By Joel Penkala
Sorry for the lack of photos on this one. It was an older project but worth putting up. My parents were getting rid of an old wardrobe closet from the basement. It was used predominately for my dad’s and my own hunting and fishing gear. Kept the majority of the mud, blood, and burrs out of the areas of our house labeled as Mom’s domain. It was about 8 feet high with a shelf over top of two clothes racks (pipes) where we hung everything. Dad constructed it in the basement about 20 years before when I hit hunting age and the amount of gear to be hung increased. After moving out of my parents house the amount of gear hung there dropped drastically and my fathers interest in gunsmithing required removal of the closet to make room for a surface grinder, lathe, Bridgeport, and tool grinder. Good for me as I inherited the oversize closet. At that time I was living in an old farmhouse circa 1700’s so none of the ceiling heights could accommodate the taller structure. It was made of 1x2s and decently thick luan plywood, with angle brackets to strengthen the corners. I decided it was no use in the house, and that there were enough materials there to be re-purposed into something I needed more than another closet—an ice sled.
I had to knock apart the pieces because, in his normal spirit and vigor, my father had over built the wardrobe with nails and glue in addition to the angle brackets and screws. I used a flat chisel and was careful in this process as not to badly destroy my “would be building materials” for the rest of the project. With a bit of finesse and a bit of muscle most things can be disassembled into their parts without destroying them. You could make the same sled out of one big solid wood dresser, or maybe salvage old head-boards from beds. Things like this are easily found on bulk garbage day on the side of the road. The folks throwing these things out have no use for the solid pine, maple, oak, or even walnut. But to someone with a creative eye they can turn an expensive project into something that only requires a bit of time and ingenuity.
So, to start, I utilized upper the “shelf” area on top as the basis for my ice sled. I saved all the hardware, mostly screws from the corner braces and clothes pipes. They would find work somewhere else in my shop. I began by cutting the shelf portion away from the rest of the wardrobe with a circular saw. This would serve as the sides of the sled, and reduced the overall amount of work to be done significantly. I then cut an angle on what would become the front of the sled. This angle would help the sled ride up over snow and other obstacles on the way to the ice. No specific angle here, just measured it out carefully so both sides would be equal, but ended up roughly 45 degrees or so. I used the sides of the wardrobe to complete the bottom. I cut them apart and used 1x2s to strengthen all of the corners of the box. This skeleton of lumber made the resulting box rather strong.
The next step was to complete the box by making a top. I wanted to be able to sit on the sled, so the top needed to be strong enough to support a person’s weight. I could have framed an additional piece of the old wardrobe luan with stringers of 1×2 to strengthen it, but I had a remnant piece of 3/4” plywood from another project. The 3/4” would be thick enough to support a person without additional bracing. I cut that sheet to fit and added a lip of 1×2 to the front so that the lid closed tightly on the box. I purchased a pair of hinges from a local hardware store for the top. Since it was 3/4” plywood it was also relatively heavy, so I wanted bigger hinges on it than I had lying around in my hardware bins.
I added a few extra touches at this point that I felt would help increase the durability and utility of the sled. I had some sheet metal lying around the shed, and located a piece large enough to cover up the joint between the 45-degree face and the bottom of the sled. I assumed that this joint would suffer the worst of the impacts when being pulled across land on the way to the ice. Catching that joint on a rock could seriously damage the sled and I hoped a modified skid plate would avoid that. I attached the plate on one side of the joint and then simply bent it around the corner leaving some of the radius. I assumed that the radius would further help the sled climb over obstacles or up on snow. At this point I also added a pair of serious handles I picked up when I got the hinges. Like many other potentially heavy things, adding some handles for lifting into and out of the truck would be helpful in the long run.
With the bulk of the work done I turned to the “sled” portion of the ice sled. Any good sled has runners and I had several pair of cross-country skis sitting in the garage. They saw only limited use, and had since been separated form the three-pin boots required for the bindings. One of those pairs was sacrificed to be used as runners on the sled. I cut the foam core skis with a hand saw so as not to melt plastic to my circular saw, and the power saw would have been overkill anyway. I tested several methods of attaching the skis to wood. I used the scraps from the tails of the skis so that I would not ruin the good pieces I wanted to use (measure twice, cut once principal). I ended up settling for some counter sunk holes in the skis and then large washers to spread the load of the screws onto a bigger area of the plastic of the skis. The screws sit below the surface of the ski and seem to grab tightly with the addition of the washers. Two screws for each ski on the bottom and I secured the tips of the skis on the 45 degree forward face with another screw to help keep them in place. I put a pilot hole through the sheet metal for these screws. The skis stick out a bit forward of the skid plate radius but all in all complete the sled rather well.
All the sled needs now is a couple good coats of varnish or exterior paint to keep the wood looking nice. The only addition I have yet to make is a folding backrest that I may add to the top for comfort when out on the ice. A second set of hinges and another piece of that ¾ plywood should do the trick for the back rest.
Total expenditure on this project was about 10$ for the hinges and handles. I love this type of project because it is truly what being a Woodsbum is all about. Taking something that was headed for the scrap yard or burn pile and turning it into something useful is what being a Woodsbum is all about, and more than that —its a better way to live with less impact on the environment. Recycling is for eco-tree huggers and is the last R in reduce, reuse, recycle. The most lasting impact and biggest benefit can be gained by reducing the resources we consume and reusing and re-purposing items. Should SHTF, recycling will disappear with all the other modern amenities; reusing things will be our only option. Better to get used to it now; all it takes is a bit of elbow grease and some creative thinking.