By Dan Beard
HOW TO BUILD A PIONEER BOB AND A CHEAP BOB-SLED
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, 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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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