The rocking horse is such a standard part of our culture you expect to see one in every picture of a nursery, every movie involving children and under most Christmas trees.
And if you’re an avid woodworker, you’ve probably built more than your share of these oak equestrians for children, grandchildren and the offspring of close friends. That’s why Tyrone Sewell’s rocking “horses” can make you do a double-take. Tyrone runs a business called Rocking For Fun in Hermosa Beach, California and his designs are clearly based on the idea of a rocking horse, but they take the idea in new directions that are, well, fun. His first variation on the rocking horse theme, for example, was a rocking biplane.
A quick look at Tyrone’s original designs shows that he has some very odd ideas about what constitutes a rocking toy. And that’s why they are so much fun. A rocking locomotive, a rocking tanker truck and a rocking fire engine are some of his standard designs. He recently finished a new rocking motorcycle that looks for all the world like a big, ol’ Harley-Davidson Hog.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Tyrone got involved in woodworking the way many of us did: his father was in the shop a lot and he picked it up along the way. As he got older, he did a stint as a general contractor. One day, a friend asked him to make a rocking horse that turned out so well, he began to wonder if he could make a living building rocking toys. That’s where his path diverged from the norm. He wondered if he couldn’t build something a bit more interesting, since there were so many rocking horses out there. Thus the rocking biplane was born.
Six years later, he and his father are still working together. Tyrone’s business now employs six people and it concentrates on designing new rocking vehicles and selling the plans. Tyrone got into the plan business because he wanted a lot of people to have access to his ideas. When he builds the rocking toys himself, he says, it takes about 60-100 hours to design and build each piece. That put his toys in a price range that a lot of people couldn’t afford. His plans, he says, “allow people who maybe couldn’t afford to buy them themselves ? but who have the tools or the time ? to build one themselves.”
His plans are full-scale templates that can be cut out and directly traced onto the stock. They include a materials list and a couple of different views of the finished piece.
So why toys? “I’ve built furniture and done all that stuff. I think I do this primarily because it’s fun,” says Tyrone. He says it’s satisfying to know his designs will create something that is part toy, part art, part furniture and part family heirloom. That last part? passing it down to future generations?is why he advises building the rocking vehicles from hardwood. “If you’re going to put that amount of time into it, you might as well use some sort of hardwood because you want it to last,” says Tyrone.
His ideas for upcoming projects include a rocking bulldozer, a rocking sailboat and a rocking jeep.