How to Turn an Old Thrift Store Rocker Into a New Plush Rocker

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Soft plush rockers are a modern take on the classic rocking horse. To create your own, you'll only need a few simple materials and a couple of hours. Similar to Restoration Hardware's version, your rocker will only cost around 1/3 the price of the RH ones but still be just as simple, soft and lovable.

(Image: Machelle Vanderhoeven)
(Image: Machelle Vanderhoeven)

Things You'll Need

  • Thrifted rocking horse
  • Stiff plush animal
  • 1/4-inch x 1 1/2-inch bolts, (4)
  • 1/4-inch x 1/2-inch washers, (4)
  • 1/4-inch nuts, (4)
  • 1/4-inch x 1-inch washers, (4)
  • 3-inch hangar bolts
  • Seam ripper
  • 1-by-3 pine board, cut into two 13-inch lengths
  • 7/8-inch dowel rod, cut into two 3-inch lengths
  • Wood stain in classic gray & special walnut (Minwax brand)
  • Paint brush
  • Rag
  • 150 grit sandpaper
  • Drill
  • 1/4-inch, 5/8-inch, 1/8-inch drill bits
  • Black thread
  • Needle
  • Wrench

Step 1: Purchase an Old Rocker and a Separate Plush

Older rocking horses can be found fairly easily. Check your local thrift store or online classifieds.

When purchasing a stuffed animal for your new rocker, be sure it has a strong, stiff frame. For this project, we chose an adorable large dog plush whose frame is sturdy enough for up to a 40-pound child.

Step 2: Disassemble the Rocker

Only the rocking mechanisms will be useful from your thrifted piece. Use a drill or screwdriver to remove the screws that are used for attaching the rockers to the middle planks. Save any screws/bolts or stakes.

Step 3: Sand the Wood

Use 150 grit or finer sandpaper to give your rockers a nice sanding. You want to remove any sheen from the current stain so that a new stain can adhere. Also quickly sand any rough parts on your dowel pieces or your 1-by-3 planks.

(Image: Machelle Vanderhoeven)

Step 4: Stain the Wood Pieces

To get a shade of stain similar to the Restoration Hardware rocker, mix a 50/50 solution of Minwax Classic Gray and Special Walnut stains. Or use any stain that appeals to you.

(Image: Machelle Vanderhoeven)

Paint the stain onto your 1-by-3s, your dowel pieces and the rockers. After brushing it on, go over it with a rag to remove any excess, leaving a thin coating.

(Image: Machelle Vanderhoeven)

Allow stain to dry for at least 8 hours.

(Image: Machelle Vanderhoeven)

Step 5: Attach the Bolts to the Plush Feet

Use a seam ripper to open the back middle of each paw about 1 inch.

(Image: Machelle Vanderhoeven)

Thread your 1/4-inch x 1 1/2-inch bolts through your 1/4-inch x 1-inch washers.

(Image: Machelle Vanderhoeven)

Insert these pieces into the open hole in the paws, bolt poking out.

(Image: Machelle Vanderhoeven)

Use a thread and needle to sew your holes back up tightly around the bolts, pulling the bolts as far as they'll go as you do it.

(Image: Machelle Vanderhoeven)

Step 6: Pre-Drill the Holes

Find the middle of all four ends of your 1-by-3s and mark this. Then measure the distance between the holes on your rockers where the screw and stakes will attach the pieces together. Measure this out on your 1-by-3s as well and mark them. Each end of both 1-by-3s should now have three dots.

(Image: Machelle Vanderhoeven)
(Image: Machelle Vanderhoeven)

Use a 5/8-inch bit to pre-drill the middle holes and a 1/4-inch bit to drill the two outer holes on all four sides.

(Image: Machelle Vanderhoeven)

Now find the measurement between the front paw bolts and the back paw bolts.

(Image: Machelle Vanderhoeven)

Mark this measurement on each 1-by-3 plank. The one shown here was 10 inches between front bolts and 5 1/2 inches between the back ones. Your pieces should measure 13 inches, so subtract an equal amount from both sides until you are left with your measurement, and then mark there. In our example, we subtracted 1 1/2-inch from each side of the front plank and marked our holes at 1 1/2 inches and 11 1/2 inches.

(Image: Machelle Vanderhoeven)

Pre-drill these holes with a 1/4-inch bit.

(Image: Machelle Vanderhoeven)

Use a 5/8-inch bit to drill a hole in the middle of one end of your dowel pieces.

(Image: Machelle Vanderhoeven)

Step 7: Attach the Planks to the Rockers

(Image: Machelle Vanderhoeven)

Insert your stakes in the outer holes of either your 1-by-3s or the rocker and attach the planks to the rockers.

(Image: Machelle Vanderhoeven)

Drill the bolts you saved in step 2 back into their middle spots, securing the planks to the rockers.

Step 8: Attach the Plush to Planks

Align your paw bolts to the holes in your planks and push each bolt through.

Use the nuts and 1/2-inch washers to tighten the bolts through the planks. Use a wrench to get this as tight as possible.

(Image: Machelle Vanderhoeven)

Step 9: Attach Handles

The head of this plush has a stiff form on the face, ending just after the ears. You will want to attach your handles to this area. Locate it by feel and then twist and push the pointy end of your hangar bolts into it, just under the ears. Screw the hole in your dowel onto the other end of the bolt. If needed, use gorilla glue inside the hole to supply extra hold.

(Image: Machelle Vanderhoeven)
(Image: Machelle Vanderhoeven)
(Image: Machelle Vanderhoeven)

You're Done!

Once you've completed attaching the handles, your rocker is done and is, well, ready to rock!

It's a perfect gift for holidays, birthdays, or baby showers. Or, let's face it, any time you want to make your favorite little one smile.

(Image: Use 150 or finer sandpaper to give your rockers a nice sanding. You want to remove any sheen from the current stain so that a new stain can adhere. Also quickly sand any part of your dowel pieces or 1x3 planks that may be rough.)

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