Kid-Pleasing Rocking Pony

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This article is from Issue 31 of Woodcraft Magazine.

While not every child wants a horse, they all want a pony.

Designer/Builder: Chuck Hedlund with Ken Brady

We used three criteria to design this galloping steed. First, we wanted a pony that could withstand decades of hard riding. Here, the tough cherry rocker base, maple body, and walnut saddle provide durability where needed. We wanted it easy to build. By providing patterns for the parts, success lies only a weekend or two away. And, finally, our pony had to pass the cute test and serve as a charming home accent. We’ll let you be the judge. 

Laminate the body

1 From 3/4" maple, cut three blanks to 13 × 24" for the center body layer (A) and the two outer body layers (B). (You may need to edge-glue narrower stock to obtain the needed width.) Stack the blanks, aligning their edges and ends. Measure to the center of the width and length, and use a pencil and square to draw centerlines on each edge and end. Unstack the blanks, and extend the centerlines 1" onto the faces of the three blanks.

2 Print and assemble the patterns. Adhere the composite pattern for the center body layer (A) to one blank and the composite pattern for the outer body layers (B) to another blank. In both cases, align the centerlines printed on the pattern with the centerlines you marked on the blanks.

3 Using a bandsaw, cut the center body layer (A) along the solid green lines (Photo A) and then remove the pattern. We used a 1/4"-wide blade with four teeth per inch for all bandsaw cuts.

4 Using double-faced tape, sandwich the center body layer (A) between the two outer body layers (B), carefully aligning the edges, ends, and centerlines.

5 Chuck a 1/4" bit into your drill press and drill two holes through the stacked blanks where shown on the pattern. You’ll use these holes to align the body layers (A, B) during glue-up and also to position the legs. Unstack the blanks and remove the tape.

6 Spread glue to laminate the center and outer body layers (A, B), insert 1/4" drill bits into the holes to keep the pieces aligned (Photo B), and then clamp them together. Unclamp and remove the drill bits after the glue has cured overnight.

Using the pattern’s solid cutlines as a guide, saw the center body layer (A) at the head and tail.

Drill bit alignment pins and a boatload of clamps help ensure a stress- and gap-free glue up. (In this photo, the paper pattern is facing down.)

Making Full-Sized Patterns

There are two easy ways to get your hands on full-sized patterns. First, take this magazine to a copy center and have the pattern pages, beginning on page 37, enlarged by 250%. Make two copies. Alternately, you can go to and download a full-sized pattern in PDF format. You can then print the file out at home or take it to your copy center and have it printed onto 11 × 17" paper.

Once printed, join the two sheets with clear tape to make the composite patterns needed for the center body layer (A) and the outer body layers (B). By holding the sheets against a window, you can use sunlight to help align the dashed lines where the head and neck meet the body pattern.

Cut just to the waste side of the taper line on each leg. A slow feed rate promotes a straight cut.

Drill and shape the body

1 Chuck a 3/4" Forstner bit into your drill press and drill the handle hole through the lamination (A, B) where marked on the pattern. Use a scrap backing board to prevent tear-out.

2 Drill a 1/8" hole through the lamination (A, B) at the center of the eye. (A 1/8" bit 6" long is a common hardware store item.) Using these holes on each side of the lamination as guides, drill 7/8" counterbores 1/8" deep as eye sockets. Finally, drill 3/8" holes 11/4" deep.

3 Bandsaw the perimeter of the body lamination (A, B), staying on the waste side of the solid cutline.

4 Sand to the line, using a drum or spindle sander. Tight curves and corners may require some hand-sanding.

5 On the pattern, you’ll see that one centerline of each 1/4" hole extends to the edge of the body lamination (A, B). Use a pencil and square to transfer the lines onto the edge. (Refer to Photo E on page 33 to see how these lines guide leg placement.)

6 Strip off the pattern and sand both faces of the body lamination (A, B).

7 Chuck a 1/4" round-over bit into your router and round over the perimeter of both faces of the body lamination (A, B) where shown in Figure 1.

Cut and shape the legs

1 Laminate pairs of 3/4" maple boards to make four oversized blanks for the front legs (C) and rear legs (D). Rip and crosscut the blanks to 6" wide by 18" long, ensuring that the end cuts are square. Mark centerlines along the full length of both faces and on both ends.

2 All legs have an identical taper on the top inner face. Referring to the Leg Taper Detail, above, mark cutlines on each blank. Bandsaw the taper (Photo C), and save the scrap wedges.

3 Flatten the taper with a block plane or a random-orbit sander. To check the taper’s flatness, hold a straightedge across it in several directions.

4 Adhere a leg pattern on the untapered side of the blank. Align the pattern’s centerline with the line drawn on the blank and position the top of the pattern (or leg) flush with the tapered end.

5 Chuck a 3/8" brad-point bit in your drill press and drill the 1/2"-deep counterbores in each blank where shown on the pattern. Switch to a 1/8" bit and drill holes through the blanks centered in the counterbores.

6 On the tapered face, mark the location of the 1/4" hole used to help position the legs. To do this, mark a centerline on the taper and then draw a line connecting the centers of the 1/8" holes. The intersection of these two lines is the centerpoint of the 1/4" hole.

7 Chuck a 1/4" brad-point bit in your drill press. Shim the workpiece to make the beveled face of the leg blank perpendicular to the drill bit, as shown in Photo D, and then drill a 1/2"-deep hole. Repeat for the remaining legs.

8 Bandsaw the legs to shape and sand the edges.

9 Referring to the End View Detail on the pattern, you’ll see that the bottoms of the back legs have a 4° back bevel. You can shape this quickly and accurately by tilting the table of your disc sander to 4°. Make the bevels so that they tilt toward the inner face of the leg.

10 Transfer marks from the pattern to the inner face of the leg indicating where to stop the round-overs. Using a router and a 1/4" round-over bit, shape the stopped round-overs on the inner faces of the legs. Strip off the pattern, and rout the full perimeter of each leg’s outer face. Don’t get rid of the centerlines penciled on the blanks.

Matching the centerlines on the inner face of the leg with the body (Inset) guarantees that the legs are attached symmetrically. Screwing the leg in place eliminates the need for a tricky clamping setup.

Attach the legs

1 Cut four 1/4" dowels 7/8" long. Place the body assembly (A, B) on its side, and insert the dowels into the holes in the tapered faces of the legs.

2 Choose an appropriate leg and engage the dowel in the corresponding hole in the body. Referring to the Inset in Photo E, align the centerline on the inner face of the leg with the index mark on the lower edge of the body assembly (A, B). Push an awl through each hole in the leg to transfer the locations to the body.

3 Remove the leg and drill pilot holes into the body assembly (A, B). After you’ve positioned all the legs, use an eraser and sandpaper to remove the pencil marks.

4 Attach the legs (C, D) with glue and screws as shown in Photo E.

Make the handle, mane, and tail

1 Cut the handle (E) 71/4" long from a 3/4" walnut dowel. Sand an even 1/4" round-over at the ends of the handle. Drill a 1/8" hole through the midpoint of the handle.

2 Insert the handle (E) into the body assembly (A, B), centering the handle’s hole in the thickness of the body. Using that handle hole as a guide, drill a pilot hole into the body. Reposition the handle, and drive the 11/2"-long screw, as shown in Figure 1, to secure it in place.

4 Adhere patterns for the mane (F) and tail (G) to 3/4" cherry. Bandsaw along the waste side of the line, and sand up to the edges.

5 Mark the end points of the round-overs onto the edges of the tail (G). Strip the patterns from both the mane (F) and tail (G). Rout the edges where shown with a router and 1/4" round-over bit.

6 Check the fit of the mane (F) and tail (G) into their recesses. If necessary, sand the surface or edges of these parts until they slide into place. Brush glue into the body cavities and press the parts into place. Wipe away squeeze-out with a damp rag.

Make the rocker base parts

1 Laminate pairs of 3/4" cherry boards to make two oversized blanks for the rockers (H). Cut the blanks 8" wide by 38" long. Stack the blanks, joining them with double-faced tape.

2 Assemble the two parts of the rocker pattern and then adhere it to a piece of 1/4" hardwood or plywood. Bandsaw the shape and sand the edges to create a full-sized half pattern. Drill the 1/8" holes where shown.

3 To use the half pattern, first draw a centerline across the width of the stacked blanks. With the paper pattern facing up, align the pattern’s centerline with the one on the wood, then trace the outline and mark the location of the 1/8" hole used to secure the rear leg support (I). Now flip the pattern onto the other side, align its edge on the blank’s centerline, and trace the opposite end. Finally, mark the location of the 1/8" hole to secure the front leg support (I).

4 Drill the 1/8" holes through both blanks, and then drill the 3/8" counterbores on the outside faces.

5 Bandsaw the perimeter of the rockers (H) and sand the edges smooth. Separate the blanks.

6 Rout a 1/4" round-over along the perimeter of both faces of each rocker (H) where shown on Figure 2.

7 Referring to the Cut List, make the supports (I). Note that the top edges have 5° bevel. After cutting these parts to length, drill the counterbores and holes at the locations marked.

8 Cut the three rocker platform slats (J). Rout a 1/4" round-over along the top edges and top ends. Referring to Figure 2, drill the counterbores and holes into the slats to attach the slats to the rockers.

A slightly crushed corrugated carton can serve as a temporary horse support, enabling you to screw the supports to the legs.

Assemble the base and add the pony

1 Screw the supports (I) between the rockers (H) without glue. Leave the screws loose to allow the supports to rotate as needed to align with the bottoms of the legs (C and D).

2 Using the rocker half pattern as a guide, position the center slat (J) on the rocker assembly (H, I). Center the slat atop the rockers (front to back and side to side) and clamp it in place. Hold a square against a rocker and each support to ensure a square assembly. Using the holes in the slat as guides, drill pilot holes into the rockers. Attach the slat to the rockers using screws but no glue.

3 Attach the remaining two slats (J) to the rockers (H), using 3/8" scrapwood spacers to position the slats.

4 Use the holes in the supports (I) to drill pilot holes into the legs (C, D). Referring to Photo F, drive the screws through the supports (I) into the legs (C, D). Finally, tighten the screws used to attach the rockers (H) to the supports (I).

Shape and mount the saddle

1 Laminate three pieces of 3/4 × 13/4 × 7" walnut to make a blank for the saddle seat (K). Adhere the seat pattern to the blank’s edge. Bandsaw and sand.

2 Stack two pieces of 3/4" walnut, join them with double-faced tape, and adhere the pattern for the saddle sides (L). Bandsaw just outside the line, strip off the pattern, and separate the parts.

3 Glue and clamp the saddle sides (L) to the saddle seat (K). After the glue has dried, sand the edges flush.

4 Rout a 1/4" round-over along the edges of the saddle assembly (K, L) where shown in Figure 1 and the pattern. Next, rout the 1/2" round-overs along the top edges of the saddle.

5 Glue and clamp the saddle assembly (K, L) in place.

6 From 1/2" walnut, stack-cut and edge-sand the stirrup straps (M). Drill the 3/4" hole through each strap with a Forstner bit and the 1/8" shank hole in the bottom ends with a twist bit.

7 Strip the pattern from the stacked stirrup straps (M). Rout a 1/4" round-over along their perimeter except for the top ends, and then separate the parts.

8 Cut a 3/4" walnut dowel 91/4" long for the footrest (N). Sand a 1/4" round-over on the ends to prevent chipping.

9 Insert the footrest (N) through the stirrup straps (M), and then glue and clamp the stirrup straps to the sides of the horse.

10 Center the footrest (N), and use the holes in the ends of the stirrup straps (M) to drill pilot holes into the footrest. You will need to remove the center slat (J) to drive these screws.

Use 100-grit sandpaper and a sanding block to shape the eye.

Make the eyes

1 Cut a 3/4"-diameter dowel to 4" long. Use a handscrew clamp to hold the dowel vertically on your drill press table and drill a 3/8 × 1/4" deep hole in the center of each dowel end with a brad point bit. Cut two 3/8" dowels 11/8" long and glue them into the holes. 

2 Cut 1/2" from each end of the 3/4" dowel. Referring to Photo G, sand a 1/4" round-over on the end to form the eye domes.

3 Sand the rim of each eye socket to a slight round-over (about 1/16"). Finally, glue the eyes in place.

You can make a convincing bridle and reins using a few craft store items. Wrap the pliers’ jaws with tape to prevent scratching the rivet.

Finishing touches

1 Plug the counterbores with tapered side-grain plugs. Try to pick plugs that match the figure and color of the legs for a virtually invisible installation. Level the plugs with a random-orbit sander or block plane.

2 Finish-sand the entire project with 220 grit and remove all dust. We applied three coats of finish: two coats of polyacrylic gloss followed by a final coat of polyacrylic satin. Lightly sand between coats with 220-grit sandpaper.

3 To make the bridle and reins, cut leather strips 3/8" wide, using a metal straightedge and a new blade in an X-acto knife. (We purchased the materials at a local crafts store.) Punch holes in the leather with an awl, and use rivets to make looped ends as shown in Photo H on page 35. Join the looped strips with split key rings. Make sure you thread the leather through the mane during the bridle-assembly process.

About Our Designer/Builder

Iowa native Chuck Hedlund worked for many years in custom millwork, designing and building furniture and cabinetry. In 1993, he began working with several woodworking magazines as a designer, master craftsman, and shop manager. Chuck retired in 2008, moved to Columbus, Ohio, and now serves as a freelance builder and designer.


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