Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Sanding off the paint and old gesso

Goodness, I'm glad that's over. (Well, the worst of it). It's done my hands no good at all, though my arm muscles are now more toned. The flat underside is the most difficult, and I always leave it till last.

The horse had been painted twice, over patchy remnants of gesso; first in cream, then white. The back legs were reinforced with metal plates held on by twelve screws. One crack was filled with car filler. One back leg has come off, and the other is wobbly.

I pulled out nails as I went. One turned out to be not a nail, but half a drill bit, snapped off and left in the hole. This horse was made with superb craftsmanship, and 'done up' with hamfisted ignorance, the lot of so many rocking horses.

Monday, 30 July 2007

Let's do up the old rocking horse!


  1. All the materials needed to restore a rocking horse may be found in any garden shed or garage.
  2. Quick tip: a power sander will whisk off that old paint finish in a trice.
  3. Always use the longest nails and screws available.
  4. Lots of them, don't stint yourself. It's fun, banging in nails.
  5. Wobbly legs? Safety is paramount. Brace them with steel brackets (available from your local ironmonger). No-one will notice.
  6. Keep a tub of car filler by you for those pesky gaps.
  7. Dapples can be tricky; why not try a fresh white gloss coat with attractive black patches instead?
  8. Be creative when replacing old horsehair. An old mop makes a very acceptable mane and tail, you will find. And don't forget, nice long nails to secure it.
  9. A saddle and bridle can be readily improvised, with a little imagination. Use what you have to hand.
  10. Now doesn't that look nice? The old horse has a new lease of life. A weekend well spent.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

A paper head for starters...

My lutemaker friend, Stephen Gottlieb, (see his website, Lutemaker) is going to cut me up some wood for my headless horse's head. I have been working out the dimensions, using a photo of a rather nice J & G Lines horse of similar age.

This photo shows a paper cutout stuck on the horse to give an idea of how it will look. I have tried various increments of size. I think this is it.

I am going to use lime, instead of the pine it was. This has the advantage of showing that it is a later addition, should anyone not realize...

I have the original wooden back to the saddle which I will replace.

(Tell me if you think this head outline looks wrong. I would welcome second opinions).

Friday, 27 July 2007

My only experience of wood carving so far

This is Seraphine (the eagle-eyed among you may notice she shares this name with my fictional dragon in Trav Zander).

She is a G & J Lines, and had no lower jaw when I bought her. I have replaced it, and re-tipped her ears.

A whole head and neck is more ambitious.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Inside the belly of the horse...

It's always fascinating to open up a rocking horse and see what's inside. Children post small objects into the hollow body of the horse through the tail hole, once the tail comes out, or through the pommel holes on older horses.

Here are the interesting things out of this horse. The date on the bus ticket is 10th November, 1962. The scrap of mane shows the horse had chestnut horsehair, and the original plug to hold the tail in is here to be re-used in due course.

That's better...

I have removed all the non-original parts (except two struts on the top of the stand which will come off later). This is what is left. Paint stripping next.

Normally the first thing I do is name the horse, because you do talk to them while working on them over long months. But I find you can't name a headless horse. It's not possible to gauge its personality minus a head.

Note the beautifully shaped fetlocks, a feature of J & G Lines horses.

Monday, 23 July 2007

My latest horse

I have just collected this rocking horse, bought on eBay for £67.
Three-quarters of her is a hundred years or so old; the head is a replacement, and bears no resemblance to the finely-carved head she would have started out with. The top plank of her body is not original, either.

She was made by J & G Lines (you can tell by the stamp on the underside of the brackets) so I shall study photos of similar horses to see what the missing parts should look like.

I plan to carve her a new head, as authentically as possible.