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Site Contents

By Dan Beard

The runners for the following sleds are designed to be made from barrel staves.  We would like to hear from Scouts and Scouters who have substituted old used skis for the barrel staves.  Used skis can often be found for free or for around $3 at garage sales and thrift stores.

In the New England States, where the snow is seldom soft and often is coated with a hard crust of ice, the runners of the native sleds, only a few inches in height, appear very low compared with the Ohio sled; even sleds with no runners at all are sometimes used.  On steep, icy hills any old thing will slide, and here it is that the 


is seen in all its glory.  In construction this cranky sled is simplicity itself, but its successful use requires an expert, and there will be many a tumble for the beginner in the art of skibogganing. 

If you live in the country, go to the woodpile and find a round cord-wood stick no wider than the stout barrel stave selected for your runner.  Saw the cord-wood stick so that it will stand per perpendicularly when it is fastened to the stave at a third of the distance from one end (Fig. 473) If cord-wood is not avail able, take a piece of studding 4 x 4 or 2 x 4 and use that.  With the convex side of the stave underneath, lay it over the block and nail it securely in place; reverse it, and you have Fig. 473. The comfort of the rider demands a seat, which can be made of a small piece of thin board fastened T-wise on the block (Fig. 474). 

With the long end of the stave in front of you, seat yourself on the T saddle with your feet on the snow on each side of the runner and start down hill. The skiboggan can be used on hills which are so steep as to make the use of an ordinary sled impracticable.  The best skiboggans are made of the staves of sugar hogsheads or oil-barrel staves, and the upright post is braced upon each side by parts of barrel staves thus ) | (  or with bits of plank thus / | \.  But if you are going to put much work on the thing, you might as well build a really good

Barrel-Stave Toboggan

Winter weather frequently brings a good deal of dry, soft snow which won't pack and makes ordinary sledding laborious. The narrow runners sink through quickly, and the average boy finds himself longing for a toboggan of some sort.  If he has no toboggan, however, it is a simple matter to nail some pieces across two or three barrel staves and thus secure a rude but very serviceable substitute. 

The serious defect of a barrel-stave toboggan like this is that it has not the high-rolling front of the real American toboggan, and consequently is liable to bury itself in the first hummock of snow encountered by the coaster, or to stick its nose in the snow, " turn turtle" and throw over the boy who is using it. It was these little eccentricities of the stave sled which led the writer to produce the toboggans shown in the accompanying illustrations and diagrams, and reference to them will show you how the faults may be overcome by the insertion of bow and stern pieces cut from strips of plank nailed together or of blocks of wood sawed from the end of a 4 x 4 inch post.  Such a toboggan can be used alone (Fig. 485) or joined to another (as in Figs. 494, 495 and 496) by a reach-board and thus form a unique machine which we shall call the toboggan-bob. 

Any boy who can manage a saw and drive a nail can make one of the toboggans, and any boy with skill in carpentry can build a good bob from the material usually to be found in the back yard, cellar, or attic. 

No Really Good Results 

can be obtained by the use of poor lumber, but if good lumber proves too costly, excellent oil-barrels can be purchased from dealers.  Casks such as are used to catch rain-water have smooth, stiff staves and are well adapted for the purpose of the sledge- builder. Again, you can buy a very good sugar-barrel at your grocer's for 15 cents, and although the wood is not so good or the staves so well made as those in an oil-barrel, still there are some of them good enough to make very serviceable bottom pieces for the runners, and the rougher staves can be used for the top parts. 

As has already been suggested, the advantage of a barrel- stave toboggan-bob over the ordinary double-runner sled-bob is three-fold: the former may be used on snow which is too soft for the narrow runners of the common sled, the materials for its construction arc more easily obtained, and it requires less skill to build. 

The Materials Necessary Are 

a plank for a reach-board, a good barrel and a small piece of 2 x 4 inch or 4 x 4 inch timber, or some pieces of one-inch plank which may be nailed together to make 4-inch stuff.  Select a good, sound stave and rest it upon a block Of 4 x 4 inch timber so that the center line of the block is parallel with the bowstring line of the stave (P R, Fig. 479), and

 so that the outside edge of the stave cuts the comer of the block at D (Fig. 476), as shown by Fig. 475; then with a soft pencil or a sharp-pointed nail draw an outline of the stave on the wood, and with a rule or straight- edged piece of plank continue the outside line to the end of the block (A, ]Fig. 476). 

Take another stave for the bottom of the toboggan and place it so that the end extends upon the block to the line C C (Fig- 476) and the outside edge of the stave reaches the comer B just as the first stave reached the comer D.  With your straight-edge continue the line B B to the edge of the block as you did in the first place with the line A D. This will give you a block marked as in Fig. 476.  

Now saw down through the line C C until you reach the lower outline D E of the upper stave; next begin at D and saw down to E. This will cut out C E D and leave Fig. 477.

Saw Along the Line 

A until you cut off the block A C as shown in Fig. 480. This, as you see, leaves a place for the stave to fit.  In the same manner cut out the block C B of Fig. 476 as shown in Fig. 48o.  Now take your blue pencil again and sketch the bow of the sled-runner as shown by the dotted lines (Fig. 480).  Saw off the pieces to correspond with these lines, and after trimming away the angles with a sharp knife or chisel you will have the end piece (Fig. 481). You can probably make this piece in less time than it takes me to tell you how to do it. 

If the Lumber at Hand 

is 2 X 4 inches make duplicate pieces of the shape shown in Fig. 481 and nail these together, making one Piece 4 inches across the base.  The average barrel stave (Figs. 478 and 479) is about 4 or 5 inches across the middle, 3'2 to 4 inches or more in width at the two ends, and about 29 1/2 inches long measured on a straight line from end to end.  That is, if the curved stave is thought of as a bow, the bowstring would be 29 1/2 inches long and the arch about 2 inches high between the middle of the string and the out side of the bow (Fig.. 479) 

When making 

The Stern Blocks 

to the runners cut both sides as the top is cut in Fig. 480; then it is necessary only to round off the ends as in Figs. 482 and 483.  

If the barrels you have are of too light material to support the weight they must carry, this defect is easily remedied by cutting deeper notches in the blocks so that two or three staves together instead of single ones may be used for the upper and under side of the runner (Fig. 483).

Each toboggan may be made of two runners (Fig- 484), or

A Third Runner 

may be put in the middle, making it almost the same as a solid board for both top and bottom. Remember that the broad piece of board which represents 

The Top of the Toboggan

(Fig- 484) must be nailed on front the tinder side; consequently this work must be done before the lower runners are nailed oil the bow and stem blocks, and the top boards must set a little back of the centers of the sledges. Fig. 491 represents the rear toboggan of the bob; the front toboggan differs from the rear one in having a longer projecting cross-piece at the bow ends to be used as a foot-rest and to help in steering (Figs. 494, 495 and 496). 

In making 

A Light Toboggan-Bob 

it is not necessary to build it on the elaborate plan shown in Figs. 494, 495 and 496; in fact, the top board of the toboggan may be simply nailed fast to the reach-board, while the bow-axle can be arranged by fastening to the reach-board a block shaped like that shown in Fig. 492, and then dropping a bolt through a hole in the reach-board, through a hole in the center of the block, and through another hole bored in the top pieces of the bow toboggan (Figs. 492 and 493).  

Fig. 486 shows 

A Well-Made Front Axle

bolted through the top board, and the top staves with iron bolts and fastened to the reach-board by a king bolt secured with a nut at the lower end. Figs. 487 and 488 show how to make such as are used in Figs. 494 and 496, but these may be simplified in a light toboggan by making half-round notches in the blocks (Figs. 489 and 490), and using a

 wooden axle (Fig. 490. This axle is secured to the axle-blocks by nailing a piece of an old trunk strap over the axle and to the axle-block (Fig. 489) and securing it by two other straps nailed to the reach-board and axle-block, so as to cross the first strap at right angles and extend over and around the other side of the block (Fig. 489).  This will allow a free up-and-down movement of the rear toboggan and prevent sudden jolts.  A line, a rope, or a chain should be run from the front pieces of the rear toboggan and fastened to screw-eyes on the under side of the reach- board (Fig. 494) to prevent the rear toboggan's turning from side to side.

The King Bolt

is the only part of either of these two simple toboggan- bobs which may have to be bought at a shop; the rest of the material can be found around any country or suburban house.  But if the reader is ambitious to make a more pretentious affair he may construct the front and rear axles as shown in Figs. 486, 487, 488 and 494. The Front Axles have already been described; after the rear-axle blocks are securely nailed or screwed to the under side of the reach-board and flush with its edges, an iron bolt is run through a block which has been previously bolted to the top of the stem toboggan, as shown by the dotted lines in Figs. 486 and 494. 

By reference to this diagram you will see the ropes attached to the stem toboggan 

To Prevent its Sheering

from one side to the other and wrenching loose from the reach-board, while the axle pieces moving freely upon the iron bolt allow the toboggan to move up and down over the uneven places the hill-side.  The front axle allows free movement from one side to the other to guide the craft. The toboggan may be steered as shown in Fig. 495, the pilot sitting upright on the top piece, or he may lie prone upon the reach-board, grasp the ends of the foot-rest with his hands, and then steer by a movement of the arms.  If you place the boards upon which the axles rest a little back of the center of the toboggan it will

Elevate the Bows of the Runners,

thus making it easier for them to overcome obstructions, and will do away with the danger of burying the runners in any accidental mound or lump of snow that may be found in the road. 

The toboggans may be used without the reach-board as ordinary sleds (Figs. 485), but before using them the runners should be smoothed with sandpaper or rubbed with an old soft brick and coated with oil or tallow.

An Obvious Advantage 

of these barrel-stave toboggans, one which adds greatly to the comfort of the coasters when sliding over an uneven surface, is that the runner itself is a spring. 

Boys know well how often they are obliged to give up their sledding and coasting because the snow is not just right for it.  This is not so bad when it happens during the school-term, for there is little enough time then for outdoor sports.  But when the holidays come, and the snow then is light and flaky, and refuses to pack, or there is only a thin crust so that their sleds break through, then it is that boys wish they could manage the weather themselves and order their own kind of snow.

In default of this, however, there is one thing they can do: make such a toboggan-bob as I have described here.  It is fairly simple to make, it can be used on snow that is too deep or too soft for a narrow- runner sled, and it is perfectly safe on a steep hill which would be dangerous to coast down on an ordinary sled.  And when summer comes it may be used to coast down grassy hillsides.

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.