This page contains plans and photographic details of my kicksled construction project. The purpose of this design is to get yourself out on the ice within a day or so of deciding to build the sled. The construction is straight-forward, and strong enough to carry an adult, several kids, or a load across the ice. The sled folds flat for storage, or tieing to a roof-rack. Finished weight is about fourteen pounds or six kilograms.
You will need access to a saw, sander, drill, and the usual bits and pieces of shop tools. A small amount of welding is required on the runners.
This sled is quite strong and flexible. The tails of the runners bend sideways, to allow one to steer the sled by curving the runner on which you have loaded most (or all) your weight. You can also flare both runners to slow down. A pair of cleated boots (fancy removable ice walkers or just fire screws into an old pair of junk boots) will make you go as fast as recreational skaters and provide gobs of brake when you need it.
We've loaded this kicksled with a generator and towed it behind a snowmobile, however the sled will bury itself into deeper snowdrifts on the ice and strain the frame. Likewise, repeatedly running a sled into a snowbank while the passenger screams "Faster! Faster!" will eventually do the same :-) The most common failure when overloading this design is bending the runner's curve forward and down. If this happens to you, just chuck the runner in a vice and bend it true to its mate, or whack it over a rock until its close enough.
The overall dimensions of the sled are 76 inches long, 34 inches high,
14 inches between the runners, and 28 inch wide handle. Remember, the
whole point of building one of these things is to make it fit
you. These particular dimensions should work for most folks between 5
1/2 to 6 feet but the design is adjustable. Play with it as you
go. You have one point along the way when the sled can be bolted up
without cutting more than three pieces of cheap water pipe to check
the dimensions for comfort.
I made my runners from 3/16 inch thick, 3/4 inch wide cold rolled steel. Use better steel if you want to pay for it :-) If you like more clearance or stiffness go to 7/8 or even 1 x 1/4 inch stock. I was going for minimum weight and just necessary strength. My boot cleats generally stay clear the ice with 3/4 inch high runner, but only just.
Cut two pieces of runner stock 79 inches long. This length is good for people up to about six feet tall. If you are taller, you will want slightly longer runners to prevent catching your toe on the end as you pull your leg forward from a kick.
Look carefully at your pieces of steel. There is often a subtle angle
to the narrow edges from when the steel was squished between
rollers. Orient your pieces so that what will become the outside edges
of the runner are lowest. This will lessen the chance of the sled
sliding out from under you if you go up on one runner when cornering.
The upward curve for the front of both runners is best shaped while the steel is red hot. Clamp the end of the runner in a vice, and heat a couple of inches of steel to be curved with a propane or acetylene torch. Bend the runner down while it is still clamped. Just do little segments at a time and the overall effect is a smooth curve. I used an 8 1/2 inch radius to the outside of the curve on my runners. Frequently compare the shape of the runner to one drawn on a scrap of wood or with chalk on the floor. Wood patterns burn slower than paper plans ;-) Once you have one runner formed, match the second runner to the first.
Drill a 1/4 inch hole through the tip of the runner. Weld the tabs centered 24 inches back from this hole. Grind weldment flush and round off corners. These tabs allow you to bolt the seat stile to the runner a bit above the level of ice and snow. Drill another 1/4 inch hole through the center of the tabs, 1 3/4 inches up from the runner bottom.
Remove any kinks or bends in the straight portion of the runners. The runners do not need to be dead flat, a slight upward curve (rocker) is ok running out to the tails. Any hogging (upside-down U shape) is bad, over compensate back towards rocker.
Draw-file the bottom of the runners to smooth off mill scale. File curves on the ends of the runners to reduce the potential for injury. Commercial sleds have foot rests welded on the runners, I balance fine and didn't want the extra weight. Paint runners a bright colour if you hate the "I don't care if its rusty" look.
If you can find a nice plastic extrusion to clip onto the bottom of the runners, performance on modestly hard packed snow will be improved. The steel runners as shown work best on ice and icy hard packed snow.
Saw the seat rails out of plywood. On mine, each rail is laminated from two pieces of 1/2 thick, 7 ply plywood. I cut four identical pieces from a 10 x 30 inch rectangle of plywood. Each rail is 1 1/2 inches deep. After the glue has dried, two 1/4 inch diameter holes are drilled as marked and the pieces sanded off nicely.
The two seat stiles (the vertical supports) are cut from 5/8 x 1 3/4 x 35 inch hardwood. A notch is cut at the top of each to receive the height of your chosen handle plus 3/4 of an inch. Four 1/4 inch holes are drilled as marked.
The cylindrical rails that form the seat back and foot rail are made from 1/4 inch threaded rod and 1/2 inch diameter PVC water pipe. The rod passes through 1/4 inch holes, and the pipe is compressed between rails to form a flexible, strong, and light frame. PVC pipe is also easy on your passenger's skate blades.
Two pipes are cut 12 1/4 inches, and one 14 inches in length. Two pieces of 1/4 inch diameter threaded rod are cut approximately 16 inches and one near 15 inches long. You will have to cut the rods to fit your specific case, your seat rails may be wider, your runner spacing may be different. All this variation gets accommodated with pipe and rods now so that when you come to fit the handle, it just works out fine.
The 12 1/4 inch pipes cover the rods that bind the seat rails
together. The 14 inch pipe covers the rod half-way up the stiles and
provide a bit of a back rest for the chair. These plastic pipes will be
slightly bowed under compression when the nuts are tightened. No
Once the frame's pipe-work is temporarily assembled, clamp the first seat slat in place. These are bits of hardwood off an old pallet, but ripped up hockey stick handle or an ugly chunk of 1/2 inch plywood will do fine.
Seat slats are hardwood. The illustrated seat is made of seven slats,
two are 3/8 x 1 1/2 x 16 inches, five are 3/8 x 3/4 x 16 inches.
Drill a 1/8 inch diameter pilot hole for the seat slat screws: 1 inch,
#8 plated roundhead. Apply water-resistant PVA glue to the joint and
fix in place with screws.
Repeat until you've finished applying all the seat slats. I've chosen
an aesthetic design with a wide board for the front and back of the
seat, and thinner slats for the middle.
When done, the seat rails and back stile will join as shown here. Thin, 1 1/4 inch diameter washers provide support for the wing-nuts and split-ring washers in my temporary assembly. These large washers are used on the finished sled to back all nuts.
For all nuts except the stile-runner joint use stainless steel Nylocs. Nylocs are those nifty nuts with nylon inserts that prevent them spontaneously unwinding.
The stile-runner joint at the tabs is a good place for a wing-nut and
split-ring washer so you can knock the sled down for transport. Place
the nut facing inside. Have a spare in your pocket if you tend to
loose things working in the cold and dark :-)
Choose a nice piece of polished wood for the handle. Yes this is
an old axe handle my dad gave me. I also like shovel handles as they
are a nice diameter for a gloved hand to hang onto. Leave the D handle
on if your kids want a place to grab a tow :-)
I wanted a cordless drill for Christmas, so my dad gave me this! It's
beauty for countersinking and de-burring holes so lashing won't chafe.
Notch the handle to mate with the seat back stile tenons. The fit
should be snug, but does not need to be cabinet-maker tight. The
binding will pull it all together.
Lash the handle onto the rail with pre-waxed artificial sinew, braided cord, or whatever you have in the kitchen junk drawer waxed with beeswax. Lash it down very tight.
My rules for lashing are simple. Always pull the two pieces
together with every wrap; no winding around aimlessly until you are
finishing off. Never, never run twine into the crack between pieces,
always cross cracks at an angle. This way the bindings will not chafe
Here is a view of the rear of the
handle lashing to see the rest of the binding pattern.
When the sled is folded for carrying, you will want a bit of twine to
tie the runner's tails to the stiles by the handle to make a nice
package. Otherwise, the runners tend to swing out and hit
things. You'll meet enough people through the sled without this little
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