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  • Two Toboggans (illustrating steam bending techniques)

    (part 1 of 2)

    Early in 2005 I created a thread on Saw Mill Creek about building a toboggan for my granddaughter Jamie. At the time I made that toboggan, I bent sufficient slats for a second toboggan and this year I built that toboggan for my grandson Ethan.

    Here a thread that contains much of the stuff from the original thread augmented by material about the new toboggan.

    In early 2005, I attended a toboggan making course at my local Lee Valley store. It was a two part course. During the first part, we steamed and bent the wood then, a week later; we took the wood off the forms, and assembled the toboggans. Everyone attending the course exited with a toboggan and, for a small additional charge to cover material, I exited with the bent wood that will allow me to build a second toboggan in the future.

    The main purpose of the course was to learn to steam and bend wood, producing a toboggan was just a bonus. The course was taught by John Robinson who is a well known Windsor Chair craftsman. John teaches chair making classes in both Canada and the USA and some of his chairs have been featured in Fine Woodworking.

    We made the toboggans with relatively green ash that John cut on his bandsaw shortly before the course. The boards were about 3/8 inch thick and about 2.6 inches wide. According to our coarse notes, kiln dried wood should not be used. Here is a quote from the notes:

    Kiln-dried wood must not be used; the lignin in the wood has been permanently set during the hot dry kilning process. No amount of steaming or soaking will weaken the lignum bond sufficiently for successful bending. The same applies for air dried wood that has been allowed to dry and stabilize below 10% moisture content.

    The toboggan making process is best illustrated with pictures.

    (1) We first marked the ash to show best orientation and position of cross pieces. Then we planed the edges and scraped the sides a bit. Next, the boards were placed into the (home made) steam box.

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    (2) The boards were steamed for about an hour. Here is another view of the box.

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    (3) The boards were (very carefully) bent over a circular form. The form is made of PVC pipe about 8 inches in diameter.

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    (4) Then, they were tied down. That's John Robinson in the background.


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    (5) Finally, the boards were clamped in a couple of places. This assembly was allowed to dry for a week.


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    The second part of the course was straightforward scrapping, sanding, and assembly. Then finishing was completed at home.

    (6) This is a photo of the toboggan as it was when I brought it home.


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    (7) In this photo, I am burning Jamie's name into the toboggan.


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    (8) The next step was to finish the toboggan with 3 coats of clear Varathane and with two coats of wax on the bottom. This is a photo of taken after that stage (along with the second toboggan still in the form).

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    Cheers,
    Frank

  • #2

    Re: Two Toboggans (illustrating steam bending techniques)

    (part 2 of 2)

    (9) And, here is Jamieís toboggan decked out with ropes and a pad and all ready to go.


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    .

    12) Now turning to 2006. In December, I finished the other toboggan for my grandson Ethan (4.5 years old). First, I needed to sand the slats.


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    13) Next, I needed to make the cross pieces (out of scrap maple). Here the slats are being fitted into the top cross piece:


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    14) Now the toboggan has been assembled and Ethanís name is being burned into it.

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    I did split one of the slats a bit when bending it two years ago, and that is a Bondo patch at the curve of the second slat to the right.

    15) And here is the finished toboggan, along with other gifts, outside Ethanís house on Christmas day.


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    Unfortunately, we are not getting a decent winter in Toronto this year :(, so Ethan has not had the opportunity to use the toboggan (nor his sister Isla to use the sled). If and when snow does arrive, I will post a picture or two of Ethanís toboggan in use.
    Cheers,
    Frank

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