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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    24 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Instead of using the square nuts, you can use toggle bolts. Just push the toggle end through the hole, and it springs out to catch on the other side.


    Now that's an interesting and fun idea that has absolutely nothing to do with plumbing! Looks like there could be a charity of education event in here somewhere too - create your own sled and best sled wins a prize! Haha!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I lived in a small mountain town in Colorado. We had a second hand proshop for everything mountain sport related. (skiing, rock climbing, kyaking, etc...) they would often get donations of OLD skis. They had no way of reselling these for any profit worth the space they took up, SO they put them out back in the alley for free. The point of this story is; many people used these to make Ski chairs or benches. WE used these skis to build a few sleds. The first attempt was a success except for the Fragile plastic body. The next was an open air using wood, this took away clearance. After seeing your design i feel that someone could attach (with the help of Craigs list) a set of skis to the bottom of your PVC runners with Carriage bolts WAX UP and reenact the scene from "National Lampoon's Christmas"


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    The whole point is to ride this on hard packed snow therefore there should be no rocks or gravel to contend with.


     Excellent instructable.
    It only took a couple of hours to make and is now the sledge of choice in our family. steerable, fast and stable. top stuff.
    We made a few mods...
    a) added some 2x1" wood between the runners and the platform to increase the clearance.
    b) sanded off the protruding edges at the pipe joints to make the pipes into continuously smooth runners. don't do this all the way round as it will weaken the joint, just the bit which contacts the ground.
    c) waxed the pipes. it really does make it go faster.
    d) changed the dimensions just a bit.
    e) final thing which isn't shown on the picture, i added 45degree pipe couplers to the pipes at the back to stop the back edge scraping when going over bumps. not forgetting to sand the joint smooth.

    1 reply

    Brilliant ! ! !
    I'd totally agree with you on the mods.  I had ours out yesterday and it does tend to throw up a LOT of snow on the driver on anything but shallow snow.  I put in a 2nd deflector to try and stop it, but it will slow down as snow builds up in front.
    Increasing the clearance between the runners and the deck is something I'll do next.  It works best on hard packed snow, so the more people sledging, the better it gets #;¬)


    10 years ago on Introduction

    When the *whole world* ground to a halt. Marvellous. I had a good look around my garage to see what I could fashion together to make a sled(ge) but came up empty handed. This design is perfect though, didn't think of using waste pipe.

    Exactly how does it steer? Not that there's gonna be anymore snow until next year.

    3 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I made another sledge too, a more traditional design, with wood from the sides of an old bunk bed which I knew 'would come in useful one day'. I'll add pictures of this in a day or two. The pipe sledge steers by foot-pressure on the foot pegs - those things which stick out at the front. You're not going to be able to do a slalom with it, but it deforms enough to guide you in roughly the right direction.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Great! - I haven't had a chance to use mine yet this year, but I'll be out on it tomorrow.