It's the horse foaled from an acorn, or, in this case, a pinecone. We discovered this little rocking horse in the corner of a cafe in Franconia, Germany. It was an antique and had been put out to pasture with a message on its back reading, "Please don't ride me, my back is already weak." Eleanor (who is nine) helped me make a copy of it. Shaving with drawknife and spokeshave are among her favorite activities, and I often have to stop work to pick out another piece of wood for her to work on. She is careful with the sharp tools, and I trust her with just about everything—except picking out wood that can be shaved just for the sake of shaving. This is an excellent item for tuning the eye of a beginner for form and proportion. This horse has considerable integrity and personality. That's not due just to the simplicity of the design alone, (just nine pieces of wood from head to tail); it also has just a little bit of the dynamism of the galloping horse of Kansu. The dancing lady is pivoted at her navel and runs on a crank.
Wood This simple horse requires simple, stout wood. The finer the grain, the better and smoother the finished horse will be. The tail is fragile in that it must be cross-grained at some point, so use the strongest stock you can find. Walnut may be an interesting choice for the rockers, as it is reputed to be the one wood that will not move across the floor as you rock. Except for the rockers, which are possibly easier to make from sawn boards, you can easily split all the pieces for the horse from a good log.
For the head and legs, you must saw, split, or find planks about P/4 inches thick. Trace the outline of the legs on the surface and saw them out with a bow or turning saw. As with all the parts, leave the edges square until the joints have been cut and fitted. Because the legs splay out to the sides as well as to the ends, you will need two settings on the bevel for the shoulders of the tenons that join the legs to the body. Lay out the tenons as follows:
1. Inscribe the side-splay angle on one edge of the legs.
2. From this line, inscribe the end-splay angle on the two broad faces of each leg.
3. Connect these last two lines across the remaining edge. The bevel should show the same angle on opposing faces.
You can lay out the inch-thick tenon and the width of the mortice in the 4-by-4 torso of the horse with a double-toothed morticing gauge. Remember that the surface opening of the mortice is an oblique slice of an inch-wide mortice and will, in this perspective, be wider than 1 inch. Reset your gauge after you lay out the tenons in the way described earlier for the legs of the folding lathe. If you prepare the mortice by boring 1-inch Amusements I 183 auger holes at the proper angle, the width of the opening will be correct. Use the bevel or the completed leg as a guide for angling the auger as you bore. Chisel the first of the joints to fit, drive the leg home, and use it to eyeball-guide the angles for the remaining three legs. Finally, when all the legs are as they should be, kerf in the shoulders to ensure a seamless juncture.
When the legs are in place, set the sawn-out rockers upon them and draw the lines for the bridle joints. On the legs, you need to mark the depth of the joints on the sides and the width of the joints on the end grain. The rockers, too, need notches atop them to further secure the joint, so mark their sizes and locations as well. You can easily cut the bridle joints in the legs by boring through with an auger and then sawing down the sides to remove the waste.
Saw out the head and make its mortice and tenon with an undercut to keep it from pushing off to the front. Secure it from pulling out backward by pinning it through the body. Finally, the tail goes directly into a hole drilled into the end. The fun part for the children—more fun than riding the horse—is the overall smoothing and blending of the angular parts with the spokeshave and sandpaper.
"The Woodwright's Eclectic Workshop" By Roy Underhill
© 2012 The University of North Carolina Press