Saturday, January 24, 2009

Homemade Sled Report

As promised, today my husband is guestblogging about the DIY sled he engineered earlier this month. Take it away, honey.

Sledding. It brings back such memories for many of us. The killer hill. That rush of speed. The biting cold. And that all-too-dreaded wipe out that sometimes ends in a burst of laughter or a sharp bang on the head.

I grew up in the Midwest and moved away to sunny California where snow was something rarely seen on the nearby mountains. It was more than a three hour drive to find good snow and a good run for sledding. And once there, skiing and snowboarding were the “cool” pursuits rather than sledding.

But now I’ve moved to the East Coast where snow once again dominates the first several months of the new year. And I find myself rooting during a snowstorm for enough accumulation to cover the grass and make for a good run. I even found myself scouting the local hills.

But what to do about an inexpensive sled? The local stores carry plastic concoctions that don’t look like they’d survive my kind of abuse or need for speed. I never understood the traditional runner sled. "Flyer" seemed a misnomer on our snow. We always went for something that could fly on freshy and could be super-modified with a bit of silicone spray.

My wife, the frugal maven, showed me a picture of a sled made with old skis. Now this was the stuff of dreams. My first task was to find an old pair of skis for a song. I placed an online “wanted” ad which received a prompt reply from a man who had seen old skis at a thrift store. I drove over and found two pairs for $6 a piece. This was right at my wife’s price point. I had wood from previous McMansion sub-division construction dumpster diving and leftover screws from previous projects. I tried to use the screws and holes from the bindings but abandoned that route in favor of drilling tap holes and screwing the wood directly into the composite resin of the ski. The trick here was to match the screw length and wood thickness so as not to punch through the bottom of the ski.

My plan was to attach two parallel cross beams at the same location of the bindings. I chose 1" x 3” planks about 24” long. Having given up on the bindings, I just needed to avoid those holes and use enough screws to give some structural support to the cross-beam connection to the ski. My first test in freshy was unsatisfying. The cross-beam was so low, riding on top of the snow-sunk skis, that it snow plowed. So I put in risers, made of stacked 2 x 4’s, to give me some clearance. I also added a length of cord to the front cross-beam to ease that arduous, post-run, uphill trudge.

The first test was a success. But now the problem of a seat loomed upon me. I wanted an old tire inner tube for shock-absorbing but tires have all gone tubeless (even the sweet old semi-truck tubes good for sledding and river runs). I checked through my pile of old pick-up truck tires (free with the purchase of a beater truck). They seemed a bit heavy but once the tire was liberated from the rim for free at my local tire dealer it didn’t seem so bad.

Bungee cords seemed a good way to hook the tire to my cross-beam system for prototyping. They worked surprisingly well. I discovered, that with a small kick down even the slightest slope in my backyard, my sled would sail quite far. The first low-stress test was made on a small hill near the library. I was pleased with the “butt-in-the hole” ride (as was my wife) but I was nearly thrilled with the “belly down” run. High-stress testing has yet to occur due to the snow melting while I was away on a business trip. But I’ve got the next hill picked out and fingers crossed for a good dumping of snow. Wish me luck and no structural failures as I land, launched off the lip of a sand trap at our local golf course.

Another guest post by my husband: Other People's Fruit.


Sadge said...

I'll bet that thing flys! At least with the "belly down" position, you can dig your toes in for brakes.

Bear said...

Inner tubes work well. Pulling the tire up the hill seems like a pain. We've also used cardboard.

Anonymous said...

OH I think that looks like great fun. No snow here in the Sub-tropics just humidity. As a matter of fact I have never really seen snow except for TV and blogs

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Great job, I hope you do more guestblogging in the future. Looks like great fun.

Kate said...

My husband appreciates the comments.

The sled does indeed fly, Sadge. We can actually break with our heels in the butt-in-hole position too.

Bear, the tire does get a little heavy on steep inclines, but it was the best solution given that we couldn't get an inner tube for free. We'll keep an eye out for one though.

STH, I'm going to try not to sound condescending when I mention that I feel sorry for you, never having seen snow. Living where we do does drive up our heating costs. But I love winter, including the snow, ice and the necessity of having a serious winter wardrobe. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

DiElla, my husband is touched, and you've helped my lobbying efforts at getting another post out of him in the future. He's experimenting with brewing mead, and I'd love for him to post about it sometime.