GRAFTON Men's Shed wood working guru Greg Ryan had to find a way to break a promise to himself never to carve a wooden rocking horse again, so he could honour a good friend.
His loophole was to begin work on Debra the Zebra, a special project he hopes will raise plenty of money for the Grafton Base Hospital Palliative Care Unit and honour the memory of his mate and friend of the Men's Shed, the late Spiro Notaras.
"Technically, this is not a rocking horse, but a rocking zebra,” he said.
The plan is to saddle up Debra for a run on the online auction site Gumtree early next year, with all the profits donated to palliative care unit.
The wood for the project is some of the last to come from a giant silky oak the Men's Shed salvaged from the Grafton backyard of Carl Cooksley in 2013.
"So far we've made seven rocking horses from the tree,” Mr Ryan said.
"There was still enough to make Debra and we'll have some to make a special frame for a photograph of the late Mr Notaras with the tree just before it was felled.
"Spiro was a great friend of the Men's Shed. For this project he milled the silky oak trunk and then kiln-dried the wood so we could start work on it within a few months of it coming down.”
Mr Ryan said there was also a royal connection to Debra the Zebra.
"We're using the same design of the rocking zebra as the grand parents of Prince George, Michael and Carole Middleton, bought him for his first Christmas in 2014,” he said.
Mr Ryan said the media reported the Middleton's paid close to $A10,000 for the toy.
"The one we're making is from the same design, but it's going to be more zebra-like,” he said.
"We've put leather ears on him, a leather sheath around the tail and rounded the rump to improve the resemblance to a zebra.
"The one Prince George has looks very good, but it's really just a horse shape painted with black and white stripes.”
There is also a lot more to this zebra than meets the eye.
If you remove the saddle you will find a plaque revealing the makers have included a time capsule from 2017 in the interior of the horse.
"There's a number of items related to Prince George plus a 2010 mobile phone I happened to have included as a curiosity,” he said.
"It's not something you can get at easily. It will require surgery to remove.”
As a final Georgian touch Mr Ryan has included a halfpenny with the head of the Prince's great grand father King George VI in a secret location on the sculpture.
Mr Ryan said Debra the Zebra would begin her Gum Tree run on January 9, the second anniversary of Mr Notaras's passing.