Gilly The Rocking Giraffe – My First Rocking Horse

So after finishing my Noah’s Ark a few years ago I felt a bit lost in direction onto what now to aim for with my carving work. What would now be the “Next Big Project” the project that would push my boundaries and creativity further than before? Eventually I decided upon a rocking horse, but didn’t think anymore of it than that (apart from buying a book on the subject of course)

But in September 2016 I mentioned this to my good friend Renae and she then contacted her Mum who had just had a new Granddaughter arrive a month beforehand. I was told that she wanted a rocking Giraffe. This would go with the little girls decor, which was a jungle room (because this is the only place you will probably seen Giraffes in the jungle, along with Lions and Tigers and Zebras)

I felt that a rocking Giraffe wouldn’t work as the neck would be too heavy for the whole thing to rock.But then I consulted trusted google and found that others had done it too. I then started work on designing out the shape and how exactly I would go about building the whole thing.

What I would build it out of had already been decided however. I would be using yet more Oak worktop which my good friend Renae had given to me earlier in the year. The weight of the whole carving however did worry me somewhat but decided to press on anyway.

A piece of oak worktop before the legs were cut out. The off cuts between the legs would then become the shoulders holding the neck in place.
The Neck, Head and Legs After Cutting Out

Work then began on the head. The head would be made from two piece of worktop glued together and then shaped (first by the band saw and then with grinding discs on an angle grinder)

Work then moved onto the neck. This was one piece of worktop thick and then would be thickened at the bottom to create shoulders and create a stable base for the neck and head to be supported on. I gave him some nostrils too.

Next the body was assembled. I was asked to create the whole “horse” in a certain style so the stomach and legs had to remain quite flat unlike most traditional rocking horses. This was achieved by making the body out of two sections. One thick piece would act as the back/seat of the giraffe while a smaller thinner piece would act as the tummy. The legs were cut at a certain angle too so that they would part away from one another, like most rocking horses do. A modified jack worked wonders as a second pair of hands while I installed the legs.

Ears and the horns were then made and added. The ears were made from offcuts of Oak from the belly section and carved, a bit like a bowl. These were dowelled into place. The horns were then turned on my lathe before being glued into place in the head. I drilled the holes slightly wider than the tenons so the horns could be pointing outwards slightly in opposite directions. A hole was also drilled into the neck to allow for a handle for the child to hold on. This made more sense than having reigns.


Lots of shaping and gluing later. We were now getting there with it. So the next part (and this was the part I had been dreading) was making the rockers that the giraffe would sit on. This would also tell me once and for all it the balance was correct and the whole thing would indeed rock. I was convinced it would be too heavy for your average child still but plodded on with it anyway. These were made out of 1 1/2″ thick ash, left over from Dave’s workbench.

The rockers added and now fully assembled.

Me being a big kid, I couldn’t resist having a go at seeing if it really rocked. Bar a little hump in the rocker it balanced out perfectly.

Work then moved onto the final stages. Adding the pattern to the Giraffe (now christened “Gilly” by the customer) and painting the rockers themselves. I could have left the beautiful grain of the ash on show but didn’t feel that it would look right in a child’s bedroom and so painted them white. The mottled pattern was created using a mahogany stain and a small paintbrush. Very time consuming and the fumes were making my eyes water at times but it achieved the affect I was hoping for.

Gilly getting her distinctive look, had to do this outside because of the fumes.

A couple of coats of oil were added and then the mane and tail were added. These were made from an entire ball of of black wool platted, which was then fixed in place with epoxy.

The Completed Giraffe
Side View
Gilly with her creator

At this point I still had no idea if the horse was good enough for children and so enlisted the help of my Nieces and Nephew to help me find out. Upon their arrival they seemed to be a bit suspicious of Gilly but then once Ella the oldest hopped on it seemed the others to follow (bar little Jack who needed assistance from his mum).

I was thrilled to see that Gilly would also be able to take two children and my two nieces fitted perfectly onto Gilly’s back. A whole morning spent them laughing and having fun because of something I created is currently one of the highlights of my adventures in wood carving.

I now intend to make one a year but of a different animal. I’m just haven’t figured out what yet.


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