Building an Old Timey Wooden Sled from Scratch

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Building an Old Timey Wooden Sled from Scratch

When it started snowing this year, University of Sheffield student Andy Graham joked with his girlfriend that they had nothing to go “sledging” on. I believe this is British for sledding, or perhaps “correct,” depending on where you are reading this. Whatever the wording, this joke eventually turned into him actually building a sled — we’ll stick with that for now. The results are quite beautiful.

Once he decided to build it, like a good mechanical engineering student, he modeled it in 3D, using Autodesk Inventor. Though the final version varies a bit from what he envisioned in the image below, it’s still a great looking model, and likely helped him work out the details of the actual build.


Beyond this point, if you look at his build log (an abbreviated version is seen below) you’ll notice that things aren’t taking place in a traditional workshop or garage. He built this, in fact, in a house shared with other students. According to him:

[This] was a bit of a challenge; lots of moving the sledge up and down a tiny staircase into/out of the basement, and a pretty funny moment when one of said housemates walked past me as I was carrying a huge bundle of wood and metal up this hugely steep hill towards home, with no prior explanation!

I remember building things in similar situations before having a garage, though I don’t remember anything quite this ambitious! The build starts out with “a mammoth solo trek in the morning,” where Graham had to drag his materials over a mile, uphill. These components eventually ended up on a bed before materials were taken to some sort of bicycle storage area and turned into a jig for laminating the runners.


These runners were then formed from 5 strips of 4mm pine, and attached together with wood glue to keep them in place. Then it was on to the angled horizontal supports, which were assembled with dowels. This attachment method took quite a while, as each dowel needed a semi-complicated procedure involving drilling and glue to install. Naturally, when these parts were done, they ended up back on Graham’s (we’ll assume) bed for photographs.

Instead of just letting the wood contact the snow when in use, metal runners were fashioned out of L-shaped steel, which meant making cuts with hand tools. Frustratingly, Graham’s Dremel tool decided to stop working during this procedure, but revived itself the next day. This was a reportedly difficult — or “painful” as he puts it — procedure, and had to be done twice (once for each runner)!

Once the runners were attached though another involved procedure involving epoxy, nails and grinding, it was time to assemble the frame. Graham’s girlfriend arrived to help with this, and even cut out a few remaining pieces. Once assembled, the sled stayed together without even creaking when Graham’s weight was applied.

The top slats were then attached to give everyone (it has a capacity of 3 or 4 people by Graham’s estimate) a place to sit, then the top was painted in a nice organic pattern. The results, as seen in the first image below, are quite excellent. Though the background was removed, that picture is otherwise unedited, and tries to capture the true look of the wood and painting.

As you might suspect, this isn’t Graham’s first try at building something. According to him:

[My dad] sort of taught me the basics then let me loose to teach myself haha! Yeah I’ve always been making things really, from acoustic guitars and foundries to 3D printers and recurve bows, I just love having the ability to create something myself, especially if it’s something that often costs an arm and a leg to buy! Making things into a work of art at the same time is a massive bonus that I’ve only really been exploring in the last few years…The best thing about the last few years and being away from home is that I’ve still been able to make amazing things without access to many tools or materials! I’d encourage anyone that’s feeling creative to just see what they can make with what they have, they’ll probably surprise themselves!”

So if you don’t have any experience, the best time to start is now! This sled is a neat build, but given Graham’s relative lack of tools and limited work area, it is truly impressive.

[via Reddit]

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Jeremy is an engineer with 10 years experience at his full-time profession, and has a BSME from Clemson University. Outside of work he’s an avid maker and experimenter, building anything that comes into his mind!

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