Pioneer Bob Sled




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By Dan Beard


Any Boy with Gumption Can Make One

It seems the most natural way to write a boy's book is to begin with the spring time and end with the last breath of old winter, and that is the reason that all the Beard books are planned that way. 

That is also the reason why you find a bob-sled in the last chapter and the reason that this book also ends with a description of a sled. In the other books previously mentioned the reader can find plans and descriptions of all sorts of bob-sleds, from one made with flour-barrel runners up to the latest and most improved racing bob-sled. But none of them seem so appropriate for this book as does the following one, made of the rough material from the forest. 

All sorts of milled lumber is expensive, but there are few farms or country places which do not have sufficient spare material from which a boy with gumption can construct a bob-sled upon the plans shown by Figs. 407, 408, and 409, 19, with which he may slide downhill with the speed of an automobile and some of the danger. 

But if the milled lumber is out of the reach of the lad, the wood lot offers him material for 

A Pioneer Bob

which it is possible to build with no other tools than an axe and an auger. Because it is possible to do all the work with these tools, do not on that account confine yourself to them; if the contents of the tool-chest are at your command, a good two-handed saw, for instance, will cut the logs better for the purpose than an axe, even when the latter is swung by the hands of an expert. For runners take a log from six to eight inches in diameter, peel the bark from it, and saw or cut it in sections

Fig. 406

(Fig. 406, 1), so that you will have four pieces, each three feet long; next taper off the bow ends, as in Fig. 406, 2; then round off the sharp edges, as they are shown by Figs. 407, 10 and 407A. 

Cut some braces (T, Fig. 406, 4) with one side flattened, and spike or nail them to your log runners, as in Fig. 406, 3. The two hickory bars (A and B, Fig. 406, 3) are the hand and foot bars for steering the bob. 

Of course, you can understand that each sled must be movable and not nailed to the top or reach-board, as it is called; the play of the stern bob prevents jolts, and the bow bob must be movable from side to side in order that the craft may be guided. 

As a rule, an iron bolt like the one shown in Fig. 409, 17, with a nut screwed on the bottom end, is used for the bow bob; but if you have no bolt, a peg made of good, strong wood, of the form shown by Fig. 406, 7, can be used. 

Cut a section of an oak log (Fig. 406, 5) and bore a hole with a two-inch auger through its middle; then take a block of wood two inches thick and one foot long and bore a hole (somewhat smaller than the bolt) through its center; after which saw through the center of the board, as in Fig. 406, 6. Do this so that the peg or king-bolt (Fig. 406, 7) may be run through and the pieces fitted together around the small part of Fig. 406, 7. 

But there must be something to hold these two pieces together. Therefore, provide two flat braces twelve inches long to run from runner to runner (X and Y, Fig. 407A) under the block (Fig. 406, 5), to which they must be securely nailed. 

As the top or reach-board of the pioneer bob-sled is not made of a plank, but of a number of poles cut in the wood lot, a piece of one-inch wood (E, Figs. 407A and 408), must be nailed across the poles to hold the top or head of the wooden king-bolt in place. 

The stern bob, as we have already said, must be movable, but it must not have much chance to move from side to side, and to prevent such a motion a rope is run through holes bored in the runners and secured to the under side of the reach-board. 

But the stern or rear bob must run up and down over the uneven places, and to enable it to do so an axle made of a piece of hard-wood, like Fig. 406, 9, is used, or a good, strong hickory-stick axle, like the one in Fig. 407, 10, is securely spiked to a block of wood and further secured straps of sheet iron or tin from old tin cans, as shown in Fig, 407, 10.

A better axle can be made by boring a hole to through the big block of wood (Fig. 407A, 11) and Fig. 407 driving a stout, hard-wood axle through the hole. Fig. 407A, 11, shows a section or rear view of the bob. In Fig. 407, 8, the axle is held in place by a hoop of several old leather straps nailed to the reach-board, but a much better arrangement is shown by Figs. 407, 11, and 407, 12, which are a side and end view. 

Here you can see that there are two strong blocks nailed to the reach-board, and through holes bored in them the axle protrudes and is held in place by pegs or pins driven through small holes in the ends of the axles. 

Fig. 408 shows a top view of the finished pioneer. D is the reach-board, A the hand-bar, and B the foot-bar. The same letters correspond to the same parts in the side view (Fig. 407A). 

Fig. 407A, 14, shows how to shingle the bottom of the log runners with pieces of tin or sheet iron. The arrow shows the bow or front of the runner.

Throw a number of tin cans in the fire and leave them there until the solder melts, and the pieces can then be unrolled, sand-papered, and nailed to the runners. But if you are in a hurry and want to try your rustic bob-sled, cover the bottom of the runners with a thick coat of any sort of grease, tallow, ham fat, or any other material that will make them slippery. 

In very cold weather ice shoes can be made by pouring water on the runners and allowing it to freeze. 

Fig 407A

The reader will notice that the reach-board is nailed to cross-pieces and that these cross-pieces, extending out on each side, form a support to which a guard-rail is nailed, to protect the passengers' legs as well as to form rests for their feet on the projecting cross-bars. 

But if there is milled lumber to be had, a real bob can be made on the plans shown by Fig. 409, 17, front section; Fig. 409, rear section; Fig. 409, 19, side view. Fig. 409, 18, shows a plank one inch thick, three feet long, and five inches broad, from which the runners are sawed, as shown by the dotted lines. 


In this bob an iron bolt is shown for the king-bolt, although a wooden axle is used for the rear sled. But even this axle had better be made of an iron bolt if the latter is procurable. 

The runners should be shod with half-round iron, the reach-board made of a plank ten feet long, one foot wide, and one inch thick. You will then have a light, handy, fast, and durable bob-sled which should outlast your own boyhood days and descend in good order to your younger brothers. 


Now that your bob-sled is finished and the work of the day over, you can go to the hill and try its speed; but if you coast at night, it is a good idea to have the hill lighted with lanterns. Make the lanterns of paper (Fig. 411, L, Q, and Y; but first saw off some sections of a log or cut a board up into squares and saw off the corners of the squares (Fig. 411, P); bore a hole in the middle to receive the end of the stick (Fig. 411, E), drive it in as in Fig. 411, A; next drive three nails in the board (Fig. 411, A and Z) to hold the candle, then tack, glue, or paste the paper around the board, as in Fig. 411, Y. The proper way is to tack the paper to the block and paste when the edges of the paper join each other.

It was in this manner that the torches of political parades were made before 1860, and when the paper used is of various colors the effect is very pleasing to the eye. 


 The horses are seldom in use in the evenings, and may be pressed into service to haul the bob-sled up the hill, thus doing away with the only drawback there is to a long coasting hill (Fig. 410). 

Bicycle lamps are good for head-lights for the bobs, or torch-lights, if they are fastened to the ends of sticks. Balls made of old yarn, rags torn in strips, bunches of dried moss, balls of lard-oil lamp- wick, or balls of any sort of firm and absorbent material, when soaked with kerosene, make good and durable torch-heads, which, once ablaze, will not be extinguished by the wind. In a wooded section, bunches of split pine-knots or folded pieces of birch bark fastened in a split in the end of a stick make a backwoods-man's torch. With some one of all these things at his command, the reader cannot fail to devise a plan to illuminate the coasting hill. 

tbp411-.gif (6908 bytes)
Fig. 411

A rousing big camp-fire at the starting-point on the hill is always appreciated by the "frozen turnips" among the coasters, as a place where they may thaw out their congealed blood. The camp-fire also makes a center, a meeting-place, a council-fire, around which the weary may group themselves, using their bob-sleds for seats--a place where one may gossip, tell stories, or get better acquainted with the other coasters. 

You may make your torches and fires in any old way, but do not build your bob-sleds with the sort of steering apparatus which protrudes above the sled in front of the coasters; avoid wheels and cross or T helms placed in front of the steersman.

See Also:

More Sled Plans

Make Your Own Winter Gear

Winter Activities

Traditional Outdoor Adventure 






Additional Information:

Peer- Level Topic Links:
Ammunition Sled ] Arctic Hand Sled ] Basic Klondike Sled ] Ben Hunt's Cree Trail Toboggan ] Ben Hunt's Eskimo Komatik Sled ] Ben Hunt's Klondike Sled Plans ] Ben Hunt Klondike Sled ] Ben Hunt's Packrack Sled ] Bob Sled ] Bobsled Steering ] Bob-Sleigh ] Chair Sleds ] Equipment Sled ] Eskimo Sled ] Eskimo Sleds ] Get-There ] Gummer ] Ice Boat ] Jumper ] Klondike Sledge Plan ] Ohio Sled ] [ Pioneer Bob Sled ] Skiboggan ] Stone Boat Sled ] Toboggan ] Toboggan Camping ] Van Kleeck Bob ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.