Children love things they can climb on to and if you can get inside and hide — well, that’s a real bonus! So the legend of this famous horse and the part it played in the downfall of Troy inspired me to make the ultimate hide-and-seek toy.
The timber I used was Nordic redwood, which you can buy easily in a ready-planed state, or you can save a great deal of money by just getting the timber sawn and planing it yourself. However, if you decide to do this you will find the assistance of an electric planer a great boon (see page 94).
The horse is constructed entirely from pieces of timber held together with screws — there are no traditional joints. The screws I used are the new pattern ‘superscrew’, but, whatever you use, be sure to buy zinc-plated screws or ones especially designed for out of doors, as ordinary steel screws will rust over a very short period of time and leave nasty rust stains on the wood.
1 Start by making the two ends of the horse (i.e. the front and rear walls). Cramp together the three planks for each end. then screw the cross-piece across each to hold them together. Bear in mind when positioning these cross-pieces that you are going to have to cut a curve around the top of each end for the horse’s ‘back’. They should be screwed in place just below where the curve starts.
2 To draw the curve, tie a marking pencil on to a piece of string. Hold the other end of the string on the central point (marked on the plans) making sure that the length of string between nail and pencil is 250mm (10 in) to give you the correct radius. Holding the string taut, sweep the pencil round in an arc to give you the required curve. Repeat on the other end wall. Using an electric jigsaw, cut out the curve on each wall. You should also mark and cut away a section at the bottom of each side of each wall (see plans) to give the slanting-in effect for the horse’s sides.
3 Now cut out the two pieces of timber that will hold the neck in place and screw them to the front wall.
Make the tail by cutting out a template, drawing round it on a suitable piece of timber and cutting the shape out with a jigsaw. Smooth away any sharp edges with glasspaper. then screw the tail to the end wall from the inside face of the wall.
4 The front and rear walls are held together with a ‘skin’ of slats, which are narrower on the horse’s ‘back’ than on its sides’ to give a nice smooth curve.
Assemble all your slats of the different sizes, cut to length, and drill countersunk pilot holes for the screws that will attach them all to the walls. The screws must be countersunk to ensure children don’t scratch themselves on the metal heads.
Bore 25mm (1 in) peep holes (which will also provide extra ventilation) along one or two of the wider side slats. Note that two of the slats should be shorter than the others (see steps 5 and 13).
To help young children climb up, you can cut foot-holds in the side slats. The only trouble is that you then no longer have a secret hiding place inside. It will depend on the age of your children what you decide to do about this.
5 Fixing the slats on to the ends is easier if you have a helper, but if you don’t. wedge one end firmly against a wall or the workbench. Screw the slats in place on this end, starting with the one in the centre of the horse’s ‘back’. When all are in posit-on, screw the other ends of the slats on to the other end wall. The two shorter slats should be screwed on last at the bottom of the horse’s sides.
6 Once the barrel-shaped body is complete you’ll need to do a great deal of sanding to remove all the sharp edges. If you know someone who has an electric belt sander, this will do the job very quickly. Make sure you give plenty of attention to each slat edge by using a piece of glasspaper wrapped round a thin piece of plywood. Spend plenty of time on this job, tiresome though it is.
7 Cut out the two pieces of timber for the ‘rump’ which will help to prevent children from falling off the horse backwards. Screw them together and then screw the assembled ‘rump’ to the end wall.
8 Now for the head and neck. First make the neck assembly by cutting out and. shaping the neck piece and then drilling a hole for the dowel rod handle. Cut out the two spacer blocks for this handle and drill holes for the dowel rod in these too.
For the head you will first need to make a template. following the shape shown on the plans. Draw round this on to your timber and cut out the shape using a jigsaw. Mark and cut out the mane, eyes and mouth from offcuts of wood, using the same method. Glasspaper all the pieces carefully.
Glue the eyes and mouth on to either side of the head. Then, attach the head to the neck by means of the mane pieces. These should be glued and screwed on to either side as shown on the plans.
9 Clamp the neck in position between the two pieces of timber that you previously screwed to the front wall. Drill two large holes for the dowel rods that then will hold the neck in place straight through all three pieces of timber in one operation. Push dowel rods, cut to the appropriate length, through the holes. If you leave these ‘dry’ and don’t glue them in position you will be able to remove the head easily if you want to store the horse in your shed during the winter.
10 Now you should make the floor panel. This is made from three planks of wood, one of which is much shorter than the other two. In addition, the two longer pieces need to have sections cut away so that, when assembled, you have an access hole large enough for a child to climb through.
Clamp the three pieces together and glue and screw the cross member in place that will hold them together. I can imagine nothing worse than a child getting stuck in a horse, so please make the hole large enough for your children!
11 Fix the floor panel in place by driving screws through the panel and into the ends of the front and rear walls and into the edges of the bottom body slats. You will have to drive them in at an angle along the sides in order to get them firmly into the wood. It is very important to use plenty of screws for this job as the floor panel has to bear the full weight of a child inside.
12 Now make the stand. First mark and cut out the eight legs, which all have angles (see page 90) cut on the tops and bottoms so that they ‘splay’ widely and give the horse plenty of stability. Now cut to length the six cross members for the sides. Finally cut the cross members for the ends of the stand — you need two long ones for the bottom which need angles cut on the ends, and two shorter ones for the top which should have the corners chamfered off for safety reasons.
13 Assembling the stand on to the horse is a little tricky. The easiest method is probably to prop the horse up on some blocks or a workmate of the same height as the stand. Screw the two shorter cross members with the chamfered ends on to the bottom of the front and rear walls of the horse. The two shorter slats at the bottom of the horse’s sides provide space to accommodate these cross members. Make sure they are well screwed on as they will have to bear all the weight of children climbing on to and into the horse.
14 Now cramp all the legs in place, two for each corner, and use a long batten of wood placed across the sides of the legs to ensure they are all projecting at the right angle. When you are happy with the positioning of the legs, and are sure that all the ‘feet’ are flat on the floor, bore the holes for the coach bolts that will hold the legs to the horse (two bolts for each set of legs). Fit the bolts with the nuts on the inside face of the cross members.
15 Place the long cross members between the ‘feet’ of the horse (see plans), drill holes for coach bolts and then fit the bolts, again with the nuts on the inside face of the legs.
16 Screw the side cross members in place — three on each side. These provide climbing steps as well as giving rigidity to the frame.
17 All the countersunk screw holes should now be filled with» a stopping such as Brummer Stopping, and the legs, head, tail and body thoroughly glasspapered again to remove any rough edges. Special attention should be given to the coach bolts — these can give very nasty scratches, so file off cleanly where the bolt comes through the nut, and cover the nut with a piece of plastic insulation tape. See page 95 for advice on wood preservatives to protect the horse.
On my horse, I left two side planks that could easily be removed if a child got stuck. Don’t fill the countersunk screw holes here and, if possible, use shorter screws. Mark this emergency exit with a dab of red paint. I have already mentioned the need to bore large spy/air holes and extra holes can be bored in the floor without spoiling the hiding place. A child could become very uncomfortable if stuck in the horse on a hot summer day -so lots of air holes please and an emergency exit.
Stand 2 off 1180 x 98 x 22mm (46½ X 37/8 x 7/8 in) Timber
2 off 775 X 98 X 22mm (30½ X 37/8 x 7/8 in) Timber
8 off 712 x 98 X 22mm (28 X 37/8 x 7/8 in) Timber
6 off 835 x 98 x 22mm (327/8 x 37/8 x 7/8 in) Timber
Floor 3 off 835 X 181 x 22mm (327/8 X 71/8 x 7/8 in) Timber
1 off 543 x 86 x 22mm (213/8 x 33/8 X 7/8 in) Timber
Rump 318 x 178 x 22mm (12 ½ X 7 x 7/8 in) Timber
165 x 98 X 22mm (6½ x 37/8 X 7/8in) Timber
Floor wall 3 off 685 x 178 x 22mm (27 x 7 x 7/8 in) Timber
2 off 330 X 98 x 22mm (13 x 37/8 x 7/8 in) Timber
1 off 521 x 98 x 22mm (20½ x 37/8 X 7/8 in) Timber
Rear wall 3 off 685 x 178 x 22mm (27 x 7 x 7/8 in) Timber
1 off 521 x 98 x 22mm (20½ x 37/8 X 78 in) Timber
Body skinning 10 off’ 790 x 98 x 22mm (311/8 X 37/8 X 7/8 in) Timber
13 off 790 x 48 x 22mm (311/8 x 17/8 x 7/8 in) Timber
Neck 1 off 902 x 178 x 22mm (35½ X 7 x 7/8 in) Timber
2 off 95 x 70 x 22mm (3¾ x 2¾ x 7/8 in) Timber
1 off 318mm (12½ in) x 16mm (5/8 in) diam dowellmg
2 off 152mm (6m) X 16mm (5/8 in) diam dowellmg
Tail 1 off 584 x 203 x 22mm (23 x 8 x 7/8 in) Timber
Head and mane 1 off 381 x 178 x 22mm (15 x 7 x 7/8in) Timber
2 off 483 x 114 x 22mm (19×4½ x 7/8 in) Timber
2 off 229 x 76 X 22mm (9 x 3 x 7/8in) Timber
2 off 203 x 76 X 22mm (8 X 3 x 7/8 in) Timber
2 off 102 x 51 X 12mm (4 x 2 x ½ ) Timber
Eyes and mouth offcuts 22mm (7/8 in) thick timber