How to Make a Rocking Horse (Every Kid Will Love)

When I needed a gift for my godchild’s baptism, I had the idea to make him this modern-looking DIY rocking horse.
It was not only a fun challenge but also a personal gift.
What could be more fun than being able to give something from the heart, and made with your own hands?
Moreover, this cool-looking rocking horse is not only a fun toy for the kids, but it is also an eye-catcher for your interior.

Although this rocking horse seems to be a difficult toy to make, with all those round shapes, it is an easy-to-make woodworking beginner project. On top of that, by making this rocking horse yourself, you can save a lot of money.

You can build this rocking horse following the next steps:

  • Make a template in thin MDF
  • Use this template to make two identical pieces for your rocking horse
  • Make a handle, saddle, and footrest.
  • Use the handle, saddle, and footrest to connect the 2 base pieces
  • Thread the wood with a wood finish and your rocking horse will last forever.

In this article, I will explain these steps more in-depth, and you can make this rocking horse in just a few hours.
All you need is a sheet of plywood, a palm router with a flush-trim bit.

Let’s go build this DIY rocking horse!

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What is a rocking horse?

A rocking horse is a toy made for children between 1 and 6 years old.
The shape of this toy is usually in the shape of a horse, hence the name rocking horse.
That horse-shaped toy has rockers 
at the bottom, like this one on a rocking chair.

Ebook part 1 woodworking basics

What is the purpose of a rocking horse?

Letting your children play with a rocking horse ensures that they have fun in a positive and active way.
A rocking horse is an educational toy that encourages them to move, improving their mobility and sense of balance.

What is the best wood to make a rocking horse?

Because the rocking horse can be treated roughly by children playing wild, it is not recommended to use softwoods such as pine.
That softwood will quickly become damaged.
The best wood to use is any kind of hardwood or plywood, like I’ve used.

The advantage of laminated wood such as plywood is that it is super strong due to the adhesion of the many layers of wood and at the same time easy to process.

Watch the video & see how to make a rocking horse

Here you can watch the video and see how to make a rocking horse.
After watching the video, you can continue reading the step-by-step guide and see all the details and information you need to make this DIY rocking horse yourself. 

How to make a rocking horse step by step

Step 1 | Making a Rocking horse template

To build this rocking horse, I started by making a rocking horse template in 6 mm (0.236 Inch) MDF.

Why in MDF

MDF is a lot easier to shape than the 18 mm (0.709 Inch) birch plywood I used to make the rocking horse.
The curves that are present in the shape of the rocking horse can be formed more easily in the MDF.

Later, the correct shape can easily be transferred to the birch plywood thanks to this rocking horse template and a flush-trim router bit.

To make the template, I first carefully drew the shape.
Do you want to build the exact same model?

How to make a rocking horse that every kid will love

Once I had the complete shape drawn on the MDF, I could cut it out with a jigsaw.

Don’t have a jigsaw?
Check out these two articles I wrote earlier and discover which is the most suitable jigsaw for your workshop, and always find the best saw blade for the project you are working on.

The jigsaw is one of the basic power tools a DIY-er should have.
It can be used for many projects and is therefore highly recommended. After cutting, I sanded all edges down to when I was satisfied with the shape.

How to make a rocking horse that every kid will love

Step 2 | Making the base of the rocking horse

Once I had made the rocking horse template, the real work could begin.
Now I could start cutting out the 2 basic rocking horse parts in 18 mm (0.709 Inch) birch plywood.

Thanks to the rocking horse template, I was now able to transfer the shape quickly and easily to the birch plywood.

For this, I placed the template on the piece of plywood and looked at how I could get the basic parts from this plywood, with as little waste as possible.
After finding the best positions, I was able to trace the rocking horse template onto the plywood with a pencil.

How to make a rocking horse that every kid will love

To cut the shape out of the plywood, I used my jigsaw again.

When making the cuts, I always stayed 2 mm outside the marking lines.
Later, thanks to the rocking horse template and a flush-trim router bit, I was able to touch up the edges perfectly in a fast way.

Working this way will ensure you have perfect and smooth edges.
An extra advantage is when you have some tear-out because of the jigsaw blade, that this tear-out is only present in the outer edge, which will be removed later.

How to make a rocking horse that every kid will love

After I cut out the shape, I attached the template to the birch plywood with double-sided tape.
This tape prevents the template from shifting but is still easy to remove afterward.

By sliding the flush trim bit along the edges of the template, the shape could be perfectly copied onto the birch plywood.

I have put a lot of time into making a rocking horse template.
Now, this gives me the advantage of being able to quickly make two exact copies.
This saved me a lot of time in the end.

Even better, if I ever want to make the same rocking horse again, I can use the same template again, which saves me a lot of time again.

How to make a rocking horse that every kid will love

Once I had made these parts, I sanded them to make them smooth.
I did this using P80 sandpaper, followed by P120.

After sanding these pieces, the edges were chamfered with a 45-degree chamfer bit on my router.

If you’re using birch plywood, like me, be careful if you want to chamfer the edges!
Birch plywood can burn quickly if the router stays in one place for too long.
Take small steps and work quickly.

If you want to know more about what router bits you should have in your workshop, check out the article, 5 Most important must-have router bits for DIY-ers, on my website.

After making the chamfers on the edges, I lightly sanded all edges by hand with P180 sandpaper.

Step 3 | Making the saddle, footrest, and handle

Now that the DIY rocking horse’s base was ready, it was time to make the handle, saddle, and footrest.

I started making the handle.

For this, I needed round wood with a diameter of 3 cm (1.181 Inch).
You can buy round wood for this, but I loved making this myself with my dowel maker.
I made this jig a long time ago for my table saw and crosscut sled.

You can watch the video here on how I made this dowel maker.

How to make a rocking horse that every kid will love

Next up was the saddle and footrest.
These are 2 identical pieces of 18 mm (0.709 Inch) MDF.

For these parts, I have used MDF here because they will be painted later.
I was afraid that, when using plywood, you would see the lines of the layers of the plywood through the paint.

After cutting the boards to size, I rounded the corners with my drill press drum sander.

After sanding the edges with the drum sander, I made the edges of these boards less sharp by chamfering them with a 45-degree chamfer bit on my router.

How to make a rocking horse that every kid will love

After marking the points where the screws should go, to connect these parts to the base of the rocking horse, I drilled pilot holes.
Once I had drilled these holes, I made a countersink hole on each drill hole.
That way, the head of the screw is below the surface of the wood.

How to make a rocking horse that every kid will love

Step 4 | Painting

After sanding the MDF parts, it was time to paint them.

It is best to paint these parts now when they are not assembled yet.

You can choose the color that best suits your interior.
Because black fits best in the interior where this rocking chair will be, I choose to use this color.

I painted the MDF parts with paint in a spray can and did this in 3 layers. Between each layer, there was a drying time of about an hour.
When the paint was dry, I lightly sanded it between each coat of paint.
That way, I could remove the fine upright hairs of the wood to achieve a smooth end result.

How to make a rocking horse that every kid will love

Step 5 | Assembling

After the last coat of paint had dried, I could start assembling this rocking horse.

Thanks to the predrilled holes, I could attach the MDF parts with screws to the base pieces in birch plywood.

Before using screws, it is always a good idea to drill a pilot hole in the wood of the base.
This will prevent the birch plywood from cracking.

To do this, you can place the painted part in the right position, and use the predrilled holes in this part as a guide.

An extra tip:

When placing the painted parts, I did not fully tighten the screws until I had mounted all the parts.
This gave me the ability to modify the wood of the base so that all the parts could be installed easily.
Once all the parts were in place, I tightened the screws until the head of the screw was in the countersink hole.

How to make a rocking horse that every kid will love

To protect the rocking horse, it was treated with beeswax.

I applied this beeswax in one coat.
When you do this, make sure to spread the beeswax evenly to avoid staining.

If you want to know more about the different wood finishes, you should definitely read the article: 4 Types of wood finishes, what to use when and how? A clear guide.

How to make a rocking horse that every kid will love

Now the DIY rocking horse was ready, and you can see the result in the picture below.

If you are going to make this DIY rocking horse yourself, I hope you have fun building it.
Know that the fun doesn’t stop after building.
It’s just amazing to see how much fun a child has when, he or she, is playing with a rocking horse like this.

If you want to see more DIY wooden toys, check out my article, – 5 Quick and easy woodworking projects to make with kids
In this article, you will discover 5 fun homemade toys, that are so easy, even kids can make these themselves. That way, they will not only enjoy playing with it, they will also have the joy of making these easy-to-make toys by themselves.
Go check these ideas out, I guarantee you it will be a fun thing to do.

How to make a rocking horse that every kid will love
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