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.
Step Four: Drill pocket holes on the 14″ lengths of wood. The wider piece of wood will be the bottom of the shelf, while the narrower one will be the back. Position the holes as shown above.
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 Five: Brush on a layer of stain onto each piece of wood, and wipe off any excess. Allow it to dry for the recommended time on the can you use.
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
Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with Valentine of the Signature Collection.
Please Note: Since the ABM offices are closed today, celebrating the 4th of July, your comment may take longer to appear than usual. Don’t worry, we will still see all of your comments, we’re just a little slower due to the holiday. Thank you.
this is amazing!!!!!
I considered it, but honestly I thought it would look juvenile like a rocking horse, and I just wanted something more folksy, like you would find at a country store. It would be easy to make though with some yarn and staples.
Don’t worry- we’re still working on plenty of crafts you’ll really enjoy! In the past year, the folks who contribute to ABM have really increased the amount of crafts/DIYs we share with readers on a weekly basis, adding in some more complex projects, which some readers have been asking for and really enjoy. You’ll still see a wide variety of types of crafts/DIYs and levels of difficulty posted, and I love the variety because there really is something for everyone. You can view all of our craft posts by clicking here: https://abeautifulmess.com/crafts/ and DIY posts here: https://abeautifulmess.com/diy/
The ABM team is getting ready to launch a website revamp with an organized directory where you can view all DIY projects at a glance, and eventually even view them by difficulty level and cost. I think you’ll really enjoy cutting to the chase and seeing the types of projects you’re interested in.
In the meantime, we’ll keep posting more complex crafts like this mixed in with the simpler projects you enjoy too so there’s something for everyone. 🙂
I’m not sure of the brand of stain, but I bought it at home depot and the color is called Colonial Blue. It’s an outdoor quality of tinted stain.
hi! so cute!!! what brand and color stain did you use?
This is too cute!
I could see this as being the PERFECT cookbook stand for the counter top! Thanks for sharing 🙂
This is so cute!!! I think I need to make one, except a pug. 😉
x Sara from awildroseblog.com
If you took off the ears and flipped the tail upside down, it could be a wiener dog shelf. Just a thought…
Why don’t you add some wool for a mane?
This is really pretty, as are all of the DIYs you post. But I have to say that I’m somewhat disappointed with the direction these posts are going.. Most of the more recent stuff aren’t simple and easy, you have to use tools (that I don’t even have) and it’s not exactly made from stuff you just find around the house.. They are wonderful and inspiring, and as a person who is moving to a new place they are very useful, bur still I miss the more basic stuff, too.
This is really cute, it would look perfect in any kid’s room, and you can adapt the color to the room too!
Very cute! (Love anything horses 🙂
I would still be very careful to wipe off absolutely any seeping wood glue. Sanding off wood glue is actually really difficult to do, so even when I assemble before painting, I try not to have any wood glue visible, or it’s a big pain to get rid of during the sanding process. Also, just a tip for this particular project, staining before assembling makes brush strokes less visible. If you stain while it’s assembled, it’s hard to get into the corners without the brush strokes showing against the grain of the neighboring piece of wood. 🙂 -Mandi
That depends on how thick your books are. The shelf length is 14″. -Mandi
I see a dachshund shelf coming! It´s going to be perfect, once I do it…
How cute! Not so difficult to make!
This is an adorable DIY, Mandi! A suggestion: I would assemble the shelf before painting it. That way you wouldn’t have to worry about wood glue showing up as you could just sand it off. 🙂
This is such a great idea and I actually am at a little bit of a loose end as to where to place my books. Although I may need to skip the horse head and tail (I know I’m boring) ha!