How to Build a Toboggan

How to Build a Toboggan
The traditional wooden toboggan built from hard wood performs well and looks great. It weighs little and when a straight-grained, clear wood is used, it withstands tough abuse. Designed for a homebuilder, making one or two sleds, construction is simple with minimal parts and easy to build bending forms. In about a week's worth of evenings and limited expense, a toboggan can be built that will perform and look like a store-bought sled costing hundreds of dollars.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • 4 pieces 1/4-inch-by-4-inch-by-10-foot hard wood
  • 7 pieces 1-inch-by-1-inch-by-16-inch hard wood
  • 2 pieces 1/2-inch-by-1-inch-by16-inch hard wood
  • 2 pieces 1-inch-by-6-inch-6-foot construction grade lumber
  • 1 cylindrical block, 12 inches diameter by 18 inches long
  • 6 pieces 1-inch-by-2-inch-by-18-inch construction grade lumber
  • Sandpaper
  • Nails
  • Brass screws
  • Eye bolts
  • Rope
  • Varnish
Step 1
Cut, plane, and sand smooth four pieces of 1/4-inch-by-4-inch hard wood. Making these boards 10 feet long results in a 7 1/2-foot toboggan. If you want a longer sled, adjust the length of the four boards. When selecting the wood, choose a hard wood like birch, ash, or hickory that is free of knots and has straight grain. You will bend the boards to make the curve at the front of the sled; so air-dried wood is preferred, because it bends easier. If you must use kiln-dried wood, soak the boards overnight before bending.
Step 2
Cut seven pieces 1-inch-by-1-inch-by-16-inch hard wood and two pieces 1/2-inch-by-16-inch hard wood. Sand the boards and round their top two edges. The seven 1-inch-by-1-inch boards become the sled's cross cleats. Bore a hole centered an inch from each end to accept the sleds rope. The 1/2-inch boards sandwich the very end of the bent portion of the sled. This strengthens the end and creates a good surface to link the bent portion to the first cleat.
Step 3
Build the bending form out of a 12-inch diameter cylindrical block --- try a log stripped of bark. Nail two 1-inch-by-6-inch boards 6 feet long to the sides of the block. The 6-foot boards should be parallel to each other. These boards prevent the form from slipping while bending. Cut six 1-inch-by-2-inch boards 18 inches long, which you'll use to fasten the bent hard wood to the form while it dries. Nail one 18-inch board to the round bending form even with the ground. Make a spacer that holds this board a little over 1/4 inch proud of the form's surface. You will slide the sled's planks into this gap for bending.
Step 4
Clamp or nail the four 10-foot boards together at one end. Leave a gap of a 1/4 inch between the boards. Steam or boil the other end until it is flexible enough to bend around the form. Steaming for an hour is usually enough.
Step 5
Slide the steamed end into the form under the attached 18-inch board. Slowly bend the board around the form until the very end touches the floor. Nail another 18-inch board to the form, so it holds the 10-foot boards in place. Flip the bending form over and continuing bending the 10-foot boards until they touch the ground again. Attach the two additional 18-inch boards at even spacing.
Step 6
Allow the wood to dry. Screw the 1/2-inch-by-1-inch boards to the end of the bent boards. Directly under the bend screw a 1-inch-by-1-inch crossbar. Using eyebolts chain, wire, or rope the tip of the bend to the 1-inch-by-1-inch crossbar. This holds the bend of the bow. Attach the remaining 1-inch-by-1-inch crossbar evenly along the sled. The furthest aft crossbar should be no closer than 3 inches from the end of the sled.
Step 7
Sand any rough edges smooth and sand the rest of the wood to 120 or 220 grit. Varnish or oil with three to six coats. Run a rope from the aft 1-inch-by-1-inch crossbar to the sled's front. This serves as a grab handle.

Tips & Warnings

Power tools can cause injury; follow the tool's instructions.

Article Written By Bryan Hansel

Bryan Hansel is a freelance photographer and kayaking guide who began writing in 1993. His outdoors articles appear on various websites. Hansel holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and religion from the University of Iowa.

Keep Me Informed

Weekly newsletters, announcements and offers from to your inbox.

Sign me up!

We HATE spam and promise to keep your email addresses safe and secure.