Introduction: Convertible Oak Child Sled - Simple Design / Basic Tools

About: Just love making things.. I wish I had space to do it but everything you see was made in my 600sf One Bedroom Condo!

I was looking for a Christmas present for my 16 month old god daughter. Initially I thought of buying a vintage sled or toboggan and refinishing it to look brand new but the ones available were “décor” pieces that had seen better days and were priced above my limit. I then looked at the new sleds available and again super expensive and nothing that would turn heads. I decided homemade would be the way to go so I looked online for plans and again came up short all were either too fancy or too simple. So I figured I would go with the “Seat of my pants” approach and wing it!

A Saturday afternoon trip to the local big box store and a wide variety of oak planks in my cart along with some brass hardware and a natural fiber rope and I felt I was ready. Now two things you need to know this was Saturday Dec 17th 7 days before Christmas eve when the presents will be opened… and I live in a high-rise condo in Toronto with no workshop! I own 4 power tools: a miter saw, cordless drill, rotary sander & a jig saw. As you will see in the pictures I did most of the work in my living room but had the miter saw setup in the bathroom (since it was the easiest room to clean up the sawdust and had an exhaust fan!). While this was not optimal and I would usually borrow a friends garage for this type of work time was tight and the weather lousy so I did what I needed to do… And for anyone wondering yes I am single so no one to yell at me about the mess…

Since I had no plan to start with and the end product has now been given away I do not have exact measurements but I have created a semi-scale drawing and provided pictures which should give you a better start then I had. Feel free to ask any questions if there is anything that confuses you...

Step 1: Tools, Materials & Plans

Plan Drawings:
Also Attached below as a PDF file.

Miter Saw
Cordless Drill
Rotary Sander
Countersink Bit
Bungee Cords
Variety of Clamps

2 pieces - ½” x 36” Round Wood Dowel
2 pieces - 1” x 1/8” x 36” Aluminum Flat Stock (Runner Skids)
2 pieces - 2 ½” x ¼” x 48” Oak (Skis)
3 pieces - 4” x ¼” x 48” Oak (Deck)
5 pieces - 1 ½” x ½” x 48” Oak (Braces)
2 pieces - 4” x ¾” x 36” Oak (Risers)
1 piece - 1” x 1” x 36” Oak (Seat Back Support)
1 piece - 5 ½” x ½” x 36” Oak (Seat Side Support)
1 piece - 4” x ½” x 36” Oak (Angle Seat Side Support)

6 - Brass “L” brackets
¾” Brass Screws
1” Brass Screws
Brass Finishing Washers
8 - Wing Nuts
6 - Stainless Washers
8ft - Natural Braided Rope
Wood Glue
Trim Paint

Step 2: The Skis

So I have always wanted to bend wood but have never done it before. Armed with the knowledge of watching a couple of YouTube videos on boat building I took the two Oak skis ( 2 ½” x ¼” x 48” ) and placed the ends in a large pot of boiling water on my stove and wrapped them in tin foil about a third of the way up to keep in as much of the heat and moisture as possible. I then created a simple jig out of a scrap oak board in which I drilled holes for some 3/8" dowel (This was at 9pm Saturday and I was so excited to start I did not really think it through too much). I pulled the first piece out after about an hour and placed it in the jig and started to bend it when three of the dowels snapped off and I was left jig-less! Time for some improvisation! I had a metal chair that had space between the bars that made up the legs. I took both skies together and fit them into this gap. I then clamped a ½” board along the part of the skis that I wanted to keep straight and proceeded to bend the wood around the leg of the chair. I took a couple of Bungee cords (for securing stuff to the roof of a car) and attached these to the end of the oak and kept applying pressure until a obtained the bend that  I liked. I then hooked the cords to the other side of the chair and left then for 24 hours to dry & “cure”.

The next day I undid the cords and took off the clamps and I had two bentwood oak skis! Now, there were some minor issues. Since the two pieces of wood were on top of each other, the one had a slightly tighter bend then the other. I felt I could live with this and probably tension the one ski a bit more than the other in the final product to even them out. Problem 2, the metal in the chair had left indents in the wood. I should have put in a piece of scrap to protect the wood but it did not occur to me at the time. I would also have to live with this and I ended up hiding this defect with some clever paint work.

Step 3: The Deck

I love the design of the old school traditional sleds I grew up with that have the metal runners and the Deck that looks fast even when it is not moving. I wanted to use this type of design on my sled. I laid out the three deck boards on the floor and using painters tape masked off the tips until I found the design that I liked the best and a couple of quick cuts on the miter saw made it happen.

I cut the cross members from the 1 ½” x ½” x 48” oak using the deck boards to determine the width I needed. I wanted to give it a retro boat feel so I used mostly brass screws and on the deck added brass finishing washers. This not only gave it an aesthetic that I wanted but since the deck was only ¼” I did not want to countersink the screws. With the finishing washers you get the effect of countersinking without having to weaken the already thin wood. I only screwed in the front and back cross members as I thought it would look too busy with another line of screws. I still placed a cross member under the middle for strength. It is attached to the riser but not the deck.
It is starting to look like a sled!

Step 4: Attaching the Skis

To attach the skis to the deck I wanted the deck to be high enough to go through deeper snow yet sleek enough to go fast, all this with the strength so that it will last a lifetime. I decided to reinforce the skis with a 1 ½” x ½” board that would be glued to the ¼” ski. Once this was attached I could screw through the bottom of the ski with countersunk screws into the riser. I beveled the front and back of the ski reinforcement board and also angled the corners or the riser to keep the little one from sharp corners.

I drilled three ½” holes in the risers about half way through the wood on the inside. These will hold three dowels near the bottom of the riser to give lateral strength to the sled without adding too much bulk. ½” dowels are glued in to these holes and the deck is screwed onto the top. In addition to the screws from the top of the deck, 6 brass “L” brackets are added to the bottom of the cross members and screwed to the riser to complete the sleds structure. Lastly a cross member is added to the tip of the skis to keep the straight and add strength for the pull rope.

Holes are drilled near the top of the riser to hold the end of the rope. The rope is then fed through a hole in the cross member at the ski tip. Trick here is to get out your bungee cord again and pull the tip of the ski as far back as you can then knot the rope on the other side of the cross member. This will make the rope nice and tight.

Step 5: The Seat

I needed a seat for the baby but wanted the sled to be able to grow with the child and when she is old enough that we could take off the seat and convert to a “speed sled”. To do this I needed to have a bit bigger structure at the back of the seat for support (actually I ran out of narrower wood since I did not have a plan to start with!). The seat will fit over the riser and sit on the reinforcement board on the ski. Using four Bolts and Wing Nuts on the inside the seat can be easily unscrewed and removed without any tools. Large washers protect the holes from wear.

A wide board is used as the Arm support, with a narrower board cut on an angle for the backrest support. Left over cross member 1 ½” x ½” board is used to attach the two (glued and screwed) along with an additional piece horizontal for the Arm rest. Not seen in the pictures are two lengths of 1” x 1” square stock screwed in the back of the seat to act as structure and provide a surface to screw in the back boards. A left over piece of the back board is used to finish off the top of the back of the seat. A ½” dowel is drilled and glued into the upper back. This is left to stick out a few inches on either side to provide push handles and give the sled a bit of a dog sled feel for fun.

Step 6: The Final Touches

Quickly sand the sled. This is an outdoor toy not furniture so it does not have to be perfectly smooth but sharp edges should be removed for safety. Since the oak was so nice I decided to just clear coat the whole sled and add a few red racing stripes & highlights for fun. Using painters tape I masked off the deck for the stripe. The trick here is to paint over the tape with one coat of clear varnish before you paint the red stripe. This will seal the tape and avoid the red paint leaking under it. Once the red paint is dry to the touch carefully remove the tape. If any does get where you do not want it you can scrape it with a razor blade. This is easy since it is on top of a coat of varnish. On the ski tips I painted a red triangle. The only purpose for this is to hide that dent from when I bent the wood against my chair but it also highlights the skis Once the painting is done put as many coats of varnish on as you have time and patience for (don’t worry too much about drips on the bottom of the deck no one will see them anyway!). I also varnished the rope where it was knotted and the part between the ski tip and riser. This helps protect it from moisture and will help keep it tight.

One final addition I made since this is a “City Sled” I added a strip of Aluminum bar stock under the wooden skis. These are held on with wing nuts so they can be replaced if worn down. In the city you tend to have to cross cement sidewalks covered with sand and salt as well as paved roads to get to the good hills. This strip of metal will keep the wood safely off the ground and protect it from being worn down. I counter sunk the screw at the back of the ski so that the screw was even with the aluminum to avoid it getting caught on things. At the front this was not needed as the screw is on the curve of the ski. There are washers on the top of the skis to protect the wood.

Hope you enjoyed my crazy little project & my FIRST Instructable! Now I am just waiting for snow so I can take the little one out to a big hill!

Step 7: The Big Test!

The true test of any Instructable is "does it work?".. Well from the look on her face, I would say this is a Winner!

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