Creating a Carousel HorseThe process of creating a carousel horse is a journey. Hundreds of volunteer hours go into the creation, building, and designing of our hand carved, sanded, and painted carousel horses. Every horse has a magical journey of creation. Each horse design is modeled after classical figures made in the USA during the Golden Age of Carousels. They reflect the carving style from the master carvers of the 19th & 20th centuries that created hundreds of wooden carousel horses that were purchased and sent to locations all over the United States to entertain carnival and fair patrons.
Teri’s original drawing of Magic based on the original classical horse figure.
Sketching & Designing the horseSketching out a design for each figure is the first step in designing each horse. The sketch is similar to a blueprint and is made using a projector to enlarge a picture of the figure selected as a model. The size of the enlargement is the actual size of the figure to be carved. The sketch is made of the romance side of the horse that is the side of the animal facing away from the center hub of the carousel. Once the blueprint is completed our artists and or carvers work with the figure sponsor to incorporate any changes or modifications. These are done before the construction and carving will begin.
Teri sketches the layout of Magic to be transferred to the body block.
Building the wooden blocksThe first step in construction involves selecting the wood to assemble carving “blanks” or the seven or eight pieces that will become the finished figure. This includes the head, body, neck, four legs and the tail. The wood is kiln-dried basswood used primarily because it is light in weight, very strong and relatively easy to carve. Each figure requires about 120 board feet of wood. We select the wood to be sure grains line up and the flow of grain is continuous throughout the body. From the sketch of the figure, we cut pieces of wood to match the size of the legs, tail, head, etc.
The process begins with boards of basswood. They need to be glued together in order to create the blocks.
Gluing and Sketching the Blanks To form this body blank, the wood is glued and clamped. Once the body blank has dried, we transfer the drawing onto the wooden blanks. With a band saw we then do a silhouette cut of the figure and also drill a hole for the carousel pole. Other holes are made for attachment of the other wooden blanks, like the legs, tail, neck and head. The carved pieces are then sanded and attached using wooden dowels and strong glue. Nails are not used in the construction of carousel horses as the metal invites moisture contributing to decay and insect damage to the wood.
Ken works with Teri to carefully transfer the full size drawing to the body blank.
Rough Carving begins on the blocksOur carvers begin with power grinders to remove much of the excess wood before hand carving begins. Then we start “rough carving,” which involves skillful use of sharp chisels and gouges to begin to shape the figure.Care is necessary not to remove too much wood in the detail work. If too much wood is left on will result in a boxy look and not reflect the true anatomical appearance of the horse.Our carving blanks are carved before we join them together. It is less cumbersome to carve the pieces before joining them. To carve each piece, we secure them in a vise and / or clamp.
Phil straps the block down in the carving shop and takes the first chunks of wood out of Magic.
Detailed CarvingOur team of experienced carvers help the new carvers in keeping figures in the right proportions as the carving proceeds. Once the rough carving is completed the detailed carving begins including the trappings (the detail on and around the saddle), smaller figures and other items designed to appear on the final figure. The most intricate parts to be carved by more experienced carvers are the mane and the face. Carvers gain initial experience in doing flowers and other ornamental designs.
Phyllis and Ed discuss progress on Magic the horse.
Assembly & Fine SandingOnce the individual parts are carved and individually sanded, they are assembled with dowels, glue and clamps. The seams are shaped and smoothed, giving the figure a smooth flawless appearance and preparing it for final sanding phase. The horses are put together in stages. Usually the head is attached and glued to the neck first. Then the neck is attached and glued to the body block. Then when all of that is properly sanded the legs and tail are glued to the body block.
As Magic moves along in the carving shop the horse also needs to have sanding.
Priming the wooden horseThe gluing of the horse is completed and the fine sanding is completed. Then the horse is inspected and if smooth enough the horse is ready to be primed. We paint on an initial primer right onto the wood. Then we do sanding of the horse with the primer on it. The next step is a a few more coats of a white primer with additional fine sanding between each coat that is put onto the horse.After the horse has been thoroughly inspected by supervisors and is smooth enough it is handed over to the paint shop for the next step in the process.
Teri begins priming the wooden horse with primer that is specifically designed to soak into the wood work.
Color PaintingBefore our artists begin painting of the horse, we carefully plan out all aspects of the paint job. A color scheme is chosen and a swatch palette is established. We use enamel paints on the trappings. Applying three coats and letting the paint dry and cure between each application. Some of horses we will add jewels to before the final painting occurs. Body colors are done after trappings. Oil paints are dabbed & stippled to create soft shading that gives the horse a 3-D look. The more the fine detail, the more exquisite the horse.
Magic gets a wonderful coat of white in the paint shop before he gets his body painted.
Clear coating the horseFollowing the completed horse painting, we apply by hand with brush the two to three coats of a clear coat over the finished paint (allowing time for curing and sanding between each coat). These coats add luster to the horse and protect the paint from wear. More coats are usually added to the trappings where the horse will have more contact with the riders. The end resultis a very shiny and beautiful horse.
Magic’s colorful paint job has dried and now he begins the clear coating process.
How are the carousel horses created at The Berkshire Carousel? When browsing through the photos hover over the small photos on the right and the larger version will appear.
The full size blueprint of Magic the carousel horse is drawn out to actual size and the team looks at it to make adjustments.
Once the design is adjusted the block building can begin, while the blueprint can be prepared to transfer to the wood blocks.
Carvers work on rounding out the body and creating the shape that emulates the horses midsection.
A variety of tools are used to create the beautifully carved carousel horses and their trappings.
Phil shows the points that the carvers use to glue and join the different carved body blocks together.
The carving team discuss the progress of the carving of Magic.
Each block is measured out and created. The center body block isthe largest of the pieces.
Once the horse is designed and the body blocks are made the horse can start being carved.
Phil discusses the full size blueprint with Teri, which is drawn to show the actual size of the horse.
The carvers on the team talk about Magic and the carving progress. They discuss the next steps involving the carving on the horse.
The body blank is formed from blocks like a hollow box. The hollow body lightens the weight, puts less strain on the carousel.
The block sits on the sturdy metal rack while being compressed while the glue is drying.
Sections of the blueprint are redrawn and then transferred onto the blanks.
The drawings are transferred to the blanks and then they are put in the carving shop to begin their journey.
After the blanks have dried the builders cut them with saws to form the shapes of the heads, legs, neck, and tails.
The head block is ready and the blueprint is drawn onto the wooden blocks and heads into the carving shop.
Felix starts carving on Magic’s head in the carving shop. As carvers work they keep the blueprints and photo reference nearby for viewing.
Magic’s head continues on in the carving shop. The head blueprint will be drawn back onto the carving for the next carver.
All sections of the horse must be focused on during the sanding process.
Sanding takes place over several days with different people working on different parts of the horse.
In the end the team finishes the sanding process and delivers the horse to the painters for priming.
After the initial coat of primer dries it is sanded until the coating is smooth and flat to the touch of the hand.
Between each coat of primer the horse is sanded to the make the next coat able to go on very smoothly.
Once all of the layers of primer are on the horse it goes to the paint shop to complete it’s journey to be a finished carousel horse.
.After the enamels are done the artists begin painting Magic’s body.On this horse the colors are based on reference photos of the real horse.
Several layers of oil paints are used on the horse. Adjustments are made and the colors are evaluated during the painting process.
Every layer of oils adds to the depth and shading of the horse. Magic is a very rich and colorful horse with lots of shading and spots.
The trappings traditionally get more clear coat layers because the rider comes in contact with the horse more often in these spots.
After each coat of clear goes on artists have to observe the horse for drips and bubbles and take care of them as they appear.
After Magic has had several coats of clear coating and is done drying thoroughly he joins the rest of the herd.