Hi, it’s Mandi! Fan of books? Love puns? Is there a kiddo in your life? Or do you just adore mini horses? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this is the craft for you.
Please, please don’t be intimidated at all of the supplies it takes to build this book horse—they’re mostly basics, with the exception of one pocket-hole jig, which would be a great addition to your woodworking arsenal if you don’t have one already. It’s a fairly simple process to make this folksy little guy, and I managed to put it all together in one Sunday evening. Check out how I did it below!
-20 pocket-hole screws
-1″ wire brads (optional)
-8″ x 6′ piece of common board*
-craft plywood (just a small piece)
-120 grit sandpaper (not shown)
-steel wool (optional, but highly suggested)
-tinted wood stain
-printer paper + template parts 1, 2, and 3
-hammer (optional—for use with wire brads)
-pocket-hole jig with step bit and driver
-two clamps like the one shown
-jigsaw with clean cutting blade
-printer (not shown)
-pencil (not shown)
Prepare Your Lumber:
*You can have your lumber cut for you at the lumber yard or hardware store, or you can do it yourself if you have access to a table saw. The lumber you use should have a finished width of 7 1/4″ and a 3/4″ thickness. You will need two 12″ lengths, one 14″ length, one piece trimmed width-wise and length-wise down to 4 1/4″ x 14″, and the rest of the lumber can be used for cutting out the head and tail of the horse.
Step One: Print out the three templates (one, two, three). Do not shrink them if your printer options suggest it—each page is already sized at 8 1/2″ x 11″ and includes margins. Cut out the stencil pieces and lay them over the pieces of lumber. The two 7 1/4″ x 12″ pieces should have curved tops and cut-out legs on the bottom, as shown in the above image. Word to the wise: don’t try to cut out the ear shapes from the thick lumber. I went and got craft plywood to use for the ears instead.
Step Two: Clamp the pieces of wood to a table or countertop edge and cut out the shapes with a clean-cutting jigsaw blade. I got out a fresh blade for this one and it worked very nicely, with very little splintering.
Step Three: Sand down the pieces of wood. If you have some hesitation wounds (as I like to call them) on your wood from the jigsaw, you may have a lot of sanding to do to blend in any jagged edges. You can use a rotary sander for this to make it easier.
Make sure you have the length of the jig (it’s adjustable) and the drill bit’s collar positioned appropriately so that the length of screws you use don’t poke through the wood when you join them together. You should practice on two pieces of scrap wood to make sure. I’m glad I did, or I may have messed up big time! My 1 1/4″ screws poked through the wood on my practice try. You can also just use shorter screws.
Step Six: You can skip this part if you must, but you’ll find that sanding the wood with steel wool after staining really makes the finish silky smooth. When wood becomes wet, little hairs rise up from it and cause it to be not as smooth as it was after the first sanding. I used two wads of steel wool to smooth down the entire piece.
Step Seven: Clamp together the pieces of the shelf and use the pocket hole driver to screw in the pocket hole screws. Don’t clamp the wood too tightly or the ends of the clamp will leave indents in your wood. You can also use a scrap piece of wood between the clamp and the shelf if you’re using soft wood like pine.
Step Eight: Draw a thin line of wood glue along the edge of the head of the horse, and attach it to one of the bookshelf ends. You choose the side, but I liked it on the left side better. You may choose to hammer wire brads into the head from the inside of the shelf, but I decided to just rest the shelf on the opposite end to let the glue dry on its own.
Step Nine: While the glue is still wet, wipe away any excess. Wood glue dries yellow, so you don’t want any showing on the finish.
Repeat steps eight and nine for the tail and ears of the horse.
Important Note: When you trace the horse head, tail, and ear templates in step one, make sure that you draw the shapes onto the wood so the grain runs vertically through the shape. This is nice for the look of the finished piece, but it’s also necessary for gluing the pieces to the shelf in step eight. Wood glue is not effective when used on an end grain, so it must be applied to the side of the grain.
This project would make a great gift for someone putting together a room for a baby or young child. You can make the shelf portion a bit smaller for holding board books, and the final piece would be perfect for resting on a side table next to a rocking chair. Of course, you could make this project for an adult too! After all, we’re much better readers than babies. –Mandi
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