Brass Stock Rocking Horse
My mother collects rocking horses. She tries to get at least one each year for Christmas. This year, she couldn’t find anything she liked in the stores, so I made her one out of brass stock I had lying around.
I did a little CAD drawing to help myself visualize what it would look like. You might find it useful. There are very few dimensions, but you can still use it as a guide to bending the stock. The drawing is 1:1, so if you print out the PDF, you can just lay the bent metal on the paper to check the contour.
1/4″ x 0.015″ shim stock for the legs and neck, bent into shape around a 1/4″ steel bar. Because the brass is rolled (and thus hardened), it springs back a bit. You have to overbend it slightly to get it into the shape you want.
3/4″ x 0.015″ shim stock for the base and the saddle.
5/8″ tube for the body and 3/8″ tube for the head.
The brass is available at hobby and model railroad stores. It is sold by K&S Metals.
I used regular copper pipe solder and flux along with a butane pencil torch to solder everything together.
The hardest part of assembling something like this is fixturing the workpieces into position so you can solder them together. At minimum you need a small mechanic’s vise.
In this case, I also used a small pipe clamp to hold the legs and the neck to the body tube so I could solder them. Further, I’ve found that working on a piece of sheet metal is very helpful. Aluminum is great because solder doesn’t stick to it, and it can take the direct (or near-direct) heat of the torch.
You will also need a pipe cutter, a hacksaw, or a Dremel with a cut-off wheel to cut the tube stock, and tin snips to cut the flat stock.
The numbers were stamped with a 1/4″ number punch set (before the saddle was attached). These can be hard to find, but you can get a nice 5/32″ set here.
A set of hobby files and a large fine-toothed flat file will also come in handy to clean up the rough edges.
I would also recommend some polishing compound, and graduated fine grit sandpaper (400, 800, 1200) to put a nice finish on the whole thing. The photos were taken before I began polishing, which is why they look a big rough.
Some books recommend using steel wire (around 18-24 gauge) to hold pieces together. Most of these books were written at a time when “steel wire” meant “mild steel”, which would be fine. Unfortunately, most commonly available steel wire these days is galvanized. Galvanized wire resists rust, which is nice, but you don’t want to put it anywhere near an open flame (like from a butane torch). If you heat it, the galvanized zinc will evaporate, and could very easily make you very sick. This is a condition known as “metal fume fever“, and it is extremely unpleasant — ask me how I know.
Brass, too, contains zinc which may evaporate when you heat it. As such, it is very important that you do your soldering in a well-ventilated area, and that you don’t get too close to the work — keep a comfortable working distance.
And finally, remember that metal doesn’t have to be glowing red to be extremely hot. Once you solder a joint, let it sit for 30 seconds or so before touching it.
So that’s about it. Hope everyone has safe and happy holidays! I’m looking forward to making lots of cool things in 2011.