The Rocking Horse Shop

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Friday, 30 September 2011


to Bigger Bertie's first outing to London (WorldSkills, ExCeL centre).

I have been carving the legs and fitting the eyes (the replacement for the broken one has arrived, fortunately, saving Bigger Bertie from having to travel with an eye patch on, so he's looking good); Karl is fitting the platform for the rockers; Shirley's painting; Jane's tweeting; Sam's working on the massive body.

Bigger Bertie's body is essentially a box, and seeing a horse's body that big has lead to some suggestions that therein might lie an answer to the Greek debt problem. I doubt it's that big.

We've been blessed with glorious weather this week and it's been a pleasure to work on Bigger Bertie outside. We couldn't have done it inside anyway - we'd never have got him out of the building. Since our marquee (ie the outside workshop) blew away in the hurricane, several people have asked what we'd do if the weather turned nasty again. The answer is we'd be  .....ed!

The sun is forecast to shine again today, so I'm getting all excited in anticipation of Bigger Bertie's erection.

More tomorrow, when Bigger Bertie will really be ROCKING!

Thursday, 29 September 2011


to Bigger Bertie's first outing,

and his body is now coming together, with Sam fixing parts on at a great rate. Ewen is varnishing the giant rockers and we had to dash out for more when the varnish pot runs dry.

We have started to cut out and assemble the tail. This is one part we'll be asking members of the public to come in and 'Have A Go' at at carving - under our supervision of course - at WorldSkills next Wednesday to Friday at the ExCeL Centre in London's docklands.

Still no sign of Bigger Bertie's missing eye so he may have to go winking, but we're on track for his major erection come Saturday.

Then Bigger Bertie will really rock!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011


the countdown continues to Bigger Bertie's first outing to London...

We now, at last, have the huge rockers assembled. Sam, Karl, me and Ewen (my regular helper who is studying landscape and garden design and who has just won, top prize, at his part of the WorldSkills competition, the prizegiving next week at the EcCeL centre) all lend muscle (and many good suggestions too).

We heave the two eight and a half metre long rockers upright and hang them on two scaffolding towers, then connect the four cross pieces, each of which is a two man job to lift, by gluing and bolting them in place, then the two turned end pieces. 'It's easy, just like a big Ikea kit', Karl says. I'm wondering if it will work.

Then we lower it to the ground and, lo and behold, it rocks. It's brilliant, like a massive see-saw, and MD Jane rushes out to have ago. 'This is great!' she cries, 'Hey, not so fast, you're scaring me.'

So. Bigger Bertie has rockers - he will ROCK!

Bigger Bertie's Bow Rockers are being assembled.

Bigger Bertie's Bow Rockers are out in the yard, construction has started, the worlds largest hand carved Rocking Horse is being born........

Tuesday, 27 September 2011


to Bigger Bertie's first outing and (you might think this is a bit late in the day) I am now starting to believe he will come together OK.

Today young Karl (who's real passion is chain-saw carving but we're trying to show him a bit of real woodwork) has been making the slatted platform to go on the base of the rockers. Rocking-horse carver extraordinaire Sam Glass has been making and gluing on components for the body (the main assembly of which is tomorrow afternoon) while I have been doing the final sanding of the rockers (which we are going to assemble tomorrow morning) and (with the help of my lovely wife Shirley) stencilling our website on the sides.

Also, Jane entertained a crowd of visiting Yorkshire businessfolk to a crack of dawn 'working' breakfast that went on until morning coffee (luckily there were enough croissants left over for everyone to have a taste or several) and we smiled as another press photographer come for a sneak preview of Bigger Bertie.

How could anyone fail to feel positive with such a lot of constructive effort going on, and on such a fine sunny day? I touch wood (an occupational constant for a wooden toymaker) and Shirley prays that the rest of the project goes so well.

Rocking Horse Head Carving Course, September 2011

Last week 6 enthusiastic woodworkers joined us at The Rocking Horse Shop to carve their Rocking Horse Heads.

After spending 3 days with master carver Anthony Dew they all finished carving their beautiful Rocking Horse Heads and headed home to finish the rest of their horse.

If you would like to come on one of our carving courses, please check out our website for future dates.

Monday, 26 September 2011


to Bigger Bertie's first outing, to London (I keep thinking of that old music hall song - 'Maybe it's a big horse I'm a Londoner').

Anyway, we've moved the two big rockers out of the workshop, into the yard and are preparing them for assembly. This is a big relief, the eight and  then some metre long rockers have been filling the workshop and Sam & Karl have been falling over them all the time, as they keep on making our regular size rocking horses while Bigger Bertie is under construction.

Couldn't be helped though, since we lost our 'outside workshop'. We'd kept a marquee up since our village festival, Fangfest (I know, Fangfest sounds more like a mad dentist's jamboree but is in fact our annual celebration of art & craft) and had used it to prepare parts for Bigger Bertie. But a fortnight ago the tail end of a hurricane literally blew it away, so Bigger Bertie's bits have had to be kept inside in the workshop.

Touch wood the forecast this week is fair and we're finishing and varnishing the rockers outside. Sam is making some great turmed end pieces and all is progressing.
'Is it really going to be readyin time?' folk keep asking. I reply:


Saturday, 24 September 2011


to Bigger Bertie's first public outing, to the ExCeL centre, London, and WorldSkills.

The name 'Bigger Bertie', is a comment on the fact that he (has to be a 'he', can't be an 'it', and 'she' seems inappropriate for a beast do huge) is bigger than any rocking horse we (or anyone else in their right minds, probably) have ever made before.

But the name 'Bigger Bertie' is also an 'omage to local artist made good, David 'Ockney. Mr Hockney, as you may know, has in recent years been painting lots of trees, including 'Bigger Trees', a monster painting of a grove of trees only a few miles away from The Rocking Horse Shop's workshop, here on the edge of the beautiful Wolds in East Yorkshire.

I (Anthony Dew, Bigger Bertie's maker) have never met Mr Hockney personally, but I love trees too, and I'm told (by an acquaintance) that he is a curmudgeonly old bugger (I use that word in its loosest sense) who doesn't take kindly to drivers who slow down as they pass him on the roadside at his easel and call out, 'Ere, ain't you that famous David 'Ockney artist? Give us yer autograph'. They get the thick end of his tongue (that's an old, figurative, Yorkshire expression).

Good on him. I'm a curmudgeonly old bastard (in the loosest sense) myself, and when I'm on a roll, like now, making Bigger Bertie, I don't take too kindly to interruptions either, so I'm off back to the workshop.

Remember, Bigger Bertie ROCKS!

Rocking horse winner at skill training competition

Bigger Bertie gets a mention in The York Press.

Click on The York Press above to see the article in todays paper.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011


BIGGER BERTIE'S BLOG - 14 days to go- & counting - to Bigger Bertie's first outing.

Today we start to assemble Bigger Bertie's body, and turn over his huge rockers (a 3, no 4 man job!) to cut the joints on the other side.
So, I said I'd tell you how Bigger Bertie came about ...

About 2 years ago a lady ordered a rocking horse from us at The Rocking Horse Shop. Nothing unusual about that - we've been designing and making the most beautiful rocking horses for over 35 years - but what was unusual was that the lady in question was (and is) a conceptual artist who was intending to create an Art (with a big A) performance or happening in, on or around the rocking horse. She wanted her rocking horse to be very big, so we used Bertie as our model.
Now Bertie is a real life horse who lives here in the yard. He is a beautiful animal, a deep bay colour, very gentle, and Adeline & her Mum Ruth who ride him, absolutely dote on him. We love him too. At 17 hands high Bertie is big, but our new wooden rocking-horse needed to 'go large', so he - we nick-named him 'Big Bertie', wound up a bit over 5 metres long (in practical terms that was the length of 2 sheets of plywood). He dwarfed poor old Bertie, who didn't quite know what to make of Big Bertie.
 Big Bertie was great success but when he had been bought, paid for, delivered and was gone, we all felt rather sad. Maybe, we said, just for fun, we should make another huge rocking horse, an even  bigger one this time, which will be the biggest hand carved rocking horse in the world. And this time we'll keep him. Hence Bigger Bertie.

And you know something? BIGGER BERTIE will really ROCK!
More manana.

Monday, 19 September 2011


15 days to go to Bigger Bertie's first outing...

Today I chopped the recess for Bigger Bertie's great glass eye (fashioned specially by brilliant glass artisan Steve Collins of Studio 63). We only have one eye, the other was broken in the post, so until Steve can get us another made Bigger Bertie is winking, or half asleep. But his one eye is definitely the business.
Today we also cut the joints in the 6.5 metre long hoof rails. The hooves will be joined to these rails which are fixed to the cross pieces which, in turn, are fixed to the rockers. It's all clever stuff and it's all taken longer than I expected, but Sam Glass (rocking-horse maker extraordinaire and no relation to Steve the glass eye maker above, is back from holiday so can help with the heavier bits.
Now to begin building Bigger Bertie's board box body - what a lot of blooming Bs!
I made a mistake yesterday (I'm new to the bloggosphere) - the WorldSkills show is at the ExCeL centre in London and runs from 5th to 8th October. You can come and see Bigger Bertie there. He'll be ready.

Tomorrow I'll tell you how he got his name.

Sunday, 18 September 2011



16 days to go before Bigger Bertie's first outing - today (being Sunday) he's lounging in the workshop - I just popped in to look at him and ask myself this, can we make this humungous pile of monster parts transform into the biggest hand carved rocking horse? In a little over two weeks?

Today, Bigger Bertie is this: a lovely big hand carved horse's head and neck, full of charm and character and beautifully fashioned (if I says it myself what carved it) almost finished and with one gargantuan gleaming glass eye (more anon of the other eye and monster eyes in general), a pair of huge rockers 8.56metres long (that's 28 feet in old money - SOME ROCKER!), four legs (each approx 3 metres long and if I want to turn one over I have to enlist the help of a burly bloke, though fortunately burly blokes are in plentiful supply here at The Rocking Horse Shop) - and a large pile of miscellaneous rockers and body parts - and yet the answer (to the question will Bigger Bertie be ready to rock by the 4th Oct when we'll be rocking on down the M1 on our way to London's ExCell Centre and WorldSkills? - look it up) is YES!

Today, Sunday, we rest. Tomorrow we are working on Bigger Bertie's body.
We have decided this: BIGGER BERTIE ROCKS!
Watch this space.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

European Woodworking Show 1st & 2nd October, Cressing Temple Barns, Essex

European Woodworking Show 1st & 2nd October, Cressing Temple Barns, Essex

Now in it's 3rd year and growing with quality every year The Rocking Horse Shop are once again looking forward to attending The European Woodworking Show.  It  is fast becoming the most interesting woodworking weekend in the UK. With top class demonstrators from the UK & overseas across a breadth of woodworking disciplines and crafts. Expect to see wheelwrighting to woodturning, different forms of carving to chairmaking, basketmaking to bodging, sharpening to pyrography, boatbuilding to furniture making & much more.

See the video from last year, we look forward to seeing you this year.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Fangfest 2011

Another fantastic Fangfest weekend in the village of Fangfoss, everyone had a great time.  Just a few photos from the event......