Corral a horse for Christmas Essay

If you have already discovered the truth in the adage
“it’s more blessed to give than to receive,” just wait
until you give something made by your own two chisel-scarred,
varnish-stained hands. You’ll find even more satisfaction when,
instead of the usual polite “That’s nice” (only to have
the store-bought thing shelved after a cursory examination), your child
or grandchild joyously puts your handmade gift to use–and over the
years lovingly wears it out and as lovingly puts his hand to rebuilding

You say the only thing you ever tried to make was a doghouse? And
the dog left home the next day? Not to worry. Thanks to Peter
Stevenson’s Wood Toys and Dollhouses (Chilton Book Co., Radnor, PA
19087 205 pp., $15.95), you have the plans for constructing long-lasting
toys from rough-and-ready materials that gain appeal with time. All you
need for this labor of love is a one-quarter-inch electric drill, a
hand-held circular saw and an electric saber saw, with maybe a little
help from tools already in your kitchen drawer: hammer, pliers,
screwdriver, chisel and wrench.

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You’ll need the wood, of course, to begin with, and the
varnish or paints to add the final touch. But Stevenson generously
supplies the accurate line work, a materials list and cutting and
finishing techniques for all the 15 “old faithful” toys in his
carefully illustrated book.

Although we lingered longest over the Dump Truck, the Steam Shovel,
the Dollhouse and the Log Cabin, nostalgia finally led us to decide on
the Jumping Horse. Mr. Stevenson warns that because the jumping horse,
suspended on tension springs, is high-spirited, it should be used with
adult supervision. But don’t overdo it. Once you have proudly
presented your handsome handmade gift to the lucky rider-to-be on
Christmas morning, do get off and give the kid a chance. Kids catch on
pretty quick nowadays.

Materials List 4’x4′ ACX exterior-grade plywood panel,
3/4″ thick 1′ length of rough redwood 4×4 stock 8′ length
of rough redwood 2×2 stock 6″ length of fir, cedar or redwood 2×6
stock Two 10′ length of fir, cedar or redwood 1×3 stock 8′
length of fir, cedar or redwood 1×3 stock 6″ length of 1/2″
dowel 9″ length of 5/8″ dowel 6″ length of 7/8″
dowel 3′ length of 3/4″ I.D. galvanized pipe Four 6″
heavy-duty tension springs Four 4″x5/16″ eyebolts, nuts and
double washers One hundred 1-1/2″ #8 flathead wood screws
30″x36″ rectangle of plastic grass carpet 4′ length of
3/4″-diameter hemp rope One pound of 3″ galvanized box nails
Roll of 3/4″ plastic tape Dog leash 12″x12″ square of
dark-colored Naugahyde 12″x12″ square of red felt 5/8″

The jumping horse is suspended on tension springs attached to the
surrounding corral fence and provides lively jumping action for young
children in a wide range of ages. However, because it is high-spirited,
it should be used with adult supervision.

The body of the horse is made of three layers of 2″x6″
redwood, cedar or pine (or any other medium soft-wood stock), with
3/4″ plywood legs. The head is cut from a redwood 4×4.

Cutting and drilling

The corral: The first step in building the jumping horse is to cut
the corral posts from rough redwood or cedar 2x2s. These can be sanded
to prevent splintering, but use rough-cut stock to get the extra-large
size of lumber. (Finished 2x2s will measure 1-1/2″x1-1/2″ and
are too small.) The rails and crosspieces can be cut from finished or
rough 1″x3″ stock (or split grape stakes with a crosssection
size close to this size).

Cut the 30″x23″ plywood base. (We used ACX for better
weather protection.) Then cut three 20-1/2″ posts and one
28-1/2″ post from the 2×2 and trim the top ends to a blunt bevel with a crosscut saw. Drill 1/8″ pilot holes through the base at the
corners so that the bottoms of all four posts can be attached to the
base 3/4″ in from the long-side edges and flush with the end edges.
Drive 3-1/2″ nails up through the bottom of the base and into the
end grain of the posts.

Drill pilot holes for the wood screws through the rails and
crosspieces and screw them to the posts (fig. 1). Notch the
crosspieces at the midpoint and bend them slightly so they can cross
without being notched. Screw the two crosspieces together at the corner
to add stability to the corral frame.

Next, drill with a 5/16″ bit through the four posts in the
positions shown, then insert a 5/16″ eyebolt in each hole from the
inside of the corral. Bolt them tight with a washer and lock nut and
trim the bolt flush with the nut (filing the ends to round off). Drill a
1/2″ hole through the “hitching post” as shown; then cut
and insert a 6″ length of 1/2″ dowel. Sand all sharp corners
and potential splinters at the edges with 80-grit, then 150-grit
sandpaper. Apply two coats of satin-finish, exterior-grade varnish.

After varnishing, cut a 30″x36″ rectangle of plastic
grass carpet and notch to clear the posts (fig. 2). Wrap the edges of
the grass carpet under the base and staple it in place with 5/8″
staples. The top rail at the front of the corral (the hitching-post
end) can be wrapped with alternating spirals of red and white plastic
tape to provide the look of a competition jump. Hook the heavy-duty
tension springs on to the eyebolts at the corner posts and use a pair of
pliers to open the spring eyes. Use the pliers to crimp the spring and
eyes after mounting to prevent the springs from becoming detached during
a ride.

The horse: To build the horse, start by making the patterns for the
front and hind legs and transfer them to the 3/4″ plywood. Drill
holes for the 1″ pipe-hanger poles as shown in figures 3 and 4.

Make the pattern for the body and follow the dimensions in figures
5A and B. Transfer the pattern to the 2×6 and cut three of these pieces
for the body. Select one piece to form the center layer, then mark the
dotted lines showing the position of the neck at the center layer (5A).
Mark the positions of the 1″ holes for the pipe hangers and drill
through all three layers with a 1″-diameter spade bit for the power
drill. Next, mark the dotted cutoff lines on the center layer of the
three body pieces and cut along them to provide a mounting slot for the
next piece of 2×6.

Make the pattern for the neck piece and transfer it onto the
remaining 2×6 stock (6). Then place the legs in position on the two
outside body layers and mark the outlines onto the body parts. Nail and
glue (driving pilot holes through the other layers, if needed, to
prevent splitting) each side layer to the center body layer and to the
neck piece. Align all parts flush at the top surface of the body (the
jumper’s back) and position the nails within the outlines of the
legs so that the heads will be hidden when the legs are attached.

The next step is to cut the 18″x3/4″ inside-diameter pipe
hangers. Then drill 5/16″-diameter holes through one side of the
pipe, the center of the holes spaced 1/2″ in from each end of each
pipe. Insert the pipes through the holes in the body, then slip the legs
over the ends of the pipe and slide them up to the sides of the body.
Screw or nail them in place with glue. Wrap the hanger pipes with
3/4″ black plastic tape next to the sides of the jumper to a
thickness of about 1/8″ to prevent side slip.

Cut the head from a short length of rough redwood 4″x4″
(Fig. 7). (Cedar or pine can be substituted and the head laminated from
six layers of 1″x6″ stock cut in profile, glued together, then
trimmed to size from the top view.) The profile and top views can be
cut with a handsaw and rounded with a Surform wood shaper or cut with a
band saw. Cut the profile first, then the top outline. Finally, drill
the ear, eye and nostril holes with wood spade bits to the diameters
shown, about 3/4″ deep.

The notch for the neck can be cut out, as shown, with a band saw or
a hand saw. Use a chisel to cut down the front to remove the wood in
the notch. Cut the 7/8″-diameter dowel ears and glue and screw
them to the ear holes. Glue and slip down the slot at the back of the
head onto the neck and drive screws in through pilot holes, as shown in
Figure 7, to mount the head solidly on the neck. With the jumper body
complete, use a Surform wood shaper to round off all sharp edges and
remove splinters. Sand the body smooth with #80-grit, then 150-grit
sandpaper, and either paint or varnish the horse and frame.

Make a bridle and reins from an inexpensive dog leash, as shown in
Figure 8. To make a saddle, cut the shape shown in the grid pattern
from Naugahyde; then cut another layer 1/4″ larger all the way
around from the red felt. Glue both layers in place with contact
cement. Paint crossbars, hoofs, top of the ears, hanger springs and
eyebolts semigloss black.

Drill 7/8″-diameter holes in the neck, rump and top of the
head as shown in the patterns to provide anchor points for the mane and
the tail. Cut a 9″ or 10″ length of tail and one end with
black plastic tape and insert the ends into the holes. To hold the rope
in place, angle and drive small finishing nails through it. After
anchoring the rope, unravel and fluff it into a continuous mane; trim to
length with scissors. Wrap the base of the tail with more tape to help
it stand, then unravel the end and comb it out.

Assembly: To mount the jumper, bend the spring ends open enough to
slip into the holes on the top sides of the hanger pipes. Close the
eyes. Round all the metal parts with a file and tape the corners.


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