, all evening classes in this centre including woodturning ended suddenly about 10 years ago. It was blamed on shortage of funds and despite subsequent appeals to resume nothing has restarted since.

If you are a keen turner and ever get the opportunity to teach, try it, as one-to-one or in a class. You will be surprised how rewarding it is and, like me perhaps, you will experience something you have not been doing properly. In other words, you learn as you teach.

So, keep the bevel rubbing and enjoy your hobby.                                  

Chris Hayes

*one evening we all arrived in the classroom to find a JCB stuck halfway through one of the windows. At the time we blamed vandals but knowing more about crime now I sometimes wonder if it was a local villain practising before tackling the nearest ATM.


Thank you all for your input and keeping us all in touch. I do need more material to keep this newsletter going, so let’s hear any suggestions, comments, and any projects you have on the go.

That’s it for now, keep safe and well.