This multipurpose sled is a fun way to exercise high-energy dogs in the winter, have a friend tote you around behind a snowmobile (proper safety gear encouraged... ), or just have the coolest sled at the slope. All you need is a pair of ski's, some supplies, and some ingenuity.
Problem: I recently adopted a second Husky, and our budget is tight. The dogs are confined to our small apartment and we do not have 24/7 access to a fenced in area. I need fun a way for them (and me) to get out and burn off some extra energy during the winter months. I need to be able to control the dogs, and make sure that everything is as safe as can be.
Solution: A dog sled that can be built at about 1/4 the cost of an average traditional new one; quickly assembled & disassembled; takes up little storage space; can still use the skis for skiing; performs well in deep snow; and can conform to the contours of uneven terrain yet maintain rigidity, stability, and control for the rider's safety. Inspiration & credit for this project goes to fellow Instructablers: Henge & Toxictom, for their designs. I simply expanded upon their ideas.
This project took me about two weeks of trial and error to complete. I spent about $85 total in materials. Most of which I got at Home Depot. When I was looking to purchase a new traditional dog sled, the average price I was finding was around the $300-$350 mark (shipping included). This is a great option for beginners who are looking to get into dog sledding, without breaking the bank.
Step 1: Cut two blocks of wood into ski inserts.
I cut these inserts from a 100 year old salvaged 2x4 beam from a nearby farmer's barn. Modern 2x4s have actual dimensions of 1.5"x3.5," unlike the vintage ones, which are a true 2 inches by 4 inches. I understand that not everybody has access to a vintage 2x4, so this may be achievable be screwing and gluing two modern 2x6s together from both sides, until they are essentially one solid 4x6 (true dimensions would be 3"x5.5"). To determine the length and dimension of the inserts, I just placed my size 10 ski boots on the 2x4, and traced around them with a pencil. I tried to mimic the boots as best I could, for the most snug fit. I used a circular saw and hand saw to cut them, but perhaps it would have been a bit easier, safer, and more precise to cut them with a vertical band saw or table saw. I plan on either coating them with wood stain or letting them absorb used motor oil (like railroad ties or telephone poles) to repel water so they don't rot over time from the snow.
Step 2: Cut & bolt the platform.
I cut my platform from a recycled piece of 2x10. I felt that 18 inches from the center of each ski was a comfortable distance for the skis to be spaced apart. Your ski-spacing will also determine the width that the handlebars & tow bar will need to be. I strongly recommend using a table saw with a guide to cut the platform notches. The platform is bolted with two 5/16"x3-1/2" Hex Head Lag Screw Bolts on each insert. I pre-drilled the holes for the bolts, and then put a few drops of oil on each bolt, so they went in easier and wouldn't snap when ratcheting them down. If I recall correctly, I pre-drilled the platform with a 5/16" drill bit and the inserts were pre-drilled with a 1/4" drill bit, so that it all gets sandwiched together. If you wanted, you could even cut the front-facing edge of the platform at a 45 degree angle, as to reduce drag by encouraging snow and brush to pass underneath the sled easier..
Step 3: Attach material that your feet can grip to.
After the platform was bolted on, I cut a section of fabric/rubber floor mat rug and screwed it on. However, after testing it later on, I noticed that it took days for the rug to try out after the snow soaked it through, so perhaps I might improve this later on with some type of over-kill industrial velcro system to attach the door mat rug, so I can remove it to dry.
Step 4: Cut an old tire section for a brake.
Following Henge's design, I had the opportunity to recycle an old truck tire for this project. Granted, modern tires contain a lot of steel mesh, and it was quite a challenge for me to cut. I didn't have access to a sawzall like Henge, so I had to cut the tire with an electric cut-off machine. It smelled horrible and the fumes were noxious. I could only cut a bit at a time without waiting for the smoke to clear the shop. A sawzall is probably much easier and better for your health. I used 1" drywall screws to attach it to the platform, and at the other end to bit into the ice. However, be warned that the screws somehow scraped up the tips of my boots when riding. I didn't notice the scrapes until after, but later I intend to swap out the screws for snowmobile studs.
Also, I pre-drilled and attached a 1" eye screw on the back left and right side of the inserts.
Step 5: Attach the sockets for the handlebars.
Attach heavy duty metal closet pole sockets. I used shorter 1/2" flat head phillips screws for the sockets near the front of the skis, and I just used the screws that came with the pole sockets for the sockets located in front of the ski bindings. I pre-drilled the screw holes with a small 1/16" drill bit. It's okay if the screws poke through a bit, just file them down smooth. I drilled 5/16" holes in the pole sockets to fit the 1/4" wire lock pins.
Step 6: Bend the handlebars.
For the handlebars, I chose a 10' length 3/4" electrical conduit. Conduit is significantly more rigid than pvc (lesson learned), yet is still lightweight. A 3/4" conduit bending tool should be used, but I only had a 1" bending tool, which I mounted in a bench vice, because the tool no longer had a handle. To achieve an 18" spread, I found and marked the center of my length of 3/4" conduit, by measuring 5' in from both ends. I came out and marked 2-1/4" from the left and right of the center mark, which I used to align the conduit with the starting position of the bending tool. The bends are both 90 degrees.
Step 7: Cut & drill the handlebar poles to a comfortable height.
I'm 5' 10" tall, so for me, a handlebar hight of about 40" felt comfortable. I used another piece of pipe to align the ruler, which ensured that I had an even 40" on each side. Once cut to your desired height, go ahead and drill 5/16" holes to fit the 1/4" wire lock pins. Then with a hack saw and file, cut off the corner-tips of the pole ends, and file them smooth. This is to allows the handlebars to pivot as the skis flex over uneven terrain. It also helps prevent the handlebars from busting the pole sockets, because at the moment, the handlebars are only functioning as an oversize pry-bar on the sockets.
Step 8: Make the x brace and attach it to the handlebars.
By adding cross bracing, you not only keep things rigid, but they also distribute stress to the pole sockets more evenly. The order that the x brace is drilled and bolted is critical, else the handlebar poles will not align with the sockets, and the holes you dill will not align properly. By drilling and bolting in this order, you also have a chance to compensate about 1" margin of error, if you overshot or undershot the spacing between your handlebar poles when bending. I chose a 10' length of 1/2" electrical conduit. I used washers and locking nuts on all bolts. I used a hammer and nail to tap dimples in my marks, so that the drill bit could catch and stay in one place. With a cordless drill, I started with a small bit, then graduated up to a larger 5/16" bit.
First: Flatten the ends on one pole in the x brace (which will eventually be bolted back-front).
Second: Drill and bolt the center of the x brace with a 2" hex head bolt. I left about a 3/16" gap in the center bolt to allow for a bit of z-axis flexibility in the conduit. (Actually the locking nut wouldn't go any farther because the bolt threads ended, but it worked to my advantage.)
Third: Drill and bolt the bottom poles of the x brace. I used 1-1/2" hex head bolts on the flat poles and 2" hex head bolts on the not flattened ends.
Fourth: You will find that you can use the un-drilled top-ends of the x brace to pull the bottom of your handlebar polls closer together or spread them farther apart, depending on how much compensation you need to center the polls with the sockets. When you find that sweet spot, mark it, drill it, and bolt it.
Fifth: cut of the excess overhang and file it smooth, as not to cut yourself.
Step 9: Attach eye bolts on handlebars.
When you are finished with the cross braces, drill and bolt on an eye bolt in the center of the left and right side, facing out.
Step 10: Make the tow bar.
My ski spread is 18", which means my tow bar is going to be 20" wide. I used a length of left-over 1/2" conduit for this. Drill and bolt three eye bolts; One in the center, and the ones on the end should be aligned with the center of your skis. The center eye bolt should be rotated horizontal, and the ones on the end should be rotated vertical to the tow bar. I don't have a proper dog sled shock absorber, so I improvised with a bungee cord and some rope. However, this does tangle easily, and I Intend to replace it with a proper shock absorber and maybe even some sort of safety strap recoil system to replace the first 6' of my tow line (like a seatbelt from an old car).
Step 11: Wax the skis.
I used Allen bowstring wax, because that's just what I had around and it worked perfect for me. I used a heat gun and the flat edge of a credit card as a wax spreading tool. That's Kiba there, he wanted to hang out with me while I was waxing the skis.
nochols6 has a great instructable on how to wax your alpine skis.
Step 12: Cut the chain & connect it with quick links.
I purchased 20' of 255lb zinc double loop chain. I had a few feet left over. The handlebars are connect with the chain using a classic suspension bridge configuration. I used 3/16"x2" quick links to attach the chain as shown. Try to count and align the links evenly symmetrical on both sides, so that there is very little to no slack in the chain. I purchased a 12 pack of quick links on amazon for about $10. When connecting the tow bar; having it up and out of the snow helps reduce drag, but you don't want it too high that the tension is pulling from handlebars. You want at least 75% of the tension pulling from the lower chain that goes directly from the tow bar to eye loops on the rear left and right sides of the inserts. My tow bar is about the same distance off the ground as my platform. By connecting the rigid tow bar to the chain like this, It helps to evenly distribute stress and tension across both skis.
Step 13: Test it out and have fun!
With the skis waxed up, and even with normal harnesses, it really takes very little effort for the dog to pull me with the skis waxed up. It rides like a dream! I couldn't be more pleased. You'll notice that we are riding straight through un-packed snow in open fields (Who needs roads right?). You can tell how deep it is by Kiba's face (buried in the snow). I ordered proper custom fit x-back harnesses for the dogs. They should be in the mail soon, for the dog's comfort and added pulling power.
Step 14: Store it away until next time!
That's it! Look at how little space it takes up!
As mentioned, I still have a few ideas for improvements. I'd be happy to try and answer any questions, and I am always open to suggestions for future improvements.