How to Build a Sled

You can make your own sled by following these simple instructions and diagrams.

| October/November 2001

This nifty wooden ski sled combines the speed and agility of a steel-runner sled with the comfort and deep-snow running ability of a toboggan, making it a good choice for gentle golf courses or moderate slopes. And, unlike most sleds, this model comes with a unique rudder that allows you to steer and brake. What's more, this sled is big enough to seat two kids comfortably or a parent-child team. The wooden sled would make a truly fine holiday gift for your favorite child. With the exception of the skis, this is a relatively easy screw-and-glue project. The sled can be built in about two weekends, and half that is making the forms needed to create the curved skis. Once they are finished, you can easily knock out the sled in a weekend.

The sled is based on a design I found in The Boy Mechanic a wonderful set of books published in 1913. The original design called for barrel stave runners. Since old wooden barrels are as rare as hen's teeth these days, I had to make a few modifications.

To make the curved ski runners, you'll use a process called "bent lamination," which involves gluing together several thin strips of wood to form a curved board. The process uses a lot of clamps and glue, but it's much easier (and safer) than steam-bending, the technique that's traditionally used to make toboggans. I used ash, a hardwood that has excellent bending properties, but you could use red or white oak. Don't be afraid to change these dimensions as needed. I'm sure the original boy mechanics didn't hesitate to use available stock.

You can download free sled plans and detailed drawings of the runners and rudder.

Materials List

Item Size Quantity
Form 3/4-inch MDF, 4 feet by 8 feet


Runner 3/4 inch by 5¼ inches (5 1/2 inches *) by 60 inches (64 inches*)


Side 1 3/4  inches by 5 1/2 inches by 26 inch


Slat 3/4 inch by 3 1/2 inches by 18 inches


Backstop 1 1/2 inches by 1 1/2 inches by 18 inches


Steering Column 1 1/2 inches by 1 1/2 inches by 18 inches (20 inches)


Handle 1-inch by 6-inch dowel


Yoke 3/4 inch by 4 inches by 22 inches


Rudder Side 1/4 inch by 3 1/2 inches by 24 inches


Rudder Core 3/4 inch by 3 1/2 inches by 20 inches


*Rough-cut pieces to length in parentheses, then trim to final dimensions before assembly.
Deck Screws 1 1/2 inches


Brass Wood Screws No. 8, 1-inch


Lag Screw 3/8 inch by 3 1/2 inches


Steel Washer 3/8 inch by 1 1/4 inches


Aluminum Bar Stock 1/4 inch by 3/4 inch by 19 inches


Make the Form

Making the curved runners begins with creating a 5 1/4-inch-thick bending form. To build the form, I used three-quarter-inch medium density fiberboard (MDF). Made from wood dust, MDF is dense, easily machinable and inexpensive (a 4-foot-by-8-foot sheet costs less than $20). The downside to this product is that it's heavy and dusty. To avoid these problems, have the sheet ripped into 6-inch-wide strips at the store. Even at a dollar a cut, it's a bargain: You'll not only save the hours you would have spent vacuuming dust from every corner of your shop, you'll also save your back.

Next, establish the runner's curve. Drawing a fair curve isn't difficult if you have a guide. To make one for yourself, take a 60-inch-long thin strip of wood, mark the center of the strip, then string the ends together and bend the strip to make a bow. Adjust the string so there's a 6-inch gap between the center of the wood strip and the string.

mat hill
8/22/2012 3:53:48 AM

check this guys out they know how to build a slep. lol

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