How to Build a Rocking Horse

How to build a rocking horse using a traditional spring-suspended design. Includes instructions for framing, a cutting pattern and rocking horse and trimming diagrams.

| November/December 1988

How to build a rocking horse the old-fashioned way using a spring-suspended design. 

How to Build a Rocking Horse

INJECTION-MOLDED CHILDHOOD fancies come and go by the thousands, but a few special playthings just seem to endure. Take the rocking horse—a classic toy that's lost little allure since its premiere in the 1600s. The secret, of course, is that the rocking horse offers something timeless; though real horses may no longer be an everyday part of the average child's life, youngsters still take a delight in such a willing outlet for their ample energy.

Technically, of course, what you see here isn't exactly a rocking horse. Suspended on springs instead of rockers, it might better be described as a bouncing horse. The distinction is an important one. By comparison to the well-broken rocking breed, this mount is a bit of a bronc. A really vigorous youngster can set up a mighty commotion on Ol' Paint. For that reason, a sprung horse is only suitable for children at least two years old. Toddlers will have a hard time mounting and may not be coordinated enough to stay safely a'saddle. On the other end of the scale, depending on their exuberance, youths weighing more than 50 pounds are likely to bang the hooves against the floor or frame. (See the rocking horse diagrams in the image gallery.)

Rocking Horse Frame

The rocking horse's frame must do two things: be stable and withstand the inward tug exerted by a cavorting child. Beyond that, it's useful if the wooden members are out of the way for mounting and if the height can be adjusted. We settled on the version shown only after extensive experimentation. Feel free to adapt, but please do keep close to the basic footprint. A narrower frame will allow the horse to swing side to side too much; a shorter length cramps the rider's legs and allows too much fore-aft movement; a longer frame will inhibit the horse's movement on the springs.

Use whatever warp-free structural lumber is readily available in your area to make the base. In the mid-Atlantic states, that's No. 2 spruce-fir, but other parts of the country rely on different species. Ask for better-grade, kiln-dried 2 by 4s. When you're assembling the base, we suggest cutting out the pieces and loose-fitting them on a flat surface. While the glue is still wet, adjust the base until it's absolutely flat on the bottom, so the corners won't tap out annoying rhythms when horse and rider hit the trail. As you tighten the screws, check to see that the four corners stay put on the flat surface.

Horseflesh You'll need a saber or band saw to scroll the curves of the horse's body into the 2 by 12 by 10 foot stock. At that, you'll have to fit a long blade into the saber saw to get through the 1 1/2 inch-thick lumber. Be picky when you select the 2 by 12. Warped boards just won't do, since the pieces have to be face-glued. You shouldn't have too much trouble finding a good 2 by 12, since it's the material from which carpenters make stair stringers (the sawtooth-shaped sides of stairs). But, if you don't like the look of the No. 2 material you're shown, by all means spring for the next better grade.

Hannan Ahmad
3/3/2014 9:33:58 AM

The theme of your article looks really interesting. Those interested in jobs such as get their motto for lives set up at this younger age. And if you find a way to inspire them for a very competitive professional carrier since childhood, it does even better for parents and their kids.

7/31/2012 6:56:31 AM

how much does ghis weigh when completed\? H\ow much does the horse alone weigh when complted?

Joe Filletti
3/13/2011 6:39:26 PM

Great plan, it may be worth while covering the springs with a tube of canvas or similar, it will be painful for little thighs, or arms, to get caught in between the spring coils, Joe Filletti , Malta.

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