Late February/Early March, 2016
For Part One, Click Here
The second half of our toboggan build did not go as smoothly as the first. Andrew and I both encountered problems with our individual portions of the project, and the final assembly took much longer than expected. There are still some kinks we are working out with our rigging system, but I’m pleased to report we are now the proud owners of our very own handmade freight toboggans for winter backcountry travel!
Once the wooden crosspieces had been treated, I set to sewing 1″ nylon webbing into 5″ lengths with loops and O rings to lash our gear to the toboggans with. I ran into problems right away. I was using my grandmother’s sewing machine for the first time in about ten years, and the feed dogs (the bit that pushes the fabric away from you as you sew) had seized and no amount of dusting and lubricating would set them free. Naturally, I didn’t realize this until after I had gone through two bobbins of thread, replaced the needle, watched several YouTube videos, and thrown my machine on the shop floor in a fit of rage. This did not have either of the two desired outcomes: A working machine or an earth-shattering explosion. The stupid thing just bent in a silly way. Very unsatisfying. I’m also reasonably sure that Andrew has never been so
terrified of impressed by my temper in our nine and a half years of domestic partnership as he was when I went all Incredible Hulk on my poor deceased Grammy’s Kenmore. Sorry, Grammy.
After Andrew drove the seething ball of fury (me) to Walmart to purchase a new machine and some heavy-duty needles, he was free to focus on his task of countersinking the holes in both the toboggan plastic and the wooden crosspieces. He ended up cracking one of the mahogany pieces while drilling (good thing we made spares) as I struggled to understand how to thread the bobbin string on my new sewing machine. I felt like a total moron. I’ve taken sewing classes, I’ve even made a few basic projects – a beach bag, a poncho, pyjama bottoms – but working with heavy materials like the nylon webbing was way out of my comfort zone. Sewing those straps was one of the most frustrating things I have ever done.
Many late nights and rage-tears later, I managed to finish sewing the webbing, harness belt, and leash/rear hand brake at home while Andrew toiled away at the workshop attaching the pulling bars and crosspieces to the sleds. When this was finally complete, he brought the toboggans home, we got out our many coils of rope, and threaded them down the lengths of the toboggans by feeding them through the webbing loops I had sewn and through the half-moon holes on the undersides of the crosspieces that Andrew had painstakingly drilled and routered. The running lines, nylon webbing, and shock cord were all purchased from Fogh Marine, and the staff was very knowledgable and helpful about their different products, even though they hadn’t heard of using them in this sort of application. The curl was applied to the toboggans by setting them with rope close to our home radiators and by tightening the running lines.
Toboggans complete, we set out to test them on a day hike on the Bruce Trail. We brought along our tent, trail stove, a large duffel, and a milk crate to approximate the gear we would be bringing on a real trip.
They worked a treat! I’m glad we splurged on the Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene. Our sleds slid over snow, ice, rocks, trees, and even mud without any major problems. Our tie-down method could have been more secure (Andrew lost the tent while running down a hill with the toboggan threatening to overtake him), but for trips this has been remedied by wrapping the loads in tarps before tightly securing the shock cord over our gear. We may still switch to a cinched webbing strap system as opposed to the shock cord, but for now, we’re very happy with our creations. We just recently took them out on a real overnight trip to the backcountry and were able to pull a huge amount of gear and food (and beer) with minimal effort, even in slushy spring snow conditions. I never doubted Andrew’s ability to make something beautiful and functional, but I was worried that my lack of sewing skills would derail the project entirely. I’m happy to report that my new sewing machine and I now have a good working relationship, even if I wouldn’t call us friends just yet.
We’re thinking of names for the ‘boggans now. White Lightning, Magic Carpet, and Slush Bullet are all contenders. Let us know some more ideas for names in the comments section below!
Trip report of our weekend backcountry adventure using our new toboggans coming soon!