Carousel horses come in many styles and sizes. Some are life-size, like the ones on full-size carnival rides, while at the other end of the scale are miniatures that can be displayed in a cabinet or on a mantelpiece. A hand-carved full-sized carousel horse is a valuable item that takes hundreds of hours of labour, and only a handful of craftsmen still make them today. You can build your own wooden carousel horse using kits or plans. If you are ambitious you can choose the option of carving, but it is not required.
Decide whether to build your horse from scratch or buy a pre-made kit. Buying a kit will make it easier and faster to build your carousel horse, and you can still personalise it when you paint it and add accessories. Both pre-made kits and plans for building wooden horses are readily available.
Choose the size and style of the horse. Make the size appropriate for the size of the person who is expected to use it. A full-size horse can be a falling hazard for young children. Horses can be posed standing, jumping, or prancing and can have the neck held high or stretched out. Larger horses will require more material. Choose a carve or no-carve option.
Choose the wood. If you are buying a kit the wood will be predetermined. If you are building from scratch consider making your first horse from pine, which is inexpensive and easy to work with. The wood will be painted over in the finished product. Experienced woodworkers can select from oak, ash, walnut and cherry which are all good for making wooden horses.
Allow yourself ample work space. Build your horse according to the kit instructions or cut your pieces according to the plans. Trace the shape onto the wood before cutting with a bandsaw. The body of the horse is known as the coffin, and the legs then the head and neck should be attached as specified in the plans. Use a router to shape nostrils and ears. Sand your horse and round off the edges with 80 grade or finer sandpaper. If you are going to carve features then also sand those before painting.
Finish your horse in your choice of colours or stains. Varnish or polyurethane will give a shiny finish, while oils have a softer finish. Use acrylic paint to personalise the horse with your favourite colours or to match the decor. If your horse does not have a carved mane and tail you can use unbraided rope, other lifelike materials or real horsehair. Add reins and cover the seat area with leather or padded material.