Rocking Hobby Horse – 2020
2 Months | 2-person Collab | Toy Design | Personal Project
Introducing Rocking Hobby Horse – the world's first rocking horse that is also a hobby horse – that's right, when you're sick of rocking back and forth without going anywhere, just pull this horse's head out from it's rocking body, then ride it around the house... giddyap!
(it was COVID, could you tell we had nowhere to go?)
In the looming shadow of our daughter's second holiday season, Santa's elves – my partner and I – decided to build her a rocking horse. But it couldn't be a plain ole' rocking horse, it had to have something special. Early ideation explored a range of animal body types (a rocking monkey? t-rex? mommy?), construction methods, mechanical concepts.
At one point, it seemed like it might be easier to simplify the rocking horse into a hobby horse – a disembodied horse head on a stick that the little ones ride around with glee.
Then it dawned on us: why can't our rocking horse also be a hobby horse?
Further exploration married the horse's rocking base and removable head concept with CNC-routed plywood structural elements, a yarn tail (for braiding practice, a favorite childhood memory), stuffed crochet head construction (soft and hand-friendly), and innovative repositionable elements to support rider size and position (foot rest and seat style), and a "clip-clop" sound via a set of internal marbles and acoustic panels. Additionally, the removable hobby horse head afforded an opportunity to drive an up-and-down head motion while rocking.
Aesthetically, we gave the horse a forward-tilted stance to give the impression of forward motion, while maintaining a center-of-gravity directly over the middle rocking horse base for easy riding. We optimized the rocking runner profile for effortless rocking toward the middle of the motion, with exponential effort required near the extreme ends of the motion – no one will tip this horse over! Slatted base boards were designed for children to get on and off of the horse without adult help.
A small scale prototype, laser-cut from 3mm 3-ply craft plywood, allowed us to iron out the construction and assembly kinks, test out the "clip-clop" and moving head mechanisms, massage the proportions and balance. We later painted this – it's the perfect size for a holiday tree ornament!
We CNC-routed our full scale Rocking Hobby Horse from two 4'x8' sheets of 3/4-inch maple veneer plywood (couldn't get the super-nice baltic birch stuff at the time). A solid maple curtain dowel served as stock for the handles. After un-tabbing (i.e., removing) the parts from their sheets, a little light sanding prepped the parts for a double coat of linseed oil, leaving a beautiful, finger (and spill) friendly natural finish. Wood glue, clamps, time, and viola!
Originally, we thought leaving the horse's body sitting (but not actually affixed) to the rocking base would make for easier storage... but it later proved to be loud and somewhat shaky at a gallop! So we added four small L-brackets to permanently attach the horse body to the base (don't worry, the head is still free to remove).
After adding the horse's yarn tail and custom crochet head, our daughter decided to name her Honey – Honey the Rocking Hobby Horse. Sometimes she's headless, sometimes she isn't, but she's always on the move!