This isn't as daunting as it might first appear. I have worked teams of 4th graders for the past three years to build sleds for their end-of-winter sled race. We do it in less than three hours with materials that cost less than $10. The kids have a great time building the sled and even more fun pulling/mushing in the race.
A pair of thrift store downhill skis (child's size if you can find them)
36" of 4" x 4" wood (or 72" of 2" x 4")
Plywood -36" x 16" x 1/2"
22' of 3/4" PVC pipe
24- 2-1/2" x #8 flat head Phillips wood screws (12 more if you use 2" x 4"s) *
6- 1-1/2" x #8 flat head Phillips wood screws *
12' -1/4" nylon rope
File or rasp
Drill bits-7/64" with countersink, 1/8" and 3/8"
Phillips screwdriver or drill drill bit (I recommend this)
Marker or pencil
Matches or lighter
* I did use some hex heads so the kids wouldn't strip out the Phillips heads.
Kids usually have no experience using tools so everything is a learning experience. They are best at duct taping but love to try everything else. Be patient.
Step 1: Starting at the Bottom
Remove the binding hardware from the skis before you get your assembly team together. The bindings are the clunky metal things skiers clamp their boots into. If the screws won't come out, even after using a solvent on them, just use a saw (preferably power) on them.
If you have adult skis, cut off the back end of each one so they are 5' to 5-1/2' long. This will require a hacksaw or power saw (the preferred tool). File any rough, sharp edges.
Lay the skis flat and mark a line 12" from the back of the skis. Make marks 30" and 48" from the back of the skis. These marks are show the front and rear of the support blocks and plywood deck (known as the cargo bed or basket). Cut six 4" x 4" blocks 6" long that will serve to support the deck and to screw the top rail and uprights (stanchions) into. The kids will need help with this.
An explanation of the marks. The area behind the 12" mark is where the musher can stand when they aren't pushing. The 12" mark is also where the back of the rear 4" x 4" block aligns. The 30" mark is the midpoint of the middle 4" x 4" block. The 48" mark is the front of the front 4" x 4" block.
Position the blocks on the skis per the above explanation and mark the remaining ends of the blocks on the skis. Set the blocks aside and drill two 1/8" holes for the attachment screws in each block space. There is no need to countersink since that will be done on the bottom of the skis. Turn the skis over and countersink each hole you just drilled. The countersink is to accept the screw head so it doesn't extend past the bottom of the ski scratching floors etc.. Mark the blocks as front, middle, and rear. Lay the ski on its edge on the floor and position each block to the ski and mark it for pilot holes. Remember that there will be a left and a right side. Mark this clearly on the skis. Any overlap of the wood must be to the inside of the sled.
Drill the pilot hole marks in each of the blocks. WITHOUT PILOT HOLES YOU MAY SNAP OFF THE SCREWS OR STRIP THEM OUT. Use the 7/64" bit to drill these holes at least 1-1/2" deep. Position each block to its correct location and attach it to the skis using the 2-1/2" screws. If you are using 2" x 4" s for the blocks, drill pilot holes and put in two screws per block set from the top.
Step 2: Finishing the Top
Position the ski assemblies on the floor about 16", outside to outside. Position the plywood deck on the blocks. Drill and countersink to attach the deck to one rear block. Attach the deck using a 1-1/2" screw. Align the deck with the front block on the same side. Drill, countersink, and attach the deck using a 1-1/2" screw. Do the same on the other side and then both middle blocks.
Determine how high the top rails will be for the musher. This will be about 30" from the ground. Cut two PVC uprights so they will cross the top rail at the 30" height. Smooth off the rough, ragged cut using the file. Position the uprights beside the rear blocks and mark them for two 1/8" holes. Drill the holes in the PVC. Reposition the uprights to the blocks and, using the holes in the PVC, mark on the blocks where the pilot holes should be. Drill 7/64" pilot holes, at least 1-1/2" deep. Use the 2-1/2" and attach the uprights to the blocks.
Measure for the top rail. The front of the rails will attach to the front blocks and will be joined to the rear uprights. The rails should be about 60" long. Cut and clean the ends with the file. Position the top rails and mark them for the two 1/8" holes into the front blocks. Mark the blocks and drill the 7/64" pilot holes. Attach them using 2-1/2" screws.
Use tape to join the upright and top rail. Tear off an 8" piece of duct tape and then tear it down the middle so you have two pieces about an 1" wide. Using three or four strips of tape, attach the top rail to the rear upright. More tape later.
Measure for the upright from the middle blocks to the top rails. These should be about 24". Clean the cut ends, mark, drill, mark and drill pilot holes, and attach the uprights to the middle blocks. Using tape strips, attach these uprights to the top rails.
With both side assemblies in place, a handle bar is needed at the rear top rail/upright joints. Measure from outside to outside. This piece should be about 18". Position it in the angle under the top rail and tape it in position. You can drill holes and use 1-1/2" screws to secure the uprights to the handle bar if you want. Lots of tape will work fine and kids love applying it.
Step 3: Harness.. for a 3-Dog Hitch
Drill a 3/8" hole in the plywood deck, centered, about 2" from the front. This is where the pull rope is attached. Cut the rope into a 7' piece and a 5' piece. Fuse the cut ends of the ropes with a match to prevent fraying later. Feed one end of the 7' piece through the 3/8" hole in the deck and secure it using two half hitches. About 5' from the hole in the deck tie a simple loop. Feed the 5' piece of rope through the loop. At the middle of the 5' piece make another loop. This will prevent it from shifting left or right.
Cut three pieces of PVC 5" long and clean up the cut ends. These are the pulling handles. Feed each of the ends of the ropes through a handle and tie them off using a square knot.
The sled is ready to go. We had a warm spell and had to do much of the race on grass one year. This would be a good Christmas break project.
Thanks to Alayna, Aaron, Breanna, and Ethen for all their work on the sled.