How to Build a Dog Sled

If you're willing to build a dog sled, you can save a ton of cash compared with buying an expensive, manufactured dog sled. This quick guide will explain what you'll need for memorable dog sledding trips.

Choose a Scale
There's a considerable variation in dog sled designs. You need to match your sled to the type of dog sledding you want to do. Some people prefer to sled in races, while others like to take dog sledding trips for fun. Still others use dog sled teams to haul supplies to remote locations. Scale your dog sledding to the way you intend to use it. For short races, a small sled with a small basket is fine. For long races, or for hauling supplies, you'll need a larger sled with a larger basket to carry supplies.

Sled Assembly
There are as many different ways of assembling runners as there are types of sleds and craftsmen who build them. As a general rule, runners are made of wood that is laminated or covered in plastic so it slides easily across the ice and snow. For an improvised, easy-to-build dog sled, you can start with skis as runners.

Stanchions are installed vertically on the runners. These vertical stanchions form the sides of the bed, and run all the way to the back of the sled. Cross-pieces are installed perpendicular to the runners. The cross-pieces brace the sled base and form a platform for the bed. 

Once you've installed the stanchions and cross-pieces, you can install the handle, or drive bow. You may need a form to shape the drive bow; it's typically a long, squared piece of wood in a rectangular shape that attaches to the back of the sled. You may also be able to use a horizontal drive bow on the rear stanchions, depending on how you assemble your sled.

A footboard runs perpendicular to the runners. It sometimes has foot pads installed so the musher can get good traction on the board. The musher stands on the footboard while the sled is running. You ccould install treads on either runner and forgo a foot board entirely, but a footboard gives you more positions to drive the sled, which helps to reduce fatigue.

Finally, you can install a brake board to help stop the sled. Attach a brake board with a hinge to the rear crosspiece. A bungee cord keeps the brake board up when it's not in use, and you can step on the brake board to slow the sled when needed.

Building the Bed
Install slats on the cross-pieces perpendicular to the runners. You can also install angled cross-pieces to serve as slats to form the sled bed or basket. Cover the bed with rawhide, and use nylon rope or copper wire to secure it. Finally, attach a brush bow to the front edge of the sled to help protect it in the event of a collision with brush, trees or rocks.

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