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How to build a dog sled

  • 10 min read

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Dog sledding has been a popular pastime for many people especially those living in cold regions. There are even winter sports competitions that are held where dogs race against each other to judge their sledding ability. Having a dog sled can be a fun pastime for you and your children to enjoy the winters. You do not have to be a fine craftsman to be able to build a dog sled for yourself. You can do it with just a few tools and a little knowledge. Read on below to find out more about dog sleds and how to build them.

What are Dog Sleds?

Almost every person has heard about Santa’s sled bringing gifts for all the good children. His sled is pulled by the reindeers with the famous Rudolf upfront. Well, a sled is basically that, a type of transport vehicle that is used to carry loads by sliding across smooth surfaces like snow or ice. Instead of it flying up in the air, the practical Sled or Sledge is pulled by animals on a smooth surface. Sledding is a very popular practice in the northern areas which see a lot of snow. It is the primary form of transportation for these areas where cars cannot be used because of the snow and ice.

 There are many animals that are used to pull sleds. Animals like horses, reindeers, mules, oxen, and dogs are popularly trained for sledding. Most of these animals are the species that can survive in the cold so therefore they have the adaptation to tread on the snowy ground. These animals have to be very fit and have to be trained from a young age to be able to pull these sleds.

 What Breeds Can Pull a Dog Sled?

Sled dogs can be found mostly in the temperate regions of Alaska, Canada, Russia, Serbia, Yukon, and many other cold places. These dogs have been bred in these cold regions which are why they can survive the harsh climates. They are usually very thick furred (having a double coat), a bushy tail, and very strong behaviour.

These dogs are very attentive and have a huge amount of energy which is strongly required for their sport. Sled dogs will also have long and strong legs which help them to pull. If you own a sled dog, you will realize that these dogs have a great tendency to pull, and they need very strenuous exercise to be healthy.

Some examples of sled dogs include the Husky (both Alaskan and Siberian), the Samoyed, the Alaskan Malamute, the Chinook, the Canadian Eskimo Dog, and a few others.

  • Alaskan Husky,
  • Siberian Husky,
  • Samoyed,
  • Aslaskan Malamute

What do I Need to Make a Dog Sled?

To make your own dog sled, you will need to figure out what kind of sled you want. Whether you would like a fully wooden sled or maybe you just want a cheap sled just to keep the dogs and kids occupied. In this article, we will explain how to make three types of dog sleds. These sleds can be made by anyone with a basic knowledge of woodwork.

Fully Wooden Sled – Materials Needed

The first sled we will be discussing is a fully wooden sled. This type of sled is a little complicated to make. You will require some basic tools. The sled might take around two to three days to dry so keep that in mind. The things you will need for this sled are:

  • A twelve ft long pressure-treated lumber (with 2” x 4” OR 2” x 6” dimensions)
  • A twenty ft long framing lumber (with 1” x 1” dimensions).
  • Wood Screws (½”)
  • Metal L brackets
  • 20W drill
  • PVC joints
  • Ski boot tracks
  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Wood glue
  • Wood vice
  • Wood lacquer

Dog Sled using Old Downhill Skis – materials needed

  • A pair of Downhill Skis with Bindings
  • An old Tire
  • A Tube Chair
  • A pair of Crutches
  • Lock-nuts, Machine bolts, screws, washers, chain quick links and eye-bolts
  • A three-inch green treated board (with 1” x 6” dimensions)
  • A 55 gallon (208.2 l) drum of which (116″ x 24″ section will be used)
  • A bungee and some rope
  • 5′ length of Pipe (1.05″)
  • 2 greenhouse Cross Connecters

Making Your DIY Dog Sled

Fully Wooden Sled

There are a few things you must need to learn to make this sled. The most important is learning how to bend wood. This can be done either by using water or steam. To bend the wood you will need to make a bender that will support your wood. These can be built with whatever wood you have lying around. Make sure that you build the bender a little more than the actual bend since the wood piece will straighten out after it dried.

Steaming the Wood

The steam technique is a little more complicated but produces a much better wood piece. You will need some steel barrels. You have to make sure that they are steel or any other heatproof material. One of the barrels will need to be cut in half length-wise. This barrel will be used to light the fire. In another barrel, you have to cut square holes at the top of the barrel. Make sure that these holes are big enough to put your wood pieces through.

Put some firewood on the bottom barrel and light a fire. Place the barrel with holes on top of it. Fill the top barrel with water about halfway. After this is done, slide the wood pieces through the holes and leave them to steam. Make sure to cover any space in the holes with rag clothes to prevent the steam from coming out. The steaming process may take four to five hours.

After the wood has been steamed, attach it to the bent mold and secure it with some bolts. Leave the wood pieces for twenty-four hours to dry.

Using water to Bend Wood

 If you are using the water technique, soak the wood piece in water (preferably hot) for sixty minutes to a few hours. After this is done, you can attach the wood to the bender mold and leave it there to dry for twenty-four or more hours. This method is good if your wood piece is thin enough for the water to be able to soak through. If not, then the steaming method is best.

Cutting the wood

the wood will have to be cut to make the sled.

  • 12 pieces of 1” x 1” framing wood made into 20” wood strips.
  • 3 pieces of 1” x 1” framing wood made into 22” wood strips.
  • 2 pieces of 1” x 1” framing wood made into 36” wood strips.
  • 2 pieces of 2” x 6” boards 72” long
  • 2 pieces of 2” x 6” boards 46” long
  • 2 pieces of 2” x 6” boards 56” long that has been cut at 45° angles on one end.

Putting the wood together

To make the box, lay the two 22” wood strips horizontally and the two 36” wood strips vertically keeping the 20” wood strips two inches apart along the inside of the box. Glue all these pieces together. Secure everything in its place with wood screws.

Install your ski boots along the back boards about twelve to eighteen inches from the very back of the 72” boards. Take your bent board and attach it in such a way that it curves up in front of the sled.

At every tip of the 71-inch board, attach a PVC joint at the height of the bent wood. Attach the cargo bin in such a way that it goes from the rider area frontward to the tip of the sled. At the top of each ski side, attach the two 46” longboards at an angle of 90˚. These should be straight and should touch the cargo bin. At the bottom, attach the PVC joints using screws to the edges of the cargo bin.

Cut the bottom of the 56” boards at an angle of 45 degrees. This board should meet the 46” vertical boards on one side and the ski bottoms on the angled side. The 46” wood board should also be cut at 45 degrees to fit one with the other. Leave the remaining section on top of the boards.

Make a handle with the remaining 1’ x 1’ piece. Attach this to the two boards with a screw. Use the metal L brackets to secure all the areas. Sand down the entire wooden sled. Finish off with the wood lacquer and leave it to dry.

Dog Sled using Old Downhill Skis

The main structure of the sled is the base. It is quite a simple structure made using the skis with a plank between them. Make the shape of the downhill ski boot on the 1” x 6” board and put it in the binding. Then connect the skis using the 20” board by running it across and connecting it at the bindings. Make sure to keep at least 16” between the skis.

Disassemble the tube chair and place it between the skis. Make sure you secure it with lock-nuts and machine boards.

Use the pipe to make handlebars. Attach the pipe to either side of the tube chair vertically. Connect the vertical pipes with another pipe running horizontally. Use the bottom pieces from the crutches to make the grips. Secure these using drilled holes.

Having brakes is very important since this is made using downhill skis. Drill some screws into the tire. This may be difficult since car tires have metal in them. Cut through the sidewalls till you cross the tread then cut across. Secure the base use metal screws on the other side so it will be able to grip the ice.

Use the green-treated lumber to make the footholds. Cut out the shape of feet on the lumber. Attach these to the bottom of the skis with bolts.

Use the barrel to make an undercarriage that will keep the top of the sled from accumulating snow. Flatten the barrel at one end and leave the other curved. Attach it to the base of the using washers and deck screws.

Things to Watch Out for When Making a Dog Sled

There are some things that you must not skip out on while making your sled. Though these are DIY sleds that can be tweaked here and there, some parts are crucial to make it work.

1.    When you are making your sled, make sure that the sled has enough power to stop without banging into your dogs. Wooden rails help to increase the friction when your dogs stop which prevents the sled from rushing into them and hurting them.

2.    Lacquer is very important as it gives your sled a smooth finish. This helps your sled glide against the snow or ice smoother. If you are not using lacquer, you will notice that your sled is not very steady which might be dangerous.

3.    Make sure you measure your wood correctly. If the axis of the sled is wrong, then the balance of the sled is affected. Make sure you test your sled multiple times before going for long journeys.

Should I Make a DIY Dog Sled for my Kids?

You can most definitely make a DIY sled for your children. It can be a good way to teach your children to be creative. However, make sure you have all the necessary tools to make the sled. Also, make sure that the sled is safe enough for your children to ride on it.

The Ultimate Dog Sled

To make the ultimate dog sled, you must remember to take your dog’s proportions into consideration. Your dog’s weight, height, physical abilities, size, the breed will all be a factor for the sled.

If you are unable to figure it out though, you can always spend a few bucks extra and purchase a sled from the market.