back from the prow. From this point, use a chalk
line to mark the taper along the length of the
planks, from about 13 inches total width at the
shoulder to 11 inches at the tail end. Cut away
the portions outside of the chalk line and plane
the edges. You may also plane a taper into the
prow of the toboggan, starting about 36 inches
from the prow and planing 3/4 of an inch off of
Next comes the most difficult and mysterious
step in toboggan building. You’ll need to use
boiling water or steam to help bend the first 24
inches of the toboggan into a sweeping curve.
Start by screwing a temporary crossbar of scrap
wood on the bottom side of the front end of both
planks, fastening them together. Then screw on
a second crossbar 25 inches from the end. Be
sure to make the crossbars long enough that they
overlap the toboggan on both sides by a couple of
You’ll need to rig up a steamer 3. Anything
from a proper steam box to a steel drum full of
boiling water will work, so long as the wood can
be exposed to boiling water or hot steam for half
an hour. You’ll also need a bending jig of some
sort. A log, a round fence post, or even a crotch
in a standing tree will do 4. After boiling or
steaming the first 24 inches of the toboggan for
half an hour, quickly get to your bending jig and
bend the area into a shapely curve 5. It’s a good
idea to have a helper for this part, as you’ll need
someone to run a heavy cord or piece of stout
wire around the overlapping ends of the crossbars
once the curve has been created. This holds the
curl in place while the bend sets.
It’s best to leave the toboggan untouched for
a few days while the curl you’ve created sets.
During this time, you can get to work creating a
set of eight crossbars, 7/8 of an inch by 3/4 of
an inch, from the same wood you used for the
planks. Create a notch 3/4 of an inch from both
ends of each crossbar; the notch needs to be
large enough for a piece of strong cord to fit. Then
fasten each of these crossbars to both toboggan
planks at 24-inch intervals using screws or copper
rivets 6. The result should be a crossbar at each
end, five in between, and one extra. The extra gets
fastened to the shoulder area of the toboggan.
This is where you’ll attach your hauling line.
Put a knot in the end of a nylon cord and run
it through one of the notches in the crossbar at
the prow of the toboggan. Run this cord through
each crossbar notch all the way down the length
of the toboggan, and when you get to the end,
pull tight and put another knot in that end. Repeat
this maneuver on the other side. A good tip is to
make the hauling line out of a 12-foot cord with
a strap of heavy leather or canvas in the middle.
This is what your shoulder will bear as you pull
Finally, treat the bottom of your toboggan as
you would a wooden ski, with pine tar and paraffin
wax. The top will benefit from a generous helping
of boiled linseed oil or marine varnish.
If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve made a toboggan
to be proud of, and the winter world is surely calling
to you as snow falls in the forest. Put on your
snowshoes, harness your toboggan, and enjoy
the quiet magic of the winter trail.