Foam snow sleds are awesome, however the plastic bottoms have a tendency to get torn and cut, especially on ice, which slows them down over time.
In this Instructable I show you how to take an old foam snow sled and give it new life with a sheet of Luan (a kind of plywood). All told, it took about than an hour do do this project start to finish (though field testing took longer).
My kids had a number of foam snow sleds which are comfortable to ride because of the foam which is between 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick. However, the bottoms are made of a thin plastic. While it gives a good ride initially, in the cold weather it has a tendency to get brittle and start splitting, especially when there's ice on the slope. These cuts and splits make the sled slower because of the drag.
I'd tried duct tape (I am from Maine) which works okay for a while, but does eventually come off with the friction. Given the ready availability of plywood and ease of working with it, it seemed a great choice to cover the bottom of the sled.
Materials and Tools
For this Instructable, you'll need
- Saw (I used a table saw and band saw, but it could all be done with a hand saw)
- Razor blade/ sharp knife
- Sander / sand paper
- Clamps (man, many clamps)
- Weights/ books
- Luan or thin plywood
- Old foam sled with smooth bottom (no formed or shaped bottoms)
- Scrap pieces of wood for clamping and supporting sled while it dries
- Gorilla glue
- Wax/ rag
- Painter's tape
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Step 1: Prep Your Materials
Measure your snow sled. Cut your plywood 1-2 inches larger than your sled's dimensions. (It's okay to leave the plywood square/rectangular at this point as we'll trim the extra after it's glued up.)
Prepare your Sled
Trim / Cut any high spots or loose plastic away from the bottom of the sled using a razor blade. Don't worry about leaving gaps in the plastic, this will be covered by the plywood. You don't want anything to interfere with the plywood making a good bond to the plastic. You want to take as little of the underlying foam as possible, so be sure to make shallow cuts.
Sand the bottom of the sled using coarse sand paper (either with a belt sander or by hand) to rough up the bottom. Take all of the shine off the plastic to give the glue a better surface to adhere to.
Tape any loose handles down to the top of the sled using painter's tape to keep them out of your way when gluing and clamping.
Clean the bottom of your sled. Wipe the bottom of your sled with a clean dry cloth, removing any dust or dirt from the bottom where the glue will go.This will give a clean surface for the glue to adhere to.
Step 2: Glue and Clamp
For this project I used Gorilla glue. I'd never used it so didn't quite know what to expect.
Gorilla glue is the color and consistency of maple syrup which means it doesn't spread easily. The upside of this is that it pretty much stays where you pour it until it starts to expand.
With sled facing down, squirt the glue over the back of the sled. Give fairly good coverage but you don't have to completely cover it.
Focus on the edges.
After you've squirted glue around the back of the sled, go back and ensure that you have glue close to the entire edge (about 1/4 inch from the edge).
I ran another bead around the perimeter just to be sure.
Place your plywood on top of the foam sled and press down. Secure with a couple of clamps and flip over so the foam sled is on top (riding surface facing up).
Using pieces of 2x4 or other scraps of wood lay them around the edge of the sled and clamp in place. This ensures that pressure is spread out rather than just at the point of the clamp. Your goal here is to close the gap between the foam and the plywood along the entire edge of the sled.
Bend the Curve
You want your sled to have a bit of a curve so that the nose doesn't bite into the snow. So once you've glued it up, it's time to set it aside to get a curve and dry.
Make two stacks of scraps of 2x4's (roughly 3 high).
Place the ends of your sled on each of these stacks.
Weigh down the middle using weights /tools/ books etc. If you hear cracking, remove the weight and lower one or both ends slightly.
Leave to dry over night
Step 3: Saw Sand and Wax
Once your sled has dried for 24 hours, it's time to remove the clamps.
Using your band saw or other saw, cut the excess plywood from around the edge of your sled at about a 15 degree angle. This will give you a gentle curve under the sled.
Sand the cut edge focusing on bringing it close to the foam and giving a smooth transition from the bottom around the edge to the foam. You don't want any sharp edges to get caught on the snow or a person.
Sand the bottom of the sled using increasingly fine sand paper. I used a random orbital sander initially then followed up with hand sanding and finished using 320 grit sand paper.
Clean the bottom of the sled using a dry cloth.
Wax the bottom of the sled using a rag and butchers wax or other spreadable wax. I used butchers wax just because it's what I had on hand. It worked best when the sled and the wax were quite warm. I left a thick coat of wax on the sled and left to dry and then buffed.
I applied 2 coats of wax before testing.
Step 4: Speed Test
Go to the sledding hill of your choice and give it a try.
Few notes/ observations
This sled is considerably heavier than a foam sled with a plastic bottom, but still manageable by a 7 year old or older (possibly younger).
Be careful, this sled carries more weight so getting hit by it will hurt.
The sled worked great on dry snow, very fast. When it was a little wetter, it felt like it was sticking before taking off, but once moving it went great.
After an hour of use, there was no noticeable damage to the bottom of the sled, but conditions were good with soft packed snow (no ice). After a few hours, there were a few indentations in the wood, but the surface wasn't broken. It didn't appear to impact the sled's performance. I did re-coat with wax after a few hours of sledding.
Get out there and enjoy the snow! Thanks for reading.