Introduction: Steerable Plumbing Tube Sledge (sled)

This is a steerable sledge for hard-packed snow made out of plumbing parts. We recently had several inches of snow in Southern England, and as usual, everything ground to a halt. I know some of you are used to a regular several FEET of snow and everything goes on as normal, but we do things differently here, OK. We have several good sledging hills around, and I decided to make a fast steerable sledge to take advantage of the conditions.

We have a couple of the cheap plastic sledges which are pretty fast, but not at all steerable and break easily. I wanted a sledge which was strong, steerable and fast. I chose the waste pipe to give a minimal contact area on hard snow but a larger area as the snow deepens. The tube is also slightly flexible to allow bending for the steering.

UPDATE - This sledge works best in hard-packed snow.  To make it work in deeper snow, follow BugsyandSpike's suggestion below and put a 2" x 1" piece of wood (with accordingly longer bolts) between the platform and the tube to give it better ground clearance.  (There's a few other worthwhile mods in that comment too.)

It has been mentioned that PVC gets brittle and can splinter in the cold.  I've given my sledge some pretty rough treatment in a couple of degrees below with no ill effects, but it's one to be aware of.

Step 1: Parts and Tools Required

The sledge is made out of a sheet of 12mm ply, a 3 metre length of 40mm plumbing waste pipe, 2 x 45 degree pipe couplers, 2 x equal tees, 2 x end pieces, a bag of 12mm bolts with square nuts (greenhouse bolts) and a pot of pipe adhesive. Best to get these from trade suppliers (e.g. Screwfix) rather than the big DIY shops (B&Q for example) as they are MUCH cheaper.

The tools and other materials you will need are a drill, a saw, a large screwdriver, a wooden or metal rod and some duct tape.

I've used metric units here, but if you're using Imperial measurements, the cut size of the ply is 34" by 20.5" x 3/8" thick". The 40mm pipe diameter is just over 1.5", but I think you use 2" in the U.S. As a rule of thumb, 25mm = 1", 1' = 305mm, 1 metre = 39". There are 10mm in a 1cm, and 100cm in a 1metre.

Step 2: Preparing the Parts

After testing, I made a modification to the sledge by shortening the wooden base. The photos show the original design, but I will describe the modified version.

Cut off 2 sections of tube, each 55mm long, and one piece of 42cm. Cut what's left in half; it will be about 125cm. Cut the board down to 86cm long, 52cm wide, and mark and drill 4 holes at 20cm intervals, 25mm from the edge. Line the board up with the pipe and drill down into it.

Use the adhesive to glue the short sections of tube and the end-caps into the tee as shown. Leave to dry. Don't glue in the longer cross-piece or the long side pieces yet. The end-caps stick out the side of the sledge as footpegs, and the pressure on these gives the steering.

Step 3: Assembling the Base - a Test of Skill and Judgement

The next job is to attach the tubing to the wooden board with the greenhouse bolts. To do this, you will need a piece of dowel or rod and some duct tape. Wrap duct tape around the end of the dowel, sticky side out, to make a sticky pad.

Put a nut on this, feed it down the tube and screw in the bolt from the other side - the square nuts will catch against the curve of the tube and grip, but don't tighten fully until you've got them all in. Also, it helps to mark the dowel at the depth of each bolt-hole.

Start with the close ones, and work down. It isn't as hard as it sounds and I was able to do the last few in under a minute each.

Step 4: Adding the Front

Now add glue to the remaining front parts and assemble before it goes off. Cut a piece of the scrap wood to attach to the front as a snow deflector, and when the glue has hardened (around 15 minutes) drill pilot holes in the angled section and screw on the deflector plate with some self-tappers.

Sand off any rough edges because the last thing you want if you wipe-out is a hand full of splinters A coat of paint or varnish wouldn't go amiss, either.

Step 5: Testing and Modification

Then it was off to the local sledging hill to try it out. The best way was sitting on it and leaning back with feet on the steering pegs, keeping the body-weight towards the back. The original design was pretty good, but the steering didn't have much effect and the front felt too stiff to ride the bumps well.

The modification was to cut some of the base from the front, leaving more unsupported tube. This had the effect of making the front more flexible both sideways and up/down, making for better steering (although still not perfect) and a faster ride over bumps. It worked best on hard-packed or frozen snow, but got bogged down in soft snow because of the small ground-clearance.

By the time I got to test this, the snow was on the way out so it wasn't really able to perform to its full potential, but I'm pretty confident that this sledge will perform at least as well as the moulded plastic ones, with better stability and some degree of steering.

All I need now is some more snow so I can have another couple of productive days "working from home".
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