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Tails on the Trail: Building a Dog Sled

As you might imagine a dog sled is rather important in dog sledding. Unfortunately they are expensive to buy new and hard to find used as most mushers do not sell or get rid of their sleds unless they absolutely have to. I decided to split the difference and order new runners and then build my sled.

I ordered the runners early in 2021 and they took months! to get them up here from the lower 48. This was no fault of the manufacturer but issues with shipping and logistics.

I spent most of that time designing and gathering the other needed parts. Then naturally once they got here I did not have the time to build it but once the holidays rolled around I was able to dive into the build.

Preparations

Sleds are fairly simple there is just not a lot of info about them out there. Modern sleds have aluminum runners that have replaceable plastics  on the bottom. Then there are up right pieces called stanchions that form the bed/basket sides as well as creating a place for the handle bars to attach to. The bottom consists of a wide and long piece of plastic laying in between the stanchions and is supported by cross bars to give it more support.

The front of the sled has bent bar in the front called the brush bow and a bridle which is a piece of rope that is attached to the sled which is where the main line connects

I collected what ever pictures I could find as well as looking at Mrs. MSK9’s sleds to figure out how each part was constructed and to get some ideas for how to change the parts I didn’t like. I wanted the biggest bed I could squeeze for hauling gear on longer trips but needed to leave enough room to attach a seat  for me. Her sleds were bought used and were used for by taller individuals.

After using her sleds I figured out that I didn’t like the angle of her stanchions, which sets the angle of the handle bars or the height of her handle bars. Figuring out the stanchions and handle bars  would have to wait until the runners got here because I would have to be able to stand on the runners to figure that out.

I measured the bed on her sled and found I would need to shorten it by a couple of inches to allow for a rear seat.(Our runners are the same length) The change was  small enough that our extra sled bag would still fit though. As I got started building some final parts that I needed become hard to find due to the supply chain issues so I had to resort to cannibalizing one of our old broken sleds.

The Building Begins

Finally December rolled around and as things winded down for the holidays I was able to get started on the actual construction which ended up taking into the new year. I used the kitchen counter and back splash to keep the runners square to each other while I started attaching pieces until I got it to a point that the frame would hold its self together. I started from the front attaching the brush bow that I bought which would set the width of the sled and attached a cross bar across the front for support and to attach the front of the sled bag.

After that was done I measured from the back of the runners forward to find the minimum space for the rear seat and started attaching stanchion brackets from that point forward. Once they were in their spots I added thread lock and tightened down the mounting bolts.

Stanchions

I Built the  stanchions using hockey sticks as they are light weight and very strong. I left the one the handle bars would be attached to at full length for now and held them at the angle i wanted while Mrs. MSK9 measured the length for the second stanchions which would support the first set. After they were all measured I cut the support stanchions and attached them to the brackets. Now they just needed to be attached together.

I took the old drag pad off the broken sled in order to get at a small sheet of plastic out of of it to make flat brackets. These would hold the two stanchions together on each side. This would give them support once finished as well as hold them together at the proper angle and location so that I could measure the handle bars. I then Added aluminum angle iron across the stanchions to give some extra support to the bed and make the sides a bit more rigid.

Handle Bars

The next step was bending and mounting the handle bars. The handle bars are plastic and come in straight lengths that need to be formed. To do this I started by drilling holes in one side for mounting to the stanchions. I then put two bricks on our wood stove to set the bar on and heat it up to make it soft enough to bend without breaking or weakening the material.

Once it was hot enough I mounted it to one side and bent it down to the other side and clamped it down where it would be mounted and allowed it to cool and harden in place. Once done I drilled the mounting holes on the new side and mounted it properly and removed the clamps.

The Bed

Next I attached a large sheet of plastic from the old sled for the bed. The sheet is attached to the brush bow in the front and the aluminum angle iron on the sides. This forms the bottom of the bed/basket as well as being where the drag pad will attach in the back.

I placed a piece of wood across the back of the plastic and attached it to the angle iron on each side. This was done to make the drag pad mounting as strong as possible. I also added some cross bars under the sled for added strength. The drag pad was then attached as well as the brake bar to the back of the aluminum angle iron. This marked the beginning of the end in the construction of the sled, verything that was left was finishing touches.

Wrapping Up

I used some climbing rope for the bridle and some 8mm cord for the back up. The two bridles are attached to two different locations on the sled so that if one bridle or where it is attached fails the other one should catch it and not detach the dogs from the sled. I wrapped the the handle bars in goon tape and added some D-rings to the stanchions by the handle bars for hanging extra neck lines and tug lines.

I cut some lengths of climbing rope for the snow hooks and a third longer piece for a quick release that we attach to a pole or tree as a back up when were getting the dogs hooked up.

I was not able to get the seat built for this season but plan on getting that built over the summer and ready for next season.

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