Intro: The B.U.S.
Due to the enormous amounts of snow and ice invading the continental United States this year, I chose, with another unexpected day off from school, to make a tough, durable, and simple sledge. I used to call it a sled, but when I realized how heavy it was going to be, I added the -ge. I guess the extra letters make the thing seem grittier and more backwood-sy - but that's just what it seems to me. I present the Basic Utility Sledge.
- Solid wooden planks - I used a ten foot piece of 2x7.
- Plastic - Vinyl siding fulfilled the need.
- Screws - Hard-core rust-proof custom-hex-star-drill-bit self-tapping screws of awesomeness made the cut. (But are optional - you will need some sort of screw.)
- Plywood - Enough to fill the interior of the sledge. I had some left over from a winter outdoor cat house I made.
- PVC pipe - Or something to push the snow underneath the sled.
- Rope - Some 1/2" rope did the trick.
- Assorted scrap wood - Always necessary.
- Drill - Preferably with a motor involved.
- Saw - Hand or electric. Jigsaws are especially useful, as is a Sawzall or a NaviGator.
- Assorted drill bits - Possibly spade bits too.
- Tape measure - Necessary!
- Tri-square - Also necessary!
I am not responsible for any accidents or injuries caused by the making or use of this project. Be safe, be smart, and use common sense.
- Gloves - To protect from saw blades...
- Safety Glasses - To protect from everything...
- File - Helps take the edge off. (Screws, sharp corners, etc.)
- Hacksaw - Helps with especially long screws.
- Lighter - I had synthetic rope, so I had to seal the ends.
Update: Today I used the sledge to get our snow blower out of the shed and to the driveway! The B.U.S. worked well and stayed on top of the snow, but the snow blower kept falling off. I'm thinking of adding some tie-down points for bungee cords or something. Stay tuned!
Step 1: The Chassis
Unfortunately, I didn't think that this would actually work well and didn't take pictures of this step. I'll tell the general formula for getting the runners together, because it all depends on the sledge.
I first chose the side of the board that I wanted to be the runners. I wanted clean, strong edges that would be able to withstand a beating and lots of weight. Next, I measured out my pieces using a tape measure and a tri-square. Two feet of the ten foot board made up the cross piece in the back. Two four-foot sections became the runners. After cutting the pieces out, I drew my curve on one board and cut it out with a jigsaw. Using the first board as a template, I traced the curve again onto the other runner. After cutting that curve out, I had a two-foot board and two four-foot runners with curves.
I got my runners as parallel as I could with the most simple technique I knew. I placed the runners with the curves down on the floor, used the tape measure to make sure the outer edges were 24" apart, and drove screws from the back cross-piece into the runners. There is a screw in each corner of the back board.
The front cross-piece was from my scrap wood, with screws on each side for strength.
Step 2: The Wheels... or Runners...
The runners were vinyl siding leftovers. I took a strip long enough to overlap the ends of my runner boards, cut off any special molding from the sides, and ended up with a floppy piece of vinyl. What I was going for with all the cutting was the middle parts, where I had flat, smooth, flexible material to work with. The goal at the end of your saw work is to have something like the first picture.
In the second picture, I am slicing down the middle of my strip, getting two smaller, floppy strips about two inches across. My sledge chassis helped with material handling. These two pieces will make the runners.
I fixed the runners by first drilling pilot holes through my plastic. It is best if the holes are on the center line of the vinyl and the center line of the vinyl matches the center of the board. It's not an exact science, so if the screws get into the board, then it's great. Make sure that the pilot holes are big enough to accommodate most the bottom of the screw head. If the hole is too small, the plastic will bunch up and leave gaps between the plastic and the board where there are no screws.
Also be sure to keep the plastic taut as you work down the runners. I drilled my first pilot hole for the first screw at the back of the runner, and then drilled the other pilots after that, making sure I didn't go into the wood. Then I drilled the screws into the board. The screws were spaced about every ten inches on the straight part of the runner, and then about every four on the curved parts. The curved-part-screws were aimed so that the screw heads would be flush with the wood.
Step 3: The Bodywork
It's kind of hard to have a Basic Utility Sledge if you can't carry anything on it. So I added a 1/2" plywood floor.
This stuff was scrap wood from the shed, so I had to kind of jerry-rig it. Make sure that the grain runs crosswise from runner to runner. My forward piece has the grain going with the long axis of the sledge, so it bends when pressure is put on it. If you are working with a new piece of plywood, just cut it to fit in between the runners and the seats and add a screw in each corner of the plywood.
This step could also be done with individual boards, but that's kind of heavy... more heavy than it already is.
Step 4: The Bumper
This step isn't vital, but it is suggested. Without this piece, deep snow will cause your sled to bog down and get snow all over the deck.
Get a piece of massive, wide PVC. Cut it to length, leaving about an inch between the PVC and the runners on both sides. (So it will be two inches shorter than the space between the runner boards.) If you have a Sawzall or a NaviGator, use it. I made straight lines by placing the pipe in the jaws of my Workmate and running a Sharpie on the surface. Alternately, you can put the pipe on a table and run the Sharpie along. Cut along your lines. You want to divide your pipe into thirds - two-thirds as the bumper, one-third for your scrap pile. :)
After you've got your pipe section, grab some more screws, and look at the first picture. Center the PVC, and screw the PVC to the bottom of your front cross piece. There is a little stand-off so that the angle is right to push the snow underneath the sled. This also makes the piece stronger.
Step 5: The Engine... or Rope...
The sledge is basically finished, but it still doesn't move. I opted for a rope because it was easy to do.
I drilled two 1/2" holes (spade bit!) on each side of the PVC pipe and ran a rope through it, knotting it off with two half-hitches. Pretty easy!
An alternative would be to build a push bar off the back with two 2"x4" boards and a 1"x1" or something. I like the rope though, because I can make a harness to pull while wearing a backpack and holding trekking poles. Or something like that.
Step 6: Finished!
Congratulations! You've just built yourself a B.U.S. Go out in the snow and haul something!
Thanks for reading!
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