How to Build a Dogsled

How to Build a Dogsled
Put on your mukluks and balaclava and get ready to mush. Hitch your dog team to your own homemade dogsled. The process of making a dogsled takes several days and often requires an assistant to help steam the runners and bend them. The runners are the most important part of the dogsled and are the platform the rest of the sled is built around. Once finished, enjoy the sound of the dog team's paws hitting the snowy ground as you glide over the frozen landscape.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Things You’ll Need:
  • 2-by-1-inch timbers, 8 feet long, 2
  • 1-by-1-inch timbers, 8 feet long, 2
  • 3/8-by-2-inch slats, 8 feet long, 7
  • 2 1/2-by-6-foot plywood section
  • 1/4-by-3/4-inch wood strips, 6 feet long, 4
  • Leather strapping, 8 to 10 feet
  • Brake
  • 2-by-2 piece of old tire
  • 4-inch pieces of chain, 2
  • Two steel carabiners
  • Barrel steamer
  • C clamps
  • Power sander
  • Power screwdriver
  • Power saw
  • Measuring tape
  • Screws
  • Varnish
  • Discarded blankets
  • Old hides
  • Utility knife
Step 1
Start the fire in your steamer barrel and heat the water for the steam. Place the two 2-by-1-by-8 timbers into the steamer and keep them in there for about 20 minutes. Test the timbers for bending by pushing down as they steam. They are ready to bend when you do not hear any cracking on bending.
Step 2
Position the steamed timbers onto the round side of the barrel and with the assistant, push down on one end of the timber, creating a flared end on one side of the timbers. Bend the wood along the first 1/8 length of the boards. Try to get a 12- to 18-inch rise off the front of the timbers. Keep both timbers equal in the bends. Once the angle you wish is gained, hold them in position as they cool and dry. Once bent, let them set in a cool workshop for a week.
Step 3
Place the 1/4-by-3/4-by-6 timbers into the steamer until they can be bent. Take them out and push them equally across the bend in the barrel and, with your assistant, bend them so they become an elongated semicircle. Place them in the workshop to dry and set for one week.
Step 4
Put the large runner timbers, with the flared tips, into C clamps and sand down the underside of the timbers to a fine finish. This is the concave side of the flare. Make them as smooth as possible as these will become the sled's runners. Sand down the semicircle timbers on one side, the convex. These will become the sled's handle and handhold bar.
Step 5
Set the plywood section onto a work bench and place the runners on it so they are spaced against the end of the long sides of the rectangle, and with the flares pointed up over the end of the plywood. Screw these down into the plywood, setting the runners firmly under the start of the sled box. Turn this over so the plywood is resting on the runners.
Step 6
Measure the back of the sled, on the nonflared side of the runners, 2 feet toward the front of the sled. Mark this. Place the semicircle bent timbers along this marked section so the semicircle is perpendicular to the length of the sled. Screw these onto the plywood sled so there is a handhold off the back of the sled.
Step 1
Position the 1-by-1-by-8 timbers in front of the handle on the edge of the sled, one on each side. Cut down the front of the timbers so they are flush with the front of the sled and abutting the handlebar at a right angle. Drill these into position.
Step 2
Place the thin slat timbers across the plywood sled basket area--this is the part of the sled in front of the handle. Place them so they are equally spaced and running parallel to the sled. Screw them into the plywood.
Step 3
Wrap the leather stripping around the handlebar so it is running all the way down each end of the handle and at the top. Varnish the leather onto the handlebar and let dry. Varnish the entire sled. Let dry.
Step 4
Trim the front of the sled with a power saw so it has a round nose. Fill the basket with old blankets or hides. Between the runners behind the handlebar and on the plywood, drill tow holes 1 inch in from the end of the sled. Keep them 12 inches apart. Attach one section of chain through each hole. Drill two holes into the rubber tire piece at the same distance apart as the chains on the sled. Thread the ends of the chain to the holes via the carabiners. This is the foot break for the sled. Stand on the rubber with both feet off to slow and stop the sled.
Step 5
Decorate the sled however you wish.

Article Written By Eric Cedric

A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.

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