Creating toys for children embodies the essence of woodworking. Not only does it offer a great challenge, but the toy will stay around for generations. You'll see your work provide joy for years to come. Choose from several toy projects, including the traditional rocking horse. Building a rocking horse can become one of the more challenging toy projects, but with the right tools and a moderate skill level, you should build it successfully.
Designing the horse
First, draw and cut out the body of the horse. You'll build everything else around this base. For a cheap wood option offering easy cutting, use a softwood such as cedar. If you want the horse to have a richer texture, consider hardwoods such as oak or ash.
Draw the body of the horse on a flat piece of wood. You can either do this freehand or find an image of a horse and trace it. Keep in mind the height of the child who will use the rocking horse; don't make the horse too large.
Once satisfied with the horse you've drawn, use a handsaw or bandsaw to cut it from the wood. Next, sand the horse down and attach front and back cross supports. These supports will run parallel to each other; place one at the front of the horse and the other at the back. Cut a groove in each support and make sure the horse fits in those grooves, then make secure attachments using wood glue and screws.
To add the rockers, first add tenons to the supports. Measure the distance from the front support and the back support on each side, then measure out a 90 degree angle on each side of the supports. Cut out a portion of the support---about 3/4 inch at a 92 degree angle. The rockers should slide right into these tenons.
Now start cutting out the rockers. With a pencil, map out the size and length of each rocker on a piece of wood. Make the sides with the same exact length and curve. Cut them out with a handsaw or bandsaw. Next, cut out a square on the front and rear of each rocker to accommodate the tenons. These pieces should all slide in to place. Finish off by gluing the rockers to the cross supports.
Next, install the running boards. The boards will go right above the rockers, providing a space for the child to rest his feet, preventing them from dangling. Place these boards on each side of the horse. Cut them to length on each side, glue them to the top of the rockers with wood glue and then nail or screw them into place.
Finish off by adding a saddle and a handle. Carve the saddle out of a piece of wood, making sure it fits on top of the body of the horse while still providing a comfortable seat for the child. Place the saddle on top of the horse body, glue it into place and then drill in two dowels to make it secure.
To add the handle, cut out a small hole in the top of the horse head. Then slide a wood or plastic handle through the hole and glue it in place.
Once you are finished, you can paint the horse in the color of your choice or stain it.