The Snow Sled Rebuild Megapost

A 2019 Project


Rescuing and rebuilding this 1936ish sled was a simple, enjoyable and satisfying project.  These couple years later, this sled has become a permanent fixture on the front porch, and never ceases to elicit joyful thoughts of my halcyon days of my youth.  Memories of sledding the hill at the college on some long since lost to posterity (or the landfill) sled, likely picked up at a rummage sale for 25 cents after mom talked them down from a buck or two.  And the time our church youth group went up to Harris Hill for a sledding party.  I got to go downhill with my early teen crush who, by the way, barely even knew my name, holding onto my shoulders.  Okay - back to the present...Although this project was posted in a mere two posts, I wanted to combine them into one story, so welcome to the latest megapost!

September 16, 2019

One Man's Treasure

Back in 2017 my neighbor was tossing his old sled out to the trash.  Having seen other blogs and the decorating people did with old sleds I thought - heck!  I'll take that thing!  My neighbor just chuckled and said, "One man's treasure...".  Again, that was in 2017.  Here's a picture from when I first grabbed the sled...

And here it is just a couple days ago...

Yep - pretty much the same!  But - in 2017 I did do a (very) little work on it...

I took the momentous step of sanding the rust off the runners! 

And Then It Sat

I'm not sure why, but I quickly lost interest in it.  So much so that a week or two ago it was heading back out to the trash, and for whatever reason I held onto it.  Then a couple days ago I thought maybe I'd dig in a little and give it one last chance.  Before I get started, here's the stamp on the underside.  I'm not sure of the manufacturer, but I think I can make out that it was made in 1936.  Maybe?  If anyone can tell, please let me know!

When I finally got started, I decided I would replace all the wood.  Not a popular move I know, but really, there wasn't much value in keeping the original because it was so worn out.

So I started by carefully taking the sled apart...

It had some pretty beefy rivets in it, making the tear down quite challenging...

I actually had to grind them off... 

I think the most challenging part was fabricating a new handle, which started by tracing the old one...

Cutting it with my trusty ol' saber saw...

Then sanding and shaping at the drill press...

All Taken Apart

At long last it was dismantled.  Always interesting to see something in its separate parts, and to think it was probably the first time in some 73 years.

Then it was a matter of sanding down the steel parts:

Then it was a matter of cutting the rest of the wood pieces.  This is the dry fit without the steel:

Now it's just a matter of painting the steel and reassembling the whole thing.  Hopefully this will be complete in the next couple days!

September 26, 2019

Finishing the Rebuild

These kind of projects are so very little time something old and worn out is transformed into a piece of art!  It's especially pleasing to me because I'm something of a traditionalist and I love old stuff, so saving this sled so I may be able to pass it along the me!

Picking Up Where I Left Off

The other day I posted Part One of the Sled Rebuild and left off with the wood pieces of the sled cut and ready:

After that it was time to do some serious work on the steel runners.  The sled was built circa 1936, and my neighbor said it was sitting in his basement for a few decades, so the steel was in fairly rough shape:

And the steering mechanism was a bit rusty as well...

I started with a wire brush, moved onto the wire wheel on my drill, then sandpaper.  Fortunately, it was a beautiful day outside so I saved the house from all the dust...

Time to Paint

And right there in the carport I spray painted all the parts.  The runners with Krylon Cherry Red and the steering parts in Krylon Satin Black...

S is for sledding down a hill
N is for noses that are cold
O is for owls that are snowy
W is for a white Christmas - Emily Krauss, 2016

 That done, it was time to finish fine-tuning the steering handle...

But, when I went to round over the edges, I forgot to tighten the bit in the router and plowed out a huge ugly chunk of wood...

Don't You Hate it When?...

I was absolutely crestfallen.  I was so proud of the work I had done on that handle, only to ruin it so completely!  The thought of replicating the handle to the same precision was depressing for sure.  Then I thought heck!  Why not take a second look at the original oak handle.  It's funny, I was so upset that I didn't even photograph that part of the process, but you'll see that a little later.

Moving Onto the Frame

In the meantime, I started putting some of the parts together to get a sense of what fine-tuning would be necessary.  I only have a little rivet popgun, so instead of rivets I just used bolts.  Here's the frame:

Using quarter-inch bolts meant I had to re-drill some of the holes on the runner stanchions...

Then it was a matter of a full dry fit.  Oh, there you can glimpse the original oak handle too.

The Finish!

The dry fit was necessary because I still needed to put a finish on the wood.  As is always the case, I stressed over to stain or not to stain, and if staining, what color?  I certainly wasn't going to try to match the color of the oak handle.  Then it occurred to me - why not just put amber shellac on it.  I love the old-school look shellac gives, so I went with it...

Sorry it's such a dark picture, but the color was hard to capture on my cell phone camera.  And before I go on, I wanted to show a little detail I found interesting.  When I did the tear-down, there were these gullies on the ends of the cross braces that I couldn't figure out the purpose.  But when I put the sled together it dawned on me that these gullies were to account for the different thicknesses between the side rails and the deck boards:

It all made sense!  Anyway, after three coats of shellac,

And a couple hours of fine-tuning the assembly, we have a rebuilt old-school sled!

Here's a bit of a closer look at the handle, I really like the look so I guess I made a fortuitous mistake!

 And here's a look in its natural habitat!

And a little wider view for context...

And, just for fun, a final look from the other end of the porch:

Come Christmastime, it'll be a nice spot for a little more Christmas decorating!

2021 Update

And here we are in 2021.  This past summer Joe, the neighbor who discarded the sled, finally had a chance to see it.  He was tickled that it wasn't in the landfill, and started telling stories of when he and his brothers sledded on the golf course with this very sled.  I think we both stood there for a moment, both 8 years old and, the crisp air and snow blowing in our faces as our sleds picked up speed.  At least that's what I was thinking about.  Probably would have been weird to ask him though!

Have a Merry Christmas!
Next Post Previous Post