Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Headless no more!

It's nice to see the horse complete with head.

I haven't quite finished carving; the top of the back is still too flat, and I have to saw a slot and glue in the saddle back. Attaching the neck to the body and shaping it was a lot more work than I'd expected, for two reasons.

First, as the top plank of the body was new, I had to carve that, instead of it pointing me in the right direction for the neck.

Then, the wood I used for the muscle blocks was The Wrong Kind of Pine. Don't know what it is, or what it should be, but definitely not this kind. It was like carving plywood, especially when I got to the end grain at the front. It took ages.

Now he is headless no more, I have called the horse Zaphod. A tribute to Douglas Adams' character Zaphod Beeblebrox, who had two heads. Okay, so he had his two heads simultaneously, and this horse has had his heads one at a time; plus this one is his third. But who's counting?

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Eye sizes in J & G Lines

Just for Mary; pictures of my horse with 18 mm eyes, and with 20 mm.

I shall be painting the larger eyes a brighter brown before I put them in. Of course, once the horse is gessoed and painted, the eyes will look different.

For good measure, I'm putting photos of Jackie's twin horse, and a particularly nice 1890s J & G Lines, which came from either Jane or Jan's website (sorry, forgotten which).

Friday, 24 August 2007

Bigger glass eyes...

Jackie Darnborough, who owns the twin to this horse, told me hers has 20mm eyes, not the 18 I'd thought looked right.

So I've enlarged the sockets, and think the bigger eyes do look better.

I have started on the neck muscles. This is rather daunting, because the top plank of the body was not original, so I have to shape that too; and there are a lot of nice curves to carve round the shoulders. And, of course, the horse has his head turned to one side like all the best rocking horses. An additional complication.

One leg is missing in this photo. Must glue it back in. Next I will attach the head and neck to the body...

Monday, 20 August 2007

Glass eyes

Here are some glass rocking horse eyes; clear 'antique' ones on the left (one pair with the back painted) and amber glass ones on the right.

And a shot of Headless - must find him a name - with eyes temporarily attached with blu-tac.

It's astonishing what a difference eyes make. The horse can see where he's going, for one thing.

Friday, 17 August 2007

Pause for thought

I'm stopping here for a while with the face. Looking at this photo and the one below, it doesn't appear very different, but I've removed quite a lot of wood, attempting to refine it. I have a nasty feeling the head is slightly too big.

I'm going to do a bit to the body, then come back, have another think, then join the head to the body, add the muscle blocks to the neck and finish the carving.

I have ordered several sizes of glass eyes, as I am not sure which will be right. 16mm, 18mm, 20mm. 18mm are only supplied by John and Dorothy Woods, it seems.

They are clear glass eyes with a black pupil, so you can paint the back reddish-brown. This is the type that Headless would have had.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007


Chipping away anxiously at the new head, I imagine the craftsman who carved Headless more than a hundred years ago watching me.

He's doing a bit of head shaking and eyebrow raising. After all, in the time I've taken so far, he could have carved two or three whole horses. Better.

'Get on with it, girl. And for goodness' sake, put a proper edge on those chisels!'

Bemused, but benign.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

A lot of wood chips later

The face is too wide, which you can't see from this side view. I'm getting to a stage where there is still a great deal of wood to remove, but it's easy to take off too much.

I keep looking at the photos of similar horses, trying to distinguish exactly where the wood goes in and where it doesn't. My G & J Lines, Seraphine, has a quite different face.

This morning I got obsessed with getting the chin right, thinking I could work out from there.

It isn't right yet, though.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Starting to carve...

After research on the web, I've managed to get a reasonable angle and edge on my largest gouge, and have started roughing out the shape.

Anthony Dew says that 'the novice carver is likely to make either (or both) of two basic errors: carving away too much, or carving away too little.' Thanks, Anthony. Scylla and Charybdis.

And then there's the grain; I'm going along nicely, and suddenly the wood bites back, and I have to change angle. You don't get this problem with wax modelling. You can add bits on, too, with wax.

I hope this is entertaining you expert carvers out there.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Blunt chisels and gouges are not good...

There will now be a pause in this blog as I try to figure out how to sharpen gouges...

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Dropped by my local lutemaker's...

In the end I cracked at the prospect of spending the entire day wielding a handsaw, and rang my lutemaker friend, Stephen Gottlieb. With speed and skill he whisked off the surplus from my bit of scaffolding plank, and ran it through his planer.

Here is Headless, latest phase, and an archive shot of Stephen, as I forgot to take my camera. (He is rangey, not portly, but was wearing woolly jumpers as it was cold).

Wood for the new head and back

Stephen has cut out the head outline for me.

He had no suitable wood for the top of the body, but, in an amazing stroke of luck, I found a scaffolding plank loitering on its own across the road from my workshop, the right width and thickness. The guys refurbishing the bar opposite said I could have it.

Sawing and planing it, a job that would have taken minutes with the right machinery, took me much longer by hand. I am no woodworker.

I hope I am not turning into a Dad-in-shed.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Mirror image horses

I have to put this on the blog. When I put one photo on top of the other on a light box, the match is very nearly exact. Carved by the same craftsman?

A very similar J & G Lines (thanks, Jackie)

This is a J & G Lines belonging to Jacqueline Darnborough, who does stunning restorations of old rocking horses.

It is about the same size as mine, and like mine it is plain carved. One advantage of a picture like this, of an overpainted horse before restoration, is that you can see the shape clearly. Once it is properly dappled, with mane and harness, it will look lovely, but you won't see its outline so much.

Thanks too to Jane Hooker, who has also sent me some very useful photos.